Lucy Siegle recently wrote about the clutter that a greener lifestyle can attract. Now, I’m not one for recommending you buy more stuff. I hate buy-this-to-go-green marketing. No thank you, I don’t need a specialist can-crusher, or a plastic container to hold carrier bags. However, there are a few items I recommend you buy (even better if you can get them secondhand) because they’re durable and replace disposable items.

1. A water bottle

Image: stevendepolo

I’ve watched the rising popularity of bottled water with horror and disbelief. When I was a kid, we used to laugh at the French for paying for Evian while we drank tap water for free. Now, in a triumph of marketing over common sense, it’s rare to find anyone who doesn’t routinely buy water in plastic bottles that have been shipped nationally, if not internationally. This despite bottled water being shown to harbour more bacteria than tap water, and blind taste tests showing that people can’t tell the difference between bottled and tap water.

Acquire a durable water bottle (mine’s a Sigg) and carry it around, filled with cheap, healthy tap water.

2. Shopping bags (and possibly a trolley)

Image: How can I recycle this?

I’m aware that there’s debate as to how much of an eco-villain the plastic carrier bag is. Sure they’re not a massive part of the waste stream and, OK, some get reused as bin-liners or to pick up dog poo. Surely though it stands to reasons that disposable=bad, especially since only a tiny proportion of plastic carriers get recycled.

So make sure you’ve got some durable shopping bags and carry them with you so you can refuse plastic carriers.

I like Onya Bags because, being so light and packing down so small, they’re easy to carry (so you can always have one onya – geddit?)

Or make your own from waste fabric. You could even set up a bag-making group through Morsbags, which also provides a simple pattern, and indulge in some sociable, guerilla bagging.

Many years ago, I decided to rid my life of plastic carrier bags by refusing ever, ever, ever to accept one when shopping, and using the ones I had (a carrier bag full) until they were worn out (and then recycling them). To my amazement, it took me around 20 years to run out, and I only managed it by eventually instituting a policy of never accepting them from anyone. If you bring something to my house in a plastic bag, you’ll be asked to take the bag home with you again.

Yep I’m obsessed and my friends laugh at me.

And, at the same time, my stand inspires others to refuse bags.

I also have a shopping trolley, which I acquired through Freecycle, and which I use to do my weekly shop.

3. Cloth hankies

Image: mcfarlandmo

Save trees, land, water and more, and reduce how much waste you sent to landfill.

I switched two or three years ago and I’m still amazed that I used tissues for so many years. I bought some lovely, soft, unbleached, organic cotton hankies from Organic-Ally and I’ve even found hankies (brand new in box, don’t worry) in charity shops.

I guess some people might be put off by the ick-factor. How is it any worse than carrying round a used tissue though? And there’s no danger of a hanky disintegrating in your pocket: not even in the washing machine.

They’re easy to wash. I just put them in my ordinary 30 degree white wash. And I don’t iron them: they’ll soon be scrumpled up in my pocket anyway.

When they eventually wear out, I’ll toss them in my worm composter.

4. Eco-balls


Instead of detergent, I’ve used Eco-Balls for years. Though I was initially sceptical, they’re as effective as anything else I’ve used.

Not only do they last for 750 washes (meaning both that they put only a tiny amount of whatever it is they’re made of into the water, and that they’re great financial value), you don’t need to use fabric conditioner (even less resources used and more money saved) and you can use a shorter wash programme because you don’t need to rinse out any detergent (saving electricity and water).

5. Menstrual cup

Menstrual cup

A menstrual cup is a medical-grade-silicone cup which is inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood, rather than absorbing it like a tampon. It’s reusable rather than disposable, merely needing to be sterilised between periods.

As well as being more environmentally friendly than tampons, they’re more cost-effective, safer (carrying less risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome and not being made of artificial fibres which can break away and be left inside the vagina), and more convenient (as there’s no need to carry spares for changing every few hours).

Any other essential weapons in the fight against consumption? Comment below.


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