How I am making changes to reduce my plastic use and live sustainably

I am a sentimental old soul, I treasure so many things that most folk would not think twice of throwing away.  I also keep things, just in case they become useful one day.  Yes, you could describe me as a hoarder!

I love our planet.  I love fields, meadows, glades, forests, hills, marshlands, bogs, mountains, streams, rivers, and oceans.  I love to see wildflowers growing in the wild.  I love insects, fishes, birds, animals, and creatures of every kind.    Ever since I was a child, I have been fearful of the destruction that humans have caused our beautiful planet.  I have worried for the planet, for plants, animals, and every kind of creature, including our future generations.

I loved watching the BBC One series The Blue Planet II with David Attenborough.  I am such a fan of David Attenborough!  I have great admiration for James Honeybourne, Orla Doherty, Jonathan Smith, Kathryn Jeffs, Miles Barton, John Ruthven, Will Ridgeon, and of all of the amazing camera people, researchers, producers, and of everyone who have worked together to bring us simply incredible nature series such as The Living Planet, The Private Life of Plants, and then more recently, Blue Planet and Planet Earth, which bring the smallest to the largest details of incredible natural events that happen on earth into our homes, so that we can watch and learn more of of the natural world, and admire the beauty and wonder of plants and of animals at our leisure.

Although it was just so awful to see the effects of plastic in our oceans in Blue Planet II, I am so grateful that Blue Planet II has given a small insight into some of our human destruction.  I think it’s always better to know the truth, so you can deal with the problem.  We can all work together to reverse this damage, and clean up the pollution that we have attacked our planet with.

Since Blue Planet II was broadcast, I have watched with delight as I have seen my friends with a new awareness trying to reduce their own impact on the planet.  With this in mind, I thought it might be helpful to share the ways that I already try to reduce my own impact on the planet with you.  I have also details of companies that I have not tried or had direct experience of using myself, but which may help you.

I must tell you that I am not perfect, I make mistakes.  I want to improve.  I want to live a more sustainable life, and to be kinder to our beautiful planet and the plants and creatures that live here, whom I feel so much love for.

Palm Oil

I love rainforests!  We have so little of our planet’s rainforests left, but sadly rainforests are still being destroyed!   We need to protect every precious inch of rainforest that still exists and add to these areas – we need to create more rainforests!  Sadly rainforests are continuing to be destroyed to create more space to build palm oil plantations, forests are being destroyed due to logging and human expansion.  Humans are also taking down trees so the land can be used for grazing or farming, or for other human activities.

A closer look at the leaves of Elaeis guineensis, the African oil palm.

As well as destroying the precious rainforests, this destruction is killing animals, insects and creatures of every kind.  This destruction of the rainforest, has the effect of diminishing the remaining habitat available for wonderful, and now sadly endangered animals, such as orangutang, tigers, elephants, and other beautiful animals, as well as threatening the indigenous people whose tribes previously lived in harmony with nature, in areas that the indigenous people had inhabited and looked after for many generations.

I might be wrong, but I don’t believe that there is such a thing as sustainable palm oil, so I avoid any products that I know contain palm oil.  Product labelling is frustratingly far less helpful than we might wish for.  A product may contain palm oil, but the ingredients listing may classify it as ‘vegetable oil’, or a chemical name that is not instantly recognised as palm oil may be used, or palm oil may be classed as a biofuel.  I find this simply maddening!  I call on all companies that use palm oil, to avoid using palm oil and to list their ingredients more clearly.  If I knew of companies that did not use palm oil in any of their products then I would absolutely support those companies.  There is absolutely no need to use palm oil, we have so many other truly sustainable oils to choose from, including rapeseed oil, which is grown in the UK.

Elaeis guineensis, the African oil palm, pictured inside the Palm House at Kew Gardens.

Palm oil is used in so many products, you can find palm oil in almost everything!  Palm oil is in our food products of every kind, from savoury to sweet treats and chocolate, palm oil is used in our cosmetics, it’s used in cleaning products, and even in fuels for our cars.  So if you’re a company who make beauty, skincare, food products, cleaning products, or fuel and you absolutely do not use any palm oil, please tell us!  Let us know and we will support you!  I’d love to see companies like Ocado, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose, and Sainsbury’s to have a section with palm oil free products to make it easier for customers to purchase products without palm oil, if not in store, then online.

I just recently came across Palm Oil Free, a website that lists UK companies who produce products that are palm oil free.

Teak

I also don’t believe that Teak wood is sustainable, so I avoid purchasing any new teak furniture or any products made from Teak.

Beauty Products

I love finding products that help me feel and look better.  I would never knowingly purchase beauty products that contain palm oil.  I would never wish to purchase products that have been tested on animals, or contain plastics or glitter.  I look for fair trade products.

I have been a Lush customer for twenty years!  I want to support Lush, as I know that the company are actively working to make changes as to how their products are made, which ingredients they use, and how their ingredients are sourced, to ensure the protection of both the people producing their ingredients and the protection of the habitats and areas where their ingredients are sourced from.  Lush are working to make their products as environmentally friendly as possible.  Lush don’t test on animals, all of their products are vegetarian, and a large proportion of Lush’s products are also vegan.  Lush aren’t perfect, but they try their best, and when they do make a mistake, in my opinion, they do their best to make things right, which is all any of us can do!

I enjoy making my own beauty products, many are very simple and easy to make.  I make a fabulous in shower moisturiser by gently heating a quantity of shea butter with the same quantity of cocoa butter.  I then pour the melted butters into a mould and leave it to cool and set.  After I have finished showering, but before leaving the shower, I rub this solid moisturiser over my skin.  If my skin is very dry I don’t rinse, otherwise I will have a thirty second rinse and then towel myself dry.

No Dig Organic Home & Garden: Grow, Cook, Use & Store Your Harvest by Charles Dowding & Stephanie Hafferty, is published by Permanent Publications.

If you’re interested in making your own beauty products, but aren’t sure where to start, you’ll find lots of ideas in Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty’s book No Dig Organic Home and Garden, which has a section on making beauty products, as well as cleaning products and other household items.

Soap

Solid soap doesn’t require any packaging, so using soap in this form is a great way to cut down on your plastic use and to avoid using products containing any unnecessary preservatives.  Lush Cosmetics produce an array of soaps which aren’t tested on animals and are made without palm oil.  All of Lush’s products are vegetarian or vegan.  Lush were the first company that I know of to campaign against using palm oil.  The company went so far as to make their formula and the instructions on how to make the palm oil free soap base, which Lush had developed themselves, available for free to any cosmetic company that wanted to use it, in an attempt to try to reduce the use of palm oil in the cosmetics industry.

I cut small slices of soap, so I regularly have a lovely fresh new piece of soap.

These solid soaps from Lush are made without palm oil, they don’t require any packaging.

Shampoo bars and naked products

I have been a Lush customer for twenty years.  I have appreciated and supported all of the campaigns that Lush have organised to make the public aware of animal testing, cruelty to animals, human rights, the plight of hen harriers, fox hunting, badger culls, and more.  I appreciate and share Lush’s genuine passion and concern to protect animals and the environment.

As well as sharing their concerns, I am a fan of shampoo bars and naked products from Lush.  Naked products are exactly that – they don’t come with any plastic at all.  I store my shampoo bar on a plate, on my bathroom windowsill, to allow it to dry out between uses.

I find that shampoo bars work effectively and they last a long time too.  A shampoo bar saves you struggling to open bottles, so they are ideal for anyone with arthritic or weak hands.  Shampoo bars and Lush’s other naked products are great for taking on holiday – shampoo bars are solid, they won’t leak in your bag.  Shampoo bars are easy to take on any journey including plane journeys.

Lush also make naked body moisturisers, naked body exfoliators, naked bath bombs, naked bubble bath, naked hair conditioners, naked hair treatments, naked bath oils, and naked massage bars, none of which feature any plastic.  Lush also make naked shower gels, which have been criticised by some Lush fans, who have described these products as simply ‘soap’, but as Lush founder and inventor Mark Constantine explains, these products have been formulated from the same ingredients as shower gels, but Lush have developed a solid formula, which works and feels like a shower gel in use, but is also available in a solid, concentrated form without the added water.

Toothbrushes

Most toothbrushes are made from plastic.  If you’re looking for a new toothbrush, you might be interested to try these bamboo toothbrushes.  The company, Bamwoo, plant a tree for every toothbrush they sell, which is a lovely idea!

Don’t forget to reuse your toothbrush, although it may no longer be effective at cleaning your teeth, your old toothbrush can still be used effectively for cleaning the grouting between tiles, cleaning around the base of taps, and other cleaning jobs.

Toothpaste

I don’t use regular toothpaste, which is sold in plastic and aluminium or metal lined tubes, which can be difficult or impossible to recycle.  Instead I use toothy tabs from Lush.  I much prefer using toothy tabs to toothpaste anyway, for me it’s a more refreshing and enjoyable experience.

Mouthwash

I am also a huge fan of Lush’s mouthwash tabs, which are simply wonderful to use, these mouthwash tablets deliver a wonderful freshness, which makes me feel invigorated and uplifted!  These mouthwash tabs also have the benefit of being small and so very easy to carry with you in your handbag.  Wherever you’re travelling – you don’t need to worry about the bottle spilling or leaking, and due to the concentrated nature of the product, each small bottle carries a great many uses, so uses far less plastic than a conventional liquid mouthwash would.

Some of my favourite Toothy Tabs and Mouthwash Tabs from Lush.

Toothy tabs from Lush used to be sold in cardboard boxes, which was great, they now come in plastic bottles, which I accept, are better suited to the humid and often wet bathroom environments.  You can find out more about toothy tabs and mouthwash here, or why not mix your own recipe, you’ll find details of how to do this in the previously mentioned Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty’s book No Dig Organic Home and Garden.

Glitter

As a child I loved glitter!  As an adult I now I realise that many forms of glitter are not biodegradable, and glitter can be harmful, so glitter simply doesn’t have the same appeal for me now and I avoid using it.  If you wish to use glittery beauty products then again I would again direct you to Lush Cosmetics, who use synthetic mica to create glitter, which the company deem to be safe for the environment.  You can read more about Lush’s environmental policy here.

Christmas

I love Christmas I am always full of Christmas cheer, but every year I despair as I see ‘Reindeer food’ and glitter sprinkled on the pavement and across lawns to guide Father Christmas’s reindeer to a child’s home.  Honestly this is such a bad idea!  The oats mixed with glitter and sequins just become harmful litter, causing injury to any birds or animals that try to eat it.  If Father Christmas’s reindeer ate glitter and sequins they would be at risk too, no one wants that!  Carrots are a great food to leave out for reindeer, reindeer also eat lichens, willow, and birch leaves.

Microbeads

I would never wish to use any products that contained microbeads.  Microbreads are small particles of plastic, which are often used in beauty products, usually in face and body exfoliators, but they can also be found in some toothpastes.  Beat the Microbead is a great website, which provides up to date information on which products contain microbeads, which don’t, and where to find them.

Cherryish scrub from Lush Cosmetics. This body exfoliator is made using a number of ingredients, including ground cherry stones to remove dead skin cells. I love this product, it leaves skin feeling soft, smooth, and moisturised, with the fragrance of cherries!

Toilet Paper and Kitchen Roll

Who Gives A Crap launched in July 2012.  This company donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.  Who Gives A Crap sell bamboo toilet paper, recycled toilet paper, forest friendly tissues, and kitchen roll.  You can view all of their products here.

Toilet paper from Who Gives A Crap!

Cleaning products

Soap Nuts

Soap nuts or soap berries are a natural product, they are the drupes, the dried fruit of trees and shrubs from the Sapindus genus of plants, which originate from Asia, including Sapindus mukorossi, an Asian tree, which produces fruits that contain the compound Saponin, which make a great natural laundry product.  When you purchase a bag of soap nuts, you’ll find a small muslin draw string bag inside.  You simply pop four to six soap nuts into the draw string bag, tighten the strings and pop the bag in with your clothing inside the washing machine drum.  When your wash has finished and you take your washing out of the machine, pop the drawstring bag on a hook or somewhere where the soap nuts can dry out until the next use.  I reuse soap nuts a number of times, then when they have broken down inside the bag, I empty the bag, pop the used soap nuts on the compost heap, and pop a few new soap nuts into the bag, so I am all ready for the next wash.

You can also make a washing liquid using soap nuts and water, and soap nuts can also be used to create shampoo and body wash, as well as insect repellent, and glass cleaner.  Soap nuts can be used as a detergent in the dishwasher, combined with white vinegar as a rinse aid.

Soap nuts.

Soda crystals

I have always used soda crystals, they are great for cleaning almost everything!

Other cleaning products

I have had good results using Ecozone products.  I have also had good results using bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, and other traditional cleaning methods.

Cleaning cloths

I stocked up on Microfibre cloths many years ago now, after hearing about how effective these cloths were, and how they could be used without any additional cleaning products and were long lasting.  Unfortunately I have since learnt that microfibre cloths release many microfibres when they are washed.  These small fibres then enter our rivers and oceans where they pollute the water and enter into the bodies of every kind of sea or river creature from plankton upwards.  These tiny fibres, along with micro beads and other plastics have entered the food chain.  I love sea and river creatures of every kind.  I wish to protect them, so these cloths have not been used in some time.

Clothing

I look out for cotton clothing, I also like bamboo clothing.  Although, I purchase many of my clothes second hand, and so I am not always certain of what fabric the clothing is made from.  If I had the choice, I would favour purchasing clothing made from organic cotton, bamboo, and organic natural materials.

Fleece, nylon and other man made synthetic materials, like the microfibres cloths can release large amounts of small fibres when they are washed, which pollute our oceans and rivers and enter the food chain and the bodies of sea and river dwelling creatures.  We do not yet know the lasting effects of this pollution, but I am certain that there can be no positive or beneficial effects.

These socks are made from bamboo.

If you’re interested in designing your own, organic cotton t-shirt, bamboo t-shirt, hoody, sweatshirt, vest top, or bag, Rapanui, an Isle of Wight based company, allow you to create a product to your own design.  You can find all the details on Rapanui’s website here.

Printing

I have never wanted to buy a printer, I turn down offers of free printers because I don’t want to print lots of pieces of paper.  If I really need to print something, printing services are available at my local library, where you can pay to print as many copies as you need.  Printers use energy to make, yet because the ink cartridges are expensive, some folks just buy another printer.  I would rather not use a printer unless I really have to.  These days many forms can be completed online and messages can be sent via text or email, so there are fewer reasons than ever before to have a printer.

Other ideas

Charity support and association for businesses

Does your company support a charity?  British conservation charity Plant Life offers businesses the chance to support them by signing up as a Corporate Patron or a Corporate Member: here are all the details.

Why not enlist your company as a Corporate Member, providing invaluable funding and official support to the vital work undertaken by the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew?  As well as providing invaluable support to such a prestigious charity, Corporate Membership will enrich the lives of your employees and their families.  A really worthwhile and inspiring activity that is available to companies with Corporate Membership is to provide your employees with the opportunity to volunteer together as part of a special team work day at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.  You could also provide your employees with the really lovely benefit of free entry to Kew Gardens and free entry to Wakehurst Place, in West Sussex, for themselves and their families.  Or why not arrange for one of Kew’s Experts to give a talk to your company employees?  For all the details, please click here.

The People’s Postcode Lottery, the Innocent foundation, and Google have formed previous partnerships with Kew, funding some incredibly interesting beneficial work:  The People’s Postcode Lottery funded Kew’s Conservationists allowing them to work with one hundred of the rural communities in Madagascar collecting and conserving seeds of the rare plants found in Madagascar.  90% of the plants found in Madagascar are only found in this one location.  The Innocent foundation partnered with Kew to work in the northern area of the Bolivian Amazon where they are creating community fruit tree nurseries, to create a sustainable food supply and income.  The Google Impact Challenge funded work at Oxford University in partnership with Kew, to study mosquitos.  This valuable work produced acoustic sensors which identified individual mosquito species by their wing beat!  This interesting study provided a greater insight into creating effective control programmes to prevent mosquito borne diseases.  Kew offers companies a great many opportunities to work with them to enable invaluable, fascinating future research with immense benefits for all.  For all the details, please click here.

Cut flowers

Why buy forced, imported flowers that are out of season and were picked some time before purchase?  I love to buy British grown, freshly harvested, seasonal cut flowers.  You can purchase UK grown cut flowers all year round, here’s my guide to the best UK cut flower growers and florists.

These beautiful flowers are from The Great British Florist, the fragrance of the Narcissi and Freesias in this arrangement is divine, these flowers have filled the room with their beautiful scent. This lovely arrangement, photographed in January 2017, features Ranunculus, Freesias, Narcissi, Gypsophila, Nigella seed heads, Anemones, Tulips, and Eucalyptus. All of these flowers were grown in Great Britain.

A beautiful vase of scented daffodils from Fentongollan.

Vegetables and fruit

It’s so much fun to grow your own vegetables!  If you don’t have the room, energy, or the inclination to grow all of your own vegetables, look out for UK grown vegetables to purchase.  Tomatoes grown in the UK are available at all major supermarkets, here’s some information about Eric Wall, a British company that grow tomatoes for UK supermarkets.

Rows of cherry tomatoes growing inside the glasshouses at Eric Wall Ltd in Barnham, Chichester, West Sussex.

I look out for ways to avoid plastic wrapped vegetables wherever I can.  Local greengrocers are wonderful places to buy vegetables, fruit, and herbs!  You can often choose the vegetables and fruit that you wish to purchase, and you can buy the exact amount you need for your recipe, so there is less opportunity for food to go to waste.  Many greengrocers have recycled paper bags to wrap your purchases in, or you can bring your own bag or basket with you.

If you want to use British vegetables, you may wish to order a box of British grown seasonal vegetables from MorrisonsOcado, or when you place your order with a supermarket whether you shop online or in store.

Based in London, Odd Box purchases fruit and vegetables from London markets that are irregularly shaped and don’t fit the supermarkets strict requirements on size, shape, or colour.  Odd Box work to avoid food waste and pass on savings to their customers. If you’d like to support UK farmers, you may wish to subscribe to Abel & Cole, Riverford Organic, Farmdrop, The Organic Pantry in Yorkshire, or another vegetable box scheme.

If your concerned about how far your food has travelled to reach you, don’t forget that depending on where you live, fruit, vegetables, and herbs grown outside of the UK may have travelled a shorter distance to reach you, and so may have accumulated less food miles than UK grown produce.

Drinks

I have a reusable bottle.  Reusing my drink bottle and refilling it at home saves me money and ensures that I have a drink when I need one.  If I have to purchase a drink when I am out, I will keep and reuse that bottle too.

Refill

Refill is a National Practical Tap Water Campaign, which started in Bristol in 2015, Refill has been such a success that the app has grown, and happily Refill now covers the UK.  Refill aims to make it easier for its customers to find places to refill their water bottle with tap water for free.  Cafes, shops, restaurants, hotels, and other companies can sign up to be a refill destination.  App users can find out the nearest destination where they can refill their water bottle, saving plastic and saving Refill’s users money too.  For all the details, please click here.

A Victorian drinking water fountain.

Straws

I do use straws occasionally.  I cut down on the number of straws I use through my use of my refillable drinks bottle, which has a nozzle so I don’t need a straw to use it.  If you like, or need to use a straw, don’t forget that a straw doesn’t have to be plastic – you can buy natural bamboo straws, which can be composted when they are no longer of use.

Tea

After discovering that many tea bags are sealed with plastic or contain plastic I now purchase loose leaf tea.

White and green loose leaf tea with quince.

Grow your own tea

Why not grow your own mint, camomile, or herbs to make your own herbal teas?

Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno’ is a dear little, double flowered chamomile. This pretty chamomile produces charming flowers and delicate fern like leaves. This mat forming plant makes a lovely relaxing, sweet and soothing tea. Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno’ grows best in full sun and free draining soils. Chamaemelum nobile ‘Flore Pleno’ is short and sweet, growing to about 15cm (6 inches) tall.

Tea and coffee cups

Currently, seven million disposable coffee cups are used in the UK every single day. The majority of these cups are not recyclable. Bringing your own reusable cup or bottle when you purchase a take away coffee, or bringing your own reusable bottle or cup any time you’re offered a plastic or polystyrene cup saves resources, and reduces landfill waste.  It can often save you money, as many outlets offer a discount if you bring your own cup.

Gifting

I don’t care much for trinkets, ornaments, or gifts that are sometimes mildly amusing as you open the gift, but actually have no use or purpose, and are not lasting or beneficial.  To me the gift of true friendship is far more valuable, and also comes with a great benefit – it does not need wrapping!

Each year I compile a list of the best products that I have used that year as recommended Christmas gifts, you can see my 2017 Christmas gift list here, my 2016 Christmas gift list here, and my 2015 Christmas gift list here.

It can sometimes be difficult to find a suitable gift for someone you love or care for, particularly if the recipient seems to have almost everything.  One idea, which I think is a wonderful gift, is the gift of garden membership: allowing the recipient of your gift to enjoy free entry during opening hours, sometimes special member only benefits are available too.  If you’re interested in seeing the gardens, which offer membership deals in Surrey, Hampshire, and West Sussex, please click here.

There are many special and really worthwhile gifts that you could give that will benefit more than just the receiver of the gift:

The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, have a wonderful service that allows you to adopt a seed and be part of an important conservation project.  If you’re looking for a perfect Valentine’s Gift why not adopt the heart embellished seeds of Cardiospermum halicacabum, or the beautiful oxe-eye daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare.  For all the details, please click here.

Or make a grander gesture by adopting an entire plant genus!  There are a number of plant genera to choose from – if you’re unsure on which plant genus to adopt, may I suggest adopting the genus Aerangis?  Kew are offering supporters the opportunity to adopt this special genus of orchids, which can be found in Madagascar, for all the details, please click here.

British conservation charity Plant Life allow the opportunity of adopting a wild flower, adopting an acre of meadow, peatland, or another special environment, or adopting a nature reserve.  Why not make a donation to Plant Life that will fund protection of the UK’s native orchids?

Travel

If you can switch your holiday travel, or indeed any travel, from travelling by airplane to travelling by train, or on public transport, by bicycle, or on foot, you would be helping to avoid the need for so many airplane journeys, with their associated pollution, noise, and environmental costs.  Similarly if you can switch from taking a car journey to travelling by train, by bus or public transport, or by bicycle, or on foot you can also make a difference.  For shorter journeys as well as travelling by bike, why not get your roller skates, or skateboard out – there are so many ways to make your journey so much more fun!

The Eden Project in Cornwall.

Many gardens and other attractions offer discounts if you have travelled by public transport, or have walked or cycled to get there, so it’s worth checking with the garden before you visit.  Do check before you pay for your ticket, as you could make a saving!  You will need to keep hold of your train or bus tickets to secure your discount, so keep hold of your tickets!

The Eden Project offer a Green Travel Discount for visitors who walk, cycle, or travel by public transport to their garden, for all the details, please click here.  The Royal Horticultural Society also offer a discount if you travel by cycle or public transport to their gardens, here are the details of this offer at Harlow Carr in YorkshireHyde Hall in EssexRosemoor in Devon and Wisley in Surrey.

RHS Garden Rosemoor in Devon.

Home energy

I opt for a green energy supplier, which provides my home with 100% renewable energy.  Many companies have a renewable-only electricity plan, and some companies have carbon offset schemes; for example if you have to use gas, trees are planted to offset the carbon footprint of your usage.  You might sometimes pay a little more for renewable energy, but for me it is worth paying more, as it’s something I believe in and wish to support.

I am also a huge fan of Martin Lewis, The Money Saving Expert.  Here’s a link to the Money Saving Expert Energy Club, where you can switch your energy and gas suppliers, often saving money in the process.  Once you’ve used the site to get a list of comparative quotes, you can then use the filter bar on the side to select ‘100% renewable energy’ to find renewable suppliers/tariffs.

Search engines

Ecosia is a search engine, it’s free to use and was founded to raise funds to plant trees.  When visitors use Ecosia, it’s free to use, just like using any search engine, but the money that companies pay to advertise with Ecosia is used to plant trees.  Here’s a link to Ecosia.

Washing line

I don’t have a tumble drier.  For me a tumble drier is an extra expense, it’s also an unnecessary appliance that uses energy, and requires resources and energy to make.  I have a washing line outside to dry washing.  I also have an old Victorian style clothes pulley and airers that I use to dry clothes indoors.  I haven’t always been lucky enough to have a garden, during the times where I had no outside space, I used airers successfully to dry all of my washing indoors.  It’s important to ventilate your home, especially if you’re drying washing indoors, so don’t forget to open your windows to let air circulate, even in wintertime.

Recycling

Once you start thinking about recycling, it is easier than you think to avoid waste.

Clothing and textiles

If you’re taking clothing, or indeed any items, to donate to your local charity shop, I would stress that it’s important to deliver the items yourself during the shop’s opening hours.  Firstly, most charity shops will be able to receive additional funding if you’re a tax payer and you can go in and sign a gift aid declaration – it only takes a minute.  Sadly many people leave their donated items outside charity shops, where the donations are sometimes stolen, often become dirty or damaged, or are soaked by inclement weather, and at best leave an untidy obstacle course blocking the front of the shop, which the shop workers then have to clear up.  Often the items that are left outside of shops cannot be sold, so by leaving them there, you’re just creating more work for someone else.

You can also recycle clothing which is too worn to be donated to a charity shop – textile and clothing banks can be found outside many supermarkets.  If you’re unsure where your local recycling stations are, you can usually find this information on your local council’s website.

There are so many fantastic ways in which you can recycle clothing or materials.  You could make a beautiful patchwork quilt or cushion cover – this is a lovely way to incorporate memories of special outfits and to re-use torn or much loved children’s’ clothing, or you could make a beautiful fabric bag, craft a broach, make a hot water bottle cover, make head bands, recycle denim jeans to cover, make a rag rug, make a child’s toy, or make Christmas decorations.  Less exciting, but quicker ideas include making cloths or cleaning rags, using old sheets as dust sheets, or using old bedcovers to make a cosy bed for your pet.  Why not alter clothing to make a new outfit, perhaps for a child

The Kent, Surrey, and Sussex Air Ambulance have a scheme to benefit from donated clothing and textiles to fund their work.  Here’s a link if you’re interested in collecting stamps for this charity (please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Bras

Against Breast Cancer have a bra recycling scheme, where you can donate your used bra.  For every tonne of bras that are recycled, Against Breast Cancer received £700 – this money goes to fund their research.  Here is a link to more information about Against Breast Cancer’s Bra recycling scheme.

Underwear

Smalls for All is a Scottish charitable organisation, which collects brand new pants for boys and girls aged from 3-15 years old, they also collect brand new pants for women in sizes 8-16, and brand new or gently worn bras, including teen, nursing, and sports bras.  Smalls for All work with a number of organisations who help the charitable organisation to distribute the donated underwear to women and children in need, in Africa.  The recipients receive the products for free, while other products are sold to fund the charity’s work.  For more information contact Smalls for All.   Donations can be sent to: Smalls for All, 108 Buchanan Crescent, Eliburn, Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland, EH54 7EF.

Stockings and tights

I cut up strips of material from laddered or ripped stockings to use as ties for every kind of plant, I use them for trees, for climbers, and even for orchids!  If you would like to discover how to mount an epiphytic orchid onto a piece of cork, please click here.

This Phalaenopsis parishii orchid has been attached to a piece of cork using a strip of material cut from stockings.

Cars

There are many more fun and exciting ways to get around other than by car.  Why not travel by bike, horse, skateboard, or you could get the train, a tram, or the bus?  Don’t feel that you need to own a car, you could always hire a car when you need one.  By only hiring a car when you need one, you may also save money.

You could also car share, or offer a lift to someone who is travelling in the same direction as you.  You could ask your work, school, or college friends if you can travel together and split the cost.  If you’re looking for a way of sharing the cost of your car journey Go Car Share and Lift Share are websites where you can both offer a lift, and ask for a lift, and in doing so share the journey and the cost of your travel expenses.

Old cars

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association can benefit from donations of cars as scrap metal or for reselling your vehicle, here are all the details.

Give a Car are a small social enterprise, which was set up to allow UK residents to donate their unwanted cars to charity.  Even if a car is not in a roadworthy condition, it still has a value.  Give a Car provides a simple way for people to donate their unwanted cars, raising money for charity in the process.  Here’s a link to their website.

The fire brigade use donated cars to train fire fighters and practice rescuing people from traffic accidents.  Unwanted Vehicle Collection is a family run company that supplies cars for the fire brigade, collecting cars from Bagshot, Bracknell, Basingstoke, Frimley, Fleet, Yateley, Farnborough, Aldershot, Woking, Wokingham, Guildford, Chertsey, Ascot, Sunningdale, Virginia Water, Egham, Staines, Camberley, and anywhere within a 50 mile radius of the company’s base in Camberley, Surrey.  For more details, visit Unwanted Vehicle Collection’s website.

Coffee pods

Coffee machines which use a single plastic pot for each serving of coffee are hugely wasteful and generate vast amounts of unnecessary landfill. Even though pods are sometimes recyclable, many people don’t recycle them.

Kent, Surrey, and Sussex Air Ambulance can benefit from funds raised by recycling Tassimo T-DISKS, outer packaging, L’or capsules, Kenco eco refill packs and coffee lid jars, here’s a link to more information.

Mobile phones

As well as selling your old mobile phone on ebay, you can also donate your phone to charity.

Against Breast Cancer have a mobile phone recycling scheme, here’s a link to more information.

Printer cartridges

Against Breast Cancer operate a scheme to recycle used inkjet and laser cartridges, the money raised helps to fund this charity’s work.  Here’s a link to more information.

The Kent, Surrey, and Sussex Air Ambulance operate a scheme where they benefit from the recycling of used printer cartridges.   Here’s a link if you’re interested in collecting stamps for this charity (please scroll to the bottom of the page).

The British Red Cross also operate a scheme where they benefit from the recycling of used printer cartridges.  Here’s a link to more information.

The British Heart Foundation operate a scheme where they benefit from the recycling of used printer and laser cartridges.  Here’s a link to more information.

Stamps

Used stamps still have a value, whether it’s a regular every day stamp, a Christmas stamp, a limited edition stamp, or a stamp from overseas, each one will have some worth.  Whenever I receive a letter or card, I keep the stamps and give them to charity.  If you would like to save your used stamps too, simply cut around the stamp and postmark, leaving a border of a few centimetres.  Collected stamps can then be dropped off, or posted to the charity of your choice.

The RSPB take in donated used stamps, the money raised goes to help fund albatross conservation.  Here’s a link if you’re interested in collecting stamps for this project.

Ehlers-Danlos Support UK can benefit from donated stamps, here is a link to all the details of this charity’s scheme.

Against Breast Cancer take donated stamps as a method to fund their work.  Here’s a link if you’re interested in collecting stamps for this project.

The Kent, Surrey, and Sussex Air Ambulance take donated stamps to fund their work.  Here’s a link if you’re interested in collecting stamps for this charity (please scroll to the bottom of the page).

The RNIB can benefit from donated stamps to fund their work.  Here is a link to more information.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People can benefit from donated stamps, here’s a link to all the details.

Macmillan Cancer Support can benefit from donated stamps, here is a link to all the details.

The Dogs Trust can benefit from donated stamps, here is a link to how their scheme works.

I am sure there are many other charities that can benefit from used, new, and special stamps.  Every stamp has a value, whether it has been posted or not.

Giveaway Groups

There are many giveaway groups across the world, where you can giveaway or receive items for free, without charge.

Freecycle

The Freecycle network is fantastic!  I have both given items away on Freecycle, and I have also received items for free via the Freecycle network.  The Freecycle network is a non-profit making network, it’s classified as a charity in the UK, but may be classed as an organisation in other countries.  The Freecycle network exists to prevent items going into landfill.  It’s free to sign up to Freecycle, members can give away anything they wish for free, and also ask to receive items which are given free.  Usually the receiver collects the item, but it depends on the individual Freecycle listing, items listed on Freecycle are always given freely.

The Freecycle Network is huge!  Extending to more than five thousand groups across world.  You can find Freecycle networks across the UK, including Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and you can also find Freecycle networks in Australia, America, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the Russian Federation, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Romania, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, and many more countries – for information containing the full list of countries that Freecycle have networks in with links to each country, please click here.

Surrey based giveaway groups

Give away your unwanted gardening items (or any other items) and collect useful items that others no longer need

There are many local groups you can join to offer, donate, or collect unwanted gardening items, or indeed just about anything, for free.  One man’s unwanted bricks, paving slabs, turf, top soil, bird bath, or pots, are another man’s treasure!  Here are some links to local groups offering all kinds of household or garden items for free collection:

For the Guildford FreelyWheely Group Page, please click here.

For Gumtree, please click here.

Local Freecycle Groups:

For the Epsom Freecycle Group, please click here.

For the Farnham Freecyle Group, please click here.

For the Guildford Freecycle Group, please click here.

For the Godalming Freecycle Group, please click here.

For the Surrey Heath Freecycle Group, please click here.

Freegle

Freegle is a UK wide organisation that exists to allow its members to give away items freely and to collect items without charge.

Here are some links to local UK Freegle Groups:

For the Burgess Hill Freegle Group, please click here.

For the Burgess Hill Grow your Own Freegle Group, please click here.

For the Camberley and Surrey Heath Freegle Group, please click here.

For the Farnborough and Aldershot Freegle Group, please click here.

For the Guildford Freegle Group, please click here.

For the Uckfield and Heathfield Freegle Group, please click here.

For the Woking Freegle Group, please click here.

National giveaway groups

My Skip allows its members to list items they wish to giveaway freely.

For the My Skip website, please click here.

If you found this article useful, please share it with your friends and family.

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For sustainable and environmentally friendly ideas of how to celebrate a person’s life or mark special events and occasions with plants, please click here.

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