Being sustainable doesn't mean spending a fortune. In fact, you can be super green by spending absolutely nothing at all.
Being green is becoming a bit of a greenwashing catchphrase. Brand new products can be “eco-friendly”, “sustainable”, “good for the environment”, “carbon-neutral”.
Instead, true sustainability is about buying nothing new and doing whatever we can to contribute to a more circular economy.
Our ten tips are not prescriptive. We’re also not here to tell anyone how to spend their money or time this winter. So please use the following as a handy guide if you are somebody looking to keep their environmental impact down as well as prices down.
You Might Like: Why is the Circular Economy Important?
10 Ways to Keep Living Sustainably in the Cost of Living Crisis
Or, how to take part in the circular economy while keeping spending to a minimum
Hold on to your favourite clothes for longer by mending them when they're getting a bit too shabby-chic.
Some minor holes can be invisibly repaired with a bit of needlework. Larger rips may need a patch.
But repairs do not need to be seamless. The traditional Japanese art of sashiko intentionally displays the repair by using contrasting threads. You can get super creative and sew in various patterns, or you might just embrace the imperfection with a more functional design.
YouTube is really handy for quick tutorials on smaller clothing repairs, especially sewing on buttons.
Our bodies change. Our clothes should fit our bodies, rather than the other way round. You don't need to run to the shops, though.
Altering your clothes is a great way to keep them fitting properly. It saves those items that might otherwise get stuck in your wardrobe waiting for the day you fit in them again.
Ways to Alter without using a needle
It's a great excuse to sharpen up your needlework. Even if you aren't sewing-savvy, there are other ways to adjust your clothes. This includes using safety pins to bring in waists, or to hem trousers. You could also try using fabric glue or a glue gun to bring about a permanent alteration.
There are other products like fusible bonding tape, which needs to be ironed on but is great for hemming trousers.
For bigger, more complicated jobs you may need to find a local altering service. Prices vary, but it could still be cheaper than buying new and ensures your garment keeps getting worn rather than going to landfill.
3. Buying second hand fashion
Buying second hand clothes can be just as exciting as buying brand new. In fact, lots of people find a thrill in thrifting.
When you walk into a charity shop or second hand store, the whole experience is different. You aren't seeing rack after rack of the same item trying to keep up with the latest trends. Instead, every shop is unique. They think about how to curate things nicely. And you get to explore each item, from different eras, styles, brands and designers. It's fun!
At the same time, buying second hand is usually much cheaper than buying brand new. You can often afford to buy those designer brands that you usually wouldn't even consider when it's second hand.
As well being as being cheaper (usually), the great benefit of buying second hand is that it keeps items out of landfill. When we buy a second hand garment, wear it, love it and then pass it on, this is taking part in the circular economy, because no new materials are needed. Instead, a jacket is passed from person to person, with the only carbon emissions being how that you transport that jacket.
We could go on and on. So we did, see the link below for lots of other amazing reasons to buy preloved.
Read More: 10 Reasons to Buy Secondhand Fashion
4. On Yer Bike!
Here's a bike Declan bought secondhand - a bike that is according to one estimate, 28 years old...surely not!?
Get the blood pumping and bring your bike out for a spin. Where you can, riding your bike is a great way to get around quickly, avoiding traffic jams, saving money on fuel and it’s quicker than walking.
There are often lots of second hand bikes for sale, so see if you can get one for cheap and either fix one up, or take it to your local trusty bike mechanic to give it a new lease of life. It can save as much as 153kg of carbon impact on a brand new full suspension mountain bike (Ethical Consumer magazine, Issue 197).
It's not just about the bike itself that emits carbon emissions. It's also how you power it...
5. Go plant-based
Think this is vegan? It is! Now you can have your cheeseburger and eat it. V-edge, Middlesborough. Highly recommended.
Did you know that that the carbon impact of cycling a mile powered by bananas is 40g of CO2, while a cheeseburger powered cyclist will emit 310g CO2 emissions, which as Ethical Consumer point out, is the equivalent of driving the same distance in an energy-efficient car (Issue 197).
Yeah, yeah, we know, harping on about eating more vegetables again…but other than flying, your diet is another impactful way of reducing your carbon footprint, as well as the amount of water that it used to produce your food.
So how is being vegan part of the circular economy? It's not necessarily about keeping items of out landfill, although you might want to check apps like Olio, Too Good to Go to save food and save money.
Instead, eating more veg can help us take steps towards some of the principles of a circular economy. Especially when you choose organic, because things like soil heath are better looked after which is vital because our top soils (the stuff we grow our food in) are rapidly being depleted by over intensive farming. In 2012, the World Economic Foundation claimed that we had around 60 years of quality top soil left.
Crucially, switching to a plant-based diet would require a lot less land compared to animal farming. This could potentially free up so much more land to ensure everyone gets a meal in the UK.
“A meat-eater’s diet requires 17 times more land, 14 times more water and 10 times more energy than a vegetarian’s" says BBC Good Food.
6. Make use of Warm Spaces and Get Communal!
There is a fantastic list of warm spaces in Gateshead. You can find your own local warm spaces by visiting your local authorities' website. The idea is that you can use these facilities free of charge to get out of the house and stay warm with others if you struggle to heat your home. The communal aspect will be good for your mental health, and of course there is the shared benefit of one room keeping lots of residents warm.
Outside of Warm Spaces, there are lots of ways to get involved in your local community.
It’s a chance to make new connections, exchange skills and knowledge. Sometimes, in cities or in the countryside, we can get too isolated. When we all come together we can share our expertise. Before long, you might have a plumber, an upcycler, someone on the local council, all within walking distance, that you may have never have met before.
So join that yoga class, help out with a litter pick or a community project. You never know who you might meet. You might be able to help them, and they might be able to help you.
7. Make use of soft plastic recycling facilities in big supermarkets
We recently realised that the amount of home waste and recycling we were doing has dropped a bit in the last year of so. That’s partly down to us bringing a bag of soft plastics with us every month or more, containing things like crisp packets, film and other bits of plastic that you usually can’t recycle at home. This is super convenient, reduces waste and gives you a bit more space in your bins at home. It's also another step towards a closed loop recycling system, which means reusing our packaging over and over again with zero waste. That means we can avoid plastic ending up in landfills, and in our oceans like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Learn more: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Cleanup
8. Sign up to Hugo
Firstly, this isn't an ad. Secondly, it's basically free money for putting your washing machine on at a different time.
Hugo is an app that helps you monitor your energy. This winter they are one of about 20 companies working with the national grid to test ways of conserving energy when demand gets a bit too high across the UK.
You can take part in their Winter Cashback scheme, where you’ll get an email alert prior to a energy saving event. The idea is then that try to reduce the amount of electricity/gas that you’re using during that time period.
You are then rewarded about £3 per kWh for the amount that you reduce your usage. By using less power during peak times, it means you are theoretically using less fossil fuel powered energy that the grid has to tap into to meet demand.
Read more about how the Hugo Winter Cash Back Scheme works.
9. Invest, if you can
We’re talking socks, not stocks. Stockings, too, perhaps. If you can afford to, it is worth investing in some warm baselayers. Staying warm is more than just sticking another jumper on. It does help to have a few different kinds of layers to keep you warm.
So whether it’s a pair of thermal socks, leggings, long-sleeve tops, these can all provide a warming base layer to trap heat in and let your skin breathe, no matter how many jumpers you pile on top.
You might be able to find thermals as brand new deadstock, or unworn, second hand. If you are buying brand new, try shopping at some ethical brands such as Finisterre, Rapanui, Thought, or BAM. Alternatively, research your favourite brands on goodonyou or Ethical Consumer or Moral Fibres.
10. Wash your clothes less, or more gently
Washing your jeans every time you wear them? You might not need to.
Washing machines can be really energy intensive. They can also be one of most expensive appliances in your house.
If clothes smell or are dirty, then of course, you need to wash them. But sometimes we are all a bit guilty of throwing something in the washing machine that could be worn at least one more time.
This is especially true for your pair of jeans. Denim wears well and you really can keep wearing your blue jeans or jacket for longer than a cotton t-shirt, for example.
You Might Like: Wash Your Clothes, Save Money and the Planet
Another bonus of washing your clothes less is that your clothes don’t get as worn out. The combination of your laundry liquid, hot water and then the spin cycle does put wear on your clothes over time.
Even when you need to wash something, you can try washing at lower temperatures and reducing the spin cycle. This is easier on more modern machines that let you play around with the programmes. With older ones you might need to consult your manual and see which pre-defined programmes are best.
As a result, you can make your clothes last longer. So that’ll save you having to replace your clothes as much. All of this has a positive knock-on effect, saving resources and reducing waste to landfill.