It’s April. Which means it’s nearly Earth Day again. Except, this year we’d hardly notice because we have so much else going on. Social distancing. Self-isolating. Trying to keep our spirits high during a time filled with so much uncertainty.
But there are some positives that have come from this unprecedented time. You might have seen the satellite photos displaying how the COVID-19-led lockdowns across the world have lowered global emissions and giving Mother Nature a well-earned rest. What better way to celebrate Earth Day later this month?
And, while we spend more time at home than ever before, we find ourselves finding time to focus on things we rarely have time for. Our physical and mental wellbeing. Creative hobbies and outlets. Spending time with loved ones we live with, albeit at a distance.
Another thing we might find we have extra time for at home is catching up with some bits around the home we’ve put off. And, seeing as it’s Earth Day later this month, what better time to figure out how to create a sustainable home one room at a time?
Sarah Pelham, the Beauty & Wellness Expert for Bookwell, offers some of these handy tips which we hope help to take your mind off the never-ending stream of news right now. Over to you, Sarah.
Make your home eco-friendly
Sustainable living is something that’s becoming more and more important to a lot of us, and we might have already started to make simple lifestyle changes such as walking more rather than using the car, or taking our own reusable shopping bags with us when we head out. And that’s great! But it’s time we all went a little bit further; it’s time we start shifting from a sustainable lifestyle to a sustainable house.
Eco homes can massively minimise our impact on the environment. And don’t worry – creating eco-friendly homes isn’t quite as daunting as it sounds! There are lots of ‘basic’ changes you can make instantly, such as swapping out incandescent bulbs for LED lighting or getting a recycling bin, for example. But if you’re keen to delve into the world of eco-homes, even more, there are lots more ways that you can make a difference, making positive changes around your home, one room at a time.
Here’s a bit of room-by-room inspiration to get you started:
National Geographic estimates that 91% of plastic isn’t recycled. This is why to have a truly sustainable bathroom, it’s best to try and avoid products that are made of, or are packaged in, plastic. Here are some great plastic-free bathroom alternatives to get you started.
With bathrooms often being warm and steamy from a hot bath or shower, they’re the perfect environment for germs to thrive. Cleaning a bathroom is never a pleasant job, and many of us automatically choose the strongest cleaning solutions to make sure we kill any nasties lying around. Unfortunately, these chemical-filled cleaners get flushed away, filtered, and are back in the water supply… even if some chemicals still remain.
Instead, try to use natural cleaning products. You can even make some yourself using white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.
One of the best ways to get the ball rolling on an eco kitchen is to invest. Invest in high-quality cookware and durable plates and bowls, rather than always selecting the cheapest options. Why? Because investing in quality means investing in sustainability.
High-quality cookware and dishes are more likely to withstand frequent use and washing, and less likely to deteriorate or break from everyday use. Cookware that lasts for years can significantly reduce demand for manufacturing, and all the byproducts of manufacturing such as energy, water, and fuel.
If you’re not quite a dab hand in the kitchen, you may want to look away now. Believe it or not, cooking at home is actually one of the best ways to create a sustainable kitchen! Pre-packaged ready meals have probably done more travelling than you and me combined. Each step of the process will usually be handled at a different facility, really clocking up those food miles.
Cooking from scratch not only means you can reduce your carbon footprint, but you can also be sure that the ingredients have been sourced sustainably. Don’t forget to use green kitchen appliances, too.
Could your bedroom do with a lick of paint? If you’re redecorating, try to use eco-friendly paint that’s much better for the environment (and for your own health, too!). Look for ‘low VOC’ or ‘zero VOC’ paints, which have fewer volatile organic compounds that can be released into the air.
Low VOC paints typically have less than 50g per litre, while zero VOC paints have less than 5g per litre. It’s always best to check the labels to know for sure, but as a general rule of thumb, flat latex paints that are light in colour usually have lower VOCs than glossy, oil-based paints.
If you’ve chosen cotton sheets for your bedroom, good for you. You probably know that cotton is a pretty good choice for a sustainable bedroom. But it’s not the best choice. The problem with cotton is that fertilisers and pesticides are often used in the farming processes, which aren’t great for the planet.
If you’re looking to make a quick and simple swap, switch to organic bamboo sheets, which look and feel really similar. Bamboo holds the world record for the fastest-growing plant at a rate of 91cm per day, so there’s always a constant, renewable source. Here’s some more benefits of bamboo.
Think the perfect couch doesn’t exist? Think again. Steve Jobs’ wife Laurene Powell once said that it took the Apple Co-Founder eight years to decide on a couch, but we think it’s much easier to find the right one… especially if you look at sustainable options.
A sustainable couch really can be whatever you make it. You could choose second-hand furniture, with absolutely no new resources used, or you could buy new. When buying new, look for couches made using sustainable wood (with FSC or AFS certification), or try to buy from a local manufacturer.
Need new furniture for your living room? Here’s a bit of a crazy idea, but it’s one that could help you create a unique space and the sustainable living room of your dreams. Instead of buying new, how about trying to build new furniture from items already in your home? This is also ideal now it’s hard to get out much!
For example, you could create a side table by stacking books, or a box shelf from an old desk drawer. Upcycling is a fantastic way to minimise the amount we send to landfill and create one-of-a-kind spaces. And best of all, you’ll be reducing the piles of clutter that you just don’t know what to do with!
There’s no rush
The thought of what could happen if we all carry on as we are is terrifying, but the truth is that the world isn’t going to implode tomorrow. Don’t try and implement all these changes at once, or you may end up feeling overwhelmed and wanting to give up. And that’s not doing the planet any good!
Instead, approach sustainable living from a ‘one room at a time’ perspective. By working in bite-sized, manageable chunks, you’ll soon find that you’ve created an eco-home that really makes a difference. And right now, this could be time well-spent indeed.
Sarah Pelham is the Beauty & Wellness Expert for Bookwell.com.au, an online platform for instant bookings for hair, nails, beauty & massage appointments. For nearly four years Sarah has worked closely with hundreds of salon owners within the beauty and wellness industries. She has her finger on the pulse of new trends in this growing market.