Today is World Environment Day. Time to go shopping!
In fact, of course, reducing the amount of stuff we buy is probably the most important thing that a consumer can do to save the planet. Currently, we purchase unsustainable amounts of stuff; shopping is regarded as a leisure pursuit, even though every item we buy which we're not actually going to use (need, of course, is impossible to measure) has involved a manufacturing process, packaging and has been transported to us - sometimes from the other side of the world.
However, since life has to be worth living if it's going to be worth saving, a good place to start reducing one's impact on the environment is by looking at the really boring activities we can't avoid. Who takes pleasure in buying wash powder or stand around waiting for an inefficient kettle to boil? Exactly; no sacrifice involved. And in the long term, all of these things save money.
Most of these things I've mentioned before, but I thought I'd put them all in the same place.
You stick the Eco-Balls into the washing machine instead of using powder. The balls contain thingies which ionised the oxygen particles in the water and bash the clothes clean on a molecular level. It really works. It works as well as biological powder and these are supposed to last for 1000 washes - which would use a lot of washing powder.
This is also great from my point of view because there's no heavy box of powder to lift and nothing to spill. Also my gruesome skin itches a great deal less.
Downside: We have been programmed to associated a synthetic floral fragrance with cleanliness, whereas the Eco-Balls don't smell of anything. Despite being convinced of their effecacy, I couldn't persuade my Mum to buy some as she felt things didn't smell clean.
Price: Other than eBay, the cheapest price currently appears to be £27.50 at Cap Carbon where there is a money-back guarantee and you can get £10 is you also buy...
When you can't dry things outside for whatever reason, the dryer-balls reduce the time things take to dry in the tumble dryer and soften your clothes while there at it. My experience suggests a drying time-reduction of about a third, although this must vary. So you save time and money on electricity.
Downside: They can be rather noisy.
Price: See above for the offer at Cap Carbon, otherwise £7.99 at ecoTime. I've seen them for three or four quids on eBay as well.
3. Bicarbonate of Soda / Sodium Bicarbonate / Baking Soda
Bicarbonate of Soda is a main ingredient in lots and lots of cleaning products but can be effective without the additional chemicals and packaging of shop-bought stuff It is really effective at shifting miscellaneous muck and quite fun to play Mad Scientists with, on account of the fizz it makes when coming into contact with anything acidic.
I use the stuff for everything from stopping strong foods smells contaminating the milk in the fridge through to washing my hair. However, a far more comprehensive list than I could ever manage can be found here: Sixty-One Uses for Baking Soda.
Downside: Bicarbonate of Soda can leave a powdery residue anywhere you failed to rinse properly.
Price: Because it's also a main ingredient in Bath Bombs, you can buy Bicarbonate of Soda in large quantities from shops that supplier folks who hand-make cosmetics. Just a Soap seems the cheapest for amounts you don't need an extra cupboard for storage (although note the prices exclude VAT).
4. The Eco-Kettle
The Eco-Kettle is so cool! It consisters of two cyclinders; you fill the inner one with water and the push the exact quantity of water you wish to boil into the outer cyclinder. It then boils extremely quickly. You don't have to worry about exposed elements or anything like that. It is great and is purported to save about 30% electricity - a significant saving for a tea junkie like myself.
Measurement is in cups, as in tiny wee tea cups, so you have to work out how many cups of water fit into a grown-up mug. It is a bit heavier than an ordinary kettle. I also think it requires more strength in one's hands to work than your average kettle. Therefore, not one for people with signifcant weakness in their hands.
Price: These come up relatively cheap on eBay as unwanted presents, but the postage is usually steep. I got mine for £29.50 at the Ethical Superstore, where you get free teabags, you get a free gift anyway and you might find that you've accidentally bought a shedload of Fair Trade Chocolate at the same time (Actually, the Ethical Superstore is also great for your Teabags, which you can buy relatively cheaply in bulk.)
It is expensive for a kettle but you can go a lot dearer - here is a £60 kettle and it doesn't even look as cool. You can buy a kettle for a fiver, but those things only last about six months.
Vinegar is a super all-purpose cleaner. It cleans. Everything. It is antiseptic and antibacterial, it'll eat through grease, rust and all manner of crud. However, a far more comprehensive list than I could ever manage can be found here: Wise Bread's 242 uses for Vinegar. And Counting.
Downside: I don't like the smell of vinegar, even though it doesn't linger at all. Lemon juice is a good additive or even an alternative when this is important. Also, because of the acidity, you have to be careful about certain surfaces (I can't use it to clean the vast marble surfaces of our bungalow, for example).
Price: Uh, I don't know, we buy it with my groceries. We get the clear distilled stuff which probably tastes foul on your chips.
6. The Mooncup/ Keeper/ Menstrual Cup
I wrote an entire post about this last year, which covers the advantages and disadvantages of this method of sanitary protection.
Price: Just now, the cheapest would appear to be £17.99 at the Ethical Superstore, although I got mine cheaper than that. Look out for special offers. Also while we're on the distasteful subject of bodily functions...
7. Weenee Pouch Pants (sorry; that's what they're called)
This is my nephew Alexander's recommendation. It's a compromise between the convenience of disposable nappies and the ecological advantages of Terry Towels. What you have is a washable brief with a waterproof gusset, as it were. In this gusset fits a liner which is disposable and biodegradable. So Alexander's nappy doesn't need changing completely every time he goes to the toilet; the liner can just be thrown away. And when the nappy is changed, it can be washed and worn again.
Downside: Not as convenient as disposable nappies when on the move. When Alex stays away from home he prefers nappies you can just throw away. Or at least, his Mummy and Daddy do. Also, I imagine there is more of an issue with the growing size of a baby than with Terry Towels which you can adjust as you go along - I forgot to ask.
Price: These are bloody expensive; apparently at £11.99 a pair everywhere - although I can recommend Spirit of Nature having bought stuff from there myself. A good source for condoms which are suitable for vegans and biodegradeable.
You know, I'm sure there are other things, but that's all I can think of today.