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Guest Post by Janey Lee Grace

(Imperfectly Natural)

As our personal and national carbon footprints have grown larger, most of us know we need to opt for sustainable choices in our personal life. But I’ve met many a carbon offsetting, ethical shopping and eco-minded people who fall short with their green credentials when it comes to their homes and workspace.

It is actually very simple to tick the ‘eco’ box though, we all know about re-using and recycling paper and packaging, but have you thought about your cleaning and personal care products? Just by looking after your own health and wellbeing by thinking holistically (and sometimes more simply) we can make ethical choices that save us money, reduce our carbon footprint and increase our health and wellbeing.  It’s good to ‘think global but act local’. Another obvious mantra is Reduce Reuse Recycle. Most of us are pretty good at recycling, at least we take our cotton shopping bags out with us, and send stuff to charity shops, but we aren’t always so good at reducing, and re-using.  Simple tips like buying less clothes, using old T shirts or washable cloths to mop up spills, represent good practical steps.  Food can be a massive area of waste in many households, Plan meals and shop locally.  Devise a meal plan in advance, wherever possible make extra batches and freeze for the following week.  Shop at local farmers markets or start a co-operative food buying scheme with neighbours or local community groups

There is a lot we can do to simply enhance our space and reap the benefits of ditching the controversial or proven hazardous chemicals and opting for natural solutions at home and at work.  Let’s start with some everyday purchases.

For general cleaning go old style, yes it’s the usual suspects, Bicarbonate of soda, white vinegar and a microfibre cloth work wonders, but with the best will in the world the best ingredient of all is the one we have all forgotten, it costs nothing and yet it’s the most effective of all – Of course I’m talking Elbow Grease. You can get a great workout and burn a few calories at the same time!   You’ll find great eco friendly cleaning products in most supermarkets as well as health stores. Ditch conventional laundry products. In addition to the water wasted in washing clothes possibly too often (could it just be aired?), there are certain chemicals in conventional detergents are a hazard to the eco system.  Instead use laundry balls or soapnuts, or invest in some natural laundry bleach from Mangle and Wringer who also have great natural cleaning products.

Choose the right houseplants, not just for aesthetic purposes. The Peace Lilly – along with the humble Spider plant was researched by NASA scientists and found to remove formaldehyde from the air to a radius of 30 feet.  They do say have one plant for each piece of electronic equipment; but beware, your office could start to look like Kew gardens!

Forget conventional air fresheners and scented candles, and avoid the wall mounted air fresheners which emit synthetic fragrance. It is known that air fresheners in the home contribute to respiratory problems, insomnia and headaches, they can be highly toxic and contribute to headaches and fatigue. For DIY air freshening, simply half fill a plastic plant spray bottle with filtered tap water and add a couple of drops of essential oil.  Eucalyptus and tea tree are ‘antibacterial’ while lemon or citronella are zingy and refreshing. Add a drop of vodka or vinegar to preserve or change the water regularly.  For when you want a lovely fragrance opt for aromatherapy sprays.  Neals Yard Remedies have some gorgeous room sprays and for scented candles avoid the conventional petro-chemical ones, opt for a lovely natural candle such as the ones from Africology UK (who also do room diffusers).

Create a more relaxing atmosphere with the lovely spray mists from Findhorn Essences, check out the Sacred Space mist which can help to purify and clear your physical space.

Sanitary wear – avoid disposable sanitary protection and use washable sanitary protection such as the wonderful funky environmentally friendly cloth sanitary pads from Bloom and Nora, or a Mooncup – much cheaper and healthier too.  If you have a baby consider washable nappies, they are incredibly easy to use and come in a variety of styles from www.Totsbots.com  (whose sister brand is Bloom and Nora mentioned above)

For clothing, avoid the cheap and almost disposable high street stores and go ‘eco-chic’, you’ll find something original if you shop in charity shops and vintage fairs.  Consider if you need anything new, think old style ‘make do and mend’.  Revamp what you already have, similarly with furnishings, cushion covers can be revamped from scraps of fabric, even if you aren’t handy with a needle and thread there’s no reason why you can’t use pins (even safety pins – remember the punk era?), Velcro and various other ways of changing what you already have by adding accessories to create a whole new look.  If you want to buy new, opt for a one-off from an ethical designer. You may only be able to afford one piece rather than three, but it will last far longer and offer you individuality and sustainability. You can mix and match quality items with budget clothes for a great, unique look. Often the fabrics last longer and are so much nicer to wear. A good ethical fabric to look out for is bamboo, which is amazingly soft and light yet sun-protective and anti-sweat.  I also love the feel of 100 per cent pure wool, its surprisingly light and lovely to wear even in Summer.

For skincare and cosmetics there is now a wealth of choice in one hundred per cent natural, sustainable and in some cases organic.  Check out the recommendations in www.imperfectlynatural.com.

In adopting an attitude of living more simply, you’ll feel richer for it.

Janey Lee Grace is a BBC Radio 2 presenter, media coach and author of 5 best selling books on holistic living.  Janey’s website, www.imperfectlynatural.com includes ‘life hacks’ for wanting to choose a more ethical lifestyle.

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