The Sustainable Year: January 2022 Update

Last year I gradually replaced some single use household items with reusable ones to save waste. This year I want to do more to reduce my impact on the environment and reduce how much I consume in terms of goods and materials.

My main drive for this has been the pressure to buy, buy, buy that we’re all surrounded with. I spent a lot of time last year decluttering and did well with it. But when I saw that I still have more than enough stuff I realised that the problem isn’t with letting go of things anymore for me, it’s with buying them in the first place.

This year my aim is to reduce my consumption for the benefit of my mind, my savings and my environment.

Here’s what I did in 2021:

  • Replaced kitchen roll with washable cloths
  • Replaced plastic dish sponges with Unsponges
  • Replaced cotton wool with reusable terry towel cleansing pads
  • Replaced spray cleaner with eco friendly dissolving refill pods
  • Replaced liquid soap with solid soap
  • Replaced kitchen foil with a reusable silicone baking sheet
  • Used up bath salt and body lotion making ingredients instead of buying ready made
  • Replaced plastic and paper straws with metal straws

As you can see they’re all small things, but I’m a big believer in taking baby steps towards something rather than trying to do everything at once. An all or nothing approach is effective for some people but it doesn’t work for me. I find if I make incremental changes they stick, like I’m sneaking them in quietly and easily.

I’m writing about it all in my blog as I’m also a big believer in accountability, and I know if I’ve said here that I’m going to keep making positive changes in 2022 I’ll do it, whereas if I keep it to myself I may end up letting myself off the hook! To keep myself accountable I’ll be writing a blog post on the last Friday of every month to review what I’ve tried and share any useful links or tips I’ve picked up.

What have I done in January?

  • Sewed reusable gift bags using this easy pattern that I could manage even with my basic sewing skills. I’m pleased with how they’ve come out and have used two of them already.
  • Used Christmas cards and my old 2021 calendar to make gift tags, something my Mum always used to do and I enjoy doing each year, this time including pictures from my gorgeous 2021 hedgehog calendar.
  • Sewed a compost bin caddy to try out by adapting the reusable gift bag pattern. Compost caddy liners are biodegradable but seeing as they still need to be produced, packaged and shipped there’s still something to be gained from a reusable liner.
  • Sewed two cotton hankies to try out. I’m not sure how I feel about cotton hankies for, um, very snotty occasions, but they could be good for things like when I’m cutting onions and crying my eyes out.
  • Started a no clothes buying challenge, January to March inclusive apart from menstrual underwear, two pairs of jeggings to replace ones that have worn out and anything essential that breaks and can’t be repaired. If this happens I’ll try to buy second hand.
  • Ate what we had in the house to cut down on potential food waste. I really enjoyed this as we came up with some new meals ideas because of it.
  • Finished old craft projects so I wouldn’t get tempted to buy new yarn etc as a Winter pick me up: A common hazard for me at this time of year, all that tempting, bright yarn in the middle of the grey months. So hard to resist! But burying myself in half done projects and vowing to finish them by the end of Winter has been a great distraction, and it’s been satisfying to finish things.
Reusable gift bags from my fabric stash
A stack of clean, reusable cloths instead of kitchen roll
Gift tags made from last year’s calendar

What’s worked?

Making the reusable gift bags and making gift tags out of old Christmas cards and the 2021 were easy wins as they were fun to make and turned out well. I was a bit dubious about replacing tissues with cotton hankies but now I’ve trialled it I’ve found it’s worked well so I’ll be ordering a pack. I was going to make some but the fabric I have is a bit rough.

Meal planning based on food already in the house was another quick win as I’m frugal with food shopping anyway, so that was easy.

The reusable compost caddy liner worked well so I’ll sew another one of those.

What’s been challenging?

Buying no yarn has been hard as there are lots of crochet along and knit along projects starting at the moment, (like the Harbour Blanket at Attic24) where I’d need to buy a large amount of new yarn to join in. I also have lots of ideas for projects that I don’t have the yarn for, and have had to stop myself from giving into a woolly shopping spree by looking through my yarn stash for inspiration instead.

The same goes for clothes buying. I buy most of my clothes second hand, which means they’re so cheap that I of then think “I may as well buy it” when I see something I like. Deciding not to buy anything has challenged me to question why I buy clothes. If I’m honest with myself it’s to look different, ‘better’ – whatever that is. Buying new to me clothes had partly become a way to hide from any negative feelings I have towards myself, rather than addressing them. I think this could be challenging to work through but I’m determined I will.

I free resource that’s making not buying clothes easier for me is ‘Shop Your Closet Challenge’ at Mint Notion. It’s encouraging me to use the clothes I already have in different ways and to experiment with finding my own style. I’m enjoying playing with how my clothes look and finding out what I do and don’t like to wear. Like many women in their 30’s I’ve got into a rut with clothes, wearing the same old same old most days. Clothing brands play on this by making us the target for aggressive marketing disguised under soft words like ‘love yourself’ and ‘bring out your inner beauty’ but what it comes down to is buying clothes to hide from our negative thoughts about ourselves. So yes, it’s going to be a challenge to overcome that messaging but I’m up for it.

All in all it’s been a good start to 2022 – but starting is easy! I’ve got a long list of things to try though, and I’m looking forward to trying them and sharing my progress here.

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