How to be eco-friendly as well as pocket-friendly
Saving the world seems a pretty big ask. And it seems every day there’s another challenge to face in the quest to being a responsible consumer.
But never fear. You can put away your superhero costume and stop fretting about reading the small print.
We’ve taken a look at some easy changes you can make to the everyday products you buy to have a positive impact on the environment.
Our guide below looks at what the issues are with each product, how you can avoid them, and best of all where to buy them without breaking the bank.
For comparison consistency we have looked at prices of less sustainable/eco-friendly products currently on sale at the nation’s favourite supermarket, Waitrose.
Let’s get straight to the bottom of this issue by starting with loo roll.
Toilet tissue looks to have come a long way in the last couple of decades, with plenty of recycled options on the shelves in most major supermarkets.
But, as it seems with everything these days, it’s just not as simple as that.
Remember when loo roll was sold wrapped in paper packaging? That packaging could go straight in the recycling, so why did they get rid of it? Nowadays it’s a struggle to find any loo roll sold in supermarkets which isn’t covered in plastic.
We looked online however, and found a great alternative on offer from a company called Ecoleaf.
This online retailer sells a whole range of organic and sustainable household products, but the loo roll is particularly interesting. It is made from 100% recycled paper, sourced and manufactured in the UK (so easy on the grocery miles). It is sold wrapped in paper packaging (no plastic!).
The best bit is it can be bought in bulk to keep costs down. You can buy 60 rolls at a time (online) for £5.35 for 12. Compared to £3.70 per 12 for a standard toilet roll at a popular supermarket.
Yes, it is slightly harder on your pocket, but short of giving up wiping, this is about as good as it currently gets for being kind to the environment.
The Responsible Potato
The main issue with potatoes comes by virtue of it being a food, and issues in the food industry are not just about food miles but also resource efficiency and use of chemicals.
The food industry is responsible for about 30% of global energy consumption and produces about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions.
It stands to reason the humble potato is probably not as un-eco-friendly as your local herd of cows – but what should you look for when buying a responsible potato?
Let’s start with energy consumption. It might surprise you that potatoes can be culprits here because fertilizers and pesticides used in the cultivation process are derived from oil and gas. Similarly, machinery used to plant, tend and harvest are run on fossil fuels. And, of course, the machinery used to process food also uses energy.
So what you’re looking to really claim to have found a responsible potato are those farmed with the lowest levels of chemicals possible, and which have undergone the least amount of processing – including pre-sale cleaning.
Plus, as with other items on the sustainable shopping list, they should be packaged in recyclable material.
Arguably the best option is to buy potatoes from a local farm shop, where you can buy them loose (no plastic) and where you can verify if they have been grown organically and locally (reduced food miles).
Services such as Abel and Cole or Riverford replicate this process but deliver to your door – useful if you live in an urban area or nowhere near a farm shop.
Price-wise, again the sustainable option does work out slightly more expensive. A kilo of organic new potatoes from Riverford costs about £4.50 compared to organic jersey royals currently available at Waitrose for £5.34 per kilo.
Buying the White Stuff
Remember the days when pints came in a glass bottle which got recycled without us even having to think about it?
Nowadays most of us buy milk in plastic bottles or cartons, and most of us buy it from the supermarket.
But excitingly the humble milkman and his milk bottles have mastered the art of time travel, and can once again be spotted doing the early morning rounds in most areas.
Milk&More enables you to book one-off or regular deliveries of milk. Alongside the usual milk brands, you’ll recognise from the supermarket you’ll also see the good old glass bottle. And, as in days of yore, these can be washed out and left on the doorstep to be collected by the milkman and used again. Happy days.
The price is certainly slightly higher at 81p per pint compared to a typical 78p per litre for a similar supermarket brand. But you can choose from unhomogenised milk meaning it has not been processed to break down the fat globules – which is done to create an apparently more pleasing white product. Remember, food processing equals higher energy consumption, and therefore lower eco-friendly credentials.
Or you choose organic milk, so you can be assured less chemicals have been used to look after the cows.
Sadly at the moment there appears to be no unhomogenised organic milk on offer.
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Give us our daily bread
Apparently nearly 12million loaves of bread are bought every day in the UK, making it one of the nation’s favourite foods.
We all know bread is highly processed, with the industry perfecting a recipe over the past few decades to produce loaves that stay mould-free, soft and edible for days. All of which, not surprisingly, requires a good deal of processing, chemicals and energy consumption.
It stands to reason, therefore, that the most sustainable and eco-friendly bread is made the old-fashioned way, using just yeast, water, flour and possibly a little salt.
Organic flour is a plus. And packaging which is recyclable is also useful. Happily, most supermarkets offer bread such as this.
However, it may surprise you to know that yeast can be one of the main culprits of unsustainability.
Yeast is produced on a commercial scale by feeding the base yeast with sugar waste from the sugar industry (so far, so good) but also needs nitrogen (from the air) and hydrogen which is sourced from the petrochemical industry. Not so great then.
Luckily there is an easy alternative – sourdough. The leaven in sourdough is simply derived from the air around us. Frankly it’s hard to think of a more sustainable product than that.
At £1.95 for a 500g loaf from the Waitrose bakery it is nearly double the cost of a run of the mill (‘scuse the pun) white loaf.
But if you’re happy to pay a little extra for better quality then you can eat it knowing you are not also eating unnecessary added chemicals and calories.
Interested to know how you can safeguard your (grand)children’s finances as well as the planet? Read more here.
If you’re interested in finding out more about saving and investing check out our new magazine ‘Fixed’ which has loads of tips and hints about how to save cash.