Review of 2017

2017 and 2018 written in the sand

Before I set off with my new year’s resolutions for 2018 it’s worth taking stock of how last year’s experiments went. I’ve always tried to live sustainably but it wasn’t until 2017 that I had the time and energy to invest in it. At first i was overwhelmed by the conflicting information out there and at just how much we’d need to change, but like everything in life, when done bit by bit it gets easier and easier and before you know it you’ve reached your target. That’s not to say that we are now totally sustainable, there are still many things that I’d love to change in our house but I’m part of a family not a dictatorship and so I continue to nudge people towards better choices and practice gratitude for the positive changes that we have made. Here are some of the planet positive changes that we’ve tested in 2017 and how they fared.

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Hit and Misses from 2017

Homemade Toothpaste – MISS

To date I’ve tried multiple combinations of the following; bicarbonate of soda (bread soda), coconut oil, calcium carbonate and peppermint oil. No combination with bicarbonate of soda tasted well and even tiny amounts of coconut oil down the drain caused it to smell. I’ve heard Xylitol helps reduce the saltiness of bicarbonate of soda but I don’t want to end up with yet another thing languishing in my cupboards so I’m going to put a pin in this DIY toiletry until I can get my hands on a small quantity of Xylitol package-free.

Shampoo Bars – MISS

I’ve had bad luck with shampoo bars to date but I’ve heard good reports about one from Clarkes of Dublin so when I find it on sale I will give it a go but for now I’m back on liquid shampoo.

Homemade Moisturiser – HIT & MISS

My homemade moisturiser is perfect as a body moisturiser but not as a face moisturiser so I’ve bought an organic / natural moisturiser made in the UK by Green People, which comes in recyclable containers, and so far so good it’s performing very well.

Homemade Mascara – Miss

At first my homemade mascara showed great promise but over time, even stored in an airtight jar, it started to dry out and once applied would crumble onto my face within hours. I eventually gave in and bought a natural mascara by German company Lavera. I’ve since found another recipe for homemade mascara that calls for carnauba wax so I’ll give this a whirl once I get some.

Homemade Weedkiller – MISS

My homemade weedkiller works on annual weeds but not on tough perennial weeds. So I now prefer to weed by hand or hoe rather than waste copious amounts of salt and vinegar.

Natural Cleaning Products – HIT

Apart from washing-up liquid and laundry powder we’ve only been using food-grade ingredients for cleaning  for decades. These include vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, lemon juice, citric acid and water. Being so inexpensive doing this save us a ton of money, which we can then invest into 100% biodegradable washing-up liquid and laundry powder.

Homemade Crackers – MISS & HIT

While the recipe for homemade crackers that I use is easy and does result in deliciously crispy crackers they don’t stay crispy for more than a day, unless I re-crisp them up in the oven, which just isn’t practical for us. So I’ve had to resort back to shop bought crackers for lunches.

Homemade Pizza Dough – HIT

Now that we’ve cracked the recipe for good homemade pizza dough we’re definitely going to stick with it. Being able to make our own dough allows us to make our own pizza thereby avoiding any nasty food additives and wasteful packaging.

Electric Car – HIT

I appreciate that electric cars won’t suit everyone but it really suits our family and I love our electric car. With ours being an older model of the Nissan Leaf, you don’t get the long driving range that newer models offer, so we sometimes have to plan ahead, particularly in winter or if we’re going on a long journey. That said its way cheaper to run than a fossil fuel car and I love the silence of it, and the lack of fuel fumes. Hopefully as battery life lengthens, the charging infrastructure improves and the ratio of renewal energy to fossil fuel in electricity generation in Ireland increases electric cars will become the norm.

Mozzarella / Pizza Cheese – HIT

Although the cheese I use on pizza is made in a very similar manner to mozzarella it’d be wrong for me to label it as such. Proper mozzarella needs gentle caressing in order to lengthen milk protein fibres that give that all familiar melty chewy texture. Mine gets none of that but it’s easier to make and works just as well on pizza, which is all I need it for.

Buying Groceries Loose – HIT, HIT, HIT

Avoiding packaging is a core aspect of Zero Waste movement and, in my experience, the only way to achieve it is to buy groceries loose wherever possible.  I found this was a bit awkward to do in the beginning and initially I did feel like a complete nutter but now its second nature and I’ve become brazen about it. The emergence of new Zero Waste stalls has really helped too! You can see where I buy my groceries on my Ethical Grocery Shopping List

Food Saving Recipes – HIT

I’ve always tried to minimise food waste but I gave it some extra attention in 2017. Now any half-eaten cucumbers become Swedish Cucumber Pickle, like the one in IKEA. Ageing lemons and limes are zested, then sliced, halved or quartered, with all parts frozen and stored in jars in the freezer. The best food waste recipe that I discovered this year was Strata, an American dish that is great for using up old bread.

Homemade Apple Juice – MISS

Although apple juice can be a great way to use up the odd apple, I think doing it regularly is way too much palaver and generates far too much waste for me.

No gifts – HIT

I know this might seem very bah humbug of me but it’s completely liberating. The time is save not shopping for pointless items that will just end up being regifted or donated makes a huge difference to my life. It also means that I have time to actually meet and chat to people rather than simply giving them stuff. That said I do feel a pang of guilt when people give me gifts, even if I’ve told them that I don’t do gift giving but no one said change was easy!

Reusable Drinking Cup – HIT

I love my Stojo cup and would be lost without it. It would kill me to drink out of a disposable cup knowing that they’re neither recyclable nor compostable and now that a lot of cafes are not offering discounts to users of reusable cups it’s a no brainer.

Conker Laundry Liquid – MISS

Other than an alternative to liquid soap conker liquid didn’t really work for me as a laundry or dish soap alternative.

Soapnuts – MISS

As with conker liquid soapnuts only partially worked for me so I’ll be sticking to biodegradable washing powder from Sonett for now.

Homemade Puff Pastry – HIT

My homemade rough puff pastry is absolutely divine, easy-peasy and can be made entirely from ingredients bought in compostable packaging.

Jam – HIT

For some reason making jam is epitomises living lightly for me, particularly when the fruit is foraged or homegrown. I hope to make this an annual event in our house.

Liquid soap – HIT

I will never every buy liquid soap again now that I know just how easy, and cheap, it is to make from grated solid soap and a bit of water.

Homemade Cards – HIT

The only cards I buy now are for my kids to give to their school friends. I buy the multipack birthday cards in M&S because they look nice, are inexpensive and cut down on packaging. All other cards I give are made at home by recycling bits of cards giving to us over the years. If you’re at all interested in craft making homemade cards is one of the easiest and least expensive to start with. Plus it’ll save you a fortune.

Tortillas – HIT

Shop bought tortillas typically contain palm oil and come in non-recyclable packaging. If you have a mixer with a dough hook homemade tortillas are super easy, and healthier. If you don’t have a dough hook you have the added advantage of getting an arm work out!

Embracing Pre-loved Goods & Abandoning Perfection – HIT

I’ve always been a fan of charity shops and second-hand furniture stores but it wasn’t until I started watching American Pickers and Salvage Hunters that I really got a feel for the beauty and character in well-worn artefacts.  I’ve linked these two themes together because if you want everything to look pristine you have to buy brand new and buying brand new is wasteful, particularly because as soon as that new item gets a knock it’s no longer pristine and so the whole look is compromised.  Also battered plastic does not look nice and so abandoning perfection only really works when you opt for quality natural materials like wood, stone and leather which look better with age.

Minimalism and re-homing stuff online – HIT

I’ve always hated clutter but found it hard to let go of stuff ‘just in case’. I no longer feel this way because as the market for pre-loved items grows I know I find most items pre-loved online for a reasonable price. The quietness of mind that minimalism gives me is worth the value of the items that I’ve donated or sold online over the past year.

Goals for 2018

  • This year my goal is to increase the number of homemade items in our store cupboard, including homegrown mustard, ketchup and loofah’s!
  • Aim for 80% of the items we buy to be pre-loved. In my experience buying second-hand takes a lot of time, whether it’s trips to charity shops or trawling through or, so achieving this will depend on what else I do in life this year.
  • There is a lot of conflicting information about sustainable living out there the best options can be so hard, even for the most committed eco-warrior so this year I want to start cutting through the spin and providing clear unambiguous information on the issues threatening our planet and our future.


PS – Don’t forget to like my new Living Lightly in Ireland Facebook Page or follow me on Instagram 

Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

6 thoughts on “Review of 2017

  1. How do you do your juice? I used to go through 6 bottles of juice a week. I recently bought a juicer machine and love it.


  2. I love this overview! Great to see a summary of what’s working and what’s not.
    Interesting to see your experience with soap nuts. I had wondered about them in this post and came to the conclusion that a sustainable, commercial powder that works at low temp is better than a homemade option that requires warm water (and may not work so well):


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