Sustainable Living – A Review of 2018

Another year about to start. I’m soooooo excited. I’ve spent the entire day updating a tonne of articles with new information that I’ve been bookmarking over the past few months. I try to keep the website as current as possible by updating articles with new info. That way you’ll always know where to go to find the latest info on sustainable living. Now I’m clear to get started on articles for 2019, but before I do lets see how I got on with my goals for 2018.

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Photo by Lee Scott on Unsplash

At the start of this year I made the following goals;

  • to increase the number of homemade items in our store cupboard, including homegrown mustard, ketchup and loofah’s!
  • to provide clear unambiguous information on the issues threatening our planet and our future.
  • for at least 80% of my purchases in 2018 to be pre-loved (second-hand).

So the first goal fell rightly on its arse. I found out that I really need a pressure cooker to make ketchup without expending a lot of energy and my loofah plant failed to thrive without a greenhouse. I did manage to grow and harvest my own mustard seeds but it was so hard to fully separate the chaff from the seed that I think I’ll just buy the seed package-free and make mustard that way.

I hope I delivered on the second goal. I learn a lot by researching and writing for this website and feel much more confident weeding out greenwashing from real sustainable policies, and I hope I’ve made this easier for you guys too. If you need a refresher course check out my article on Eco Folklore, Greenwashing and Misunderstandings, which I recently updated.

Although my measurements of the third goal weren’t quite as scientific as they should have been, I really think I smashed this one out of the park!  To be honest I don’t think I really thought about how I’d measure this. I did keep a rough list of what I bought but not individual items, i.e. clothes rather than stating 1 top and 2 pairs of shorts.

Most of the new items we bought were at the start of the year when I hadn’t hit my stride yet or didn’t have time to search stores. Over the year I got much better and toward the end was buying almost exclusively second-hand. Now I only buy second hand when it’s not appropriate e.g. underwear or after lengthy searches I can’t the items second-hand.

Here are the things that my family bought new in 2018. The items in italic are what I’d consider non-essential luxuries which, if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t need to buy new.

  1. Fridge Freezer to replace our 15 year old fridge that we inherited from a neighbour 10 years ago
  2. Dishwasher, which my husband insisted on!
  3. Electric Toothbrushes – sorry, but I can’t bear the sensation of wood inside my mouth and we only need to replace the heads on them every year.
  4. Yoga Pants
  5. Mascara from Lavera. See article on Ethical Zero Waste Make Up
  6. Foundation – Christian Dior. I know, I know! I just ran out of time researching a more sustainable alternative and I needed it for an event.
  7. Blank cards to make my own cards
  8. Veg Seeds x 2
  9. Compost in returnable bags
  10. Vegetable Seedlings
  11. Biological slug control (Nemaslug)
  12. Fruit Cage
  13. Netting for Veg Garden
  14. Bamboo cane connectors – which were a waste of money 😦
  15. Batteries  – I have rechargeable ones but they’re terrible
  16. Light bulbs
  17. 12 Flowering Plants – my weakness!
  18. Jumper made with sustainably sourced cotton on sale in M&S
  19. Jeans from M&S 
  20. Leather sandals when on holidays in Madrid
  21. Bracelet made from upcycled bicycle tube in Madrid
  22. Wooden earrings handmade in Ireland
  23. New t-shirts for my husband
  24. Reading glasses for my son
  25. Sunglasses for me and my husband. Mine were sustainable wood ones, my husbands were metal.
  26. Pyjamas
  27. Underwear & Socks
  28. Armbands for kids – constantly buying these buggers!
  29. School Jumpers x 2 – after our hand-me downs were threadbare
  30. School Shoes x 3 – after searching high and low for second-hand ones
  31. School books – only the ones I couldn’t get second-hand
  32. Copy books
  33. Comics for the kids
  34. Measuring jug – couldn’t find one in the charity shops
  35. Aluminium Baking Sheets to replace unhealthy non-stick ones
  36. Security camera

Some of the new stuff we bought was purchased to allow us to repair stuff we already had including;

  1. A new cover for an existing Z-bed
  2. Shoe repairs
  3. New jacks to repair existing headphones
  4. Elastic to repair pyjamas
  5. Organic thread for mending clothes
  6. Fabric to reupholster bedroom chairs
  7. Fabric to reupholster existing dining room chairs
  8. Silicone to repair bath seal
  9. New switch to repair electric shower
  10. New fan for bathroom
  11. New felt to repair roof shed
  12. New motor for hand-blender

And this is what I bought second-hand over the year

  1. All of my clothes (except for one jumper)
  2. Canvas backpack
  3. Necklace for me
  4. 3 pairs of shoes for me
  5. 1 pairs of shoes for my daughter
  6. All of my kids clothes
  7. Hats and scarf
  8. Toys, except for the odd birthday present
  9. Books
  10. Video games
  11. Playstation controller
  12. Board games
  13. Clocks for kids bedroom
  14. Storage boxes for kids bedroom
  15. Mirror
  16. Picture Frames
  17. Coffee cup
  18. Dinner Plates
  19. Upcycled bedside locker
  20. Uniform for school
  21. School books
  22. Notebooks for school
  23. Some copybooks for school
  24. Music recorder for school
  25. Maths sets for school
  26. Pencil cases
  27. Erasers and pencils
  28. Crochet Needles
  29. Yarn
  30. Kitchen stuff including a stainless steel roasting tray, bamboo canapes forks, cheese labels, spatula, Slotted spoons, small pot, cookie cutters, glass jars, collapsible silicone tupperware, stainless steel bowls,
  31. Plastic compost bin
  32. Hallowe’en costumes
  33. Christmas jumpers
  34. Christmas gifts for grandparents
  35. Christmas Cards
  36. Christmas Decorations

I should mention that I re-homed a lot of stuff this year too, although less than last year after my massive declutter Autumn 2017. I must be doing a good job of refusing stuff because this is the first year I didn’t have to declutter in advance of Christmas. Here’s an article on my approach to minimalism and if it inspires you to do likewise check out my articles on what to recycle / donate where and How to rehome stuff online

At the end of every year I also like to review things I’ve tried during the year and say whether I feel they’re worth continuing with.

  • Eating less meat – Yes but I think my family have plateaued on this. We’re currently at 2 vegetarian meals a week and one fish based meal a week but, seeing as 19 food items are off the menu in my house, it’s as much as I can push them. If you want to read more about my family’s eating habits check out my article on Menu Planning.
  • Eating less dairy – Yes. Have trialled egg-free muffins but need to up the ante on this. I’m more mindful of the amount of dairy I eat, which is the first step at least.
  • Homemade cards – Yes. Easy, inexpensive, plastic-free way to acknowledge people you care about. To see some of my homemade cards check out my Instagram or Pinterest account.
  • Mending earphones – No. I am not good enough at soldering!
  • Homemade lip balm & Vaseline – Yes. Easy, quick and inexpensive to make.
  • Homemade shoe polish – No. I read that I could use the recipe for lip balm as shoe polish but it made my shoes sticky and hard to keep clean.
  • Red Onion Pickle – Yes, yes, yes. So good with everything!
  • Green Tomato Chutney – Yes. So good I ate it with a spoon out of the jar.
  • Growing pumpkins – Yes. So proud of Blue Prince pumpkin that I grew this year.
  • Growing mustard – No. The amount of effort required to separate the husk from the seeds was more than I could bear. Will buy seeds package-free and make my own mustard that way.
  • Growing Luffa – No. Need a greenhouse and don’t have one.
  • Shampoo Bars – No. Tried yet another soap-free bar this summer. Read my review of shampoo bars for more info
  • Toothpaste Tablets – No. Really couldn’t take to the after taste and feeling in my mouth. Also pretty pricey for a family.
  • Georganics Biodegradable tooth floss – No. Couldn’t bear the texture of it against my teeth (shudder)
  • Switching to If You Care products – No.  Having learned of the concerns over baking with silicone I had planned to switch to these but then found out that some of their products are coated with silicone, which is also not compostable. Their baking cases aren’t though so will continue to buy these.
  • Not tidying garden for winter.  – Yes. For a type A, neat-freak person this is hard but I managed and it gave me much more time for writing
  • Making plectrum from old gift cards – Yes. Hopefully I won’t accrue any more nasty cards but any I have will be upcycled into these to be gifted to musically minded friends and family.
  • Coconut scourer – Yes. Picked this up at Zero Waste Festival in December and loving this completely natural and compostable scouring pad.
  • Homemade Lozenges – Nope. Big blobs of gooey burnt yuckiness. Much rather a hot cup of water, lemon, honey and ginger if my throat is raspy.
  • Buying second-hand – Yes, yes, yes. Although I need to remind myself that buying stuff I don’t need even if it’s second-hand is not sustainable!

And so finally my goals for 2019.

  • Make/ customise own clothes
  • Keep testing recipes for homemade mascara – the holy grail
  • Source more sustainable ethical foundation
  • Try washing hair with water only.
  • (Finally) start a new business
  • Support Irish growers of chemical-free cut flowers by buying flowers from them.

Have you any new things you’re hoping to try in 2019?


PS – You can read my review of 2017 and all my sustainable living experiments that year here

Published by Elaine Butler

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

8 thoughts on “Sustainable Living – A Review of 2018

  1. Great review and very inspiring! Hoping to cut down our red meat consumption this year but I’m finding it hard to try out new recipes with success as I don’t have much time to research them properly.
    A zero waste shop opened locally this year so I’m buying loads of dry goods there like dried fruit and chickpeas, as well as refills for shampoo, hand soap, conditioner and cleaning products. It’s great that many items are cheaper than their plastic-packaged counterparts in the local supervalu.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great goal to have. I’m struggling to find good recipes too. I’ve recently joined some Facebook groups for inspiration; Vegan families in Ireland and Vegetarian, Vegan and Semi-vegetarian Families in Ireland. Maybe try following a few vegan / vegetarian bloggers like Oh She Glows.

      Delighted to hear that the bulk goods store is cheaper than the local Supervalu. Anything that makes sustainable living easier gets my vote.

      Best of luck for 2019.


  2. Hi Elaine,
    You probably know about these already, but you can buy cellulose-based sponges (and loofahs).
    I don’t use a loofah but I buy these “pop up” sponges from Trader Joe’s (product info here: A pack of 12 sponges, which last for maybe 3 years (if you can use at the rate of one per season), comes in one small package and they can be composted after use 🙂
    Happy New Year!


    1. Cool, thanks for that link. I’ve gone looking for cellulose sponges in Ireland but have yet to find them. When I find them I’d be keen to check that they’ve been tested for biodegradability. I’d imagine all manner of chemicals are used to convert the cellulose into this structure and I wouldn’t want that entering the soil when I compost them.


    1. Hi Jen. Thanks a mill for the comment and for reading the blog!! Thanks also for the tip on the floss. I had tried another biodegradable floss and had to rehome it cause I couldn’t bear the sensation on my teeth. I know Minimal Waste Grocery sell Georganics and I think I’ve seen it in a few eco stores. Let me know how you get on with it.



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