Sustainable Steps I Make

personal carbon footprints

Hello to all the lovely new subscribers to the website, and to all my loyal readers, who encourage me to write new articles every week.

In preparation for my piece on the Today show with Claire Byrne on RTE radio 1 this week, I drafted a list of ‘eco’ things that I do and I thought you might find it useful to read them.

Nothing mentioned in this article has been sponsored. It’s all just my own personal opinion. If you like your sources to remain independent then please;
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As you can see I’m not perfect. I’m not vegan, we own a car and we do fly. My motto is progress not perfection. My life doesn’t currently allow me to drive much less or switch to a complete vegan diet but I’m getting closer. Also I’m not willing to give up all flying. I tried travelling by ferry and after one of the scariest nights of my life at sea I swore never again.

My goal is not to live the most sustainable life possible. My goal is to live the best life I can, as sustainably as I can. And although that sounds like the same thing, the subtle distinction is the difference between penury and pleasure.

Anyway, here are some of the changes we’ve made to our lifestyle over the past 5 years. These changes have helped us save approximately €2000 per annum compared to our previous lifestyle and allow us to keep our carbon footprint to .8 of what the earth produces annually, i.e. living within our planetary means.


  • only buying as much food as we need – avoiding multipacks
  • planning our meals and underbuying to allow for schedule changes
  • having an ‘eat-me-first’ shelf in the fridge
  • freezing bread
  • freezing leftovers and ingredients, i.e. herbs, garlic cloves, lemon peel
  • freezing food in portions, i.e. sauces, baked beans, etc
  • buying fruit and veg in season as much as possible
  • finding recipes for regular leftovers so as to avoid food waste
  • storing food so at to lengthen it’s shelf / fridge life
  • buying fruit & veg twice a week to ensure freshness
  • making our own cakes and biscuits
  • growing lettuce, herbs, and some veg
  • using plates over food stored in the fridge instead of clingfilm
  • greasing and flouring baking tins instead of using greaseproof / baking paper
  • using a lidded roaster instead of tin foil
  • eating package-free popcorn instead of crisps
  • using 100% wood or 100% stainless steel utensils instead of plastic utensils
  • using stainless steel lunch boxes instead of plastic tupperware
  • reusing jars in the freezer instead of tupperware
  • reducing the amount of meat and dairy we eat
  • rehoming food through the Olio app


  • buying as much package-free goods in our own reusable containers / bags as possible including fruit & veg, dry goods, nuts, dried fruit, pasta, rice etc
  • avoiding individually wrapped food items
  • using our own containers for meat, deli-goods, takeaways (pre-covid)
  • buying refillable products whenever possible; including washing up liquid, shampoo, laundry powder & liquid, vinegar, oil, honey
  • buying products in the largest container available to reduce the amount of packaging
  • buying concentrates, i.e. coconut cream instead of coconut milk, to reduce the amount of packaging
  • reusing our own shopping bags, including for non-grocery shopping
  • asking for as little packaging as possible when ordering something, or returning received packaging to the company where feasible


  • using wood dish brush with plant fibre bristles instead of plastic one
  • using a bar of soap over liquid soap
  • making our own liquid soap from slivers of bar soap
  • using bicarbonate of soda and water instead of Cif
  • using lemon juice or vinegar instead of glass cleaner
  • using a stainless steel scourer instead of brillo pads
  • using coconut scourer instead of plastic scrubbers
  • using compostable sponges in the kitchen
  • using rags instead of kitchen paper for wiping up most spills
  • using recycled paper kitchen towel sparingly
  • using a less-toxic laundry product
  • using a Guppyfriend to capture microfibres from the laundry


  • using an electric car over fossil fuel car
  • walking and cycling instead of driving where possible
  • limiting ourselves to one recreational flight a year
  • planning trips in order to cut down on emissions, i.e. taking the most fuel efficient route, visiting places close together in one trip

Personal Hygiene

  • using a vinegar rinse instead of hair conditioner
  • using cotton face cloths instead of wipes and scrubbies
  • using wood nailbrish with plant fibres instead of a plastic one
  • using reusable cloth sanitary pads over disposable
  • using natural deodorants over synthentics
  • using coral-friendly sunscreens
  • using recycled paper toilet roll
  • using microplastic free toothpaste
  • using natural skincare
  • making some skincare from food-grade ingredients
  • doing a body wash instead of having a shower everyday


  • using organic cotton thread over polyester
  • repairing instead of replacing.
  • buying as much as possible second-hand
  • washing clothes less, by spot treating or airing them instead
  • rehoming clothes to others that can use them
  • recycling old socks and underwear through Clothespod bins
  • donating worn out clothing as rags through charity shops that take them


  • putting on jumpers instead of turning on the heat
  • turning off wi-fi when not in use
  • turning off devices when charging
  • switching to a 100% green energy energy provider
  • switching to LED of CFL lightbulbs

Eating / Drinking Out

  • using reusable coffee cups, water bottles, straws, cutlery, napkins
  • supporting restaurants with proper plates and cutlery and being sure to ask for a ceramic cup and plate when sitting in a cafe
  • supporting cafes that take reusable coffee cups
  • supporting cafes and restaurant that offer plant-based/ local / seasonal food
  • bringing leftovers from restaurant meals home in our own containers


  • using paper tape instead of sellotape
  • using highlighter pencils over markers
  • using refillable pens over single-use pens
  • using recycled paper
  • buying second-hand school books where possible
  • not covering school books with plastic
  • using frozen bread for sandwiches to avoid having to wrap them in clingfilm


  • switching from Google to Ecosia, which uses ad revenue to plant trees
  • switching to digital statements and bills

Gardening & Wildlife

  • avoiding all synthetic chemicals in the garden
  • making our own compost with kitchen & garden wast
  • making our own plant food with comfrey plants
  • leaving parts of the garden messy
  • allowing lawn flowers to bloom
  • mowing as late as possible in spring to allow dandelions to flower
  • using our two rainwater butts to water the garden garden
  • putting up a bird nest box
  • feeding the birds in winter
  • trying to provide nesting sites for bees and wasps in the garden
  • trying to provide hibernation sites for insects in the garden
  • creating a small garden pond


  • reusing gift bags instead of buying wrapping paper
  • giving cash or paper vouchers over physical presents
  • rehoming items through freecycle pages
  • avoiding plastic coated parking tickets by using a parking app
  • refusing receipts, which are non-recyclable and coated with plastic
  • refusing freebies that we don’t really want, i.e. pens, keyrings etc
  • borrowing books and movies instead of buying them, or using a local ‘little library’
  • putting an ‘Addressed Mail’ only sign on the mailbox
  • giving cardboard boxes to local business that can use them for postal orders
  • borrowing instead of buying and generously lend to others to help them do the same
  • supporting companies that do take back schemes
  • sending encouraging message to companies doing the right thing and polite suggestions to those that aren’t

Also every year I do a review of all the things I trialled over the year and what was a hit and what was a miss, which you might find interesting 

And, every week I do a weekly update, listing the sustainable stuff I get up to on average week. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how ‘normal’ my life is. 

If you’re starting out on your sustainable journey the best place to begin is with this article, Start Here.

I’ll be back with a planet positive newsletter next week. Till then catch you on Facebook or Instagram


Published by Elaine Butler

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

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