In some ways I’ve been on a kind of eco-mission for years – ordering a recycling box for a boyfriend’s shared house, chiding colleagues for using throwaway cups, and turning off their computers after they’d left the office.
I’ve recently made some even more substantial changes to my lifestyle. I’ve moved towards a vegan diet, cut back on flying (I’ve flown once in the past three years), and nowadays I rarely buy anything new, with online resellers and secondhand sites my main sources of shopping.
Certo, the onus isn’t solely on what any one of us can do as an individual, businesses have to do their bit too. But I believe we can all be more conscious citizens – although I admit I’m lagging behind compared with many eco-warriors, and there’s a long list of ways I can have an even more positive impact on the planet.
That’s why I eagerly accepted the challenge to see what I could do to go even greener over the next five days.
The eco escape
I’d been planning a trip to London and I started to wonder how sustainable I could make it. ok, after doing some research, it doesn’t look like I’ll be wild camping by the River Lea, but I do discover a sumptuous hotel in a converted 19th-century Victorian warehouse in Clerkenwell, which scores highly when it comes to sustainability.
It has its own borehole beneath the building, which augments the hotel’s water supply, as well as some nifty energy-saving technologies. If you open a window, ad esempio, the air conditioning cuts out, and the lights in my room turn themselves off when they detect that they aren’t in use. The hotel also stocks environmentally-friendly bathroom products.
So while money remains a factor when booking accommodation, in the future I plan to factor in sustainability too.
Similarly, I hold my hands up and admit that I don’t tend to research a restaurant’s green bona fides beforehand. So I challenge myself to find somewhere to eat with an environmental ethos during my stay in London. I’m thrilled when I come across a new fine-dining restaurant in Camden’s Buck Street Market – one situated in an old shipping container, no less. I’m pleased to discover that it is rising to the sustainability challenge by using foraged natural ingredients, in-season products, and taking much of its produce straight from its garden terrace.
I opt for the vegan tasting menu, with dishes such as salt-baked celeriac with fermented wild garlic and onion miso. The food is delicious and it feels good knowing that the restaurant has a zero-waste policy: the chefs ferment and preserve in-season ingredients in kilner jars, and oil waste is converted into biodiesel to power its lights.
A casa, while I go wild at zero-waste stores and also try to shop for local produce, I know that where I don’t hit the spot is food waste, with unused produce heading in the bin liner. So I decide to download a food-sharing app that enables people to give away food and other household items locally.
Sfortunatamente, on the day I look I find just one active user, who is giving away limes and bread. I have a bunch of parsley going spare as there’s not enough room in my freezer to even attempt to freeze it. I add it to the app but no one bites. Instead I give it to a friend. I can see the potential of the app, tuttavia, and I plan to dip in regularly to see if I can give away or salvage any items.
Another area where I fall down on is skincare. While I refill most of my shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and hand wash bottles, I wouldn’t like an anti-plastic campaigner to raid my beauty cabinet. So I decide to visit a natural skincare brand on my doorstep in Margate.
I’m captivated by its bio restore membrane, a grown-to-order, under-eye mask, che è 100% natural with ingredients such as agar, aloe vera and cucumber, as well as 100% compostable. In modo cruciale, it also works to brighten up the area under my eyes.
I’ve always been put off by natural deodorant but I decide to give one that is available here a go. It features mushroom and kelp extracts – grown in the company’s lab in Margate – and comes in a recyclable and reusable container. Importantly, it proves more effective than I’d expected. Admittedly it’s expensive, but this is a company that has ethics and sustainability at its core.
Finalmente, one very effective thing you can do is look at where your finances are held. Our investments and pensions, even just the money sitting in our bank accounts, can all be a force for greening the planet. Earlier in the year I switched my handful of pension pots – admittedly a very small figure – and set up my own SIPP (self-invested personal pension) to invest in ethical and eco funds, as well as opening up an account with a bank that has set itself an ethical remit.
I’m always trying to find new ways to be greener, especially when it comes to what I do with my money, and that’s why NS&I’s new Green Savings Bonds have piqued my interest. While I do already invest in the renewables sector, I have savings in the bank and it would be good for the heart and mind to see some of it being put to use for a few years in Green Savings Bonds, where my money will support green projects around the UK, such as zero-emissions buses, flood defences and decarbonising hospitals.
How did I do?
What’s the upshot of my five-day eco-challenge? Admittedly my weekend getaway involved flashing the cash more than I usually would, but it’s taught me to scrutinise brands more and to try to opt for those with a green edge.
Every time we spend our money, whether it’s on energy, eating out or pampering ourselves, it sends a clear and powerful signal of what kind of future we want. Adesso, let me find my under-eye mask before it decomposes.
Find out more about Green Savings Bonds at nsandi.com