Below is a list of things Matt and I own which are both environmentally friendly (based on the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle) and make life nicer or more convenient than it was before. I’m thinking about energy, materials and pollution including carbon dioxide.
But first, a lecture. A lot of people hold up their hands when confronted with imminent environmental catastrophe and tell themselves it’s up to the government to come up with population measures and legislation and its up to manufacturers to come up with better products. Many people reject the idea that they – little old them – have much of an obligation to look after the environment.
I don’t agree. I’d ask people who think that way to imagine themselves explaining their fatalistic position to somebody in the Maldives, or low-lying parts of Bangladesh, or to a Chinese worker newly arrived in the city from her old life as a subsistence farmer, or to their own children. For those of us who enjoy choice and who value markets, surely the question is an individual one – how can we live a good, comfortable life in such a way that everybody else could more or less have the same habits and pleasures as we have.
None of the suggestions below are puritan or hair shirt, but some may seem tiny, trivial, ridiculous, or futile. Don’t scoff – I’d respond that we have to think this way to be able to look the people of the developing world in the eye and say that we’ve done all we could and that we kept them in mind. I reckon – especially where it’s no skin off our nose – that every little counts, both as an ethos and on a population level, where modest individual measures over time combine into vast savings.
Maybe we need a green lifehacker. I am far from perfectly green myself – I have a little technology habit and I’m wasteful with food. But here is my contribution.
Freeplay ‘Companion’ mini radio torch
Wireless, no batteries, dynamo-powered. You move your arm to wind it which is good for your pen-pushing arm. It is small, highly portable (hangable), shockproof, energy-efficient (a bit of winding goes a long way) and the sound quality is very good. Move it between bathroom, kitchen and ironing board. Saves electricity, batteries and associated pollution, and the materials and space required to have a separate torch and radio.
Trevor Baylis weatherproof wind-up globe lantern
Same inventor as the ‘Companion’ but this is a wind-up lantern. Will hang or stand. Excellent for camping and power cuts. Oh, it’s discontinued – but there are others.
A sleeping bag with legs, arms, hood, unzippable hand holes and reinforced feet. I wear it now as I type. It is freezing outside and I am sitting in a room which is hard to heat but I’m cosy. Sounds miserable to sit in the cold in a sleeping bag? Au contrair – my arms are cushioned on the desk, and I can sit in whatever position I like. I think of it as a padded jumpsuit. Conserves gas, reduces carbon and saves money. It’s not cheap but with gas at current prices, mine will pay for itself in less than a winter. I do admit though that if I had a house full of cold pinched children, I’d get on with the insulation and meanwhile crank up the heating. UPDATE: Matt came home and complained about the cold in the house. I (who’d been here on my own) hadn’t noticed because I spent the entire day working from home in my bag. Warm hands and apparently rosy cheeks.
Eco wash balls
Three small plastic cages filled with ceramic beads which substitute for washing power or liquid. Work with ions. Really do work. You can wash without rinsing. If you like things perfumed you can add essential oil to the water. Saves time, water, noise, electricity and pollution.
Parachute shopping bags
(That brand is a bit fey but there are many others)
Large, light, strong shopping bags which wrap up easily into tiny pouches which fit into, or clip onto, the smallest handbag. Forget the stupid bulky cotton or jute ones. Shoulder bag varieties are available which keep your hands free. Saves materials and pollution.
Solid bars of shampoo from Lush
Solid bars of shampoo and conditioner, in particular. Cut to your required weight and wrapped in paper. No waste. Many are vegan. Saves packaging, nice to use (try to get a bit with some rind and then stand the bar on the rind).
Saves on the pollution, energy and materials associated with manufacturing teabags. You can get the perfect strength tea cup by cup. The leaves sink to the bottom, are no more hassled to get rid of than a teabag, and compost readily.
Fruit cases from Lakeland Plastics
Bicuspid apple-sized case for soft fruit which inflates like an armband and closes with velcro. May make the difference between your soft fruit rotting at home or getting crushed in your bag, and you getting your five a day.
Lock & lock boxes
There are long-lasting sandwich-sized ones which not only keep the sandwich components in position but also prevent them from getting crushed in your bag. The locks and rubber seal keep liquids from leaking. They are microwaveable. Save on wasteful foil, cellophane, and sandwich bags.
Reusing the bags which come with junk mail and newspapers
Open carefully and you have a free, clear freezer bag or sandwich bag which was going in the bin anyway. Good if you have a child who might forget to bring home a lunchbox.
Light, aluminium bottle for water or other fluids. Stable – does not photodegrade and leach dodgy chemicals into your water. No more purchasing bottled water – saves money, plastic, energy and pollution.
The above represent savings (money, hassle or time) for most people. I can’t think why we wouldn’t start with them immediately. Maybe you have some reasons?
Maybe you have some suggestions? Maybe you know of a green lifehacker site? Something like this? Let me know.
Update: Read Peggy