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Sustainability Struggles: Trying to live a less wasteful life

Sustainability and zero waste are woke buzz words these days but I was living in a sustainable manner long before I knew what it meant.

Growing up with parents who were a lot older than me (closer in age to some of my friends’ grandparents) meant we had a “waste not, want not” lifestyle.

I remember carefully washing glass jars and peeling off the labels for recycling, using newspapers to dry up spills and light the stove and of course, wearing hand-me-downs and charity shop clothes.

When I made my Communion, my mother even had her wedding dress made into a dress for me – now that’s economical!

We lived on a farm, drank our own cows’ milk, picked blackberries and crabapples and wrapped our sandwiches in old bread wrappers instead of tinfoil. It might sound grim but it was a very thrifty and sustainable lifestyle.

Now, we were far from perfect, country living means driving pretty much everywhere and of course, we ate meat (apart from my very brief stint as a vegetarian).

There were aspects of my upbringing that I didn’t like, as a teenager I wanted all the latest trends from the chain stores but my mother did buy me new clothes and shoes when I really needed them.

When I left home and lived with other people, I was shocked by how some thought nothing of throwing out food or clothes.

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This one of my many thrifty outfits

I didn’t know how to recycle properly but I tried to recycle as much as I could and also dispose of my old belongings in a responsible way.

Nowadays, most people (myself included) are a lot more informed about living a sustainable life and how our wastefulness is killing the planet.

I get very anxious when I think about the harm caused to the environment by our incessant dumping, polluting and use of toxic substances.

I cringe when I see workmates casually flinging coffee cups and dirty cartons into the recycling bin without a care.

I often hear things like “oh I never thought of that”, when I mention that I’m trying to cut down on using plastic etc. I try not to preach as that just alienates people but I think we all need to be living more sustainably for the greater good.

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My bag, dress and belt are all secondhand

While I don’t see myself having children any time soon (if ever), it does bother me that the next generation will be greatly affected by our actions now.

And it’s not just about people but also animals and plants which don’t willfully damage the earth but still suffer the consequences.

Here are a few simple changes I’ve been making to my life in order to live more sustainably. I don’t see myself becoming a vegan, or giving up driving or travelling completely but I am trying to reduce my carbon footprint.

Minimising plastic waste

When I go grocery shopping, I buy loose fruit and veg as much as possible or in a rigid plastic or cardboard container as that can be recycled. Soft plastics (anything you can scrunch up in your hand) are no longer being recycled in Ireland so I’m trying to cut down on them.

I also always take a shopping bag or rucksack – there’s no need to buy a plastic bag, I’ve approximately 70,000 of them at home.

Another way to cut down on plastic is to bring a lunchbox for meat or fish from a deli counter.

Buying in season/locally produced food

When I’m food shopping, I try to buy as much Irish produce as possible. This can be very hard in supermarkets, for example, Tesco tends to sell fruit and vegetables which have travelled from every corner of the earth.

If you can afford to shop at a butcher, greengrocer or farmer’s market now and again, these are good places to pick up fresh local produce. Obviously, these options aren’t available to everyone, particularly if you live in the countryside or have very little money for food shopping.

Zero waste markets and shops are popping up in several cities now, I found an excellent one in Phibsborough called Noms where you can buy food, household products and beauty products.

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Sustainable and stylish

Using public transport or cycling

Again, this one is tough for those who live in the countryside and is more applicable to city-dwellers.

I used to always drive to work until my car died but now I only drive at the weekends when there are limited trains. As I work shifts, there’s no public transport that would get me to work early enough so I have to take a taxi in but I take the train home.

I also started cycling late last year, something I was very nervous about because cycling in Dublin is no joke but I am a lot more confident now. Dublin Bikes cost only €25 for a yearly subscription, making them much cheaper than public transport.

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The power to change things is in our hands

Separating waste correctly

Yes, it’s a pain in the hole but I’d rather that than a hole in the ozone layer! I now have three bins in my apartment, one large one for recycling paper, rigid plastic and cardboard, a smaller bin for food waste (I use compostable bin liners in this) and an “everything else” bin.

All recycling should be clean and dry so that means washing out cartons and containers and letting them dry. I tend to do this while washing the dishes so it’s just part of the routine.

It took a while to get everyone using the bins correctly and taking three bins out can be laborious but in the long run, it’s not a big deal.

You can find recycling guidelines on Repak’s website.

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Photoshoot in Galway

Switching up your toiletries – soap bars, toothbrushes, tampons

Bars of soap are definitely more awkward than hand soaps and shower gel but they do the same job, and you can use them to shave with and there’s no waste left over.

I store my bar of soap in a plastic box to stop it melting all over the shower.

I haven’t tried toothpaste tabs or shampoo bars yet but these are definitely on my list. I also now use a bamboo toothbrush and the only issue I have is that toothpaste tends to stick to the brush and you have to clean it regularly.

Recently, I bought a Mooncup, hoping that it would be a good investment but I actually haven’t been able to use it, I think I bought the wrong size.

If you can’t use or afford a menstrual cup (they are pricey), you could try using non-applicator or cardboard tampons to minimise plastic waste.

In the long run though, a menstrual cup is much cheaper. Another option is resuable period-proof underwear (yes such a thing exists and is apparently very effective), check out Colette’s review of them here.

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Having a pensive think about our planet’s future

Slow fashion

My number one hobby is fashion so it may seem a bit hypocritical for me to be talking about being sustainable.

Fast fashion is a massive contributor to pollution but there are so many sustainable alternatives such as swap shopping, using the clothes you already have, charity shopping, vintage kilo sales and upcycling.

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Kilo store Amsterdam

Markets are another place to get your sustainable style fix, you can even find designer items here.

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Armani blazer at a market in Amsterdam

I haven’t cut out fast fashion completely but I buy about 60% secondhand and 40% new clothing at the moment.

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Denim dress and thrifted belt

In this post, I’m wearing a vintage denim dress that I bought in Amsterdam, a €1 belt from a charity shop, my DKNY rucksack was €6 from a charity shop, but my runners are from Asos and my earrings are from Penneys.

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My DKNY rucksack was one of my best bargains ever

Another way to shop more sustainably is to buy one high-quality item which will last longer. I got almost three years out of my last pair of Reeboks.

Reusable straws, coffee cups and water bottles

These days, I will always say “no straw” at the bar unless they have paper straws.

Paper straws are annoying when they go soggy but they’re less wasteful and I’m thinking of buying a metal one.

I almost never buy coffee in a disposable cup as I can’t bear the thought of them going in landfill. I do have a reusable cup but I don’t really use it as I usually bring my own coffee to work.

I have a Nespresso machine at home but I find the capsules quite wasteful (though I’ve seen compostable capsules in Noms). I try to use my moka pot more as the grounds can be composted.

If you are a Nespresso fiend, you can get recycling bags from your local store/concession.

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Scowling at people who don’t recycle properly

I drink loads of water but almost never have to buy bottled water as I bring my water bottle everywhere with me.

Recently, our workplace got rid of plastic cups which I think is a great move. I’ve a metal bottle which keeps the water nice and cool.

These are just small changes and I’m aware that I’m very privileged to be able to make these. I live in a city with public transport and lots of shops, I have disposable income and I’m an able-bodied person. I know not everyone has the same opportunities or advantages as me.

I’m not perfect and I still need to improve my own efforts but I hope this post has provided some food for thought.

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My denim dress from Amsterdam

Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts on sustainability.

All photos were taken by Galway-based photographer Sarah Kelly, go check out her Instagram and website, Untamed Moments, she’s an extremely talented lady.

I won a photo shoot with Sarah and I loved having a chat with her about sustainable style and blogging. she was a delight to work with!

Sarah has a degree in Earth and Ocean Science and Zoology and is passionate about protecting our environment. Check out her tips on reducing plastic waste here.

Total outfit cost: €100.20, dress €23.40, belt €1, earrings €3, runners €72.80.

Hope you all enjoyed this post and thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

 

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Decorating a rented apartment on a thrifty budget

I’ve been renting since Methuselah was in short pants. Or at least that’s how it feels. I moved out of my family home in Roscommon when I was 18 and I’m now 31.

Renting brings independence and freedom but with it comes the responsibility of paying the rent, bills, cleaning/general drudgery, dealing with law-breaking landlords and horrible housemates.

I always tried to inject a little personality into my rented rooms, whether it was my carefully chosen posters from the college poster sale (James Dean and Garfield) or my Marilyn Monroe cushion and Breakfast at Tiffany’s canvas print (cringe) and a ‘Bang Head Here’ sign!

I’ve lived in 12 rented properties, one friend’s floor, and two wooden cabins when I worked at a summer camp in Pennsylvania but my current apartment is the first time I’ve had my own lease.

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My living room is a little drab but my plants and some fairy lights give it a lift

It was an exciting and scary move from casually renting a room and although I didn’t have another person to move in with me and split the rent with at the time, I jumped at the chance.

The apartment consists of two bedrooms, one double, one single, a large living room/kitchen and a bathroom.

When I first moved in, it smelled musty, opening the ancient sash windows required brute strength and it was lacking in character.

In time I found a roomie and I starting making my apartment feel like home.

 

 

 

 

 

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The living room when I moved in (I nicked that clothes hamper for the bedroom)

I made a few small changes, such as buying plants, canvasses in the charity shop and a mirror from H&M to give it a more homely feel.

 

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Metal edge mirror H&M. Pic: H&M.com

This mirror was €14.99 plus delivery but I saw a very similar one for about €11 in New Look.

I took my own photos of this mirror but unfortunately, my editing programme cropped it really weirdly and it didn’t look right.

 

 

It’s often a case of make do in a rented place as most have uniform drab furniture and haven’t been painted in years but a print on the walls or a throw over an ugly sofa can give the place a facelift.

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A slight facelift for the ugly sofa

My sofa is hideous and worn so I put a throw on top along with blue velvet cushions* I got in Penneys and another cushion I nicked from my family home. We got the throw from my boyfriend’s sister’s apartment after she moved.

Like many other renters, I don’t have much left once I pay my rent and bills so I look out for cute homewares in the charity shops.

I found these two little canvasses for €3 each and put them up in my bedroom on hooks that were already there.

 

For the living room, I picked up three other canvasses for roughly €9.

They are a bit crooked as the hooks aren’t all at the same height but they give the place a little character and as they are quite muted colours, they suit the overall tone of the room.

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Canvasses in the living room

I also found this seashell dish for just under €3 which I thought would be perfect for storing jewellery.

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Shell dish for storing jewellery

When my jewellery is stored away, I often forget to wear it so this is handy to grab earrings out of.

I also got several plants which I adore. One of my cactus plants came from my old office while the other two I bought in Lyon Loring in Stoneybatter. I’m also trying to grow an avocado plant on the windowsill.

Succulents are the best plants for an apartment as they’re not too high-maintenance.

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My beloved cacti plants

My apartment has large windowsills so I use these as a focal point. On my bedroom windowsill, I have a white rug* and palm tree light* from Penneys, along with some plants, candles and jewellery dish.

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Lamp and cacti plants

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My boyfriend moved in with us recently so while it’s great to have someone to share the rent and bills with, I also had to make room for his stuff and give up some wardrobe space!

I found this pretty Newbridge Silverware box left down by the bins one day so I salvaged it to store belts in. I used to hang them on the back of the bedroom door but they took up too much room there.

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A box for my belts

The bathroom was another area where we needed more storage, with three people’s towels all over the place!

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The bathroom
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Over-the-door towel hooks are a lifesaver!

We only had one hook on the door and one rail but I found these over-the-door hooks* in Penneys which proved to be the perfect solution.

All the towels are from IKEA.

Having two sets of bed linen has been an adult aspiration of mine for some time but I somehow never got round to it.

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Tropical duvet cover and matching pillowcases

I found this beautiful set in Penneys and it looks lovely on the bed (I don’t have time to iron bed linen so excuse the creases).

The flower lights at the top of the bed are also from Penneys but they aren’t much good unless the room is totally dark.

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Double duvet cover and pillowcases

I think this was about €25 for a double with matching pillowcases, can’t quite remember! I bought a pale pink fitted sheet to go with it for about €6.

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Tropical print duvet cover from Penneys

I decided not to put in full photos of the rooms as I’m not quite happy with how they look yet. The apartment could definitely do with a lick of paint and we nearly always have a clotheshorse out so, at the moment, I’m focusing on small areas!

DISCLOSURE: This is not a sponsored post but all of the items marked with an asterix were bought with a voucher gifted to me by Penneys. They did not ask for coverage or to feature items I bought in this post.

All other items, including Penneys items not marked with an asterix were bought with my own money. There are no affiliate links within this post.

I hope you all enjoyed this interiors post and if you’d like to see more of my apartment, leave me a comment below by clicking the grey speech bubble icon.

My next post will feature a thrifty haul from Bray’s charity shops so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

No New Clothes for a month

NO BUYING  CLOTHES FOR A WHOLE MONTH?!!

I stumbled across a blogging challenge online hosted by Looking Fly on a Dime, an NYC- based blogger who is not buying new clothing for an entire year and will only shop at charity shops.

I was immediately inspired to do the same especially as I’d just read Overdressed:The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion which exposes the manufacture and production of cheap high-street clothing in scathing detail.

Although we all know the manufacture of cheap clothing has a negative impact on both human life and the environment, it’s easy to ignore this when faced with a bargain.

I don’t intend to sound self-righteous as I buy mostly cheap clothing and love fashion but the book did make me think about my clothing consumption and consumer habits. I already love charity shops and literally cannot walk by one so I thought why not try the challenge?

However, no new clothing for a year seems like a crazy notion to me so I thought I’d try it for one month. The challenge has been accomplished successfully twice by Patrice from Looking Fly on a Dime but she lives in New York where there are more charity shops and indeed more shops in general 😛

She encourages her readers to try the challenge as well but not to set themselves unrealistic goals, i.e. try it for a month or two.

Now I have a hideous lack of self-control, motivation, and willpower so we’ll see how I get on!

Thankfully I am not required to buy new clothing for work so that is one obstacle overcome. If nothing else it may teach me how to have more control! I once ambitiously tried not to buy any clothing for all of Lent (I now do not observe Lent as I don’t believe in sacrifice or organised religion..) I think I lasted about two weeks.

The only exceptions to the challenge are underwear and hosiery which for obvious reasons are best bought new. Patrice also set herself a spending limit of $50 for each month but as I’m doing it for one month I’m not going to do this.

I know already today I have to return a pair of shoes that are too large for me so I hope I don’t get sucked in by the sales!

It’s going to be really difficult when I see all the lovely sale bargains everywhere but hopefully, I can do it. January is a terrible time to do this but it will be fun to try it. It’s a great incentive to save money as I really need to put money away for the future.

Obviously, I’m motivated by economic and selfish reasons rather than ethical reasons but no harm in being accidentally ethical.

I’ll be visiting my local Dublin charity shops including The Macro charity shop which provides assistance to community and voluntary agencies in the local area just off North King Street and as well as the great charity shops all down Capel Street.

My favourite local charity shop has to be Respect in Stoneybatter where I’ve found genuine DKNY and a decent fake Longchamp bag in the past.

I know anyone wishing to do this who doesn’t live in a city or near a big town may find it more difficult as there are fewer charity shops but where there’s a will there’s a way and at least you won’t be near temptation either!

I hope it will be fun rather than painful and I’m aware you can make unnecessary and impulse purchases in charity shops too so I’ll bear that in mind. I’ve gotten some great bargains in charity shops and lots of my thrifted style photos are on my Instagram.

I intend to put my substantial wardrobe to good use also during the challenge. The premise of my blog has always been about affordable fashion and being creative, not mindless consumerism.

Let me know what you think and if you’re doing this challenge or a similar one. WISH ME LUCK! I’m going to need it!

Thanks for reading as always and don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page here.

Edel