Please note that many of these articles were originally written for the old GB Wildlife site in between 2008 – 2010 and organisations may have changed since then.
Eco-Living – A Year of Green Living
When making your new year’s resolutions, why not plan for a year of greening your lifestyle? It’s a great way to involve the whole family in the quest to reduce your environmental footprint and raise eco-aware children. Here is our month by month guide to green living.
1) Get involved
Living a clean, green life is much easier, more fun and definitely more effective when practised as a community. Working within a group you can share your experiences with others and find out what works, and what doesn’t, quicker, it gives the opportunity to forge links with others, share skills and learn new ones and also encourages new friendships to blossom out of common interests.
Find out about local initiatives at the library or through friends and neighbours. If there isn’t anything locally then you might be inspired to start up your own group. This needn’t be a huge undertaking – many successful groups have started off small, meeting fortnightly or monthly in a member’s sitting room. Some issues that you could tackle are; council’s recycling facilities, setting up a food co-op or greening up an area of wasteland locally. International organisations such as Friends of the Earth, Wildlife Trusts and Greenpeace also have local groups. Visit: https://friendsoftheearth.uk, https://www.wildlifetrusts.org or https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/ for more information. Green Drinks is a network of folk who work in the environmental sector who get together regularly to catch up and make new contacts. See www.greendrinks.org for local information.
2) Green up your finances
The way you invest and use your money can have a positive impact on the environment and climate change. There are a growing number of companies that provide financial services and products that either invest in activities to combat climate change or actively avoid investing in activities which would otherwise have an adverse impact. When choosing insurance look to Co-Op Insurance (https://www.co-opinsurance.co.uk/supporting-communities/carbon-offset) which offsets some of the carbon you use for the activity you are insuring. Triodos (www.triodos.co.uk) is an award winning ethical bank that offers a secure home for your savings and investments. The Co-operative Bank has a strict ethical policy, turning away some £10 million worth of business each year because it does not meet with the bank’s ethical requirements. For more details about the range of services on offer, visit: www.co-operativebank.co.uk. If you are planning to move home this year, Ecology Building Society will be able to ensure that your mortgage investment is used to support sustainable living projects. More information about mortgages and also savings accounts can be found at www.ecology.co.uk.
3) Have a green spring clean
When planning an annual spring clean of your home, try some age-old natural cleaning products often found on your weekly shopping list. For example the humble lemon can be put to all manner of cleaning uses. As a natural bleach, lemon juice can help to remove stubborn stains from clothing and work surfaces. Bicarbonate of soda is another green powerhouse when it comes to shifting dirt, in fact you can sprinkle the base of a crusty oven with this powder, dampen slightly with water, leave overnight and the next morning all dirt can be wiped away with a damp cloth. It also helps to remove obnoxious odours, so an open pot can be placed in the fridge to absorb smells. When you are cleaning windows, carry a squirt bottle filled with vinegar solution to get that glass really clean. Vinegar can also be used to clean toilets, pour a capful or two into the toilet, leave overnight and flush in the morning for a gleaming bowl. For green cleaning cloths, recycle an old t-shirt or shirt. Several companies use the power of plants and natural substances to create cleaning products. Try Ecover (www.ecover.com) or Northumbrian Botanicals (https://www.northumbrianbotanicals.com).
4) Get fruity in the garden
Growing your own produce is fun, cheap and great way to introduce children to the joys of green living. Start small with a few herbs on the windowsill or in a pot outside the back door and gradually increase your plot size. Think about what your family consume most of, be it potatoes or salad ingredients for instance and find out about how to grow them, using books or instruction from the internet. Depending on your location and soil type most vegetables and many fruits can now be grown in the British climate. Try setting you and your family a target of experimenting with growing five new vegetables this year. Of course, producing your own compost goes hand in hand with growing vegetables. There are many great books on the subject but I don’t think any of these can compete with speaking to someone who knows his onions as it were. Allotment owners are often more than happy to swap notes on what works for them and ask around your neighbours too. The simplest form of composting is probably to get a plastic bin liner and start filling it with kitchen scraps, small pieces of cardboard, leaves and grass cuttings. After six months this should be ready to use on your garden. However, there are some much more sophisticated and effective methods, including worm composting which produces a nutrient rich liquid to be used on your plants. For organic gardening ideas visit: www.gardenorganic.co.uk, organic plants and seeds can be purchased from and www.organicplants.co.uk. For composting tips and advice, try https://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/actions/how-compost-your-waste.
Best of luck with planning and keeping your green new year’s resolutions in the coming weeks!
Melissa Corkhill editor of The Green Parent magazine and author of two books on green living will be writing monthly articles for GBWildlife.co.uk She lives in rural Sussex surrounded by woodland and wildlife and is passionate about environmental issues.
The Green Parent magazine makes is an excellent, interesting subscription magazine and makes a lovely gift. You'll find lots of information and inspiration here, whether you want to read articles on natural parenting or try out guilt-free shopping. This gorgeous magazine covers all aspects of family life from birth to alternative education, eco house and garden to nutrition.