Lower your energy bill (and be good for the planet)

Do you want to lower your energy bill too? I live in Spain so you would think that all energy comes straight from the sun, but no. Unfortunately the big energy companies still have a monopoly on supplying everybody with electricity through fossil fuels, which means the monthly bill is not as low as we’d like it to be, never mind the impact on the environment. Only about 14% of energy in Spain comes from different renewable energy sources. Sun, we have so much sun here, imagine how much energy we could generate! Anyway, while I am waiting for a renewables revolution and the tides to turn (excuse the pun), here are some ways to lower your energy bill right now.

Turn off the standby button

I am terrible at this, leaving my laptop on standby, leaving mobile phone chargers dangling from sockets and keeping the coffee machine on all morning. Do you also leave your laptop or TV on standby when you’re done with it? Switch off all electricity. Always. A lot of power is lost by devices that are not being used, but are secretly still on.

save money on your energy bill

Use a multi-point extension lead to lower your energy bill

Use a multi point extension lead for several devices at the same time. Devices with an adapter or transformer also consume a lot of energy when they are off or in standby mode. If you have them in an extension box, then you can operate multiple devices at the same time with one button and you will noticeably combat sneaky energy consumption.

Air your home: good for health and wallet

Opening windows and airing your rooms: not only good for your health, but also for your wallet so you can lower your energy bill. Ventilate your apartment or house well: fresh, dry air is easier to heat than moist air.

Turn the heating down a notch

Turn your heating down one notch. Or two. Does that really matter? It certainly does! Every notch means a reduction of 7% on your final bill. Always feeling cold? Buy a nice warm cardigan for at home, some matching furry slippers. The lower energy bill at the end of the month will make you glow inside.

save money on your energy bill

Fill your fridge to lower your energy bill

Another thing that you probably didn’t know yet: a full fridge costs less energy to cool than an empty one. Make sure the fridge is full in order to lower your energy bill. If necessary, place empty bottles filled with water to fill the refrigerator. Handy to have spare bottles of cool water in summer and your refrigerator will use less energy.

Remove the ice layer in the freezer

In so many homes, the freezer doesn’t get cleaned regularly and soon a thick layer of ice appears around the drawers and the edges. Better be careful! For every 2 mm ice layer, the energy consumption of the freezer increases by 10%. It is worth defrosting it every once in a while.

Swap all your old light bulbs for energy saving ones

Most of you have probably done this already over the years, but you may find some old fashioned energy gobbling bulb sitting in a bedside table lamp. It may be an investment, but it is worth exchanging all bulbs in the long run. Energy-saving lamps require 6 times less electricity and last 10 times as long.

Change supplier

If you really want to lower your energy bill, maybe it is time to review your supplier. You can make the biggest financial savings by choosing the right energy company. Therefore, check whether you have a contract that suits you, your house and your usage. Make sure that you get a well-arranged bill, so that you have a better insight into what most of your energy is spent on.


Eco-friendly shopping: five simple tips

Eco-friendly shopping and bringing less plastic home, that has been a hot topic for a while. It is not always easy to be very consistent in this, even if you are quite fanatic. Many things are in plastic packaging and before you know it your entire trash bin is full of plastic foil and other non recyclable waste. You probably already recycle your glassware, paper and plastic bottles. However, you can do much more to contribute to the environment, if you do a bit of prep at home. What can you do to reduce your weekly plastic waste?

1. Avoid spontaneous shopping & bring reusable containers and bags

Spontaneous grocery shopping is disastrous for taking home more plastic waste. You probably don’t have a bag with you, so buy yet another € 0.05 plastic carrier bag. And if you normally bring reusable containers, pots and mesh bags with you for bulk items, chances are you don’t have those with you either . So keep random shopping to a minimum and prepare your eco-friendly shopping by making a list of what you need and bringing your own packaging as much as possible.

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takeaways in tupperware

In health food shops and on the market, and increasingly also in regular supermarkets, you can simply take your own bags and containers to put in fruit and vegetables, flour, pasta, rice, muesli, spices or tea. Even if you go to a restaurant for a takeaway, you can consider bringing your own lockable tupperware instead of bringing your meal home in single use plastic or foam boxes. Because don’t you just hate throwing all this waste in the bin afterwards?. Maybe you feel a bit embarrassed or self conscious in the beginning, but you’ll be surprised how many compliments you get. And you can at least be proud of yourself! It’s a snowball effect. You’re bound to give someone else the same idea.

eco-friendly shopping

2. Buy in bulk

If you have an eco-supermarket or health food store in your area, it is fairly normal to buy in bulk. Large jars with pasta and rice where you can scoop out your desired amount, or large bottles or barrels from which you can drain your olive oil or detergent. If you have no possibility in your local area to buy from bulk bins, you can also try to buy large quantities of the product instead, which reduces the ratio between packaging and product. Don’t need that much? Go shopping with a friend and share the costs!

3. Eco-friendly shopping: buy fewer ingredients

You can do many different things with certain ingredients. Bicarbonate of soda for example. Very cheap and a panacea when it comes to cleaning, removing stains, unblocking the sink and of course you use it for baking powder in bread and cakes. Apparently bicarbonate of soda is even effective as a deodorant, just by making it into a paste with a bit of water and putting a little under your armpits (not tried it myself, so don’t shoot the messenger!). With a big bottle of tomato passata you can also go very many ways: soup, pasta sauce, as a basis for chili con carne, etc. You can probably think of many more simple, daily ingredients that you can use for multiple things, which means you throw away less. If you do not want waste, buy fewer items. Also good for your wallet.

homemade kitchen wipes

4. Limit your disposable items in the kitchen

Kitchen paper and plastic film are standard items in most kitchens. Used for mopping spills up quickly, wiping the counter or the dining table and covering your food before you put it back in the fridge. Alternatives? Replace kitchen paper with your old cotton T-shirts cut up into rags, after which you wash them at high temperatures. Regarding plastic wrap, you can also simply use a plate to cover a bowl. If you want something to pack a sandwich for lunch or keep veggies fresh, consider beeswax cloths as an alternative. These wraps are coated in beeswax and are therefore easily foldable for packaging food. You can clean them with cold water and a little mild soap. Find them in the eco shops or make them yourself.

Zero waste lifestyle tips

5. Recycle as a last resort

When plastics are recycled, they are actually down cycled, meaning that even if reincarnated as toothbrushes, shopping bags or more plastic bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill at some point. This is in contrast to glass or metal, which can be recycled over and over again without loss of quality. It is therefore better to immediately make positive and proactive choices when you go eco-friendly shopping and to refuse the waste directly in the store.

Product review: Abeego beeswax food wrap

The beeswax food wrap is a great alternative for cling film or foil. I have been meaning to try these types of wraps out for ages, so I was very happy when the Ethical Superstore asked me to do a review for them. I am pleased to say, they are not only pretty easy to use, they also smell great! As I want to cut down on the amount of plastic waste in my home, I’ll definitely be using these from now on.

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Product review Abeego Beeswax Food wraps

I am reviewing the Abeego beeswax food wraps from Ethical Superstore today, which come in different packs. I am reviewing the pack that contains three Abeegos – small (18 x 18cm), medium (25 x 25cm) and large (33 x 33cm), priced at £15.00. They have other sizes, a pack of six and larger packages too. The Abeego is a sustainable food wrap made from certified organic cotton and hemp, and keeps food fresher for longer. Another big plus? They come in a recyclable cardboard box, rather than plastic wrapping (you wouldn’t believe how many ‘eco-friendly’ products do!)

Antibacterial properties to keep food fresh

Although the idea of reusing something to cover your food may sound a little unhygienic, the Abeego beeswax wraps are in fact coated with tree resin for its natural antiseptic properties. In addition to that they contain jojoba oil which is anti-fungal and of course the beeswax which is naturally antibacterial. All good and natural! As Abeego is made from a cloth material rather than plastic, it will allow the food to breathe and naturally age, preventing mould and keeping leftovers fresh.

Beeswax food wrap review

What do you use beeswax food wraps for?

The Abeego beeswax food wraps are great for wrapping sandwiches, fruit and veg for picnics or lunch. If you have leftover dinner or salad, the wraps are also perfect for covering your dish or bowl before putting them in the fridge for next time. Basically, if you would use cling film for it, you can use a beeswax wrap.

How to care for your beeswax food wrap

Don’t use warm water when cleaning your Abeego beeswax food wraps! Just wipe clean with cold water and a little bit of gentle soap. Using warm water could cause some of the beeswax to rub off. When cared for properly, your Abeego wraps can last for at least over a year. After a while the wraps can contain some stains, as it is a cloth material and staining is likely but this will not affect its performance. Please note that tree resin and beeswax are soluble in alcohol so use alcohol free dish soap to wash your Abeego. Dry them with a towel or hang over a dish rack. Abeego is not suitable for the dishwasher, microwave oven, direct heat or high temperatures.

Make your own home scent with this Christmas potpourri recipe

Stove top potpourri, ever heard of it? Forget the chemical scented candles and expensive room scent diffusers, just put a load of fresh fruit and spices in a large pan and let it simmer on the stove. Just a wonderful scent filling your home, with only natural ingredients. The perfect welcome for your guests on Christmas day, before they sit down for their Christmas dinner. Or just to get you in the Christmas spirit the days before.

How do you make it? Here’s the Christmas potpourri recipe for this lovely DIY home scent. Merry Christmas!


Christmas potpourri recipe for stove top

Just check now and then if it still has enough water so it doesn’t boil dry and let the heat do the work. Enjoy your own homemade Christmas potpourri!

Artificial Christmas tree or real tree: the pros and cons

Real tree or artificial Christmas tree? What’s in your home? I am going to warn you, I am biast. I have always preferred real Christmas trees over fake ones. Just because I love authentic, nice things and a plastic tree just never fitted that picture. Still, I wanted to look at the options more closely, because more and more people have them nowadays for various reasons. Some claim it is in fact a more eco-friendly option than buying a real tree year after year, only to throw it outside after a few weeks. But a plastic tree…environmentally friendly? Not sure. By the way, did you know the fake tree was invented by a U.S.-based toilet bowl brush manufacturer, the Addis Brush Company? This company created an artificial tree from brush bristles in the 1930s, acting as the prototype for modern artificial trees. Interesting little bit of history, right?

So what’s the truth? What are the options and what are the pros and cons of real versus fake trees?

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Real Christmas tree: Pros

The smell

You can’t beat the smell of a real Christmas tree. The fresh smell when you brush against the branches. It fills your home with Christmas!

You support local business

By buying a real tree from a local tree grower, you support local business. These businesses spend all year caring for their trees so that you can take one home and enjoy it during the Christmas holidays. Some vendors make it into a whole experience: getting you to pick your favourite tree, wrapping it up, selling hot chocolate and coffees on site to warm up. It can be a lovely trip out for the family if it’s somewhere picturesque in the countryside, on a frosty December morning.

It is natural. And biodegradable.

If you hate plastic, you want a real tree. A real tree from nature. Falling needles and all. No point trying to convert you, as a fake plastic Christmas tree will not enter your house. Real trees are authentic. And they will not sit in landfill forever.

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Real Christmas tree: Cons

Needles

Some are worse than others, but all real Christmas trees will at some point lose their needles. Central heating is the main cause and then there are kids and pets brushing against it. You’ll be sweeping up and hoovering almost daily and if you’re really unlucky, your tree is not looking great anymore by the time it is Christmas day.

It gets thrown out every year

I don’t know about you, but I always feel sorry for the Christmas tree the first week of January. Decoration taken down and off it goes, dragged through the hallway and out the front door onto the pavement. All bare and needles brown and dropping. It’s done a good job, but poor tree.

They cost money…every year

Real Christmas trees are pricey. And on top of gifts, food, drink and maybe travel, it is an extra cost in December you could maybe do without.



Artificial Christmas tree: pros

They look perfect

Look at the image above. Perfect. No lop sided trees with one side thicker than the other. Or funny looking tall ones with a long thin top which makes the topper bend down. A fake tree is perfectly shaped in a perfect shade of green and with perfectly even spread of branches.

You can leave the decorations in

If you’re really short of time, energy or are just plain lazy, you can get a ready decorated fake tree. Job done. Fold it up, put it in a bag and store it away for next year. Boring and uninspiring? Perhaps. But convenient it sure is. And not everyone loves being creative and crafty.

You reuse it every year

No need to shop around for trees, just get it down from the loft and put it up. It saves money for sure. If you buy a high quality one, you’ll be using it for many years. My own parents-in-law apparently have had their artificial Christmas tree since the 1980s. That sure is a durable solution.

vintage advert for artificial christmas trees

Artificial Christmas tree: the cons

It still ends up in landfill

No matter how many years you use your tree for, it still is plastic and at some point in the future will end up in the bin. I wonder how many of those sold in the 1960s are still taking pride of place in the living room this December. I know, you say, but what about all the other plastic household things you use that will break at some point in the future…kettles, light shades, garden tools, buckets, bins, toys, etc… Yes, you are right. But perhaps next time you need to replace those, it’s worth looking for non plastic, more durable alternatives too. In case of a tree, it is easy to make that decision right now. But if you already own a plastic one, keep it forever!

There is no smell

Nothing beats the smell of…plastic? I suppose you could light a fragrant candle in the room to add some seasonal smells, but they sure won’t come from your artificial Christmas tree. If you like the smell of nature, a fake tree won’t do the job.

Toxic ingredients

Fake trees are questionable in terms of human health. Today’s artificial trees are typically manufactured with metal and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic. In addition, many older varieties may contain lead, used as a stabilizer in the manufacturing process.


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Conclusion

The artificial Christmas tree is non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, meaning they will sit in a landfill for centuries after disposal. An artificial Christmas tree will last on average five to seven years, meaning you’ll eventually have to dispose of it, and many secondhand stores will not accept them. There’s also no guarantee the LED lights will last the whole time you own it, and they can’t be removed and replaced like with a real tree.

I believe it is a good idea to choose natural materials over plastic as much as possible, so you can guess what I am supporting.

Alternatives

Buy a tree in a pot

Don’t like the thought of sad dead trees on the doorstep after Christmas? You can of course opt to buy a fresh Christmas tree, in a pot. You can then plant it in your garden after Christmas is over and dig it up again next year. The question is always whether it survives after having lived in a heated living room for a good few weeks, but it is worth a try. Don’t forget to water it!

Adopt a tree!

How about giving it back to the grower? You enjoy it over Christmas and then it goes back ‘home’, where it gets looked after for another year. Not a very mainstream option yet, but it does exist. Find out more on Adopt a Christmas tree schemes or do a Google for your own local area.

Go Minimalist

Don’t want a tree at all? Decorate a large house plant. Or collect a few nice branches from the forest on your next walk and place them in a large vase for a minimalist look. Ideas plenty.

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Go radical

I will just leave this here. Merry Christmas!

The cutest no plastic gift ideas for children

Need some ideas for no plastic gift ideas for children? I’m with you. Birthday parties, Christmas presents, gifts brought by visiting relatives, children get a lot of stuff. And if you have young children like me, this stuff amounts to a lot over the months and years. Boxes full of toy cars, action figures and dolls and a whole lot of plastic you’d rather not have in your house. It’s messy and half of it the kids don’t even play with. I bet most parents would agree. Still, a child’s birthday or Christmas requires a gift as you don’t want to see sad faces. How about not adding to the heap of expensive commercial plastic toys, but bringing something imaginative instead? Here are some suggestions I love.


A Craft & bead box for creative little hands


Got a cute vintage tin or a wooden box with a lid? Or how about pimping up an old shoe box? A lot of children around the age of 5-8 or older love to make things like bracelets or necklaces, so create a beautiful treasure box for them! Fill a box with old beads, ribbons, buttons, scrap fabric and string and let their imagination do the rest. I know I would have loved to receive a box full of things like that.

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Image: Aunt Peaches


A wooden tree compatible with Lego


I love it when companies make their stuff compatible with other brands. Smallable, which has a fantastic range of wooden toys for children, sells this plywood tree for a very reasonable £16 that is compatible with Lego bricks. There is also a castle and a space ship in the same series, making perfect no plastic gift ideas. Check out their other beautiful wooden toys here.

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Board games and other family fun


I must admit, I’ve never really been one for games, but being a parent I kind of had to get into it. Snakes and ladders, Ludo, Memory, Uno, you name it, my kids love it. I don’t know whether it’s the game itself or the fact that you are playing it with them and they can beat you, but I sure score some brownie points when I get on the floor or around the table for a board game. We were given a great wooden Snakes and Ladders/Ludo combo board a few years back and it gets used every week. Definitely not something that will end up in the forgotten toys corner any time soon. Charity and second-hand shops usually have games in stock, so worth checking. If you rather invest in something high quality and new as a gift for the family to enjoy together for years to come, then John Lewis is a good bet.

no plastic christmas gifts


DIY Frame lacers for fine motor skills


Frame Lacers are a colorful DIY toy that doubles up as a great fine motor skills activity for kids. Got a tiny child in your life? Make them one of these!

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Image: Babbledabbledo


An invention box or ‘robot box’ for explorers


Do you have a child in your life who loves taking things apart or figure out how stuff fits together? Gift them an ‘invention box’ or ‘robot box’! Create a robot box for the toddler in your life using outdated technology. Find old CDs, floppy disks, cables & cords to create a fun bin for toddlers to imagine with. For the older child, fill a large box with more fiddly things they can put together. Nothing better for their creativity than open ended learning and discovery. Check out Research Parent for ideas on what to include in the box.

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Image: Research Parent



Plastic free bathroom products: go zero waste

Shampoo bottles, make-up wipes, toothbrushes, period pads, shower gel and razors…go and count the amount of plastic and wasteful items you have in your bathroom today. I know, right? But do you know it is actually not that hard to choose plastic free bathroom products and avoid single-use and plastic containers? I mean, people went without plastic for centuries before us, so surely we can do it again. Next time you need to get some new supplies, consider not buying your usual brands and products, but instead try this. Here are five easy zero-waste suggestions for your bathroom.

1. Shampoo bars

Lush has been selling plastic free bathroom products such as shampoo bars for years. I am currently using Lush’s Seanik shampoo bar, which smells lovely, gives plenty of lather and leaves my (slightly oily) hair clean and soft. There are plenty of other shops selling them too and you may also find shampoo bars on your local craft markets and Etsy, handmade by soap making fans. Or why not have a go at making them yourself?. Shampoo bars are basically are soap bars, with natural ingredients good for cleaning hair. Rub them on your wet hair in the shower and wash your hair as normal. It is handy to buy a metal tin with it to keep the shampoo bar clean and intact and make it easier to take with you to the gym or trips away. And not just shampoo comes in bars, conditioner is available too, as is of course normal soap. Nothing needs to come home in a plastic bottle no more. Let’s go back to the bar!

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2. Bamboo tooth brushes

Imagine how many tooth brushes you have used in your lifetime. Now imagine where they all are in the world right now. Because they are not biodegradable. Time to rethink the brush! If you are using an electrical brush, this won’t be an option (or maybe yes!), but these lovely bamboo tooth brushes do an excellent job in caring for your teeth and for the planet. I have just started using my first ever bamboo brush and it works perfectly.

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Buy a family pack bamboo tooth brushes on Etsy

3. Metal razors

My husband needs to shave pretty much daily and recently decided to ditch the plastic throwaway razors in favour of an old fashioned, durable metal safety razor, with doubled edge blades. Of course it also comes with a bowl, soap and a nice brush. Take extra care, these double edged blades are sharp and shaving may turn into a bit of a dangerous act if you expect the same job as your plastic razor. But a lovely smooth shave it gives. You’ll never want to look at Gilette again. Try specialist shops in town or online, the better department stores or Amazon.

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4. Plastic free periods!

Someone on Facebook posted a funny video about menstrual cups a few years ago, so I got curious and decided to buy one. My goodness, what a life changer! Best thing since sliced bread. Day 1 still requires a backup pad, but that would be the same with tampons if you have a heavy flow. For this I have just bought some pretty fabric washable pads or you can get organic pads that are biodegradable. There’s even period-proof underwear. You don’t notice the cup at all, making your period a complete breeze. You empty the cup once or twice a day, clean it under the tap, and use it again. The cups are made of silicon, a very safe material that does not contain chemicals nor harbour bacteria like tampons would. It does take a bit of practice and some brands may suit you better than others. There are quite a few different ones on the market (here is lots of information on how to choose the perfect one for you. There are also heaps of videos on Youtube explaining the use. I am personally very happy with my Divacup.). Also, you will get very familiar with your female body parts, which you will have to feel comfortable about. But I will never go back to tampons, that’s for sure.

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5. Make-up removal pads

This is another easy plastic free bathroom swap. Do you use throwaway face wipes to get your makeup off at night? Maybe time for a rethink, especially after reading this article. How hard is it to just have a jar of reusable cloths and make-up pads sitting in a jar or basket on your dressing table? Throw them in the wash and use them again. Not rocket science and really something we should all be doing right now. No more throwaway plastic wipes. Not difficult to make yourself some washable face cloths, from some jersey fabric or old towels cut into squares or circles. Or just use simple shop bought terry wash cloths.

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Set of seven pads available on Etsy

 


A few online ethical / organic stores to check out

Etsy – the eco-friendly bathroom selection
The Ethical Superstore
Big Green Smile UK
Green People

 

Book tip:

Zero Waste Home : The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste. Bea Johnson

In Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson shares the story of how she simplified her life by reducing her waste. Today, Bea, her husband, Scott, and their two young sons produce just one quart of garbage a year, and their overall quality of life has changed for the better they now have more time together, they’ve cut their annual spending by a remarkable 40 percent, and they are healthier than they’ve ever been. PRICE 15,54 €

Zero waste Christmas gifts: five great ideas

Who’s up for some more ideas for zero waste Christmas gifts? In this time of climate change and plastic waste everywhere, now is the time to become more conscious in every part of your life, and certainly at Christmas. It is time to think outside the gift box! Not all gifts have to be expensive or new. If your loved ones know you and the way you feel about zero waste and conscious gifts, they will be grateful for the thought and effort you have put into finding or crafting something especially for them.

Feel good & Guilt-free

You can be creative, make things yourself, buy second-hand or pass things on you no longer need and would make a great gift to someone who would appreciate it. And certainly don’t forget the non-material presents such as time spent together and vouchers for a day out. It may not help our economy much if you keep your purse shut, but you’ll save the planet and create a fabulous feel-good factor.

First of all, here is the ethical gift giving triangle!


zero waste christmas gifts


Here are my suggestions for zero waste Christmas gifts:

For the reader

A book from your shelf

Have you read some amazing novels or biographies this past year? Pass them on! Share the joy with your dad, your neighbour, your auntie, your best friend. Books are adventures, journeys in the mind and snuggled up me-time all in one. Tie them with a ribbon and add a box of their favourite tea.

zero waste christmas gifts

For the young parent

A baby-sitting voucher

Did someone in your family or circle of friends have a baby this year? Or are in the middle of the crazy busy toddler years? I bet they are dying for a date-night or just a little bit of time away from their cherubs. To feel normal again and have some adult conversation. Trust me, I’ve been there. A baby-sitting voucher will come as a very thoughtful gift. If you feel even more generous, add tickets to the cinema. They will love you for it.

For the children

A board game or a bag of toys from the second-hand store

Skip the Toys r Us and other plastic horror stores and head straight for the charity shop for zero waste christmas gifts. Sure, not everything is plastic-free, but at least it is second-hand. Jigsaw puzzles, giant diggers, dinosaurs, dolls houses, wooden toys, they may have a little scratch here and there but small children will see those gifts as brand spanking new and get just as excited. If slightly older children have not yet been tarnished by computer games and Xbox sets, they may appreciate a board or family game (and otherwise, maybe convert them!). Do they know how to play chess or monopoly?

no plastic christmas gifts

For the sweet tooth

A tin of homemade cookies

If you are a baker, everyone will love your eatable gifts. Zero waste Christmas gifts for sure, as I bet not a crumb is left. Find some lovely vintage tins to put your biscuits, fudge, cakes or other homebakes in, or make paper gift bags. Another idea is to get the kids involved and get them to do the baking. Sure grannie or their teacher will appreciate that!

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For your loved ones

A quality time voucher

In the same category as the babysitting voucher, gift quality time. Design a lovely voucher for a day out with a special friend, family member or your children. Or a voucher for a spa day, a dinner or a trip to the museum. Possibilities are endless and quality time beats and shop bought gift.