Free & Easy Steps to Sustainable Living

jam jar with pink roses

I often hear the argument that living ethically and sustainably is really only achievable if you’ve lots of free time and even more disposable income. I think this is often true, particularly if you’re measuring yourself against the picture-perfect lifestyles depicted on social media.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of travelling miles by car to get package-free goods to display proudly in your shop-bought mason jars or creating tons of packaging and air miles to procure the perfect stainless steel water bottle. We need to be careful to look beyond the aesthetic aspects of sustainable living to the principles that underlie this way of living, which is simply to use less and to use wisely.

Thankfully there are lots of free and easy ways to adjust our daily activities so as to make them more sustainable. Here are a few that ;

  1. Ditch printed parking tickets and download the Parking Tag app. Tip: switch off the automatic text message alert or you’ll pay an extra 20cent on each ticket.
  2. Refuse receipts when possible and appropriate.
  3. Use existing tupperware to buy meat / fish / cheese. You’ll be surprised how many places take it now. Some places will Tare your container (take its weight away from total) while others will just use a plastic bag to weight it and then put it in your container. The second option is not as low-waste as I’d like but you got to work with what you’ve got. I stick the price label on my coat instead of the container because it’s a bugger to get off.
  4. Buy less meat, either by having one meat-free meal a week or putting less in a recipe. I find cutting meat into smaller pieces than normal makes it go further in things like stir fries. It also means it cooks quicker keeping down energy bills.
  5. Ask for no-straws when buying drinks in restaurants and bars.
  6. Message companies to congratulate them on their waste reduction efforts, or with suggestions on how to improve them.
  7. Message public figures and celebrities to suggest that they encourage their followers to reduce their plastic consumption.
  8. Refuse all free samples, i.e. pens, lollipops, make-up samples. After all who really needs a new pen!
  9. Borrow books and DVD’s from the library instead of buying. I use the online search tool to find the book I want and order it to my local library. It’s so easy.
  10. Put a ‘Addressed Post Only’ or ‘No Junk Mail sign’ on your letterbox.
  11. Switch to digital statements and bills where possible.
  12. Switch off laptops, tablets and phones when charging. They charge much faster, using less energy.
  13. Turn off wifi when not in use. Similarly don’t leave appliances on standby when not in use.
  14. Use ceramic cups in cafes instead of takeaway cups when sitting in.
  15. Give cash presents instead of gift cards, which are not recyclable.
  16. Give experiences over physical gifts.
  17. Offer someone a lift to work if you travel in their direction.
  18. Once a week aim to walk or cycle somewhere instead of driving or using public transport.
  19. If you drive offer lifts to people going in your direction.
  20. Don’t weed your lawn. Lawns are like deserts for insects. Allowing flowering weeds to grow helps bees and insects, which in turn help birds.
  21. Don’t clear leaves from your flower / veg beds in Autumn. It gives insects protective ground cover over winter.
  22. Leave one corner of your lawn uncut if possible, it offers good coverage for wildlife and food for insects.
  23. If you ever need to run a tap, collect the water in a container and use to water plants.
  24. Turn your heating thermostat down by 1 degree.
  25. Next time you need to buy something use the following hierarchy; 1) borrow or reuse something you already have, 2) buy second-hand locally, 3) buy new from a local shop, 3) order from an ethical store abroad.
  26. Next time you order something online ask for as little plastic packaging as possible.
  27. Repair clothes and shoes rather than replacing them.
  28. Donate or sell stuff you don’t need. You can find a list of where to donate / recycle things in Ireland here
  29. Donate stamps to charities. The following charities take them BarnardosISPCC, NCBIIrish Peatland Conservation Council
  30. Lend stuff to people. It saves them buying yet another item, which helps the planet.
  31. And most importantly consume less. You no longer need to feel guilty for sitting still and taking in the world, doing so is actively helping our world because it means for that brief period of time you’re not consuming!


Last summer I wrote a post on how to save money by living more sustainably. Check it out if you’d like more cost-saving ideas.



Sustainable Breaks, Home & Abroad

Fogo Island Inn

This time last week Ireland was in the grip of a once-in-forty-years weather event. A cold front from Siberia called the ‘Beast from the East’ joined forces with storm Emma, bringing blustery winds, lots of snow, zero visibility and -15 degree wind chill. Fortunately no one died during the storm, primarily because of the advance warning given by the state.

It was such a strange phenomenon to be holed up indoors, or in your local, for 4 days. It was as if someone turned back time to when our main, and possibly only, priorities were heat, food and shelter. If you had those things you were able to kick back and enjoy the forced holiday. Then as people emerged after their 4 day sabbatical it was amusing to see impromptu assemblies of neighbours dotted throughout the local shop, swapping war stories and catching up on gossip. Maybe it’s my rose-tinted glasses but there was something so nostalgic about the whole experience.

During those 4 days of confinement I spent hours travelling the internet highways, clearing digital to-do’s and lining up future blog posts. Going by the amount of Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram content generated I wasn’t the only one. Here is one such blog post born out of my days of respite thanks to the ‘Beast from the East’.

Sustainable Accommodation in Ireland
Birche Cottage (see above) in County Down was awarded Gold by Green Tourism. Electricity in the cottage is generated from solar and wind energy and water – including that used to run the underfloor heating – is heated by way of a solar panel. The owners state that the interior has been restored with local, chemical-free, reclaimed materials and that organic produce is available to buy from the owners during your stay.

Terryglass Cottages

Terryglass cottages help a family earn enough income to continue to work their third-generation family farm. They state that all labour and inputs are sourced locally as much as possible and that in 2016 they won a Gold Medal at the Irish Responsible Travel Awards for local sourcing. They state that the cottages have been painted with non-toxic paints and water based varnishes and restored with recycled materials. The owners also meter electricity used by guests, thereby rewarding low-energy consumers.

Pure Camping

At the eco-campsite Pure Camping, in Querrin, Loop Head, Co Clare you can pitch your own tent or hire one of their generously sized bell-tents, some of which come with wood burning stoves. They compost all food waste and provide solar-heated showers and marine (water-efficient) showers heated by a log-burning stove. They only burn FSC certified logs, and use rain water harvesting systems and solar-powered lights as much as possible. This campsite is run by a friend of mine and we’ve stayed in it a couple of time. I love the laid-back atmosphere and meeting like-minded people there. You can read about our sustainable holiday in Clare in 2016 here.

Cliften Eco Beach Camping

Cliften Eco Campsite in Co Galway is a low density campsite on the shores of Streamstown Bay. The park co-exists alongside an organic farm, which was the first to be certified as this in Connemara. In 2014 they achieved a Gold standard eco tourism award from EcoTourism Ireland and in 2015 they achieved ‘climate neutral status’ from myclimate, making them the first ‘climate neutral’ accommodation in Ireland.

Crag Og Eco Farm

Based on an organic farm, Crag Og Eco Farm in Galway is a certified Gold standard Ecotourism provider focused on instilling conservation in its guests. They have a waste-minimisation strategy, which involves reducing waste as much as possible with whats left being recycled or composted. Many of the structures at the site are made from recycled pallets and other recycled materials and plenty of details on their sustainable practices and policies can be viewed on their website.

The Iveagh Garden Hotel

The Iveagh Garden hotel on Harcourt St, Dublin 2 is billed as ‘Europe’s First Sustainable Hotel’ and sources all of its energy from an underground river, running 50 metres below the hotel, via large turbines.

Sustainable Travel
Obviously the most sustainable form of transport is walking, next cycling, next public transport, next car and finally flying. There is no two ways about it, flying is a very damaging form of transport environmentally and to minimise the damage you’re advised to 1) fly as little as possible, 2) pick the most efficient airline, 3) fly economy (it’s the most sustainable) and 4) offset your carbon emissions from flying (see below).

It’s also a good idea to get direct flights where possible and to pack as little as possible, both of which helps save on fuel. You could also consider bringing your own food in order to avoid the overly packaged offerings from the airlines.

A mentioned above one great way to make up for the carbon emissions created by your air travel is to invest in planet positive initiatives via a carbon offset program like Qantas Future Planet. If your airline doesn’t offer a program like this you can do it independently via a website like Atmosfair

Sustainable Accommodation Abroad
If you are thinking of heading abroad you can still have a positive impact on the world by staying in sustainable, ethical accommodation. Here are some stunning options for you to consider.

Fogo Island Inn (see image above) in Newfoundland is filled with of folk crafts made by a guild of local craftswomen and serves cuisine made with locally grown ingredients, some of which is foraged. According to the hotel’s website locally sourced, sustainable building materials were chosen for the hotel whenever possible. Harvesting of rainwater is used to serve the toilets, laundry, and kitchen appliances, and wood-fired boilers and solar panels are used for hot water and underfloor heating. The hotel is effectively owned by the community with all profits funding local micro-lending projects and the hotel’s Shorefast Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the tradition of boat building in the area.

Nkwichi Resort

Nkwichi Resort, on the shores of Lake Malawi is kilometers away from the nearest town and offers the beauty of a clear night sky. The resort owners state that they are committed to local conservation and low-impact tourism and participate in the pack with a purpose scheme, which matches travellers with needs in the locality.

Hulio Hulio

Hulio Hulio in located in the middle of the Chilean Patagonian Rainforest, under the Andes Mountain range. Their website states that the hotel owners are committed to the conservation of nature and local culture but very little detail about this was given.

Kolarbyn Hostel

Kolarbyn is a hostel composed of charcoal huts made from natural materials in the middle of the spruce forest. This accommodation is really for those that don’t mind roughing it, as there is no electricity or running water. There ‘hostel’ includes twelve huts with two inflatable mattresses and sheepskin rugs to sleep on. All the huts have a fireplace that you chop your own wood for. There is a compost toilet, paper, water and soap but no shower so you’re invited to take a dip in the local river, the Skärsjön, or heat water in the floating sauna.  The owners of this hostel avoid chemicals and toxins and use KRAV certified products as much as possible.  Part of the proceeds from the hostel goes to the conservation of nature and culture in the locality. The owners are also members of the Swedish Ecotourism Society and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.

Pugdundee Safaris

Pugdundee Safaris run a series of eco-lodges in National Parks in India. They state that they practise sustainable wildlife tourism in remote locations away from regular tourism hubs, which helps generate income for those living in remote areas.  They choose sustainable, low-energy products, employee locals and procure from local businesses as much as possible. They also regularly train their staff on conservation related issues as they believe that to conserve our forests, we must look after the needs of local people. The company is a signatory of TOFT , an organisation that supports the protection, conservation and rewilding of natural wilderness and their wild inhabitants through responsible eco-tourism.


Treehotel in Sweden offers a range of treehouses, built using sustainable materials and methods by local contractors to make as little environmental impact as possible. The electricity to the treerooms is supplied locally from green hydroelectric power and the lighting comes by way of low-energy LED-systems. The treerooms have combustion toilets where everything is incinerated at 600 °C by electricity. Bathrooms have water-efficient sinks with running water sufficient for washing hands, face and brushing teeth with all wastewater collected in a container that is emptied daily. The company states that the treerooms are only ever cleaned eco-friendly products.

Ion Hotel in Iceland

The Ion Adventure Hotel in Iceland is furnished with locally sourced recycled materials and was extended using pre-fabricated modules so as to minimise its impact on the site as much as possible. The bedlinen used in the hotel is organic and fairtrade as is the food served in the restaurant. A lot of the fittings in the hotel are made from natural or recycled materials including lights made from lava and reclaimed wood and sinks made from recycled tyres. The hotel is equipped with water-saving shower systems and uses geothermal energy for heating and hot water.

Accor Hotels

On the most recent post about a low waste holiday in Phuket by Gippsland Unwrapped, an Australian zero waste blogger, mentioned that the Accor Hotel group has a Planet 21 Programme, focused on local sourcing, diversity and water, energy and waste management. Tammy’s post also mentions the Green Hotelier where you can read a summary of the Planet 21 Programme. It’s also a great resource for information on sustainable ethical destinations.

Other Resources for Sustainable Accommodation Abroad
Although the website Green Hotelier is a treasure trove of information on sustainable hotels, it doesn’t have a user-friendly search facility. You can only list destination by continent, which gives you a series of articles, rather than just information on accommodation.

Responsible Travel is a much more user-friendly website for traveller and holiday makers, allowing you to search for sustainable holiday accommodation by country, date and type of holiday. The only downside is the extent of their database. I searched for accommodation in Ireland and only one place came up.

Pure Crete is an online portal for individually owned properties in Crete for rent. Most of their rental properties are locally owned by Cretan families and, according to their website, Pure Crete has helped to restore village houses in co-operation with local families using traditional building methods and assists in subsidising the installation of solar energy in the houses they rent. They have also been awarded Star Status for Responsible Tourism by AITO.

Boost your Sustainable Street Cred
It can be a real challenge to avoid waste on holidays, particularly when you don’t know a place but by being prepared you can make it a lot easier. Here are some things that we do and a new few new ones that will be trying on our next trip;

  • pack reusable bottles, cups, lunchboxes, cutlery
  • pack your own toiletries and avoid those offered by hotels as they often get chucked once you’ve checked out
  • bring your own clear plastic bag to put toiletries in going through airport security
  • check if you can bring supplies to communities in need at your destination via pack with a purpose
  • a good tip from Gippsland Unwrapped is to boil a kettle of water every evening to use this as your drinking water the following day. According to the World Health Organisation doing this allows you to sterlise tap water, killing all pathogens.


And above all enjoy your trip.



Growing Veg at Home

Kitchen Garden

Apart from this week, when we’re ankle-deep in snow, there are signs of spring emerging. That said we do have daffodils peeking up through the blanket of white in our garden. It’s too cold to be in the garden these days, but it doesn’t mean I can’t garden. This week I’m all set to plant seeds for this year’s vegetable garden. I don’t have the time to be fully self-sufficient when it comes to fruit and vegetables but I get great joy from supplementing our weekly fruit and veg shop with some homegrown chemical-free produce. If you’re interested in doing this too here is my advice on doing so as sustainably as possible.

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My Favourite Cookies to Gift

Teddy Bear Cookies

I often give cookies to my kids teachers as gifts. They’re a lot simpler to make and transport than cup cakes. I’m always on the hunt for eye-catching cookies that are easy to make, which rules out iced cookies. Life’s too short to wait for icing to dry!

This post features my favourite design along with links to recipes were required. These images aren’t my own.  I do post images of my own baking on Instagram but the photo’s aren’t blog-quality so I’ve robbed these much prettier images off the internet and linked them back to the original poster where I could find them.

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Sustainable Ethical Fibres and Fabrics – Updated 19th March 2018

Dyed Yarns

The whole issue of sustainability and ethics in relation to fibres and fabrics is very very confusing and constantly changing. This post started as a paragraph in a post about ethical clothing but as I learned more and more about the area it was clear that it warranted it’s own post. I’ll keep updating this post as I find more and  more information so i encourage you to revisit so that you stay up to speed on what’s happening in this area.

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Love is in the Air

heart cut out of old timber

I know that Valentines is a bit of a way off at the moment but I always like to give some lead-in-time for craft projects. You may think that Valentines is just another excuse to get us spending money, and you’d be right, but it doesn’t have to be. I heard something a long time ago that stuck with me. Love is spending time and energy to make someone’s day better. It might be ironing a shirt for them when they’re in a rush, or sending them a good luck text before a big meeting or cooking their favourite meal when they’ve had a hard day or week. That’s real love. It not glamorous or schmaltzy enough to go on a Hallmark card but it’s what makes life worth living. That said if you do a card to write something schmaltzy on here are my favs for this year!

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Ethical Sustainable Business – Fair Threads

Organic Cotton Baby toys

I’m starting to hear about more and more eco businesses in Ireland, which is such a great development. I appreciate that the cornerstone of zero waste is shunning new purchases where possible but sometimes we need to replace those essentials and if we can buy from a company that is doing their bit to ensure we have a planet to live on.

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Why I don’t like Biodegradable / Compostable Plastics – updated 21st January 2018

Grass in Soft Focus

In recent months there’s been a lot of talk about plastic waste in Ireland. I’m hoping that this is a sign of things to come and that we’ll soon be waving bye, bye to unnecessary, excessive use of plastic. I think this interest has party been spurred on by the growth of the Zero Waste community and the Chinese deciding to no longer take some of our plastics for recycling. Thank you China!

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There’s no Present like Time

Watch Bracelet

I have been blessed with good organisational skills, or cursed depending on your viewpoint. Being organised in Ireland is like being loud in Japan, it’s just not culturally appropriate. People in Ireland don’t seem to like things to be well organised, it takes the fun out of it – ‘Sure it’s only a bit of fun it doesn’t really matter if it starts on time / ends on time / achieves any of the agreed objectives’.

Of course this view is never actually expressed, it’s just something that Irish people seem to ‘know’, which is why I think I’m genetically German or Japanese. Now those people know how to organise! Interesting that they both ended up on the wrong side of World Wars, wonder what that means for me ……

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