I started my sustainability journey a few years ago. Between starting an allotment, hiking, and sea swimming I was growing more and more aware of the impact our lifestyle can have on the environment. While I’m not 100% perfect (nobody is), I’ve made some really easy sustainable swaps in my day to day life that will make a difference. I do my best to use as many Irish eco-friendly brands as possible but for those that aren’t Irish I buy through Irish retailers like, The Kind and Reuzi.
To start the journey, I stopped throwing out any of the empty bottles in my bathroom for three months. Now this might sound super sloppy but I did it to show myself just how much plastic was being produced in one tiny aspect of my life. Honestly, I was horrified at the end to see the mound of shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel bottles. Having that visual cue spurred me on to make some changes. Now this isn’t a call for you to throw out all of your things and replace them with more eco-friendly options! It’s more a case of slotting in the more sustainable option as your other products run out.
There can be some learning and adjusting as you navigate your way into a more sustainable way of living but here are some of the easiest sustainable swaps that have worked for me.
Shampoo & Conditioner
When running our little experiment in saving the bottles in the bathroom, I was heartbroken at the result. I used to seriously overuse my products and go through a shampoo and conditioner every week or two – I know, terrible! This has to have been one of the simplest sustainable swaps I’ve made. Instead of buying my usual bottles of shampoo and conditioner that I’d grab when doing the weekly shop I made the switch to solid bars.
There are so many gorgeous Irish brands making natural shampoo and conditioner bars. As with ‘normal’ hair products, it can take a little trial and error finding the ones that suit your hair. I’ve found that most Irish producers are happy to help you figure out what might work for you.
I tend to flit about on my shampoo and conditioners a but am currently using Dalkey Handmade Soaps shampoo and a Friendly conditioner. I’ve also used the Airmid and Three Hills Soap shampoo and conditioner bars and absolutely loved them. The cheeky bonus with using the shampoo bars is that they are amazing when traveling! You save space in your bag and if you are flying they don’t count towards your precious fluid allocation. (Terrible turn of phrase but I’m leaving it in 😳) You know what that means – more space for your other lotions and potions!
Shower Gel/Squirty Soap
The other biggie for myself and Joe was shower gel, we had been sharing bottles of shower gel and were going through roughly one a week between general washing and après sport/gym showers. The simple sustainable swap for this? Bars of soap of course! Handily, most of the suppliers that do shampoo and conditioner, also offer soap bars. There are some amazing natural soap companies popping up all over Ireland and they are just gorgeous.
The soap company I go back to time and time again is Dalkey Handmade Soaps. They are beautifully made and don’t turn to mush at the end like some brands can.
I’ve never been big into hair masks but sometimes your hair just needs it. I’m noticing this more as I spend more time outdoors and in the sea. In the last few years I’ve attended natural cosmetics courses with Irish Seed Savers and have read up on natural beauty treatments in Fiann Ó Nualláin’s books to get ideas for more natural options. Instead of buying a new hair mask every few weeks, I made the sustainable swap to using coconut oil. Yes, the kind you use in your wok!
Simply melt it down, put it in the lengths of your hair, tie it up and stick a wooly hat on – this adds some warmth to help it soak in. Leave oil and hat on while you go about your business, no need to sit perfectly still to avoid drips. Once you’re done, stick your hat in the wash and wash your hair.
I find that you have to give your hair a double shampoo after but it feels great and looks so shiny when the treatment is done. Just to add, doing this treatment also has been approved by my hairdresser!
*Please don’t go out in the sun with your hair doused in coconut oil as you could essentially cook your hair…*
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
This was one of the easiest sustainable swaps I’ve made! Out with my usual plastic toothbrush in with a bamboo toothbrush. My favourite brand that I’ve used so far is Bambooth, I find the handle much more akin to a traditional toothbrush so it’s an easier adjustment. After gushing about it on my Instagram page, I was delighted to be asked to be their ambassador. For each toothbrush they sell, a donation is made to a different environmental charity depending on the colour purchased.
Now to the toothpaste, we’ve switched to Truthpaste as often as we can (unfortunately sustainable options can be a little trickier to get your hands on). I feel that my teeth are cleaner when I use it compared to traditional toothpastes. There are other brands like Georganics, that might suit you if you aren’t into Truthpaste – the texture, etc can take a little getting used to.
Deodorant is another easy swap, especially good for travel. I made the move from an aerosol deodorant to a cream alternative about two years ago and haven’t looked back. Again, this saves space when travelling and won’t take up much space in your handbag, if you want to take it with you.
For body moisturiser, I’ve made the super easy swap from a lotion or moisturiser in a plastic tube, to a more sustainable one in a jar, or even better, a moisturiser bar. The body moisturiser bar that I am currently using is one of the Janni Bars and I have to say, I love it! It smells of lavender so it gives off a super relaxing scent.
For my face, I use a Sukin Rosehip Oil and Green Angel moisturiser in the morning, both are in glass containers. At night, I use the Janni Bars Honey Glow Face Balm (also in glass). I started using this a few weeks ago and my skin looks so much better!
This one can be trickier… but one really easy sustainable swap we’ve made is buying loose fruit and veg rather than those in pre-packed containers or using the plastic bags in the shop. Another gem we have found is Bunalun Organic Frozen Berries, which comes in a cardboard box. The frozen berries reduce food waste as they last so much longer. Plus, there’s the added bonus that they come in a box that can be recycled! This was a bit of a game-changer for me as I have berries in my porridge literally every morning.
There are more bits you can do when food shopping, like going to a bulk store like The Good Neighbour or The Source Bulk Foods. We regularly bring jars up to The Good Neighbour for our shopping at the weekend. This can be daunting to some, so even the little steps above, that you can do in your supermarket will make a huge difference.
These were some of the first changes we made when trying to shop and live more sustainably. They’re the foundations we started building on before changing other aspects of our lives, but the additional changes might be for another day. If you’re interested in switching to a more eco-friendly way of life, I’ve done a post on my favourite sustainable brands.
Have you tried out any of these easy sustainable swaps? Do you have any more that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments.