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  • Anne-Marie Soulsby

Eco Challenge 2021 - One Environmental Change per Day

Updated: Mar 18

*The author only recommends products they use themselves. This post may contain affiliate links, which means when you click on a link the author earns a commission from any purchases made at no extra cost to you.


Here is my list of actions I have taken to be more environmentally friendly:



1. Veganuary

Challenge: To have only plant based meals for the month of January.

Status: Completed.

Why? Adopting a vegan diet reduces your carbon footprint by 1152 kg.

Result: Going forward I will be adopting a flexitarian diet and stick to vegan main meals during the week, allowing wild game meat, white meats or fish on the weekend, and restricting beef to only twice a year.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Medium

Finances: Money saver - generally vegetables and plant based foods are cheaper than meat products.


2. Reduce: Cloud Data

Challenge: To delete unnecessary emails, videos, photos and documents stored on the cloud.

Status: Ongoing

Why? Our internet usage contributes 2% of all carbon emissions, deleting unnecessary cloud storage items will help to reduce this.

Result: I have cleaned up some emails and deleted my icloud storage, however there are still more files to delete!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy - the only issue is time otherwise its very easy to do.

Finances: This did not impact on my finances because I don't pay for storage.


3. Eco Air Freshener

Challenge: To replace a spray air freshener for bicarbonate of soda and essential oil in a bottle.

Status: Ongoing

Why? The original air freshener came in an aerosol package and didn't list the ingredients so wanted something more natural.

Result: It's not exactly working brilliantly, I might have to re-visit this one for another homemade option.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: As these were items already in the house, this was a money saver.



4. Plastic Free Soap

Challenge: To swap liquid soap in a dispenser for a plastic free, natural soap bar.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Single use plastic is not only a problem for marine life but it also contributes to global warming. Plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product.

Result: I chose Olivia soap bar because it is 100% olive oil and comes in a cardboard box with no plastic. Washing with the soap bar is very nice!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy.

Finances: It is probably slightly more expensive at £2 a bar



5. Menstrual Cup

Challenge: To have plastic free periods by swapping tampons and sanitary pads for a silicone reusable cup.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Period products contribute a huge amount of waste when using traditional tampons and pads, especially plastic applicators.

Result: It is sometimes difficult to fit it every time and needs to be used in conjunction with some period pants just incase there is any leak. It means you are always "period ready" and are never going to run out of period products, which is great.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Medium.

Finances: There is an initial outlay of between £15-20 depending on which cup you choose, however this is repaid over time by not needing to buy period products.


6. Reduce: Toilet Paper

Challenge: To swap to 100% recycled, UK sourced, plastic free toilet paper.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Recycled toilet paper reduces the need for virgin trees to make the paper, uses paper that may otherwise go to landfill and also uses less water than making virgin paper.

Result: I chose Ecoleaf because the wrapper is compostable. The new rolls are working just fine!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: The cost is comparable to most toilet rolls so there wasn't much of a difference. Twelve rolls cost £5.63 plus delivery fee, whereas from the supermarket a leading brand cost £5 with the store loyalty card or £6.65 without, plus delivery fee.


7. Local Community Action Group

Challenge: To be an active member of a local group that champions sustainable changes for the community. I chose to join CAST Sustainable Communities group.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Although you can make lifestyle changes at home, there are other environmental changes that can be made at a larger level. It is also easier to do something when you are in a like minded team all working towards the same goals.

Result: I am an active member and have suggested quite a few ideas. We are moving forward to working with the local council and businesses on issues such as recyclable food packaging, a community wood, improved back lanes, litter picks, more rubbish bins, and a recycling hub.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: No expense required as the meetings are all online.


8. Minimalism - Only Essential Shopping Allowed

Challenge: To not buy anything outside of food and cleaning products.

Status: Ongoing.

Why?: Adopting a minimalist lifestyle is not only better for the environment, it is also great for your finances. Before buying anything the questions should be: Do I really need this? Will I use this? Can I afford this? Can I find it given away through a freecycle website or cheaper second hand? Can I find a more environmentally friendly option?

Result: In January I have only bought some clay and mini cookie cutters for my hobby. I did look to see if the cutters were available second hand first and they were not. They will be used a lot though! In February I have not bought anything non essential.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: Money saver!



9. Renew: Clothing

Challenge: To rescue a dress that has a grease stain which I think can be covered by dying the dress using a hand dye sachet.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Making an item of clothing is very bad for the environment. Fast fashion uses a lot of water and energy to make a garment, plus toxic chemicals are used to dye the items. We need to rescue clothes not wear once and send to landfill. It's a huge waste problem.

Result: I dyed the dress, which wasn't that difficult to do. The colour did disguise the stain to a degree, I will have to look at it again in bright sunshine to see if its sufficient.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This saved me money. The cost of the hand dye was very little, and definitely negated the need to buy a new dress.


10. Recycling: What to do with bamboo toothbrushes?

Challenge: To find the best option for used bamboo toothbrushes.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Toothbrushes are one of the most common items found in ocean trash, plus they are not even recyclable by the local authority. There is no point in switching to a more environmentally friendly product if it is going to go back into landfill.

Result: The toothbrush needs the plastic brush to be pulled out with pliers and the handle can be composted.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: No cost at all.


11. Recycling: Crisp Packets

Challenge: To find a way to recycle crisp packets, which are not recyclable through the local authority.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Crisp packets are very difficult to recycle, but the contents are nice! As they can't be recycled in the normal way they can be recycled through a company called Terracycle. However, this requires for them to be collected and dropped off at a recycling point.

Result: The crisp packets are currently being collected in a small cardboard box.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This doesn't cost anything other than a little space and perhaps a small transport cost when taking the packets to the central point. This will be in conjunction with another trip to reduce carbon emissions through multiple journeys.


12. Armchair Activism: Asking Food Suppliers to Change to Better Packaging

Challenge: To post a simple message on several company's social media pages saying that I love their products but hate their packaging and asking when they can make the changes.

Status: Ongoing

Why?: As a consumer you want to make the right choices. You can make choices by not buying the product, but that would also limit your foods significantly. I am already using a refill store to reduce packaging but that doesn't cover everything. However it is the manufacturer's responsibility to provide more environmentally friendly packaging. Food producers will not make changes towards better packaging unless they get pressure from consumers to make the changes.

Result: So far three large producers have indicated that they are working on these problems which is good, but not good enough. Unfortunately, local takeaway restaurants did not respond. I need to keep up the pressure!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy to do, hard to get a result.

Finances: This costs nothing but time and perseverance.


13. Reduce: Using Smarter Cooking Processes

Challenge: To have more raw food meals, and to use the microwave as the first cooking option, then slow cooker, then stove top and then the final choice being the oven.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Different cooking processes use more energy than others, plus electricity is available from renewable resources whilst gas is a fossil fuel. This makes a difference to carbon emissions.

Result: It doesn't take too much effort to just check if the food can be microwaved over other cooking methods. However, during the winter eating raw foods is harder and you want a warm meal. Plus if you are in a rush you can make a mistake and use more energy than intended. It's a habit change that requires a little bit of a process.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Medium.

Finances: This should save money as you are using less energy for cooking.


14. Reduce: Switch to Recycled Kitchen Roll

Challenge: To switch to recycled kitchen roll.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Recycled toilet paper reduces the need for virgin trees to make the paper, uses paper that may otherwise go to landfill and also uses less water than making virgin paper.

Result: I chose Ecoleaf because the wrapper is compostable. The new rolls are working just fine!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: The price of the recycled kitchen roll is comparable to non-recycled kitchen roll.



15. Buy Local Fruit and Veg

Challenge: To switch to a local fruit and veg box.

Status: Ongoing.

Why?: Eating local produce reduces the carbon footprint of food. Plus it often can reduce the amount of single use plastic compared to supermarket fruit and veg.

Result: So far I have tried to different fruit and veg boxes. Although there is significantly less plastic, there is still some. The box does push for a better diet, as I need to eat the fruits and veg before they go off so it is a great incentive.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy.

Finances: It is a little bit more expensive than shopping at the supermarket.




16: Food Waste: Composting

Challenge: To set up a composting system in a small urban house with only a little garden.

Status: Complete.

Why: Food waste in landfill causes harmful greenhouse gases. Composting is a more natural way for food waste to decompose. It apparently reduces the same amount of CO2 that you produce by using a kettle per year.

Result: This was much easier than expected. I bought a compost bag which is like a tote bag made from a tarp material. It isn't very big and sits just outside the back door. There's a small kitchen waste bin that collects the daily scraps and then every few days this gets transferred to the bag. The worms are added and then have a happy time eating the food waste. As a result, there is much less waste in the regular bin and lovely compost in the bag.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: It was very cheap: £12 for the bag and £6.50 for the worms.


17. Switch to no Plastic Tube Toothpaste

Action: Find and buy a toothpaste that doesn't come in a hard to recycle tube.

Status: Complete.

Why: Toothpaste tubes are one of the most common items that are not recyclable by the local council. Finding an alternative would reduce this difficult waste.

Result: I bought Ben and Anna's sensitive toothpaste. It comes in a nice glass jar with a wooden spatula to apply the paste to your brush. Works a treat and looks really stylish!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This was quite expensive in comparison to regular toothpastes at around £9.


18. Switch to No Plastic Hair Conditioner

Action: To switch from hair conditioner in a plastic bottle to a more eco friendly option.

Status: Complete.

Why: Although hair conditioner can come in recycled bottles that can be recycled, reducing plastic production is better than recycling.

Result: I bought Friendly Soap Conditioner Bar in lavender and tea tree. Although it comes as a bar you can make it into a liquid by adding warm water. This made two bottles of conditioner and it is nice on my hair.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This worked out at slightly less than the average price of a conditioner because it made 500ml.


19. Switch to no aerosol deodorant

Action: To change from an aerosol based deodorant to a more natural product in better packaging.

Status: Complete.

Why: In regular deodorants there are lots of chemicals and it would be better for me and the environment to find a deodorant made from natural ingredients.

Result: I chose to try The Natural Deodorant Co clean deodorant balm. It is more like applying a cream so it is a different application but the result is the same - no odour. It is free from any nasty ingredients, even palm oil. It is also made in the UK, which is good for my carbon footprint. Great stuff!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This is quite expensive in comparison to other deodorants at around £12.


20: Reduce: Less Baths

Action: To swap baths for showers, limiting to only one bath per month.

Status: Completed

Why: Reducing baths saves water and also reduces your carbon footprint.

Result: I have substituted my baths for showers, which is a little sad but also means I would focus on my once a month bath as a real treat instead, giving it more value. I haven't actually had a bath since so it may be a real permanent change.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This should save money as less water is heated and used for baths.


21. Reduce: No more samples or freebies

Action: To refuse any free samples in retail stores or hotels

Status: Completed

Why: The small samples are a huge use of plastic compared to the amount you get of the product. This is very wasteful and is an unnecessary contribution to climate change.

Result: Sadly, even though I love freebies I recognise that it is unsustainable. I haven't used any samples and will not be using any going forward.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy.

Finances: This costs nothing to do.


22. Reuse: Clothing

Action: To give clothes to a company which reuses them and if they can't then they are recycled.

Status: Completed

Why: It is better to give people the option to wear clothing before considering it for reusing or recycling it.

Result: This was a very straightforward challenge as once you have bagged up your unwanted items they are collected from your doorstep. Payment is sent via PayPal. Simple!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: At £5 a bag this challenge actually makes money.


23. Reduce: Lower the heating thermostat

Action: To lower the heating thermostat by 1 degree Celsius.

Status: Completed.

Why: Turning down the thermostat reduces the amount of carbon produced to heat the home. Even though the gas used is offset as part of option from the energy supplier, it is best to reduce rather than offset.

Result: At first it seemed a little colder but it was a simple case of using a blanket or thicker clothing.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This challenge actually saves money!


24. Reduce: Maintain and Switch off Appliances

Action: To consciously not leave appliances on, to not leave devices charging and to maintain appliances to ensure maximum energy efficiency.

Status: Completed.

Why: Inefficient appliances and those left on charge use unnecessary energy and contributes to climate change.

Result: It takes a little bit of organisation and management but so far I have been charging my phone during the day and only until full rather than overnight. This will also lengthen the battery life. I have also set up a system on the fridge to keep a log of when the freezer was last defrosted.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This challenge actually saves money!


25. Divest Personal Pension Plans from Fossil Fuels

Action: To divest my personal pension funds from fossil fuel companies.

Status: Ongoing

Why: Pension funds account for trillions of pounds that are invested in fossil fuel companies. This investment is used to continue to support climate damaging industries. It doesn't make sense to continue to invest in old energy and instead move towards more climate friendly investments. Some major pension funds have already done this, showing it makes good financial sense, as well as climate sense.

Result: It has been difficult to get information from the pension funds as to how to do this. I am still working on achieving this goal.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Hard

Finances: This should have no impact on my finances - however this is difficult to quantify when trying to predict market forces etc.


26. Ask Local Councils to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Action: To talk to the local council so that they divest the employee's pension fund from fossil fuel companies.

Status: Ongoing

Why: In the UK the Local Government Pension Schemes were valued at £287 BILLION in 2019. The money from these schemes support more oil and gas extraction and are a huge contributor to climate change.

Result: This is a very tough challenge. However, there are local councils that have divested from fossil fuels. This will take considerable time and effort.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Hard

Finances: This doesn't take any money but it does take time.



27. Buy Trees for Gifts

Action: Instead of buying physical presents or experiences for birthday, Christmas, anniversary gifts to buy trees instead.

Status: Completed.

Why: Buying trees is a great way to not only offset their carbon footprint but it also brings awareness to the environment. Plus the trees last much longer!

Result: All gifts will be trees bought through Ecologi.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: The packages from Ecologi are very reasonable and comparable to an actual gift.



28. Use the Ecosia Search Engine to Plant Trees Whilst you Browse

Action: To switch from Google to the Ecosia search engine.

Status: Completed.

Why: Ecosia plants a tree when you use it as a search engine. It takes around 45 searches to plant a tree.

Result: Super easy and on average I am planting around four trees a week. The search results are not as good as Google but it feels better using it.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This challenge doesn't costs anything.


29. Switch from Washing Powder to Soapnuts

Action: To replace regular washing detergent pods to natural washing alternative soap nuts.

Status: Completed.

Why: Washing detergent releases lots of chemicals into waterways whilst soap nuts are a 100% natural product.

Result: Clean clothes! Just pop four soapnuts in the hessian bag and put in with the wash. Repeat with the same nuts for the next four washes. Then compost the nuts. This means the nuts are super economical.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This challenge actually saves money!


30. Stop using Hair Dye

Action: To stop dying my hair with chemicals.

Status: Completed.

Why: Hair dye has a huge number of chemicals that are then released into waterways when you wash your hair.

Result: So my hair looks pretty bad and I think it will do for some time. Sigh.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Hard

Finances: This challenge actually saves money!


31. Stop using Nail Varnish

Action: To stop painting my nails with chemicals.

Status: Completed.

Why: Hair dye has a huge number of chemicals that are then released into waterways when you wash your hair.

Result: My nails look very boring and sad. Sigh.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Hard

Finances: This challenge actually saves money!



32. Only drink Brewdog beer

Action: To swap from drinking any beer to Brewdog beers in aluminium cans.

Status: Completed.

Why: Brewdog is not only local it is a carbon negative company. So drinking beer can help the planet! Result!

Result: I now drink only Brewdog beers.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This doesn't have any significant affect on finances.





33. Swap to drink Organic Wine

Action: To swap to organic natural wines.

Status: Completed.

Why: Wine has a carbon footprint and also can contain chemicals to accelerate fermentation etc. It makes sense to drink wine that is local (there are UK wines!) and/or organic and shipped rather than transported by road. Ideally refillable wine stations would be the best option.

Result: There is a new natural wine shop that has opened so wine can easily be bought from there. Alternatively Aldi has a nice organic range that is very affordable.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: The natural wine is more expensive, however Aldi's organic range is a reasonable alternative.


34. Unsubscribe from Marketing emails

Action: To unsubscribe from marketing emails

Status: Completed.

Why: To reduce the carbon footprint of data farms and to reduce the temptation to buy something that's unnecessary.

Result: I have unsubscribed from lots of marketing emails regarding clothes and accessories.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This challenge doesn't costs anything.



35. Use Local Stores over Super Companies

Action: To change from using large corporates to buying from local suppliers.

Status: Completed.

Why: Not only do you get a better shopping experience but you also support businesses that listen to their customers. It is better for the environment to buy local and local businesses also support the local community. They probably also pay their taxes.

Result: So far fruit and veg, fish, cheese, wine, bread, pastries and books have been bought through local establishments. The quality is definitely better!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: It is slightly more expensive to buy at local stores.


36. Swap to a Better Soda Solution

Action: To change from pre-made carbonated drinks to a soda machine

Status: Ongoing.

Why: There is a significant proportion of the recycling that comes from single use plastic soda bottles. If these are removed and replaced by a carbonating machine then the amount of plastic and recycling are reduced.

Result: I am still researching the best machine so check back soon.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: There is an initial outlay and also a cost for the CO2 bottles but I think that overall it will not cost any extra.


37. Refill Washing Up Liquid

Action: To stop buying washing up liquid in single use plastic bottles and refill from the bulk buy store instead.

Status: Completed.

Why: It will reduce the amount of single use plastic and recycling.

Result: Washing up liquid is now refilled at the bulk buy store.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This challenge actually saves money!


38. Eco Friendly Washing Sponges

Action: To swap washing up sponges for a more eco-friendly version.

Status: Ongoing

Why: Besides being made from synthetic fibres that pollute waterways, sponges don't degrade so they are in landfill for a very very long time.

Result: I decide that rather than buying something new to reuse some old tea towels that have been slightly destroyed. This idea came from an ex-colleague of mine so there are always great suggestions out there. So I need to sew them into sponge shapes and test them out!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Medium

Finances: This challenge costs nothing!



39. TreeApp

Action: To plant a tree every day using TreeApp

Status: Completed

Why: Why not? It takes 30 seconds and you can support tree planting projects around the world. It also helps to offset your own carbon footprint as a mature tree absorbs 21kg of CO2 per year.

Result: One tree planted every day so far!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This challenge doesn't cost anything.


40. Send more Eco-Friendly Celebration Cards

Action: To replace traditional greetings cards with a more environmentally conscious alternative.

Status: Completed.

Why: Buying greetings cards means chopping down trees and delivering the cards both of which contribute to global warming.

Result: I have decided to use either electronic cards, cards that are made from seedlings or hand-making cards to re-use items from around the house.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This challenge actually saves money!


41. Switching to a Carbon Tracking Bank Account

Action: To change my bank account from a high street traditional bank to a carbon tracking account.

Status: Ongoing

Why: Although I can track my carbon footprint using an app, having my exact carbon footprint calculated based on exactly what I spend is much more accurate and therefore useful. Additionally, high street banks also invest in carbon producing industries and so shifting away from them also reduces my carbon footprint.

Result: I have signed up for Tred, the carbon tracking bank. I am waiting for them to launch to transfer over to this system.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This challenge has no costs.


42. Switch to Wild Game Meat

Action: To change to locally sourced wild game meat

Status: Ongoing

Why: There are regular culls of wild deer to prevent overgrazing of areas and to keep the population in check. It is an environmentally sustainable solution.

Result: The local butchers are working with a supplier who should be providing the meat in a couple of months time.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This could be slightly more expensive than other meats, we will see!


43. Paint recycling

Action: To establish a paint recycling scheme.

Status: Ongoing

Why: Paint is very toxic and currently there are not many paint recycling schemes in the country. This requires working with paint companies and the local authority.

Result: I am working on this and will report back when it is complete!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Hard

Finances: This challenge no costs


44. Convincing Someone Else

Action: To convince other people to join in with environmental changes

Status: Completed.

Why: The more of us who can reduce their footprints the better so we can reduce climate change. Also having the support of family and friends is a great way to have the incentive to keep going.

Result: Through sharing my challenges on social media many friends have said they have been inspired to make their own changes. Yay!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This challenge doesn't cost any money!


45. Tree planting

Action: To offset our carbon consumption by plating trees every month

Status: Completed.

Why: It is quite hard to reduce our carbon footprint to absolute zero - we need food and heat for example. However, if we use tree planting to compensate for the carbon we cannot reduce or offset then it is a step in the right direction

Result: By signing up to Ecologi, it is very simple to set up a regular payment and job is done! Ecologi handles all the planting for you.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This does cost, however it is less than £20 a month to remove four carbon footprints.


More eco challenges coming soon!

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