Eco-friendly Lifestyle Mistakes You Could Be Making!

Friday, August 06, 2021

It can be hard to live sustainably. We have to research every little thing and make sure it is a worthwhile purchase. It can be hard work, but leading a sustainable lifestyle is worth the effort. It might take a bit of time to get used to your sustainable habits. Building any kind of habit is time-consuming. On your journey, you're bound to make mistakes. For example, ethically made clothing doesn't mean it is sustainable. Here are some of the most common mistakes you'll make on your journey and how to fix them!

Throwing Away Your Plastic

If you have plastic in your house, you may be tempted to throw it all away in your plastic-free journey. However, the damage has already been done. Throwing out your usable plastic to make it seem like you have no plastic is just silly. Most plastic won't be recycled, so throwing it away will put it straight into landfills. Less than 39% of our plastic is recycled in the UK, so 1.16 million tonnes of plastic goes into landfills.

If you have some plastic bags lying around, you should use them. If you have plastic Tupperware, meal prep instead of buying plastic-covered meal deals. We can't go back in time and change our purchases, but you can change future decisions. Use your plastic and avoid buying it in future. Once it starts to break, get creative and see how you can upcycle it! Make sure you check with your local council what plastic you can recycle too. Only 10 county councils in the UK recycle all plastic types, so double check before you recycle.

Related: How to create an eco-friendly wardrobe on a budget!    

Buying Every Zero Waste Item

Zero waste products also look amazing, which is what draws us all in. It seems like the natural step forward, but it can be a step back from sustainable living. If you already have a deodorant, make sure you use it first before purchasing a reusable one. If you throw away all of your things, then you're contributing to landfill. Plus, the damage has already been done. You have already bought a plastic aerosol. It would have released emissions in production and to travel to your supermarket. It would possibly have been made in an unethical factory.

Sustainable living stems from using what you already have. Before purchasing eco-friendly alternatives, use what you have. Make do with the things around your house. Do you already have a usable lunch box? Yes, use it until it reaches its end of life! If you apply this logic to all your things, then you'll avoid this mistake.

Falling Into The Greenwashing Trap

You may be wondering what greenwashing is? The definition is when a usually unethical company uses the colour green or positive catchphrases to entice you. It almost tricks you into thinking the company is good. They could associate words like natural or organic with their products to make you believe you're purchasing an eco-friendly alternative. A lot of businesses will use nature and green to make their product look better. Nature Valley bars seem happy and good for you, but they're in plastic wrappers. It's interesting to read into some of the greenwashing scandals that have gone on recently.

Often they are the same fast-fashion shops such as Primark, H&M etc. For example, you can donate old clothes at Primark to reduce fast fashion and waste. However, they're one of the biggest fast-fashion retailers in the UK, which is ironic. You think you're helping the planet by recycling in one of their shops, but you'll likely pick up some deals while you're there. The most annoying thing about these companies is that it is legal to greenwash. They know what they are doing and how they are manipulating us. It's for the money. But it costs the earth. Here are a few ways to avoid greenwashing:

Read the sustainability section. Most websites will have a sustainability statement. If you can't easily find a sustainability page, they're likely trying to hide it or aren't ethical. A website may say that they are eco-friendly, but this may only apply to some things they do. Make sure you really read into a business before you purchase!
Check on the Good On You app/website. If you have read the sustainability section and are still unsure, check the Good On You website. They rate sustainable brands, so you can ensure you're buying from the right places.

Check the price. If the cost of your haul seems cheap, it's most likely not sustainable. Maybe they have cheap materials, or only one part of the process is sustainable. Sustainable fashion is expensive, but it's made to last, is good for the planet and is ethical for the workers.
Buy from a charity shop. If you aren't ready to lose your brands, charity shops are a great place to look. They are affordable and offer a wide range of unique items! Plus, there are homeware, books and CDs you could purchase. You're also helping out a charity.

Some other places to shop:

  • Vinted
  • Depop
  • eBay
  • Shpock
  • Thrift+

Feeling Like Your Have To Be Successful

If you follow sustainable living accounts on Instagram or Youtube, you may feel like you should do things a certain way. You might see them living their perfect zero waste life. However, I am sure that they got there the same way you are trying to now. For example, glass jars are in every kitchen. Pinterest shows cute jars with fancy labels on them, filled with unpackaged goods. How many of those influencers are refilling the jars at a naked shop? The thing is, it’s just as likely that they have bought some plastic packaged pasta or rice and have poured it in just for the aesthetic. Don’t put yourself down because you aren’t doing everything. Simple things that you can do:

  • Reduce your meat consumption
  • Have a meatless Monday
  • Think before you buy
  • Aim to go to a charity shop
  • Research to see if there’s a refill shop nearby
  • Bake your own cookies instead of buying some
  • Bring your lunch to work instead of buying a meal day - even if you only manage once a week, it’s better than never!
  • Have a go at growing some herbs
  • Save up for a sustainable swap - maybe you could invest in a refillable deodorant or some beeswax wraps
  • Bring a tote bag with you
  • Remember your travel mug

Doing Too Much Too Quickly

When you first give sustainable living a go, you want to make all of those swaps as soon as possible. The definition of sustainable is being able to continue something for a long time at the same level. If you make all the swaps in a day, it is unlikely that you will stick with them. When you start your journey, start with the easier changes first. You could walk to work or use public transport more before fully committing to travelling that way. You could also shop at a packaging-free shop instead of avoiding all food in plastic packaging. These changes make it easier to build a sustainable lifestyle.

Like with any habit, you are more likely to stick with it with a routine. If you add too many new components, it won’t work. Slowly make changes and if something isn't working, adjust it. Make sure you speak to the people around you. If they're on board with the changes, it can make the adjustment easier. It means they can also keep you accountable for the changes.

Related: The best ways to travel abroad sustainably!

Being Too Hard On Yourself

Remember to take care of yourself. You are doing a good thing for the planet by trying to create a sustainable life. As much as this post was about avoiding sustainable lifestyle mistakes, it is ok to make some. You learn by making mistakes. You also won't get everything right at the start. Unfortunately, it requires a group effort to make the most change happen but doing your bit helps. If you slip up, remember all of the things you have achieved. These things take time to perfect. If you're being hard on yourself, write a list of all the changes you've made. It will quickly add up, and you'll realise what an impact you are making!

Everybody makes mistakes. You won't be able to build a sustainable lifestyle in a day. There are so many ways to create your eco-friendly lifestyle that you're bound to do something wrong. Just remember, you are doing a good thing, and you'll reap the rewards in the end. Keep going, and together, we can make the world a better place. What mistakes have you made when developing your eco-friendly lifestyle? I'd love to hear what you did wrong and how you fixed it!

About the guest writer!

This post is a guest post written by the lovely Caroline from Enviroline Blog. She blogs to raise awareness about environmental issues and mental health stigma. She shares lots of great tips and tricks which I have learnt so much from. She is only of my favourite bloggers. You can find her on TwitterInstagramFacebook and Pinterest! If you'd like to write for my blog, please pop me an email and I'll get back to you shortly! 

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  1. Plastic can be really hard as you can recycle different items in different areas! Thank you for sharing x

  2. Thank you so much for letting me guest post on your blog! xx

  3. This was a really refreshing read. I want to be more green and eco friendly but I do fall into a few of these categories. I've tried to do too much too quick and it's not working

  4. I'm working in small steps - I'm about to get to the end of my last sponge and I'm looking for an eco friendly replacement. I reuse a lot of the plastic I own, it would be silly to get rid of tupperware that's perfectly fine to buy glass or bamboo instead.
    A small thing I've switched out is hair ties - I haven't bought one for years. I use a hair stick instead, or a scrunchie from a small business.
    Cora |

  5. Making small changes can genuinely make the world of difference, I've been trying to buy more from charity shops and making other small changes :)

  6. Great tips! Sometimes I go hard on myself and true, we are doing good and need to take it easy.

  7. Yes I definitely think that sustainability is a journey, sometimes it can take a while to get used to products so we just give up or try to do too much at once and it becomes overwhelming - great post!

  8. I love this post! I especially love how you've spoken about greenwashing and that some companies aren't as ethical as they seem - as that's so important to mention x

  9. These are such good points! I love Caroline's blog too :) I so agree that it is tempting to make a ton of changes at once or buy a bunch of zero waste items, but that making small changes over time can be more sustainable.

  10. Oooh, Em, this is a great post. I see a lot of posts on tips and things you SHOULD do but I don't think I've ever read one like this, identifying the mistakes you might be making. I think it's important that you pointed out that being hard on yourself and trying to do ALL THE THINGS is a mistake too because we're all going to make mistakes it's just about learning from them!

  11. I have never heard of greenwashing before, that's really interesting! I did stop shopping at Primark and H&M a few years ago though due to the fast fashion industry. If you haven't watched The True Cost documentary, I highly recommend it.
    I love that being too hard on yourself was one of your points. It's difficult to do and we're not perfect. As you say, we learn from our mistakes.

  12. This is so easy to get sucked into -- and I have definitely been guilty of a few of these. I know that my sustainable and eco-friendly journey is going to take time and have to be updated/tweaked as I learn more -- so thank you for this useful post!

  13. Fab tips! It's definitely so important to take things one step at a time instead of rushing into big changes that don't necessarily stick. I love buying from charity shops - they're great for books - and I love the idea of a meatless Monday, will have to try that! Thanks for sharing x

  14. Thank you for sharing this! It’s so easy to fall into a whole when learning about this and the feelings of urgency can really make us make mistakes. The fact that people are trying is a great first step.