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Whilst I would rather shop in bricks and mortar shops all of the time, we all shop online, be that out of convenience or necessity. I, personally, live a bit more rurally and don’t always want to do a 20-mile round trip to buy plastic-free toilet paper, so online shopping it often is.

It’s often assumed that online shopping is bad for the environment, but on the contrary, online shopping can, in some cases, be better for the environment than bricks and mortar stores. A 2009 report from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that although packaging accounts for 22% of the carbon dioxide emissions of an item purchased online, customer transportation accounts for 65% of emissions when buying the equivalent item at a retail store.

This is concurrent with some research I did for work about 15 years ago, when I worked as a transport policy researcher, that showed that one truck doing many deliveries was more carbon-friendly than many people getting in their individual cars and driving to the shops.

Of course, over those intervening years, online shopping has changed dramatically and there are now caveats to the rule. For example, express shipping cancels out any carbon savings. Meanwhile, making multiple single orders rather than sitting down and making one single order also cancels out the carbon savings. This, in particular, is a relatively new consumer behaviour brought on by the rise of voice-activated devices such as Amazon’s Echo device, that can offer voice-controlled shopping. In short, if you want to be climate-friendly, don’t pick the express shipping option, and consolidate your orders. And of course, the biggest one: not buying stuff that you don’t need.

What about the online shopping packaging?

Whilst in shops you can bring your own bag or your own containers with online shopping there is no escaping the packaging.

I try and reuse all packaging that comes my way – boxes, bubble wrap and padded envelopes for things I’ve sold on eBay; brown packaging paper for wrapping up gifts; and so forth – but even then it would be great if shops could use more sustainable options, because there’s only so many times you can reuse packaging before it ends up in the bin. And don’t get me started on those grey plastic mailer bags that I haven’t found a way to reuse and can’t be recycled. Many online shops still have a long way to go on the packaging front.

Step forward noissue.

Next time a company posts you something in non-recyclable packaging then why not point them in the direction of noissue – a sustainable packaging company aimed at businesses large and small – that also plant trees with every order placed.

noissue didn’t set out to be an environmentally friendly packaging company – the founders were looking at eco friendly packaging for a previous endeavour, and couldn’t find exactly what they wanted, and realising a gap in the market switched focus and founded the company in 2017.

The noissue product that I am most excited about is a 100% compostable mailer, which replaces those pesky non-recyclable grey plastic bags. I’m always skeptical of industrially compostable items as so few of us have access to industrial composting facilities – most local councils won’t take items that are industrial compostable only – but thankfully noissue’s mailer is home compostable, breaking down within 180 days in a domestic composter (including in wormeries).

What I particularly like is that companies can buy in quantities as little as 100, making it accessible for smaller companies as well as larger ones. Too often eco options for businesses are only available at too big a scale for small companies to be able to warrant. noissue believe that sustainable packaging doesn’t have to be unattainable which resonates well with me.

noissue’s other packaging products include custom branded compostable packaging tape and stickers, which are both printed on FSC Certified paper using soy based inks, as opposed to traditional petroleum-based ink.

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Their tape uses a starch-based adhesive which activates when wet, preventing storage issues and avoiding the problem of wax/plastic coating on most other available custom packing tapes.

Their other main offering is custom printed and branded tissue paper. Like noissue’s other products, the tissue is FSC Certified, and all the ink used is soy-based – making this a great eco-friendly packaging option for craft sellers and jewellers. Worried about buying in bulk and then the paper deteriorating over time? All of noissue’s paper is acid-free paper, meaning that it won’t deteriorate or yellow as quickly as conventional paper. From a customer perspective, acid-free paper lasts longer and can be reused more.

Of course, more environmentally friendly packaging won’t save the planet on its own – we all need to be more mindful of our own consumption and stop buying stuff we don’t really need but at least for the things we do need to buy online it’s reassuring to know that better options are out there.

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AD | How To Improve The Air Quality In Your Home

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When we think of air pollution, we tend to think of outdoor air, without giving the air inside our homes a second thought.  Yet according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air quality inside our homes can often be two to five times worse than outdoors.   The same study reports that adults in developed countries can spend around 90% of their time indoors.  With indoor air quality contributing to many serious health issues, it really is an issue deserving more attention.

As today is Clean Air Day, a project that aims to clean up the air on the longest day of the year, I’ve teamed up with ENGIE Home Energy, partners of Clean Air Day, to share six tips on how to improve the air quality in your home:

how to improve air quality indoors

1.  Consider Your Cleaning Products

There are many reports of the negative impacts of conventional cleaning products on your health.

Instead of using harsh cleaning products, consider switching to more environmentally friendly brands.  Ethical Consumer has a great guide to cleaning product brands that’s incredibly useful.

Alternatively, try making your own natural cleaning products.  As someone who has written a whole book on the subject, I promise it’s not as tricky or as time-consuming as it sounds.  If you have 5 seconds to add one ingredient to another and then give it a shake then you can definitely make your own cleaning products!  The great thing is that many of the products use ingredients from your food cupboard – from herbs, citrus fruits, salt, bicarbonate of soda and other food-based ingredients that will do wonders for your indoor air quality.

If making your own cleaning products, or using more environmentally friendly brands isn’t your thing then there are a few things you can do to improve the air quality in your home.  Avoid using aerosol based products and making sure you open a window when using cleaning products can help.

2.  Consider Your Candle Habit

Candles, and in particular, scented candles are a surprising cause of indoor air pollution.

Standard candles are made from paraffin wax – a petroleum by-product that is made when crude oil is refined into petrol, which affects your indoor air quality when you burn them.  And that’s before we’ve even covered the artificial fragrances contained in candles, which can hide a cocktail of particularly undesirable chemicals.

Instead of conventional candles, try beeswax candles (here’s a handy guide on how to make your own) or soy candles fragranced with pure essential oils (here are four of the best).

3.  Service Your Boiler

Getting your boiler serviced by a professional at least once per year is a wise move in improving the air quality in your home.  Without regular servicing, highly poisonous carbon monoxide gas can leak from faulty boilers, which can be fatal.

As carbon monoxide is odourless, tasteless and colourless it’s best to also install a carbon monoxide alarm too.  The most effective position for your carbon monoxide alarm is around head height on the wall or bookcase – never on the ceiling, where it’s too high to be effective in the event of a leak.

4.  Consider Switching Your Energy Tariff

Admittedly, this is an action that you can take inside the home to improve air quality outside, but it is still an important one.  Choosing an energy supplier, such as ENGIE, who offers renewable energy tariffs for your home can significantly reduce the pollution caused by fossil fuel based power stations.

ENGIE source 100% of the electricity they supply from wind power generated from their network of UK wind farms.  Whilst this sounds like it might come at a cost to you, ENGIE says that customers can save up to £200 compared to their old suppliers.

Whilst the name might be new to you, ENGIE have been around for quite some time, particularly in Europe.  Since 2014, ENGIE has sought to reduce future exploration in fossil fuels and has instead invested heavily in renewable energies and energy efficiency services.  ENGIE sustainably heat the 3,000 homes and buildings in London’s Olympic Park and power big businesses across five continents.

5.  Consider Your Decorating Materials

Moving back indoors, paint is one of those surprising elements that is a considerable contributor to indoor air quality.

Paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – chemical gases that are emitted from certain solids and liquids and can cause short and long-term health problems.

Whilst the highest concentrations of VOCs from painting a room occur during and immediately after painting, a freshly painted room can continue to emit VOCs long after the paint has dried on your walls.  In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency say that a mere 50 percent of VOCs contained within paint are released within the first year of application.

Thankfully, it’s an easy one to avoid – just switch to low VOC paint.

Other sources of VOCs include furniture and synthetic carpets and rugs, etc, so choosing natural products, such as pure wool and pure wood products are healthier alternatives that will help improve indoor air quality.

6.  Get Growing

Plants are an easy and cost-effective way to improve indoor air quality.  Don’t believe me?  A famous NASA study found that several common houseplants may remove carcinogenic air-borne chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde from the air.  Later research indicated that micro-organisms in the soil of houseplants can also help purify the air.

Although subsequent research has been inconclusive, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a few houseplants in your home.  Check out here for some air purifying recommendations.

If you have any more indoor air quality tips then do share below, and on this Clean Air Day be sure to follow along on Twitter with ENGIE and Clean Air Day for more clean air tips!