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Simple, Joyful Ways To Be Carbon Savvy | AD

This post on how to be carbon savvy is paid-for content in association with Zero Waste Scotland.

I tweeted something once about cutting carbon, and someone sarcastically replied that I must be terribly fun at parties. And I get it, talking carbon can be a particularly dry topic. However, something that I feel is very much overlooked – in fact, ignored – is the simple joy and pleasure that can be taken from finding alternatives to consumerism.

Zero Waste Scotland recently launched its first responsible consumption campaign, encouraging consumers to be “carbon savvy” when shopping.

Zero Waste Scotland says that around 80% of our carbon footprint in Scotland comes from our consumption habits. Yet, according to their research, only one-fifth of the Scottish population is fully aware of the negative impact consuming new products has on the climate.

When everything we buy, be that goods, materials, or services, has a carbon cost, then it is important that we try to minimise our consumption. This sounds like we have to give things up, and lead spartan lives. However, I would argue that adopting carbon-savvy behaviours can actually enrich our lives in unexpected ways.

Simple Ways To Be Carbon Savvy And Spark Joy

Image of scissors and mending tools, with a blue text box that says how to be carbon savvy and spark joy

Consumer behaviour doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of individuals. However, in what was a huge missed opportunity, consumption reduction was not a key theme at this year’s COP26 event in Glasgow. It is clear that until Governments and corporations take the lead on this, then tackling consumption is something that needs to begin at home.

Here are some ways that being carbon savvy can bring sparkle and joy to your life, and help the environment.

Reduce What You Buy

One way to be carbon savvy is simply to reduce what we buy. It is really difficult when we see advertisements in almost every part of our lives – from scrolling social media, to watching TV, to listening to music, to going on a walk. When advertising expenditure in the United Kingdom in 2020 alone amounted to £23.46 billion you know you are up against it.

It can be hard to stop shopping for things you don’t particularly need. Saying no to consumerism is something I liken to starting a new sport. At first, it’s really difficult, as your muscles are weak. However, the more times you practice and say to yourself, no I don’t actually need that item that’s being marketed to me, the stronger that muscle gets, and the easier it is to resist.

Learning to say no to even the very cleverest of marketing feels incredibly empowering. And your bank balance will feel the benefit too. My number one tip is when adopting a more carbon savvy approach is to try setting a savings goal. Set small incremental targets, and celebrate every time you hit your savings targets. You are guaranteed to feel amazing as your savings grow.

Learning To Say No

As I mentioned, saying no to mindless consumerism can be tricky at first. To help you out, I have a conversation I run through in my head that might be useful to you.

If I feel like I need something, I ask myself if I actually need the item, or if I just want the item. I always find there’s a huge difference between needing and wanting. If I need an item, then I can’t do without it. Whereas, if I want an item, then it’s obvious I can do without it.

If I decide that yes, I do need the item, I then ask myself where that need came from. Do I need it because I don’t have anything else that would work? Or do I need it because I saw some clever advertising that has convinced me that I do need it in my life?

If I do actually need something because of a genuine need, then instead of buying new, could I shop differently? Could I borrow the item from a friend or family member? Could I buy the item second-hand? Or could I rent the item instead? Or could I visit my local tool library?

The act of having that mental conversation has prevented a number of purchases. And in borrowing or buying secondhand, that act centres community rather than consumption.

Be Carbon Savvy By Reusing What You Have

Reusing what you have is another great way to be carbon savvy. I implement this in many different ways in my life. To take just a couple of examples, you can see how reusing can bring happiness in ways that buying things just can’t compete.

One example is when my oldest daughter outgrows her clothes, I store them away in my cupboard for my younger daughter to wear when the time comes. And when my youngest is done with them, I pass them on to friends. I always feel that something that isn’t talked about enough in society is the immense joy in seeing clothes which were once worn by your child, on another younger child – whether that’s a sibling or a friend’s kid. From the memories it brings, to the emotions that it stirs, it is all such a joy. This joy simply cannot be replicated by buying clothes new from a shop.

At Christmas, I also often repurpose last year’s Christmas cards to make gift tags. There’s nothing quite like the warm fuzzy joy of reading kind words from friends, as you make up your own tags. Again, there’s no way to replicate this when you buy a pack of plastic-wrapped gift tags. Reuse all the way!

Repair

One of the most useful skills I ever learned was how to sew a button back onto my clothes.

My Granny Graham taught me this skill when I was a little girl. She had this old biscuit tin, full of buttons from years gone by. She had this wonderful habit, long before sustainability was a thing, where she would cut the buttons off of any clothes that couldn’t be mended so that they could be reused. As a child, rummaging through that tin was like finding treasure, never knowing what jewel you would uncover next. It sparked a huge love of repair.

If you don’t have a Granny Graham in your life to teach you these skills, then if you can, why not spend a little time watching some YouTube videos to teach you basic mending skills.

If the repair is beyond you, search for a local mender. Much like the joy The Repair Shop participants get when they are reunited with their repaired family heirloom, that pleasure you get from getting a much-loved item back from being expertly mended is so much greater than any retail high.

Be Carbon Savvy By Looking After What You Have

Of course, sometimes it isn’t practical or possible to buy secondhand, or borrow, or repair. Even the most carbon-savvy of people have to buy new things sometimes. If you do need to buy something new, then try to buy ethically, and then look after your belongings.

This could be as simple as learning what the care labels on your clothing mean, and following those directions. I have to say I get a great sense of satisfaction from washing my woolen items the correct way. Simply knowing that I am looking after my clothes and helping to prolong their lifespan feels good.

Dispose Responsibly

Finally, when your items come to the end of their life, or you no longer need them then you can still be carbon savvy by disposing of them responsibly.

Could the item be recycled or upcycled? Could it be sold? Or could it be passed on to someone else? Could it be donated to charity? Any way that you can extend the lifespan of an item helps to save carbon. Therefore it is well worth spending a little time to think about what you could do with your item, rather than sending it to landfill. Disposing of something responsibly, rather than chucking it in the bin, also makes you feel a whole lot better.

Do More

Adopting these mindful reduce, reuse, and repair behaviours will save you carbon emissions and money and could bring you a whole manner of joy. If you want to do more, then wherever you are based, do follow Zero Waste Scotland’s How to Waste Less Instagram account. It’s full of easy tips and ideas for living sustainably.

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How Often Do You Wear Your Clothes Before Washing Them? | AD

This post on how often do you wear your clothes before washing them is paid-for content, in association with BAM, and contains affiliate links.

Whilst making new clothing is undoubtedly resource-intensive, did you know that it has been estimated that 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions created during the life of a typical cotton t-shirt are made at home? It’s true, the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions from a cotton t-shirt doesn’t come from growing the cotton, transporting it, or manufacturing it. These instead come from washing and drying our clothes. This really makes you think, doesn’t it?

As well as the environmental impacts of laundry, overwashing also shortens the lifespan of our clothes. Washing can be damaging to our clothes, even on gentle cycles. From fading and fibre erosion to shrinkage, overwashing and overdrying can reduce the lifespan of our garments. This means we have to buy more clothes more often, using yet more resources. It makes sense to only wash our clothes when we really need to. But how do we balance that fine line between acceptable to wear and unacceptable to wear? Let me share with you my experiences and tips.

BAM’s Dare To Wear Longer Campaign

washing machine

I’ve been writing about looking after your clothes for years. This guide to how often you should wash your clothes is really helpful, for example. I refer back to it time and time again, and I thought I had it all together when it came to washing habits. But then ethical clothing retailer BAM* challenged me, through their Dare to Wear Longer Campaign, to see how long I could wear an item of clothing before needing to wash it. Why? To highlight the environmental impact of washing our clothing after every wear and challenge the assumption that we need to.

Let’s just say, I was on board, but also nervous. Would I be a stinky, dirty mess by the end of the challenge? I kept a daily diary, so let’s find out!

About BAM

First, let me tell you a bit about BAM. BAM is an ethical clothing company that is investing in greening its supply chain and treating its workers fairly. In the last two years, BAM says they have “traced our suppliers’ suppliers’ suppliers’ suppliers’ supplier to systematically identify all our growers, factories, plants, and manufacturers“.

By understanding and knowing their entire supply chain, has allowed BAM to green their operations. Now they only work with responsible producers. For example, they only work with bamboo fibre producers who use safe and responsible chemistry and waste treatment practices, and who are committed to investing in the technology needed to further improve their practices, processes, and chemistry where necessary.

By knowing all of their suppliers, they are also able to ensure that their suppliers are paying their staff above the national minimum wage and offering good working conditions throughout the entire supply chain.

You can read more about BAM’s work on sustainability in their 2021 sustainability report*. This sets their current impact, their immediate plans, and their ultimate goals for the next ten years.

The Dare to Wear Challenge – Challening How Often You Wear Your Clothes Before Washing Them

Wendy wearing BAM's bamboo top in the dare to wear challenge - challenging how often you wear your clothes before washing them

BAM sent me their long sleeve bamboo top* in black to wear for the duration of this challenge. A wardrobe staple, I felt confident this would go with anything in my wardrobe. Ready to see how I got on wearing my clothes before washing them? Here’s how it went:

Day One:

I went about my business today in my lovely BAM top. And I was doing really well until dinner time. You see, I seem to have inherited a family trait that makes it almost impossible to eat a meal without some kind of spillage. My sister and my dad both have the same condition! So, inevitably, straight off the bat I ended up with a bit of bolognese sauce on my top. Rather than putting the whole top in the washing machine, after dinner, I immediately spot cleaned the bit where the sauce was and before the food had a chance to set. I then hung the top up on the washing line for a little while to dry, and this had the added bonus of refreshing the top with fresh air.

Day Two:

In the morning, the top looked clean. I then gave my top the sniff test, and it smelled fresh, so it was good to go for day two. I was working from home today, so apart from a lunchtime stroll, didn’t do anything that was particularly strenuous. By some miracle, I also made it through the day without spilling any food on me.

By the end of the day, the top looked visibly clean. Just to be sure it would be fresh for the morning, I gave it a spray with my homemade clothes refresher. I make this using vodka and essential oils, and it really does neutralise any odours. The smell of vodka dissipates as soon as it dries, so you don’t walk around smelling like a pub. You can make this using witch hazel too if you don’t like the idea of using vodka.

Day Three:

We had a mini-heatwave. Seizing the opportunity, I cast aside jeans and long-sleeved tops and wore a dress. In mid-September in Scotland, you can never tell if this is the last time you’ll be able to wear dresses and bare legs until next year, so the challenge went out of the window today. In the true spirit of the challenge, and even though the weather made for an excellent laundry day, I didn’t wash the top. Instead, I left it hanging up to air in my bedroom like my grandmother always did with her clothes.

Day Four:

The weather went back to normal service, so the top went back on today – still smelling and looking fresh (I got my partner to double-check!). I was working again today, so nothing exciting to report. My partner and I don’t work for the same company, but we do work from home together. During our lunch break, my partner and I took a mildly strenuous walk – we try to aim for 10,000 steps in a day. We don’t always manage it but it’s good to have a target. Afterward, I or my clothes weren’t sweaty, but I was conscious I had been wearing the top for three days without washing it. As such, I bust out my clothes steamer in the evening and gave the top a good steam. I then hung it up to air in the bedroom overnight.

Day Five:

I’m really not used to wearing a top for four days without washing, so I admit, I had doubts about pulling the top on this morning. However the steamer had really worked wonders, and there weren’t any odours. I did a sniff test, and again, I got my poor partner to do a sniff test too. The things you do for love!

I was all fired up today and was sure I was going to get to the end of day four. That was until I realised I had judged the weather all wrong. I thought the day was going to pan out to be a cold one. It had certainly started off that way. However, by lunchtime, when I was out and about, things started heating up and fast. Oh, September, you trickster! This meant, as I was walking to pick up my kids from school I absolutely melted in the heat. As I walked home with them, carrying multiple backpacks, sweat trickled down my back, and I knew that no amount of airing, spraying, or steaming was going to save things. By the end of the day, the top was in the wash – challenge over!

To be honest, I was pretty pleased to get so much wear out of my clothes before washing them.

What I Learned During The Dare to Wear Challenge

BAM’s Dare to Wear challenge really opened up my eyes to how often I wear my clothes before washing. Although I thought I was mindful of how often I wash my clothes, I realised that I have probably been sometimes overwashing my clothes. Whilst I might not always stretch a top to four days without washing, simple things like airing your clothes between wears, and spot treating any food spillages or marks can all go a long way in maintaining the freshness of your clothes in-between wears.

Top Tips To Prolong The Freshness of Your Clothes Inbetween Washes

If you are looking to prolong the freshness of your clothes, so that you can wear your clothes for longer before washing them then I’ve got some great tips:

  • Pick natural fibres over synthetic fibres. These are more breathable, and allow sweat to evaporate, keeping the bacteria responsible for creating bad smells away from your skin. 
  • Hang your clothes outside for a little while if you can to air them. If not, pop them on a hanger and hang them up near an open window.
  • Another good spot to hang clothes is in the bathroom whilst you shower. This allows the steam to refresh your clothes and take out any wrinkles.
  • Spot clean small stains rather than popping the whole item in the washing machine.
  • Do the sniff test – if it doesn’t smell then you’re good to go.
  • Wear a t-shirt under woolly jumpers or similar. This helps to prolong the life of your knitwear.
  • If you have one, then a clothes steamer can really help to remove odours and keep your clothes looking good for longer.
  • A homemade fabric refresher spray, made with vodka or witch hazel, really helps to get rid of odours.

How often do you wear your clothes before washing them? Would you take the dare to wear challenge? If so, let me know how you get on!