Over the years, as we learnt how serious the threat of climate change really is, myself and my husband Keith have tried to be much more environmentally conscious. This included diet changes, transport changes, energy efficient home improvements and reducing our plastic waste as much as possible both at home and in our campervan. Not just because of the litter and water pollution, but because plastic is derived from oil and gas.

We also became more involved in our local low carbon group ‘Hook Norton Low Carbon’. Not only to help this admirable group further their cause to lower carbon emissions locally, but to learn tips for a greener lifestyle, and be able to pass these on. We found out about the group around 5 years ago, attended an annual meeting, paid our £1 membership and got some great advice. Within a few months, we applied for a home improvement loan, and were able to fit solar panels to our home taking advantage of the FIT payments (Feed-In Tariff – a government incentive).

Since then we have assisted with various other HNLC initiatives; managing the eBikes, helping at events, assisting with marketing, co-ordinating the car club and now we are proud board members.

We thought it would be good to share what we have learnt over the years, so here are a few lifestyle changes we made, that we hope may inspire some. Bear in mind these have been gradual, over a few years:

Product Swaps
So many household items we took for granted were actually plastic, or did not need to be disposable. As mentioned, plastic is derived from oil and gas, so we thought it best to avoid it all together where possible:

– we swapped our plastic dishwashing sponges and scrubbers (I naively didn’t realise they were made from plastic!) for bamboo/cotton washable ones and coconut husk scrubbers. Both items clean much better than plastic, do not scratch your pans and do not leave the horrible bits of green residue on your cutlery and dishes anyway! Plus they can be washed in the washing machine, so are much more hygienic. On top of all this, they do not leach micro plastics into the water systems and are compostable

– toiletry wise, we switched chemical based products (most were in plastic packaging too) like shampoo, shower gel, lip balm, toothpastes and deodorant to eco friendly products like Zero Waste Path (ZWP) 2in1 solid shampoo bars. They have 4 choices, I use the Dry + Curly Hair one – it’s amazing, and lasts for months!). Other favourites are Fit Pit or Wild deodorant, Lush tooth tabs, plus we refill most of our old shower bottles with SESI products. We have even switched to a dog shampoo bar for our dog Chooky!

– we also switched from plastic cotton buds to bamboo buds, natural loofas, sponges, natural face buffers and good quality razors. We switched to Harry’s blades which is plastic free packaging, but will be reviewing as the head is not currently recyclable however much less waste then disposable

Most items above are purchased from Nothing But Footprints in Banbury, but before they opened we purchased from Plastics Free online.

– we have got ourselves in the habit of carrying refillable water bottles (we love Sistema for cycling; they never go mouldy or smell) and stainless steel bottles like Eco Chic (good size to fit in your ruck-sac, funky colours/patterns, plus keep your drinks cold). In winter we also carry a small Thermos. We invested in the 24 hour ultimate version – perfect for the campervan to have a cup of tea in the morning, or to fill your hot water bottle. We also have a selection of refillable coffee cups, especially the handy Stojo collapsable cup – perfect for commuting

– we changed our multiple cleaning products (furniture polish, window cleaner, surface cleaner, bathroom cleaner, oven cleaner, floor cleaner) to one universal product; Koh cleaner. No toxic chemicals, and uses refillable spray dispensers (inc a floor mop) with minimum plastic deliveries. It also comes with washable microfibre cloths, and mop pads, so minimises single use/disposal cloths. I find it does an excellent job of cleaning multiple surfaces with ease, and minimal product. It has no fragrance, but I add drops of essential oil (currently lemon grass) to make it smell lovely!

– we also switched to smol laundry and dishwasher products, again plastic free packaging, minimum chemicals, do a great job, smell nice, and you never run out as they are on subscription

– a fun switch was to Who Gives a Crap (WGAC) toilet paper which is recycled and plastic packaging free. Each roll is wrapped in funky bamboo paper to keep it hygienic (looks great in your bathroom too). You also never run out with the subscription

– Christmas just gone we used recycled, innovative, plastic free wrapping for our presents – the WGAC wrappers with paper sticky tape and string! I even made homemade crackers, which inc personal gifts people actually wanted instead of throw away plastic, and homemade recycled hats all made from saved WGAC loo roll wrappers and inners

– I try and buy secondhand/upcycled/vintage clothes as much as possible, from charity shops and online auctions. But when we buy new, we try to source sustainable, quality clothes, such as Icebreaker which are merino wool blends instead of synthetics and also prevent stink, so need washing less often, saving water and energy

– I switched from disposable sanitary products to ModiBodi period pants – wish they were invented sooner!

– we also try to avoid mass produced ‘to cheap to be true’ brands, as there is usually a sacrifice in the working conditions, quality, methods and materials. We like to stick by ‘buy quality, buy once’ instead of ‘buy cheap, buy twice’. This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be expensive, usually just involves a bit more research

Plastic Free and Low Carbon Food
Since covid, we have realised how lucky we are to have amazing shops on our doorstop to be able to shop locally (saving fuel), with many plastic free, organic and free range options.

– we most often use Nothing but Footprints, Wyatts farm shop, Wykham Park Farm, Hook Norton Butchers (even though we eat veggie at home, they have a fab fruit & veg, fresh bread and cheese selection – Keith can’t kick the cheese), Hook Norton Brewery and of course our village shop. We really try and take our own bags, and cycle where possible (see below)

– we also had a go at growing our own veg, turns out its super easy! We just had 2 smallish raised (deep) containers and grew broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and potatoes (in a sack). We are still harvesting our bounty of organic veg, and you can’t beat it for freshness and nutrient retention!

– for dry and cupboard goods (pasta, lentils, nuts, dried fruit, rice, sweets, oats, granola, noodles, sugar etc), we visit the refill shop to top up existing, glass or takeaway containers. TOP TIP – take a wheely suitcases full of your containers to Nothing But Footprints refill/zero waste shop in Banbury to easily transport what is usually a bulky load, as it is in a shopping centre

– we use loose tea instead of teabags and our favourite brand is Suki Tea Makers. Plastic free packaging, and an amazing selection of flavours/blends: including mince pie! Nothing But Footprints and other refill shops also have a good selection of every day teas.

Simple steps like ensuring we sort our recycling properly and checking it is well cleaned and dry/rid of food traces before putting it into the correct bins

One of us switched to a pescatarian diet. The other has reduced their overall meat intake to only eat local, responsibly reared meat around twice a week. My reasons to cut out meat apart from fish were an even split between:

  • the environmental impact (meat accounts for around 14.5 % of the world’s greenhouse gases each year; roughly the same amount as the emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined in the world today)
  • the cruelty (once you research, you cannot un-see this)
  • and the health implications (animal protein and fat is not actually needed in a human diet, the animals humans eat get their proteins and fat from the plants they eat!).

Other benefits I have discovered since going pescatarian are:

  • food bills are much lower
  • its much more hygienic to cook and store veggie food (especially in a campervan)
  • clean up is much easier after cooking a non meat based meal
  • I am getting many more nutrients from a meal (as replacing meat with more veg)
  • I realise I never liked the texture (mostly the gristle!) of meat anyway
  • overall I am much healthier, inc weight and energy levels. I do take an iron and B12 supplement for those days when I can’t eat enough dark green veg though.

We also switched out dairy as much as possible, and use oat or coconut milk for everything, inc cooking (the barista version makes an excellent Chai tea latte). We also switched from butter to dairy free spreads like Vitalite

– when we were traveling a lot for work, we changed our main car to a plug-in hybrid. We chose a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which has 28-30 miles electric range, before switching to hybrid mode. We charge it from a normal 3 pin plug in our garage. This range is perfect to get us to the train station and back. We are not going to be traveling as much for work now, so are thinking of using the HNLC car club cars (they have 4 cars, 2 are full electric) instead

– we try and drive or take public transport like trains or buses instead of flying where possible. Flights were our nemesis, but we will dedicate more time to greener travel where possible

– we have always cycled a lot anyway, for fun and transport. We opt for a Boris (sorry Barclays) bike over the tube or taxi in London (especially at the moment) although if I am by myself, as long as I have my handle bar attachment for my phone so I can navigate!

– we love using the HNLC eBikes, and often do our shopping, or visit Chipping Norton, and many surrounding villages on them. We hire them all out when friends visit, and they love the freedom, fresh-air and seeing the beautiful countryside (and of course the boost up the hills!). Recently we have even converted our tandem to electric and modified it so we can carry Chooky with us on our adventures!

Energy Efficient Home Improvements
– I mentioned the solar panels fitted to our roof earlier (we are hoping to get some fitted to our campervan too), we also changed all our windows to UPVC double glazed, plus had a glass panel in the roof modernised. Please read the case study here.

– smaller changes in the home have been changing most bulbs and spotlights to LED, plus getting thicker blinds for the windows

– a major future plan will be to change our outdated oil central heating to an air source heat pump. We will probably seek to get another HNLC loan, and apply for RHI (Renewal Heat Incentive payments, a government financial incentive to encourage a switch to renewable heating systems). There is also a brand new scheme ‘Green Homes Grant‘ that we will look more into and apply for, to help with the upfront front costs. We will also look to enlist help from Cosy Homes Oxfordshire to best advise us on what renewable heating options would suit our house, and to find suitable installers.

We hope that this blog inspired you to make some green changes in your lives too. As I mentioned, this was not done in one go, rather over a period of a few years, as some switches are easier (and more affordable) than others, but, they certainly all count.

Jess and Keith

* We have not been sponsored or commissioned by any of the products we mentioned, just passing on what we researched and use effectively.