BECOMING AN ECO WARRIOR HAS CHANGED MY LIFE
Lucy’s passion for saving the planet has changed both the way she lives and how she earns her living.
When I first set up my business, The Wise House, my first thoughts weren’t of changing the world. I just wanted to do something I enjoyed. I’d just left a job in marketing where I wasn’t very happy. The company had kept changing and every five minutes someone new was coming in and saying we needed to rewrite the corporate brochure. It was infuriating. I remember sitting in a meeting and talking for hours about Pantone colours and thinking ‘There must be more to life than this’.
What’s more I wanted to spend more time being a mum as I felt quite compromised and stressed. So I quit my job. A friend had recently started an e-commerce site and I liked the sound of it and six months later started a really basic website stocking place mats, tins and other home wares. At first there was no eco aspect to it – in fact some of the products were made of plastic! It took me a while to realise where I wanted to go with it: to make it an eco site.
The thing is, I’d always been interested in the environment. Growing up, my mum would avoid products that contained chemicals, so we used natural soap and toiletries. From the outset I stocked products that were reusable and from small suppliers rather than mass produced. And gradually my interest in the environment grew.
“I realised how much I wanted to help people change their shopping habits”
Then one day I read on this US eco blog about a product called Beeswax wrap, an alternative to clingfilm, and it was a real turning point. Clingfilm never breaks down in the environment, so this environmentally friendly alternative was a real game-changer. At first I couldn’t decide whether to stock this product that felt at odds with the rest on the site, which were home furnishings, candles and cushions. But once I did, carefully making its benefits clear on the site, it took off straight away. Customers really took to it, and I realised how much I wanted to help people change their shopping habits. That was it – I was going to make my business eco focussed.
I had to make some changes to my processes. I’d always tried to source reasonably eco friendly packaging but back then I was tying every package in tissue paper and string and using jiffy envelopes and degradable plastic mailing bags… but once I found out these just break down into tiny pieces of plastic I had to source jiffy alternatives that are filled with paper rather than plastic . And I now use much less paper than I used to. I also put pressure on suppliers not to use plastic. Once your eyes have been opened to everything you can become a bit obsessive.
I gradually introduced the eco products on the site and shared my knowledge of their benefits via my blog. I’d always thought I was pretty good, eco-wise, but my principles are much stronger nowadays and I do everything I can to live by them, although I always feel I should be doing more, like trying to create less waste and recycle more. But I’m not a ‘dark green’ – someone who says unless you go vegan and never use plastic again there’s no point bothering. I’m a pragmatist. We’ve got to try and make the swaps that are feasible and raise our awareness. It’s all a massive help to the planet.
“I’m passionate about sharing what I know so I can help change the way people think”
Now my business is built around helping people switch to eco-friendly alternatives. I am aware I’m part of the consumer cycle, but also mindful of not pushing people to buy stuff they don’t need. My supply chain is as transparent as possible, with products sourced from small ethical and sustainable companies. We even do an eco geek starter kit. And I’m passionate about sharing what I know so I can help change the way people think.
Liz Bonnin’s recent BBC1 documentary Drowning In Plastic, harrowing as it was, has raised some important questions about how people are living. All the recent environmental documentaries and the UN climate science panel’s recent findings on global warming can make you depressed if you let them. The thought of all the plastic choking the oceans and the sea life affects me deeply and I can get quite upset. But that’s why I share all the information I have, because it’s way more constructive than thinking there’s nothing we can do.
Everyone is becoming switched on about the planet now. It used to be that you were an eco person or you weren’t, but with even middle-of-the-road people responding to these documentaries and news reports and asking why governments and corporations aren’t doing more to protect the planet, it feels like a tipping point.
“The thought of all the plastic choking the oceans and the sea life affects me deeply”
I’m now running a business that is in it’s own small way helping people to live plastic free and being passionate about the subject makes the job itself more meaningful. Having lots of returning customers who are really engaged with eco living really motivates me. If I’m having a quiet week in terms of sales I focus on sharing my knowledge. It’s a healthier mindset for me to think that way – it’s not all about making money.
And I do my best to live by my principles, picking up litter whenever I go out, however much it embarrasses my two kids. Seeing the discarded cans and plastic that people jettison around them, you may wonder ‘What difference is it going to make if I live in an eco-friendly way?’. But if you know in good conscience that you’re doing all you can, it will make a difference, because a good percentage of people are changing the way they’re living. There’s a ripple effect when we all talk to each other about it. This is how things change, slowly but surely.
ECO LIVING TIPS
Do it in stages
Think about different areas of your life and think about small changes you can make. If you have packed lunches buy stainless steel tins and reusable sandwich wrappers. When shopping use cotton bags instead of plastic ones. Simplify your beauty regime so you’re not exposing yourself to countless toxins and chemicals. Use natural soap instead of shower gel, so you’re not damaging the water supply.
Do an audit
What have you got, what can you use, what can you supplement it with? Use up what you’ve got or repurpose it. Stop using single use plastic bottles and clingfilm, which can’t be broken down. Coffee cups can’t be recycled so get yourself a reusable cup.
Ditch the cotton wool
One of our most popular products is cotton make up rounds which are made from washable bamboo. These work really well as an alternative to wet wipes and cotton wool which are environmentally disastrous. Research alternative sanitary products, which are reusable and washable, or get organic cotton sanitary towels and tampons with plastic-free packaging.
The high street is so behind when it comes to eco living. Online there are loads of options and it’s lovely stuff, really well made. Instagram is full of inspiration and information about the latest alternative products available. Go the extra mile and find out all you can before you shop.
Words: Marina Gask
For more advice on eco living go to: www.thewisehouse.co.uk