Hacks for living simply in a clean, green home
OHbaby! talks to Eco-entrepreneur Nicola Turner about how clean, green living can actually save you time and money!
Nicola Turner is an expert in consumer behaviour. The former corporate marketing manager knows what makes us buy one brand over another, and what would make us buy more – or less – of it. However, she’s now using her skills in a completely different way. Motivated by a need in her own life, she set up Mainstream Green an education and consulting service to help people become more mindful consumers.
Cambridge-based Nicola started her journey to a cleaner, greener and simpler life seven years ago. She was pregnant with her eldest daughter Asha, and her husband Mike had been suffering from dermatitis. The couple replaced their handsoap with natural, plant-oil-based castile soap, and Mike’s dermatitis improved. This small change altered the trajectory of the couple’s lives, says Nicola. “We realised that using castile soap wasn’t just better for our personal health, but we were also using less packaging. It felt good, so we started to think about other ways we could reduce our waste.” Fast-forward seven years and this family – which now includes three-year-old Mak – fills just one wheelie bin of rubbish a year. “I started with a handsoap, and now I drive an electric car!” Nicola laughs.
Because the family adapted slowly to more mindful consumption, the journey never seemed extreme, says Nicola. In seven years they’ve reduced the number of synthetic chemicals in their home by 400 (yes, you read that figure correctly!), and removed a whopping 10,000 items. “We now have less stuff than before we had kids.” Nicola says many of her clients say they feel “overwhelmed” with too much “stuff”, and it’s little wonder: there is evidence that having clutter can negatively impact our mental wellbeing and induce physiological responses, including increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Having rid her home of 10,000 unnecessary items, Nicola’s new philosophy is, “With every possession comes more responsibility”.
Having meaningful reasons for changing your behaviour is vital; Nicola calls this ‘your personal why’. “Most of us want to do what’s right, but you’ve got to be realistic about the human condition. You need to decide why you’re making the change, otherwise the behaviour won’t stick.” For many people ‘saving the environment’ isn’t actually a strong enough reason to change, she says, and that’s okay. Instead, the health of your family or your personal wellbeing may be stronger motivators.
A GREEN MINDSET
So, how do we break out of our autopilot mindset and start living with less? Nicola shares five key strategies that have helped her create a radically simpler way of living.
- Being mindfully green: Nicola has coined the term ‘greenful’, which means being mindful about what you consume, and how your consumption affects the environment. When you run out of one thing, the idea is to ask yourself ‘greenfully’ if you really need to replace it. If you do, you then ask yourself if it’s possible to replace it with something more environmentally friendly.
- Incremental changes: Question: how do you eat an elephant? Answer: one bite at a time. And the same goes with creating a cleaner, greener home. It may seem like you’re embarking on a daunting journey, but the best way to do it is by making one small change at a time.
- Go easy on yourself: Achieving perfect isn’t sustainable. If the changes you’re making aren’t working, give yourself a break and focus on something else. It’s not about creating an alternative lifestyle, it’s about making changes that actually work for you.
- Identify the path of least resistance: Be realistic and design your home so the good behaviour is the easier behaviour. For example, if you want your family to get on board with composting, moving the compost bin closer to the kitchen sink and keeping the rubbish bin outside may be a good way to gain their support.
- Adopt a make-do mentality: Before rushing to the shops, pause and ask yourself if you could make do with what you’ve already got. This simple action could save you time and money, and result in less waste. Nicola did a test: it took her 16 minutes to make pastry, versus 28 minutes to drive to the supermarket to buy ready-made pastry. Beware of the convenience myth. Sometimes making do is actually the most convenient option.
Nicola and Mike prize experiences over having ‘stuff’, and say that their new lifestyle really does create tangible money- and time-savings. The fact that they only have to go to the supermarket once every six to eight weeks is a real bonus, and leaves them more time to spend with their most prized possessions: their children.
HACKS FOR CREATING A CLEAN, GREEN HOME
Invest in a chest freezer – a chest (or deep) freezer is super handy if you’re buying food in bulk. Bread, meat, baking and fruit all freeze well.
Bake in bulk – save time by doubling or tripling recipes when you bake, so you have enough to freeze. This will also reduce packaging. Bliss balls, for example, freeze well and make handy lunchbox snacks.
Waste less with a weekly ‘leftovers dinner’. Pizza is a great way to use up leftover ingredients that would otherwise be thrown out. Apparently one third of the food produced in the world goes to waste! Freezing leftover food, so that it doesn’t spoil, is another trick to help
Multi-use products - find products that have multiple purposes to help reduce clutter in your home. For example, almond oil is a great moisturiser for your face and hands, and can also be used as an eye-make-up remover. Vinegar and water can replace spray and wipe, and baking soda can also be used to clean the bath and shower! All these pantry staples can be stocked in bulk too.
Mum-of-two and behaviour-changer Nicola Turner aims to empower others to live simpler lives with less stuff, less waste and more awesome! Find her at mainstreamgreen.co.nz.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 47 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW