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Image / Editorial

10 easy switches you can make to live a more sustainable life

by Hannah Hillyer
01st Jul 2019

If all of us take steps to change how we consume it can make a difference. Here are 10 to get you started or ensure you keep the habit.

The call out for people to start taking climate change seriously is becoming a daily conversation. But with a problem so vast how can my individual changes make an impact?

If all of us took steps to change how we consume it can make a difference. Yes, getting your morning flat white in a KeepCup isn’t going to change the world alone, but what if everyone did? Given that 22,000 coffee cups are disposed of in Ireland every hour it would certainly be a step in the right direction.

This perfectionist culture is thrown around a lot when it comes to the climate crisis. Thinking one small change doesn’t have a ripple effect is wrong, the alternative is what- to do nothing?

Read more: Climate change experience at Powerscourt is a must

Our oceans are being destroyed, our air is polluted, animals are being made extinct and forests diminishing rapidly. Now is not the time to think ‘ah someone else will do it’ or ‘it’s only a plastic bag’. Multiply all of your daily actions by every person you’ve ever met. It all adds up.

We ALL need to make changes now before it’s too late. Some will say these small changes aren’t enough and in some ways they’re right. We need to do so much more than this, but it’s a good place to start to change your thinking and habits.

Did you know 22,000 coffee cups are disposed of in Ireland every hour.”

It is also no longer good enough just to recycle what we use. Now we need to think more about using less instead of just disposing of things responsibly. Make a start by switching out some of the below you use regularly for more sustainable options.

Bamboo Toothbrush

One of the easiest switches to make is your toothbrush, from plastic to bamboo. These are now easily available (I got mine in Avoca) and are so much better for the environment. It is estimated that 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes are used a year and given that they take almost 500 years to biodegrade, every toothbrush you’ve ever thrown away is still out there somewhere.

With most bamboo versions, the bristles are still plastic which is more hygienic as they don’t hold any moisture like natural bristles. But the handle is bamboo which is much better for our planet as you can pop it in the compost bin when you’re ready to replace it.

Read more: Five products that will make your daily beauty routine eco-friendly

Alternatively, Irish brand Virtue brush has a 100% bamboo handle and compostable Nylon-4 bristles, making it completely eco friendly.

They also plant three trees for every toothbrush sold online proving that even the smallest of changes makes a difference.

Sanitary products

Only in the last few years have we seen sustainable periods become something discussed in the mainstream. Given that, on average, a woman will have up to 500 periods in her lifetime, this can create a huge amount of waste whether you use pads or tampons. Luckily there are so many alternatives now to choose from that aren’t single use. Most of these feel quite alien to what we’re used to, but it would help even if we switched out half of what we use on our periods to sustainable options.

  • A moon cup: there are lots of versions of this now but they all work a similar way. It is a soft, silicone cup used to collect menstrual blood for up to 8 hours. It will last you for years so no need to use the estimated 22 sanitary products per period.
  • Washable sanitary towels: these are popping up everywhere now in all their multi-coloured glory. Shaped like a disposable pad, they are made from cotton and have poppers on the wings to attach to your underwear. There are loads to choose from on Etsy.
  • Plastic free tampons: All those applicators from every tampon you’ve ever used? Yep, they’re still out there somewhere. Switching to ones without applicators is eco friendly as the tampon itself will biodegrade after about six months. Brands like Natracare offer plastic free tampons that are 100% cotton. Alternatively, if you find tampons difficult to use without one, Dame have created a reusable applicator which is fantastic idea.
  • Period pants: No we’re not talking about the huge pair you hide at the back of the drawer when your period rolls around but underwear that is period proof. SheThinx is an amazing brand who create underwear that can hold up to two tampons worth and are both washable and reusable (they also look nice too).

Cotton Pads

They might feel insignificantly small in comparison to other polluters, but I used to use roughly three a day, every day. Imagine seeing that amount used in a year stacked in front of you — for me, it adds up to over 1,000.

Instead, now I use re-useable cotton pads that I pop in the washing machine so they can be used again. These are readily available on sites like Etsy.

Coffee cups

This is one of the easiest and most cost effective switches you can make. With almost 366 disposable coffee cups being used every minute they create an incomprehensible amount of waste. Buy a KeepCup or other type of reusable cup that you can bring out and about with you. I have now made a rule for myself that I am not allowed to buy a takeaway coffee unless I have mine with me.

Also, most coffee shops will offer a small discount on your morning latte if you are using one which is even more of an incentive to try. In our office, we have our own IMAGE branded KeepCup for everyone on the team, so perhaps you could encourage your company to do the same.

Beeswax wraps

Clingfilm, which is made from plastic, can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Tin foil is only recently recyclable but can be tricky as some recycling plants can’t process it as easy as aluminum cans. It also needs to be clean.

A great alternative is beeswax wraps which are popping up everywhere. They are made from natural beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil and are easily moldable around jars, lids and plates in the fridge. They are also perfect for sandwiches and lunches in your bag, and you can rinse them off and use again. You can buy from Irish company Ireland Beeswax Wraps here.

Food Waste


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Seven simple ways to reduce food waste. These are some great tips! #FoodWaste

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According to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment one-third of the one million tonnes of food waste in Ireland comes from households. 60% of this waste is avoidable as it’s leftovers and food that is past it’s sell by date. This is such an easy fix, just buy less but shop more regularly.

For the time poor, I like to meal plan and batch cook where possible , freezing food in portions so I throw very little in the compost bin. Sometimes life gets in the way and you end up out for dinner a couple of times when you weren’t planning to, don’t beat yourself up over it but make the effort to throw away less food. You’ll save money too.

Water bottles


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Neon Red is brand new to the Neon range. Is it on your ‘must get’ list? ??#ChillysEverywhere

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When it comes to bottled water it takes three times the amount of water to make the bottle it actually contains.  It may seem like an obvious one, but I am consistently amazed people still don’t implement this. Bring a refillable water bottle with you to work/the gym/ college instead of buying them on the go.

Again, you’ll be saving money and the planet, even if you are already good at recycling the bottles you do buy. My favourites are from Bobble Bottle which have a natural charcoal filter at the top or from Chilly’s who make a variety of different coloured options to choose from.

Non-plastic shower products

Another great place you can ditch the plastic bottles is the bathroom. A lot of beauty products are sold in containers that are easily recyclable, but it is even better for the planet to cut down on buying them at all. This is going to be my newest switch out, after hearing suggestions from Taz Kelleher on @sustainablefashiondublin.

Instead of buying big bottles of shower gel switch to old school soap instead. Nothing smells cleaner then a classic bar of Dove. It’s sold in cardboard packaging which can be recycled and it foams to a rich, thick lather which is a perfect replacement for that can of shave gel too.

Other products like shampoo, conditioner and body moisturiser can also be bought in bar form. Lush in particular, do great, inexpensive versions of these that will last you for ages. Check out their massage bars which melt into the skin when rubbed over the body. Switching out these few products will drastically reduce the plastic you are using on a monthly basis.


Another one I am soon to implement into my own routine is a safety razor. Now that it’s summer and time for my legs to see some sunlight I’m going through razors at an alarming rate. I use cheap disposable razors, and used to use the Venus ones with the replaceable head. Both options result in lots of plastic being binned throughout the year.

A very old school option is a safety razor. Investing in one that is good quality, with a weighted handle will last you a lifetime. All you need to do is replace the blade, which is far less waste and as they are so sharp, do not need to be replaced as frequently.

From the research I’ve done it seems there is a knack to using these so don’t dive straight in! There are a few of tutorials online, so take your time to get used to it rather than hacking your legs to bits.

Apparently once you get used to it, you’ll get a much closer shave than a with disposable razor.

Cotton buds

Luckily for us there are so many biodegradable version of cotton buds now that there is no longer a need to purchase the plastic ones. We use them for so many things that they are hard to replace with an alternative, or anything reusable.

Go eco instead and choose ones that aren’t made from single use plastic. Read about all the other amazing options out there, here. 

A great one-stop shop for many of the products listed here (and others), check out Irish website which was founded by Pat Kane to be a “helpful, well-priced, one-stop minimal waste lifestyle shop to inspire the regular folk to live a more sustainable life”. See

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