Biophilic design expert Oliver Heath and the team at Oliver Heath Design believe everyone should be doing their bit for the planet, no matter how tiny the action may seem. They’ve put together 28 small, simple ways to live a more sustainable, eco-friendly existence.
For day one, start propagating! Create a propagation station from cuttings – spider plants work brilliantly. Re-plant them and pass them on to plant-loving family and friends – this is a great way to give a sustainable gift and increase connection to nature.
2. AVOID FAST FASHION!
Spend some time on day two browsing charity shops: say no to fast fashion and the damage it causes our planet! If you don’t already, why not take a look at second-hand options or ethical brands before heading straight to the high street? There are always some preloved hidden gems to be found AND the money goes to a good cause. Win-win!
3. SEED SWAPPING
Sharing is caring! Seed swapping at Seedy Sunday – Britain’s largest community seed swap – is perfect for day three. It promotes seed diversity and sovereignty – both of which we need to have a happy and healthy world. Even a small urban garden can help to support bees, pollinating insects, amphibians and other wildlife!
4. WEEKDAY VEG
Going vegetarian or as fully plant-based as possible during the weekdays is our own version of the 5:2 diet! Every day in our office, we use veg bought from independent green grocers (we plan to start ordering veg boxes soon to help keep this going!) and make a fresh soup in our beloved soup machine. A fun and easy way to eat healthily, support local businesses, come together every day and help the environment. Now that’s what I call
5. MOVIE NIGHT
For day five, our team attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival at the beautiful Brighton Dome. It got us all thinking about past skiing trips, mountain adventures and times enjoyed out in nature. Why not get together with friends and have a nature-inspired movie night! Even small, indirect connections with nature are proven to boost health and wellbeing.
Having your own compost heap or bin is a highly effective way to reduce your CO2 footprint as it avoids producing greenhouse gases such as methane. Composting also replenishes and revitalises your exhausted soil for a happier, healthier garden!
7. LITTER PICKING
To end our first week of 28 ways in 28 days, we spent our lunch break scanning the beach for litter. The UK’s Department for Environment reported that, on average, 744 items of litter were found on every 100 metres of beach from 2016-2017. Whether it be a Brighton beach clean, a litter-pick session around the block or just stopping and picking up litter as you go about your day, every little helps towards creating a cleaner environment.
8. DRAFT PROOFING
Howling winds today have reminded us how much heat can be lost – and energy wasted – by unpleasant drafts. We decided instead of turning up the heating, we’d save energy by draft-proofing our windows to block out the chills. Ventilation is an important element in controlling air quality and is a necessity for enclosed spaces. However it’s the unwanted, uncontrolled air that drains the energy usage needed to heat the space to a comfortable temperature.
9. BUY LONELY BANANAS
Buy the ugly fruit! We’ve discovered that 1.3 billion tonnes of food goes to waste every year in the UK, with 40% of crop vegetables being disregarded just to meet the aesthetic requirements of supermarkets. At OH we want to normalise purchasing and consumption of less appealing fruits and veg that are still entirely edible. Next time you see that lonely banana at the shop, don’t just take the pretty bunches – grab the individual bananas that otherwise might get left behind and thrown away!
10. ENERGY METERS
Day 10 of 28 ways in 28 days: get a grip of your energy use! We know if a tap is leaking and wasting water, but not if we are wasting electricity – it’s hidden and silent . A cheap energy meter gives you a live feed on your domestic energy use, saving money and carbon emissions and highlighting energy vampires like phone chargers and appliances left on standby. A study by the Energy Saving Trust revealed that homes are wasting £50-£86 a year on these items – equivalent to 9%-16% of the average electricity bill.
11. REFILL REVOLUTION
In the UK an estimated 800 plastic bottles a minute either end up in landfill or as litter. Many of them make their way into our waterways and oceans. With that in mind, the OH team is committing to cutting out plastic bottles and using sustainable alternatives to carry water around with us. Have you heard about Brighton’s #refillrevolution campaign to reduce single-use plastic consumption? Don’t worry, it’s not just here – there are now over 100 Refill Schemes across the UK and the Refill Revolution has is going international too.
12. BRING YOUR OWN
Today we’ve popped into our local plant/café/workshop space (yes, it is all three!) Between Two Thorns, Brighton to grab a coffee in our eco-friendly travel mugs. Lots of cafés around the UK now offer discounts to customers who bring their own reusable coffee cups, so you can help reduce your environmental impact and save money at the same time!
13. BE PRESENT IN NATURE
As part of 28 ways in 28 days, we can’t ignore how our minds can affect the way we act in nature. Take a mindful moment, switch off and be present in nature without distractions. Did you know that 64% of workers feel distracted by their phones? Consider designating some phone-free time to improve your concentration and reconnect with nature.
14. HOMEMADE GIFTS
Instead of buying our loved ones cards this year (covered in unnecessary plastic wrap), we’re making our own cards! Who doesn’t love a handcrafted gift? It’s better for the environment and a very thoughtful way to show your love.
15. SUSTAINABLE FISHING
On day 15 we’re saying no to farmed fish and heading over to Hastings to grab some sustainable and locally sourced fish! Open-net salmon farming is seriously harming our wild fish environments, with issues such as sea lice infestations, escaped fish upsetting the sea’s naturally balanced ecosystem and pollution leaking from these open farms. When you’re next picking up your fish dinner, choose line-caught fish wherever possible, which also tend to be of better quality than trawled or netted fish!
16. BAG FOR LIFE
At OH we’ve all committed to carrying a reusable tote bag at all times to avoid throwaway
plastics – why not join us? Since 2015, UK law has required large shops to charge 5p for all single-use plastic bags. Plastic takes thousands of years to degrade, harms wildlife and
is extremely visible when it litters our streets.
17. HERB GARDEN
Shockingly, food travels on average 1,500+ miles before being consumed. To try and combat this, we’re reducing the team’s carbon emissions and waste by having a lovely little herb garden in the office. Now we get to have the freshest, fertiliser-free herbs to add to our lunchtime soups from day 4!
18. UK HOLIDAYS
Day 18 and we’re lowering our carbon footprints by choosing to holiday in the UK.
By avoiding flights and instead driving or taking public transport, your carbon footprint can be decreased significantly. One of the OH team stayed at a lovely eco-retreat last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed being out in nature, switching off her phone and enjoying what her home country has to offer! Would you consider a UK holiday this year?
19. REFILL STORES
We’ve popped into our local refill store, Grocer & Grain in Brighton, where you can get package-free, zero-waste products – perfect for our 28 ways in 28 days! As well as loose fruit and veg, you can even find local stores that have refillable, eco-friendly cleaning and wash products. Where’s your local refill store?
20. WATER BUTT
Most plants prefer rainwater to tap water, and we’ve been inspired by gardens around Brighton that have a water butt to collect rainwater. We’ve thought of a few more tips for saving water for the garden: water your plants in the morning or evening to save water lost to evaporation; in dry weather give your plants a good soaking once or twice a week rather than lighter daily watering; use a watering can aimed directly at the roots rather than
pouring over the leaves.
21. TRUSTED THIRD PARTIES
It’s day 21 and our tip today is to find trusted third parties to do the research for you! We order all our office consumables from a company that only supplies eco-friendly products, putting our minds at ease when bulk-ordering our supplies. Local Brighton stores like Infinity Foods actively take products off their shelves if they become sustainably unsuitable. Infinity also has one of the largest selections of organic and natural foods, cosmetics and household goods in the South East! Have you got a trusted supplier near you?
22. SAVE A FLUSH
Around 30% of water delivered to the home is literally flushed away. A save-a-flush bag can reduce the volume of water used for toilet flushing and lead to big savings in water consumption. For this campaign, we’ve ordered our FREE save-a-flush bag from our local water supplier to help reduce our water consumption here at OH HQ – these nifty little devices that are easily installed into your cistern can save you 1L of water per flush! Check with your local water supplier to find out what water-saving products they can offer you.
23. SECONDHAND FURNITURE
We’ve been hitting the charity shops once again today, but this time looking to extend the life of some vintage secondhand furniture. In Brighton we’re lucky enough to have
loads of stores where donated furniture, electrical items and secondhand homewares are given a second lease of life.
24. REPAIR CAFÉ
Something we do every last Saturday of the month is the Brighton Repair Café, co-founded by none other than our own researcher, Victoria! She started BRC in November 2012, basing it on the Dutch Repair Café Foundation’s model. A few of the team popped along this weekend. Instead of just throwing items out and replacing them, they managed to fix a few. Run from the Hanover Centre, you can fix your bike, patch up your leather jacket, fix your broken vacuum or bring an old and loved vintage cardigan back to life! Have you got something you could fix rather than just replace?
25. SCHOOL IN THE WOODS
In Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv described a ‘nature deficit disorder’ in kids and their need for Vitamin N (nature). So as part of our 28 ways in 28 days campaign, we wanted to talk about Brighton’s Bee in
the Woods kindergarten/pre-school, which lets children explore and learn in a woodland environment, without walls, all year round. The school shares our understanding that nature boosts health, wellbeing and even self-esteem. Why not start your kids’ love for nature early!?
26. DAIRY ALTERNATIVES
At OH we love using a dairy alternative for our teas and coffees – not just for the planet, but also for the taste! CO2 emissions for these alternatives are significantly lower than dairy products and much better for animal welfare. Many of these dairy alternatives unfortunately come in Tetra Pak cartons which aren’t always widely recyclable. We’ve found a great local place to recycle our used cartons. You can visit www.tetrapakrecycling.co.uk to find out where you can recycle yours locally!
27. DIY COSMETICS
Drier, colder months can be murder for our lips! Instead of going out and buying a new lip balm – which is likely packaged in a plastic casing anyway – at OH, we’re making our own!
By melting and combining Shea butter, coconut oil and an essential oil of your choice, you can have your very own eco-friendly lip balm in no time!
28. THE ECO COMMUTE
Our last tip of the series is inspired by our practice’s founder, Oliver Heath. Just 1L of petrol creates about 2.3kg of CO2, so in order to keep his carbon footprint as low as possible, Oliver rides his bike into the office daily and the rest of the team is lucky enough to be
within walking distance – eco-friendly and healthy commutes all round! Is your commute as sustainable as it could be?
Oliver Heath Design is a sustainable architecture and interior design practice focused on improving health and wellbeing in the built environment. It specialises in creating more productive, happier and healthier spaces to live and work in, by improving the human connections to nature.
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