How to Be a Conscious Consumer? was the article that started me off on my journey towards more conscious and eco-minimalist living. I’m happy to report that 2021 has been a very productive year for making eco-minimalist choices and taking actions (not everyone thinks and feels that individual choices matter, but I do believe that taking action is better than waiting for the end with my arms crossed).

I started small, and throughout the year my steps snowballed. With each eco-minimalistic choice and sustainable swap, I felt empowered and my commitment grew. Feeling successful especially at the start of my journey made me believe that I was capable of effectively expanding my sustainability goals.

So here is my 2021 journey in a nutshell:

Plastic waste – my bathroom plastic reduction has been pretty impressive. I have replaced all the products that came in plastic bottles or tubes, but a toothpaste for baby M.(I cannot find an alternative for small kids if you know of any please let me know), with sustainable choices. The products I use mostly come in glass containers or are package free such as soap.

Since I couldn’t settle on an ideal/perfect shampoo, I settled for the next best thing, refillable shampoo from my local zero waste shop.  

However, in 2022 I’ll try to give the bar shampoo another chance. I know that in the past I wasn’t happy with it, but I feel that the market has changed rapidly in recent years and a lot of new products have entered the scene.

When it comes to toothpaste, I use pastilles in the evening and toothpaste in the recyclable tube in the morning (this one is pretty expensive so I try to buy a lot when on sale). Neither my son nor my hubby like the pastilles, but I’m ok with them.

All my beauty products come either in glass containers, or I get them from a zero-waste shop. My sister also gives me the products that she isn’t going to use. Even if those products come in plastic or aluminium packaging, I’m more than happy to use them because they are already on the market and, in circulation. If I weren’t going to use them, she would have thrown them out, contributing to creating double waste.

When I have a choice to buy a cheaper beauty product in plastic packaging, or a more expensive substitute in a glass container, I rather save up a little longer and get the more sustainable option.

I also stopped using make-up removal cotton pads, period products, and cotton buds. Honestly, I don’t know why I waited so long to switch to period underwear. This isn’t only comfortable but also offers a lot of freedom of movement. I love it.

The plastic waste from our kitchen is mainly gone (that doesn’t include food packaging, because even though the UK talks a lot about plastic pollution, the supermarkets still love putting every single product in as much plastic as they can). I replaced sponges, washing up liquid and table wipes. My husband got some cleaning products that I wasn’t too happy about, but he is still a bit shy about zero waste shopping and products that don’t come in containers.

Whenever I can, I buy dissolvable concentrate, which after dropping in the water, turns into a cleaning product, which I use for cleaning our kitchen table and furniture.

We have subscribed to OddBox, a B-certified company based in the UK that distributes food that otherwise would have been thrown out. The fruits and veggies usually come package free in a paper box. I simply love them!!! Because of that and our conscious shopping choices, we buy all the food that we can without packaging. That shift has helped us reduce our recycling significantly and pushed our cooking boundaries.

If I buy something in plastic, I try to opt for a recycled one. Many companies are turning their attention towards recycled plastic, which is good for us consumers and the environment, of course. I know that recycled plastic cannot be recycled forever, but it’s still better to use recycled plastic than increase the plastic demand.  

If something I buy, especially online, comes in plastic packaging, I save those bags and reuse them. I also started reusing some plastic packaging, such as plastic boxes, to pack up foods for friends and family. Reusing is my mantra for 2022.

I also feel much more comfortable giving people gifts in non-gift specific packaging. I save all the bags and wrapping I think I can reuse for packing gifts sometime in the future. I have to admit that it gives me a lot of geeky pleasure.

The other day, I was at M&S, and they had a massive 75% sale on all the Christmas packaging, ribbons etc. Everything was plastic-free. However, as tempting as the offer was, I remembered that I still have the Christmas paper I got last year; so, I couldn’t be bothered to buy anything. I found the whole process of deciding, choosing, and going to the cashier too much hard work. I love that during last year I have become a lazy ass shopper who can’t be bothered to buy 🙂

On our recent travel to Spain, I bought a sandwich wrapping cloth that I hope my son will use for his school lunches. He didn’t like the wax paper and found his sandwiches soggy after a while. However, in all honesty, I didn’t do much research into the wax paper brand I purchased. Knowing what brand you are buying from while making sustainable swaps, is mega important. 

As for my sandwiches, I use my recycled, reused, and re-purposed sari wrapping for sandwiches, which I got from the zero-waste shop; or paper bags if carrying containers is too much of a hassle on the day. I save all the paper bags from the products I buy.

Fix it – in 2021, I wasn’t as strict with myself about buying clothes as in 2020, and I bought two pairs of sandals, one sweater, one pair of trousers, and one sweatshirt, all on top of the period underwear.

I tried to fix as many things as I could, and I even bought a sewing machine, which I had to leave at my mum’s house until I have enough space to have my office/studio.

I fixed my socks at the beginning of the year, but unfortunately, they need re-fixing again. This was a 2020 Christmas gift, and John Lewis should be ashamed of the quality of products they offer (Note to self: over-priced shop with sliding quality of products).

But I’m happy to let you know that I fixed my favourite cardigan and, by doing so, inspired another woman to fix hers, instead of throwing them away. It’s not perfect, but it’s my work, and I’m super proud of it. It looks very original and unique.

Instead of donating clothes to charities, I started giving our clothes and shoes away to the local Refugee Hub. The refugees will have better use of them than the charity shops. Donating my daughters’ clothes made me pretty content because usually, kids get so many clothes from different people. Unfortunately, many children’s clothing is incredibly cheap, which means that even charities have a hard time re-selling the clothing.

I still have two pairs of jeans that I’ll need to take to the proper repair place and see if they help me. I’m determined to save those jeans, so I will see what 2022 brings in that respect. If not, I will reuse them to make something else out of them. I’m sure I’ll be able to find plenty of inspiration online.

Minimalistic life choices – my conscious and minimalistic lifestyle choices allowed me to not only help to save Earth’s resources, but in the process, I saved money and switched my consumer-driven thinking into a sustainability-driven mindset. Consciousness and smarter choices made me save a lot of money, which allowed me to stop being so anxious and itchy to spend all I had in my bank account. My constant ‘needs and wants’ cycle have definitely been broken.

I’ve started programming myself to look for second-hand items first before buying anything new. I’m also practising asking family and friends if they have what I need so I can borrow it before I purchase anything.

I reuse everything I can, and I save anything I can to reuse in the future. I definitely consider my options before throwing or giving things away.

I think long and hard before buying anything or returning the item. I move things around to use what I already have, instead of buying new products, which is a great way to use creative thinking and planning.

The path I embarked on at the start of 2021 isn’t difficult for me. I know that I might be spoiled for choice because I live in London, but that can be a disadvantage as well.

I love that by having less clutter, I have more physical and mental space. That, in turn, helps me to grow, become a better person and focus on what is essential for me in life, instead of worrying about keeping up with the newest trends; paying off my credit cards debts; counting every penny and praying that no emergency, with which I may not be able to deal with, will arrive; constantly wanting more; and finally, being unhappy because someone else appears to have more than I do. I don’t care about all that. I care about experiences and well-lived life.