From buying better to creating a haven for nature, expert tips to inspire you to help the planet
With concern for the environment growing, many of us are seeking new ways to reduce our carbon footprint and cultivate a more sustainable way of life. ‘Over the challenging past year, we’ve seen a real reconnection with our local communities and natural spaces,’ says Marija Rompani, Ethics & Sustainability Director for the John Lewis Partnership. ‘At John Lewis and Waitrose, we’re continually striving to provide our customers with fantastic products and services to enable more sustainable and healthy lifestyles.’ As Earth Day 2021 approaches, our experts explore seven simple lifestyle tweaks that will benefit the environment and enrich your life – on 22 April and beyond.
The first step is becoming a more conscious shopper – think eco-mattresses, FSC®-certified furniture, reusable water bottles, flasks and lunch boxes, more sustainable toys, conscious beauty products packaged in recycled and recyclable containers and wear-forever wardrobe staples. If you are buying for children, start with our recently launched sustainable kids' edit. Look for products made from responsibly sourced materials that are made to last such as our sustainably sourced cashmere.
‘We should all be choosing well-made and ethical clothes that feel classic and authentic to us,' says fashion editor and art director Ursula Lake, who recently challenged herself to a year without shopping. ‘For me, that's a cashmere sweater, a v-neck T-shirt, well-cut trouser and Converse trainer, or a tuxedo jacket and jeans that can be dressed up with a heel or down with trainers, but it might be completely different for you.'
Unsure? A Personal Stylist will work with you to create a capsule wardrobe that suits you and your lifestyle. ‘Once you have isolated your true style, you will instinctively know what you are looking for,’ says Ursula. ‘Buy the best thing you can afford and take care of it.’
Learning to make the most of what you have is key. ‘The first thing to do is take a long, hard look at everything in your wardrobe,’ says Ursula. ‘Try everything on and see what can be kept, altered, mended, sold, recycled or given away. You’ll probably find you have more than you realised. What do you need to make those forgotten gems viable? Make a list so you can buy exactly what you need.’
Been inspired by The Great British Sewing Bee? Simple repairs and alterations can be carried out at home, by hand or with the help of a sewing machine (see our sewing machine buying guide) – YouTube is a great place to find step-by-step tutorials. If you’re less confident, or short on time, many local tailors and alterations shops offer a repairs service – perfect if you need a zip replaced or a hem taken up in a hurry.
Savvy storage solutions will help you keep things in tip-top condition – store shoes in their boxes so that they stay dust and dirt-free, and stash your most precious items in clear, moth-proof storage bags.
We all need to declutter from time to time, but as a nation, we send more than 300,000 tonnes of wearable clothes to landfill each year. Swishing (ie clothes swapping) is a great way to liberate old favourites – and discover new ones. Swap with friends, or try swopped. Nothing to swap? Shop pre-loved – vintage jewellery makes a unique gift.
Unwanted textiles can be recycled and turned into cloths, blankets and even car seats. Check with your local council, or drop them off at your local recycling point, clothing or textile bank. You’ll find shoe and clothing recycling banks in the car parks of many larger Waitrose stores.
Disposing of exhausted appliances, old furniture and empty beauty containers in a responsible way is also crucial. Our BeautyCycle scheme rewards you with £5 off beauty when you recycle 5 empty containers in store (and increases to £10 from 19 April to 2 May), while our REUSE sofa scheme, mattress and white goods recycling initiatives, net zero deliveries and polystyrene takebacks allow you to minimise the impact of replacing old household goods.
But before you recycle, think: can you upcycle? ‘The world is literally your oyster when it comes to upcycling,’ says interior stylist Emma Morton-Turner, founder of Inside Stylists. ‘It’s not just that you’re not adding to the landfill problem – you’re creating a new item for your home that will fit perfectly with your decor.’
If you’re new to upcycling, take a look at TV shows like The Repair Shop and books like Sara Bird’s Home for the Soul for inspiration, and search YouTube for tutorials on technique. ‘Spray paint a few different candlesticks the same colour and team them with contrasting coloured candles,’ Emma suggests. ‘Or you could cover mis-matching magazine files with wallpaper, or paint wooden coathangers and decorate them with pressed flowers. Just have fun!’
Got an old desk or chest of drawers crying out for a makeover? ‘Paint your piece all over using chalk paint,’ says Emma. ‘Leave to dry, then paint a second colour over the top. Use a kitchen scourer to gently rub over the edges and corners. This will remove the top layer of paint for a vintage effect.’ Looking for more ideas? Don’t miss our crafting tutorials which include how to make a knotted plant hanger – the perfect way to use up old wool – or check out our series of John Lewis craft events.
More than two million pieces of litter are dropped in the UK every day, killing millions of animals each year, dampening community spirit and creating hazards for physical and mental health.
Could plogging be the answer? Blending ‘jogging’ with ‘plocka upp’ – Swedish for ‘pick up’ – plogging is the Stockholm-born trend for combining running with litter picking, a winning combination for your health and the environment. Grab a bin bag, some protective gloves and your trainers and you’re good to go – why not start small and commit to picking up (and recycling) just two pieces of rubbish next time you go out for a run or walk?
Whether you’re a sprinter or a plodder, you can take part in the Great British Spring Clean 2021. It takes place between 28 May and 13 June, and you can sign up as a solo picker, with your household or as part of a volunteer group. Or why not help to ‘clean and green’ your local area by becoming part of a community gardening or tree planting scheme?
The numbers of once familiar birds and butterflies have more than halved in recent decades, but with a few simple tweaks, you can turn your own garden or outdoor space into a haven for nature. ‘Gardens can provide a crucial lifeline for struggling species,’ says Anna Feeney, PR Executive at the RSPB. ‘To that hungry butterfly or weather-beaten bird looking for a place to roost, just one garden can make all the difference.’
A bird bath will keep feathers in tip-top condition for flying and provide valuable drinking water, while a mud patch can help local house martins build cosy nests. ‘An upturned bin lid stabilised with a rock can make a great bird bath – you can even upcycle an old bucket or sink to make a pond,’ suggests Anna.
You could also hang a nest box or bird feeder, build a bug hotel, put out scraps (remembering to check they’re safe for birds first), or hang apples or suet balls from your trees as well as planting bird and bee friendly seeds. Check the RSPB website for more ideas on creating a wildlife-friendly garden.
Growing your own food is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint associated with importing fresh produce. Eating more seasonal, plant-based meals can also help to free up scarce resources, with 80% of all farmland currently being used for animal agriculture.
Growing plants can be a boon for hungry local wildlife, too. ‘It’s immensely satisfying to see birds eating off plants you’ve grown,’ says Anna. ‘And a lot of bird-friendly plants are also good for pollinators. Sunflowers provide a tasty meal for bees, and later in the summer, the drying seedheads become a feast for greenfinches and goldfinches.’
If you don’t have room for a vegetable patch, why not grow fresh herbs or pollinator-friendly flowers in a windowbox? ‘You can grow plants pretty much everywhere, regardless of the size of your outdoor space,’ says Anna. You’ll find lots of wildlife-friendly plants at Waitrose Garden. If you’re local to Hampshire, why not visit the Longstock Nursery on Leckford Estate, the Waitrose & Partners farm, for horticultural advice from our experts?
Making your own bread is another good way to cut the environmental cost of your lunch. Source your flour from a local mill or farm shop to minimise the impact of your loaf. The Longstock Park Farm Shop stocks a variety of delicious fresh farm-grown, local and regional produce including flour, rapeseed oil, sparkling wine, apple juice, cider and mushrooms.
Read more about Ethics and Sustainability at the John Lewis Partnership here