Hi there, my name is Zoe Morrison and I write a blog called Eco Thrifty Living (you can read it here). Around three and a half years ago I was on maternity leave from my job and I decided I really didn’t want to return to work at the end of it. I wanted to stay at home while my kids were young and be there for them while they needed me. While I was working I always had the money to buy organic food and expensive eco-friendly products and I didn’t want to compromise on this. So the idea of being eco-friendly and thrifty was born! I started questioning everything. Was it really eco-friendly? Was there a less expensive option? I documented my experiences on the blog.
When I started my blog, my main focus was on making cutbacks. I didn’t want to quit my job unless I was pretty confident we could survive without the money I was earning. At the time a lot of my salary was going on childcare and commuting, plus I was only working part time so I wasn’t earning huge amounts of money. My goal was to be able to make enough savings to replace that money and after around a year and a half of making gradual changes I finally felt confident enough to quit my job – hooray!
I had a lot of new ideas, but I hadn’t actually put all of them into practise at that point so I did take quite a bit of a risk. Another year (and a couple of months) of experimenting later and I worked out I had saved myself over £11,000 in the year! That was actually a few thousand more than I had been bringing home after childcare etc – another big hooray!
As I mentioned earlier money saving and being eco-friendly had to go hand in hand. Previously I had thought that being eco-friendly was expensive. However I discovered that being eco-friendly mostly saves me money. For example instead of buying new clothes I buy second hand ones or swap clothes with friends. I try to repair things and make the most of what I have before I go out and buy new things. I reduce our food bills by buying in bulk (reduced packaging), keeping food waste to a minimum, growing our own fruit and veg (meaning food doesn’t need to be transported vast distances), foraging for berries and apples in the summer and making food from scratch from raw ingredients, which I buy unpackaged wherever possible.
Feeling less pressure to focus on saving money, in September 2013 I set myself a Year of Eco Challenges. Each month for a year I set myself a challenge and many of them I continued with for the rest of the year (some only lasted a month). Most of the challenges were focused around reducing the amount of rubbish and recycling my household produces and now we only need to put our bins out about once every 3 months! I did things like trying to go single use plastic free for a month (very hard!!!), giving up shampoo, setting up a foodsharing facebook group for my local area (a bit like a very local freecycle for food) and challenging my readers to slow down fashion for a month by only wearing a few items throughout the month (there were also various other options to choose from).
When my challenge year came to an end I gave myself a few months break from taking on any new big projects on the blog, but money was becoming a bit more of an issue again and this year I have set myself a new challenge. I plan to try and earn £10,000 from stuff I already have e.g. my car, my garage, my house, my spare room and my belongings this year! There are loads of websites and companies to help with this and we already have experience of renting out our garage for storage and our spare room to students. We have got off to a good start and currently have a student staying with us for a couple of months!
Renting out stuff I already have is good for the environment because it maximises the use of things and buildings that are already in existence and reduces the need for new stuff and building to be created. Plus the stuff I have in my cupboards that I rarely use may be damaged over the years by damp, dust, being squashed into the back of a cupboard or just becoming obsolete.
Although my focus is more on making money this year, I am still constantly looking for ways to be eco-friendly and to reduce my spending. My cream sofas are 10 years old and quite frankly they were looking disgusting. We didn’t plan to get rid of them, but were seriously considering re-covering them (an expensive option) as we didn’t think cleaning them would work. However my husband found this site online and liked the fact that we could get a test patch done to see if it would work. We were really pleased with the test patch and decided to get the rest of the sofas done. We were so impressed with the results and loved the fact that the product used to clean them was non-toxic and fragrance free! We did notice that there were a few patches that didn’t get picked up the first time round (it can be hard to see how clean they are until fully dried), but Spencer was very happy to come back to go over those last bits!