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2 Sep 2021

Six easy sustainable swaps to help the environment and save you money

Think small changes to your every day won't make a difference? Think again
Someone holding a reusable coffee cup

You might have been left feeling a little hopeless after reading the recent IPCC climate report, however small changes can help if we all make a collective effort. And some of these changes not only benefit the environment but have the added bonus of saving money.

Whether it's ditching the disposable coffee cups that come with your morning commute or switching up your food wraps, there are countless ways you can make your lifestyle more sustainable.

Below we've suggested six useful bits of kit that'll not only be kinder to the planet, but to your wallet too.

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1) Swap takeaway cups for a flask or reusable coffee cup

Man using a flask

Many coffee chains, including Costa Coffee and Starbucks, implemented a temporary ban on reusable cups in UK stores at the start of the pandemic, but this has now been reversed.

If we all switched to using reusable coffee cups then that would prevent 16 billion paper cups being thrown in the rubbish every year.

Or you can help the planet and save money by using a vacuum flask, which retains heat through double-walled insulation.

The space in between the walls creates a vacuum and this acts as a barrier to heat coming in and out. This means hot coffee for hours - sometimes up to 24 hours as our testing has found.

The vacuum flasks we tested ranged in price from £5.50 up to £48.

Find out which two vacuum flasks we'd recommend and which four reusable coffee cups and travel mugs impressed in our tests.

2) Swap cling film for beeswax wraps

Plastic wrap - or cling film as it's better known - can take decades to decompose. As the name suggests, it's made of plastic which is not naturally biodegradable, meaning it'll sit in landfill releasing harmful chemicals.

A great alternative to cling film is beeswax wrap. The beeswax came out on top out of all the different types of eco-wraps we tested.

Beeswax wraps are malleable, keep food fresher for longer and, most importantly, can be reused for up to a year - and longer if you re-wax yours. At the end of their life you can chop them up and put them in your home compost to decompose naturally.

Read more about beeswax wraps and how they compare to compostable cling film and recycled foil, as well as traditional cling film and foil in terms of effectiveness and price.

3) Swap disposable freezer bags with reusable freezer bags

reusable freezer bag with food in it

The cheap price tag of the packs of thin plastic freezer bags sold at most major supermarkets might seem tempting, but they're unlikely to last more than a few uses, if not a single-use. Their thin, flimsy plastic construction makes them prone to rips and tears.

Instead, why not give reusable freezer bags a try. They cost a little more upfront and are sold in smaller packs, but these bags are built to last and in terms of cost per use you'll be sure to recoup in their long lifespan.

They're also great for reducing food waste. Just scoop your leftovers into a bag and pop it in the freezer.

Our testing of reusable freezer bags helped us to find out which bags stained the least after containing tomato pasta, which had the strongest seals and which are the easiest to clean.

4) Swap plastic bottles for reusable water bottles

Woman using a reusable water bottle

It's estimated that 7.7 billion plastic bottles are bought in the UK each year and plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose naturally. Now that is a lot of single-use plastic waste sitting in landfill.

We've tested a large range of reusable metal, plastic and glass water bottles for adults and children, costing from as little as £3 all the way up to £80.

Want to know which bagged a recommendation for being easy to use and clean? Read our round-up of the best reusable water bottles and best kids' water bottles.

5) Swap regular coffee pods for recyclable coffee pods

Coffee pods

Regular coffee pods are usually made from plastic or aluminium which aren't naturally biodegradable materials. And though some coffee pods are technically recyclable, you'll still need to clean and dismantle them.

There are a number of greener alternatives for coffee addicts now.

  • Recycling schemes- Nespresso and Illy both offer recycling schemes that require you to either organise a curbside collection, drop-off in-store or arrange a courier collection. Or you can use Podback, an app that organises the collection of Nespresso, Dolce Gusto and Tassimo pods.
  • Compostable pods - Lavazza has its own range of compostable pods which can be thrown into your food waste bin or you can turn to Lavazza's Eco Caps Composting Programme, which is managed through Terracycle.
  • Refillable pods - A number of smaller coffee brands sell reusable pods such as Alchemy, Lictin, SealPod and WayCap. Prices range from around £3-£30 per reusable capsule. Plastic capsules tend to be cheaper than metal ones. We tried the reusable pods out to see how they compared.

6) Swap shower drain unblocker for a chemical-free option

Confused about how environmentally-friendly your drain unblocker is? Some manufacturers claim their products use natural ingredients that are less damaging to the environment, but that's not always the case.

Instead of opting for an eco drain unblocker, we'd recommend ditching the chemicals altogether and getting a Flexisnake. It's a chemical free, manual method of removing contents from a blocked drain. Just stick it down, wiggle it around, and pull it out...along with whatever it drags up.

Even better, you can use it again and again which means you'll be saving money too. It costs around £11, but it can last years as opposed to a one-use bottle of drain unblocker.

Read our full review of the Flexisnake and other unblockers in our best shower drain unblockers.