Low-impact life action plan

This is a mammoth post but it may interest some of you – if not please skip past it!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I can live in a way that’s better for the environment and better for my health. There’s plenty of stuff I do already, but there’s always room for improvement. In terms of the environment, I want to use products that cause as little damage to the environment as possible. In terms of my health, I can’t escape the fact that I am getting older, and I just want to slow the process as much as possible! I have slightly high blood pressure (one nurse described it as “normal for a 45 year-old woman” but not normal for a woman my age) so I’d love to get that down a bit. I’d love to feel fit, have a bit more energy, and keep my skin looking nice.

I’ve organised my goals/actions under the following categories, although there is a fair amount of overlap:

Food

Obviously, I love food. I try to eat organic wherever possible because I believe it’s better for the planet and my health, and it generally tastes better too. I have a lot of fresh vegetables, and have recently been incorporating a bit more fresh fruit into my diet as well.

I’m trying to eat more wholegrains, and I often choose wholegrain over white pasta, and incorporate wholegrains into the bread I bake. I want to eat more nuts, especially brazil nuts which are meant to be a real superfood. It would be good to start eating more of these “superfoods”, luckily they tend to be some of my favourite foods anyway – berries, garlic, tomatoes, avocadoes, and for a real treat dark chocolate and red wine. And apparently now even popcorn is a superfood! I adore popcorn, though I’m thinking I should probably cut back on the butter and salt.

Ah yes, salt. I really love salt, but I should probably cut back a bit on account of the high blood pressure… sigh.

I’ve also recently become slightly addicted to carrot juice. This happened when I bought the LEON cookbook and found the recipe for “Allegra’s Beautiful Juice”. I’d always struggled with the carrots in my veg box, so this seemed like a good solution. One of my old flatmates had left a juicer behind, so I dragged it out of the cupboard and gave it a go. The juice uses 400g organic carrots, a small piece of ginger, an orange and 120ml almond milk (which I buy from Planet Organic or Wholefoods, and almonds are of course another superfood). It’s absolutely delicious, and gives me a lot of energy. It’s also full of vitamins that are good for the skin.

I drink a lot of water, but I’m trying to replace the water with things that actually have some nutritional value, like the juice above, or some mint and fennel which is good for the digestion, or tea which is a great antioxidant. I never add milk or sugar to my tea. I’ve also been making a lot of smoothies lately. Some good combinations are:

  • banana, mango, mint, yoghurt
  • banana, peanut butter, milk
  • banana, blueberry, yoghurt

Something I also have to focus on is portion size.  Since I usually just cook for myself, it can be easy to eat a bit too much.  I think I should try to cook things that can be eaten as leftovers and taken to work for lunch the next day.

So, action plan:  keep doing what I’m doing, but watch portion size, cut back on salt, eat more superfoods especially nuts, take more packed lunches.

Skincare/Haircare

I’ve been trying to go a lot more natural with the stuff I use on my skin.  I’ve recently switched to using Dr Hauschka products.  I have combination skin so I use the Clarifying Toner, Moisturising Day Cream, and the Normalising Day Oil.  To cleanse, I use Lush’s Herbalism cleanser.  I swear by this – my skin improved dramatically as soon as I started using it.

The Dr Hauschka products don’t include any sunscreen.  I have very pale skin that needs protection.  I’m also allergic to the sun and tend to come out in a rash from overexposure (not a huge problem in the UK, but you should see me when I go on holiday!).  One product I use on my face is Philosophy poreless, flawless spf 15 (much cheaper on eBay, by the way) which is a primer with sunscreen.  It’s not the most natural product around but it does make my skin look incredible.  Another product I love is MAC Mineralize Skinfinish.  I don’t like to look like I’m wearing makeup but these two products manage to even out my skin tone with really low coverage.

I’ve just bought some Liz Earle spf20 mineral sunscreen, so I’m going to give that a go and see how I get on.

On my hair, I use Lush Seanik solid shampoo.  I love how there’s no packaging, so it really is good for the environment.  One bar lasts a long time.  I haven’t found a decent conditioner yet, but I’ve managed to cut out “cones” (apparently any ingredients ending in -cone are bad news) and my hair still seems ok.

As for my body, I use a cheap body wash in a squeezy bottle.  This has got to stop.  Compared with the other lovely products I’m using on my skin, it just seems chemically and gross now.  Luckily, I’ve just bought some Dr Bronner’s soap which should do for a lot of my house cleaning needs as well (see below).

Once in a while I do a sugar scrub, which is just a few tablespoons of caster sugar, a tablespoon of sweet almond oil, and a few drops of whatever essential oils I feel like using.  I have a good scrub with it in the shower, and it leaves my skin feeling really great.  When I’m feeling a bit more flush I buy Lush’s Buffy body butter, amazing stuff and their best seller for a reason.

Plan: Start using more natural products on my body and skin.  Replace products (especially makeup) with natural products as I run out.  Find a decent conditioner – any ideas?

Exercise

I have never been particularly fond of exercise.  I have hypermobile joints, which can result in a lot of pain when I try to exercise, and made school sports an absolute nightmare.  When I started university, I discovered salsa dancing and it became a regular habit for the next 8 years.  It was fairly low-impact on my joints, it was fun, and it didn’t feel like exercise.  When I moved to London I found a great teacher, but her classes are a bit expensive and since she moved they are now too far away.  I’ve also never really enjoyed social dancing here, probably because I don’t have any friends here who are great dancers.  As a woman I’m very much at the mercy of the guys leading me… and sometimes it’s just no fun!

So the current exercise regimen involves hula hooping, Pilates, and – gasp – running.

Hula hooping is incredible fun.  I exercise best when I don’t notice it’s exercise… and it’s surprisingly good exercise.  I go to classes run by Diana Defries up in Muswell Hill.  I’ve just finished a 6-week beginner course and I can’t wait for the next course to start.

I go to Pilates at The Hub in Regent’s Park.  And running, well, both my flatmates run.  It’s something I’ve never been able to do because of my gammy joints, but the good thing about hypermobility is it’s supposed to get better over time.  Hoorah!  One good thing about the ageing process.  The wonders of modern technology have also brought me special magic running shoes designed for flat feet (oh yeah, I have those too).  I don’t think they existed twenty years ago when I was struggling to do school cross countries.  At any rate my hypermobility wasn’t even diagnosed until my late teens.  I’m trying to be careful with the running.  I can’t run very far yet and I don’t want to wreck my feet and knees.  But I did the Race For Life on Wednesday and managed 3 of the 5kms.

Plan:  Keep hooping.  Keep running if my body continues to cope with it.  Keep going to Pilates.  Exercise at least three days per week.  Possibly pick up swing dancing again.

Home

I really want to move away from using chemicals that are harmful to the environment and potentially harmful to me.  I’m allergic to pollen, dust mites and mould spores but I really don’t think my lungs like most household cleaning chemicals either.

I currently do a lot of cleaning with microfibre cloths and water.  I use a lot of vinegar too as it’s really good for getting rid of limescale.  I cut up rags from old clothing and sheets and use these rather than paper towels to clean.

I recently got a book called “Domestic Goddess on a Budget” by former NZ Women’s Weekly editor Wendyl Nissen.  My friend Louise picked it up the last time she was in NZ.  She sent me a recipe for a natural mould prevention spray and I knew I wanted the whole book!  If you follow that link there are a lot of recipes on the website though.  I’m going to make up some of the mixtures and I’m really looking forward to doing all my cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, Dr Bronner’s, and essential oils.  Now I just have to sell the flatmates on it…

I’ve also ordered some ecoballs for my washing, and a stainless steel toilet odour neutraliser.  The toilet’s right next to my room, and I really can’t stand the smell of the artificial vanilla spray my flatmate uses!

Plan: go all-natural with cleaning products.  Make a yummy-smelling natural air freshener for the toilet!

Well that was a long post.  I hope to update soon to report on how all of my plans are going.  I’d also love to know any ideas you all have.

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6 thoughts on “Low-impact life action plan

  1. Great post Sarah, and remember that by not eating meat you have have already hugely reduced your impact on the environment. Have a read of some of the wonderful raw blogs out there and try for one totally raw meal a day if you can. When I do this I feel fantastic. Most veggies are lovely raw – if you cut them up enough!

    Best plan for the loo is to keep the window open all the time. Especially now it is summer!

  2. Interesting post, Sarah. I notice you’re mentioning milk, eg in smoothies. I’ve always had an ambivalent realtionship with milk: I love cheese, but I oly have it on special occasions or when dining out, because I’ve got a kind of ‘primal’ reluctance with all dairy. We should be weaned by now! I can’t agree more with the other comment here: since I moved to a high-raw diet my shape, skin, nails have all improved. I noticed last weekend that I have NO cellulite. None – it’s gone over the last 6 months, so this must be down to the raw. And I’m a 45 year old woman with A1 normal blood pressure so I’m doing something right! I’m a salt-head too, though… I heard some recent news from Lower Marsh – make sure you stay in touch. Alix x

    • Gosh no cellulite sounds tempting! I don’t actually have too much dairy, but hmm, have been having quite a bit of yoghurt lately. How do you get your calcium? I’d love to know how you make raw food interesting! I’m not really sold on raw though because I watched a documentary where they proved you absorb a lot more vitamins and minerals from cooked food.

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