I tried to be kinder to the planet for a week and this is what happened

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From cleaning your toilet the eco way to setting a timer for your shower, how easy is it to live a life that’s kinder to the planet? Writer Jazmin Vale finds out… 

I would like to think that I’m a good person, but when it comes to the planet, I could definitely step up my game.

Yes, I recycle as much as I can, but I’m happy to leave all my plugs switched on while I go on holiday and I still use plastic cotton buds as part of my beauty routine.

As for my cleaning products? My stash is probably more toxic than I like to think.

But no more. In the spirit of ‘new year, new me’, I decided to up my green game for a week and be kinder to the planet. 

From ditching dairy in my food to transforming the contents of my make up bag, here’s how I got on.

I went vegan

Of all my challenges, I thought that going vegan would be the easiest. 

I’m vegetarian anyway, so armed with some Violife vegan cheese and a Greggs vegan sausage roll I figured that a dairy-free week would be a walk in the park. 

I started with cous cous (delicious) and vegan quorn chilli (even better), as well as snacking on non-dairy chocolate pots, rice cakes and carrot sticks. 

I even found vegan garlic bread in my local Co-Op, but it was on day five that I really started to crave cheddar. And chocolate. 

On a particularly stressful day six, I broke and gobbled down a tomato and mozzarella baguette. Sorry, but it tasted great. 

Perhaps the part-time vegan life is more for me, but every little helps, right?

I became beauty savvy

As a fully-fledged veggie, I already avoid brands that test on animals. I try to buy vegan, but I have to admit I don’t pay as much attention to beauty packaging and the (usually undecipherable) product ingredients.

For this challenge, I started to clean up my routine. I swapped out my cotton pads for reusable ones and I was impressed with how well they scrubbed off my (vegan) mascara. 

I also topped up my cotton buds with bamboo replacements and tried out Cowshed’s Cow Pit Spray deodorant, which will be sticking around in my toiletry bag. 

Meanwhile ESPA’s natural skincare left me smelling like a spa and EcoTools brushes had my makeup looking flawless. 

So far, so good for the planet, but I couldn’t quite resist a dab of non-vegan lipstick.

I cleaned up my act (and my flat)

I’m nowhere near the level of Instagram cleaning extraordinaire Mrs Hinch, but I do like a clean house. 

Until this challenge, I’d always just picked up the cheapest products in the supermarket. Not that eco I realised, especially when I started to research the toxic ingredients in my cleaners.

So, I replaced all the stuff in my cleaning cupboard with products from Ecover, who champion plant-based and biodegradable ingredients to reduce the impact on aquatic life. 

The range includes everything from toilet cleaner to floor soap and only contain naturally-derived active ingredients that use less energy and water, which made it easy to clean my whole house and feel good about doing it.

The oven and hob cleaner cut through almost 18 months of grime on our oven door (don’t act like you clean your oven regularly) while the multi-action spray made our tap as shiny as the Queen’s silverware. 

Everything was left smelling clean, rather than overpoweringly artificial, and I slept in the softest pyjamas thanks to Ecover’s Gardenia and Vanilla Fabric Softener

When eco-friendly products clean this well, I can’t see my self switching back to my old ways.

I turned into my dad

Remember living in your parent’s house and being shouted at for constantly leaving the lights on, showering for hours and staring into the open fridge? Well, they kind of had a point.

Now that I pay the bills, I realise how expensive wasting water and electricity is (to me and the planet), so I started by switching off my plugs whenever I went to work or away for the weekend. 

I also turned off the lights every time I left a room, even for a minute. My electricity awareness rocketed as I flipped off every socket and light switch I could find. 

But water was a trickier thing to give up. I tried to time my showers to last two songs long, but factoring in washing my hair and shaving my legs? I needed five tunes, at least…

I spread the good word

Living in London means I’m an expert at giving dirty looks to manspreaders, slow walkers and people who won’t move down the carriage. 

But would I ever call someone out with actual words?

I started out with my housemates, testing the waters by ‘reminding’ them that they’d left the lights on or the shower running. 

As they didn’t kill me, I moved on to my colleagues who each got a lesson in what they should be recycling instead of throwing in the bin. 

As for strangers, I gave a man who ditched a cigarette butt on the floor a very dirty look – does that count? Yes, because the more society raises awareness of the impact of people’s decisions, the more likely they are to change their minds. Felt guilty about throwing plastic in the wrong bin lately? Thought so.

The verdict

Did this week turn me into a fully-fledged eco-warrior? 

Well, I’m definitely more clued up on my impact on the environment and a total eco-cleaning convert, but I don’t know if a 2-minute shower is a sacrifice I’m willing to make. 

What I did learn is that there are small changes I am willing to make, from having vegan days to changing my household products, that are absolutely worth it for the positive impact, or less negative impact, they have on our planet.

Sure, I’m not going to reverse climate change on my own but saving the world doesn’t happen in a week, right?

Trying to keep the planet cleaner starts with the everyday. Switch to Ecover and join the clean world revolution.