The end of My Year of Eco Challenges!!!

My Year of Eco Challenges has come to an end!!!  It’s been an amazing year, full of adventures, changed habits and money saved. I’ve pushed myself to the limits in some ways and still have so much more to do in others.

My year would not have been what it was without the support of my family and friends both real and virtual, so I want to say a big thank you to all of you!! In particular I want to say thank you so much to:
  • my husband for encouraging, questioning and surviving My Year of Eco Challenges – I couldn’t have done it without you!
  • my kids who have happily joined in with many of my challenges (although often without realising – they don’t know any different!)
  • everyone who sponsored me on the DoNation site and managed to win me (i.e. my husband) a years supply of icecream (read more here)!
  • all my Twitter friends for all the great chats/ tips and support on Twitter  particularly during my slow fashion month and in the run up to and during Plastic Free July and Zero Waste Week 
  • everyone who joined in my slow fashion challenge 
  • everyone who wrote about me and my challenges throughout the year – I really appreciated it!
  • all those who supported me in real life, 
  • my readers and the people who leave comments – it is great to know I’m not just writing to myself 🙂
So I bet you are wondering where I am at with all my challenges now.  Which ones I will stick with and which ones I will ditch at the first opportunity?? Well here’s a little summary of whats going on:
Just to recap, in case you missed it, each month from September 2013 to September 2014 I set myself a new challenge and in the order I set them and how they went they were as follows (click on the titles to go the original blog post about each challenge):
1. No shampoo for a year – I suffered through a lot of greasy hair to start with, but washing with olive oil soap seems to be doing the trick now!  I will carry on using olive oil soap and have no current plans to return to shampoo.
2. No supermarkets for 11 months. This has become a way of life and I much prefer local shopping to supermarket shopping.  That said I’m not promising to stay away from supermarkets all the time.  I may pop into one occasionally in future.
3. Buying nothing new or secondhand for myself for 10 months (within certain rules listed on my blog) – I have stuck to this.  It has been easy most of the time – I have done clothes swaps when I needed new clothes, made do with things I have, continued to use things that look less than perfect after having been repaired.  I can’t lie though – I am looking forward to buying some new things now my year has ended, mainly to replace things that are falling apart. I’m not in a great rush though and I don’t plan to buy anything unless I think I really need it…
4. Giving something away each day for 9 months – I haven’t given something specific each day, it has become more of an attitude – I look for opportunities to give and it isn’t always things, it is also my time e.g. picking up litter, releasing a book into the wild via, helping people out with lifts when they need them (e.g. school pick ups), giving away food via my foodsharing group, giving notepads, pens and scarves to homeless people and volunteering. I really like giving when I can and I definitely plan to keep going with this indefinitely.
5. Doing the rubbish diet (just for one month) – This inspired me to buy a compost bin which composts all food waste including cooked foods, fish and meat and I am so happy I can divert the majority of my food waste from landfill.
6. No toilet paper (for one month). It was good while it lasted, but I couldn’t hack it long term. This is something that is in the back of my mind though and I can imagine I will have another attempt at avoiding toilet paper again at some point in the future… 
7. Starting a food sharing revolution in my local area. Food bank usage has tripled in recent years, the average family throws away around £60 worth of food a month and food in landfill gives off methane a greenhouse gas – it makes no sense to me to throw food away down the street from someone who might desperately need it! I have around 40 members in my foodsharing group and have given and received food and drink and veg seeds via it. I have also set up a bulk buying group via it to buy organic free range eggs from a local farm – they sell 30 eggs for £3.50 (in the supermarket it is around £2 for 6 organic free range eggs). I have been working to advertise it, but more work is needed and this is ongoing!  
8. Mend 5 things at least and prepare for Plastic Free July (lasted one month) – I did the mending part and mended more than 5 things! This was a one month challenge, but I will continue to mend things when they need mending!
9. Slow fashion challenge (lasted one month) – I set myself the  challenge to create something in fashion from things I already had – I made a dungarees dress out of a skirt, a pair of jeans and a pair of my kids worn out dungarees.  I also challenged other people to join me in slowing down fashion throughout the month and gave them a range of challenges to choose from. This also got republished in the Guardian – see here.  I would like to do this again next year at the same time – it was great to have other bloggers join in and to see if this is something that could grow further…
10. Plastic Free July (lasted one month) I attempted to go plastic free for July – I gave up trying to be fully plastic free part way through as it was just too hard! To go fully plastic free you need to give up teabags (most contain plastic), jars – lids contain plastic, tins and cans – they are plastic lined, wrappers that contain plastic layers, glass bottles with plastic pourers or plastic in their lids….  I have done a lot in the name of going plastic free though which I have gone into detail about here.  For the time being I am as single use plastic free as I am comfortable going, but I will keep making changes where I can and I will give Plastic Free July another go next year!
11. A month off blogging, Twitter and blog related Facebook – I mostly stayed away from twitter and blog related stuff, not entirely, but I had a good break from the blog.  I was meant to reduce my smartphone usage, but I didn’t do too well with that!
12. Zero Waste Week – In my last challenge of the year, I pledged to throw nothing away for the first week of September! I At the end of the week I didn’t quite I managed to fit most of the rubbish I had generated during the week into an icecream tub – see here: here
At the beginning of the year I didn’t have a particular plan for which challenges I would take on, I just decided month by month. Over the year though two main goals have shone through – one of which was to reduce the rubbish my household sends to landfill and the other of which was to reduce what we put in our recycling bins.  There have been other reasons for doing the challenges I did as well, both from an environmental and a monetary perspective and there have been many benefits along the way.  At the end of the year I can say that:
  • We have seriously reduced our rubbish and recycling and in the last six weeks my household has only filled about 1 black bag with rubbish.  It takes two black bags to fill up our wheely bin so at that rate we will only need to put it out to be emptied about once every three months!!! The frequency at which we have to put our recycling bins out has massively reduced too especially since we started getting milk in reusable glass bottles from the milk man, have been buying dried goods in bulk and having been making food from unpackaged (or limited packaging) raw ingredients wherever possible.  
  • As far as money saved goes, doing the challenges has definitely contributed to the over £11,000 worth of yearly savings I have made which I have gone into detail about here).
I’m now at an interesting time in my life – my younger son has started school full time and I have no kids at home and no job…  It’s time to decide what I will do next.
So what should I do next?? What do you guys think – any suggestions???


  1. What a great year you've had! Challenging at times no doubt but ultimately very rewarding. The rubbish in particular is almost unbelievable to me, we have finally moved house (on Monday!) So once things have settled down this is something I'll be looking at and try to emulate you on.

    For the future, you could try:
    1. Some more volunteering
    2. Work on promoting the blog (no need to change the content but try to find more ways to get it to a wider audience and spread the good word)
    3. Set up a new project like the plastic free website, and/or linking this into the blog, challenging other people to do stuff.
    4. Write an ebook condensing all of the best ideas on saving, eco stuff, recipes etc into a handy guidebook (best idea I think!)

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do with your newfound free time 🙂

  2. Zoe

    Congrats on the house move Mr Firestarter! Thanks for all the good ideas! I have decided I am definitely going to write an e-book, I have been doing a bit more volunteering and I like the idea of setting up another website, but don't want to try to do too much at once!

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