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Sustainability swaps I made in 2020

December 17, 2020

I’ve been trying to live more sustainably for a few years now but 2020 was the year I made one of my biggest changes… I broke up with fast fashion GASP! It was my New Year’s resolution and I’m really delighted that I’ve managed to stick with it. Here are the other sustainability swaps I made this year to try and reduce my carbon footprint.

Breaking up with fast fashion

If you know me IRL then you’ll know I’m a sucker for a H&M or Zara haul so giving up some of my fave high street brands was no easy feat. I can’t deny, it was made a bit easier by living in Wellington, NZ where none of my favourite high street brands exist, and CBA going to Auckland just for a shopping trip.

Thankfully, Wellington (and most of NZ) has great Op Shops (charity shops). Because shopping second hand is so ubiquitous here the op shops are full of great quality clothes, as is Facebook Marketplace. While the Op Shops in the centre of town tend to be a lot more pricey the suburbs are where the real bargains can be found. It certainly takes more patience shopping this way, but I also enjoy that I don’t buy loads of stuff that I don’t end up wearing. It’s made me shop much more intentionally and be more creative with outfit planning.

thrift op shop wellington new zealand


I became a vegetarian back in 2015 (which seems like a crazy long time ago now!) Then, when I went travelling I became a flexitarian, partly because I didn’t want to miss out on any local delicacies I mighty encounter. Since arriving to New Zealand I’ve gone mostly back to veggie life.

I probably eat vegan or vegetarian 80% of the time (and all my home-cooked meals are meat-free) but if I’m in a restaurant and I don’t love the veggie options I will choose a meat option. I’m trying not to have red meat and stick to chicken which has a much lower environmental impact. I imagine I’ll go back to being fully vegetarian next year but currently, I’m enjoying being flexitarian and trying to eat vegan for at least a couple of days a week.

After using soy milk for a long time this year I switched to Oat milk which has a much lower environmental impact. I’m trying to give up all dairy tbh but cheese is such a hard thing to let go of!

guest of nature mural wellington new zealand

Shaking up my skincare & beauty routine

I broke up with makeup remover wipes a long time ago. Those things aren’t just bad for the planet but they’re often pretty harsh and abrasive on your skin. This year I invested in some reusable bamboo makeup remove pads. These little guys are act just like cotton pads except when they’re dirty you just throw them in the wash. I love how soft they are on my skin too!

I’ve written before about Grin Natural sustainable toothbrushes. I was gifted my first by them but I’m a total convert now. I love the colours they come in, and when it’s time to get a new one, the old one can be sent back to be recycled.

grin natural biodegradable toothbrush travel toothpaste yellow feather blog review

I’m slowly trying to phase out plastic in my skincare routine and swapping where possible to more sustainable options. I love The Ordinary, and a lot of their products come in glass bottles. While those aren’t carbon-neutral by any means, any little reduction in plastic helps. I’m also trying to shop local as much as possible. A current favourite brand which does plant-based, luxurious skincare products is Wellington Apothecary.

I’ve also switched to plastic-free shower products. Current favourites are the Dirty shampoo bar from Lush and this Manuka honey and vanilla conditioner bar from Ahhh. They’re a NZ company that makes plastic-free skincare and bath products that you can buy in the supermarket.

Every little helps

Alongside major efforts like no new clothes and reducing my meat consumption, there are some everyday steps I’m taking which make a smaller but consistent difference.

For example, shopping consciously to reduce plastic. This is quite easy in Wellington as we have some pretty awesome Fruit and Veg markets at the weekend where you take your own bags and stock up on green goodness. Another thing I love about this country is that most of the fruit and veg in the supermarket comes plastic-free. A big difference to the supermarkets I left back home in 2019.

I carry my Keep Cup and a metal water bottle with me pretty much everywhere. A lot of cafes and coffee shops here offer a returnable cup scheme to dissuade using single-use cups. The bonus is you often get a slight discount for using a sustainable cup.

We use refillable home cleaning products wherever we can. Our favourite brand is currently Ecostore, which is stocked pretty much everywhere here.

Something I’ve done for the last few years is carbon offsetting my flights. For every flight I take I donate to carbon offsetting initiatives. Often, these initiatives plant trees which act as natural carbon dioxide sinks. There are lots of different companies and websites that help you do this. Climate Care has a really easy to use calculator which tallies how much carbon you’ve produced and how much it costs to offset. You can pay through their website with your money going towards a variety of different initiatives.

Air New Zealand and Jetstar the two main domestic airlines here in New Zealand make it super easy for you, you can tick a box when buying your flights to agree to offset the carbon. I think a lot of other airlines have started offering this too.

Flying into wellington new zealand yellow feather blog

While I still have a long way to go I firmly believe that many of us doing our bit imperfectly is better than a few of us being perfect. In 2021 I will continue to try and reduce plastic and shop consciously. I’m also looking forward to buying new clothes again although I’ll be buying only from local or sustainable brands.

Are any of you planning to be more sustainable in 2021? Share your tips in the comments!

Love, Sarah x

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