I’m guilty of having spent a whole summer without writing a single blog post.
Summer landed upon us suddenly this year, after a long, cold, rainy spring. Then boom – summer exploded and has been relentless until…well, today, really. Today we have the first day of proper rain after months of dry weather; a heat wave which fed into another heat wave and never left us until this glorious temperature drop. I feel reborn, able to function, and in fact at this first opportunity I am here writing my blog!
It has been a summer in which more than ever I have heard talk about the necessity to fight climate change, the pollution of the oceans etc. I won’t pretend I’m not proud of not having needed the prompt of the media to be awakened to these issues: I’ve not needed the Facebook posts or television adverts to realise that any human as a rational being should feel the responsibility of making our transit on this earth as harmless and gentle as possible, because we are clunky creatures with a lot of power in our hands, and that power can be employed to improve or destroy.
So, many things I did automatically anyway, and any further measure I have taken stems from this research I am passionate about in finding solutions to basic sustainability issues. I have been reflecting on the measures I have taken to make my flats as sustainable and green as possible, and would like to share them with you so you can also guide me towards better alternatives or new ideas.
1) Water filtering systems
Water on the Tremiti islands is not drinkable because it comes from a cistern ship and is pumped daily onto the island and into a big tank below the top of the hill (Colle dell’Eremita). I always felt dreadful at buying plastic bottle after plastic bottle of drinking water (particularly since the Tremiti isands were pioneers in banning single-use plastics - the first town in Italy!), so I have equipped the flats with a water purifier, and bought glass carafes. Each year I equip one flat with this water filter system, and next year will be my third. It’s not cheap, but plastic bottles will cost the planet a lot more in the long run. Some guests don’t trust the water and buy plastic anyway, which makes me very sad, but I cannot help it. Most guests on the other hand are delighted!
I’m a big fan of the pre-loved. Too much waste is created from people over-buying, and it is criminal to throw away things which are still perfectly usable: they end up in landfills and just create unnecessary waste. So when I must substitute or add an item, I will first look at whether I have equivalents around the house which I can re-purpose, and if not then I will look at second-hand. My latest second-hand purchase was the single bed mattress cover, and although I washed it anyway when I got it just to be on the safe side the condition was so perfect that it felt and smelt new. Now one happy person has one useless item less in their home, and happy me has what she was looking for. Circular, sustainable, virtuous!
3) Sustainable materials
Of course I will go out of my way to avoid plastic, which is something I have always done; but in general you have no idea how much time I spent looking, for example, at which toilet paper to buy. No, seriously! I knew I needed to bulk buy (see below) in order to cut costs and be efficient on an island where everything takes a while to get here (I can’t just go out to a shop and find a selection of things I might want, even more so if they have to respect the criteria I set for my purchases). So I spent days doing research: shall I go for bamboo or recycled? does this brand cut trees? does this other brand use chemical bleaches? and so on. In the end I went for bamboo paper, bamboo being a sustainable option because it grows fast and is therefore able to fulfil supply and demand. The product I chose in the end, the Cheeky Panda,^ is carbon balanced and a certified B corporation. Similar research has gone into buying the bags for the local recycling system, the laundry liquid for my guests’ sheets, the shower gel and liquid soap I provide, the paper for the information booklets I leave in the flats made of wood and pyrographed by the marvellous Mark Bond.^
4) Bulk buy
From time to time I have to do a big shop-up with the essentials – laundry liquid, washing up liquid, soap, shower gel, toilet paper, bin bags etc. – and I always make sure I buy in bulk. Not only is this cost-effective, but it helps save all the extra packaging of the individually-wrapped, the plastic of the small bottles (where plastic cannot be avoided), and I feel one big shipment is less detrimental to carbon footprint than many small ones. Unfortunately, living on an island means transport etc. cannot be avoided.
5) Vegan, organic, sustainable products
Everything I buy will be vegan, cruelty-free, and wherever possible organic and sustainable. If I have the odd product in the house which is chemical and not in line with my philosophy, it will be because I am using up purchases my guests have made and which they have left in the flat, as to throw them away would be an insufferable further slap in the environment’s face. I have also stopped buying cleaning products, as most can be home-made or substituted with less synthetic ingredients, such as bicarbonate of sodium and vinegar: I simply re-purpose a spray bottle and fill it with, for instance, distilled water, vinegar, and a few drops of essential oils, and voilà my home-made cleaning product. My soap is Castile soap scented with organic essential oils, so each batch comes out different. Plus, no need to read the label wondering whether the chemicals are biodegradable or polluting or carbon-neutral!
^ I do not get any credit for this information: it’s not promotion, it’s not an ad, it’s just FYI and a genuine desire to show my readers that there are alternatives out there, within easy reach.