Living with Less

Living with less: 7 simple things you can make yourself

When we have existential threats around us, it’s easy to be pulled into a panic spiral, and the danger is that “saving the planet” never feels like a concrete thing we can actually have a hope of doing. But as with all the best advice on the topic of achieving goals, it comes down to what my dear friend Julia from the 100 Day Goal calls “micro-actions”. As we move forward trying to influence government at all levels, school principals, CEOs and sports associations, we have to remember that we don’t need to wait another day to create a huge amount of influence within our own homes and as a collective.

One of the ways we can do that in the most practical terms is to cut the amount of stuff we buy in packaging, and buy basic ingredients in reusable bags and jars from home. It might seem trivial, but I can assure you it’s huge. Think about nut butter. If the nuts come straight from the farm to the bulk foods wholesaler, then on to shops in their nuts-only virgin form, they go into your kitchen, then your blender, and are then put in a jar in your cupboard.

On the other hand, if those nuts are picked and sent to a food manufacturer to make nut butter, then other ingredients beyond our control such as vegetable oil are added, then they’re packaged into a glass jar or petroleum-based plastic tub, then shipped off to a logistics depot where a distributor then ships them off to all the stores they’re going to be sold in, then you buy them online and another truck gets them to your door to finally pop into your cupboard.

There is more freight, more weight along the way added through packaging, more resources required for that extra packaging, and then recycling from your end. That’s far more intensive on the environment and our precious resources. Multiply that by the millions of people still buying produce that’s already manufactured and you quickly see how we’ve ended up here.

Less “stuff” doesn’t just mean saying no to the cute homewares bowl you didn’t really like or need a year later; it’s fundamentally changing the way you do things and prioritising what’s “important”. Making your own peanut butter is an act of duty as a good human. There are many recipes online if you want precise instructions, including on my Low Tox Life “Recipe A–Z” web page, so let this serve as a bit of inspiration to get you going. I’d love to see your success stories as you start to make more of your own stuff.

  1. Make your own nut butter. Blend your favourite nuts on high in a food processor and add a little salt, vanilla paste and honey. Pro tip: if the nuts are really dry, you can add a tablespoon of avocado or macadamia oil into the mix.
  2. Make your own hummus. Soak dry chickpeas for 36 hours with a wedge of lemon squeezed in the water. Cook for about an hour, strain and cool. Then blend with some tahini (which of course you can make yourself from blending sesame seeds), fresh lemon juice, salt, olive oil, cumin and a couple of splashes of water to make it fluffy and creamy.
  3. Make pesto and variations of it by blending fresh herbs, nuts, parmesan (or nutritional yeast if you avoid dairy) and adding extra-virgin olive oil and salt.
  4. Make your own nut or oat milks. To really love the planet be sure to try and opt for organic, biodynamic agriculture sourced raw materials where possible.
  5. DIY a pest-deterrent spray for your plants. Simply add water and one teaspoon peppermint Castile soap, and pour into an old spray bottle.
  6. DIY your own body scrub. I highly recommend you make my coffee body scrub with coffee grounds, olive or coconut oil, vanilla paste and sea salt. It smells good enough to eat and takes less than a minute to mix up.
  7. You can make your own stainless-steel degreaser by simply using a squeezed lemon or lime from your salad dressing and wiping it over your stainless surfaces. Wipe dry with a tea towel.

Now I’m not perfect. There are still products I buy in plastic, but I own their cost by purchasing a TerraCycle bin to recycle them correctly into new consumer products; and I ensure that the ones I do buy are multiple-use products that I use for months, rather than single-day products. I think if we focus on all of our “only use it once or a few times” products as our starting point, then we can make a real go of this and get somewhere. Are you with me?


Alex Stuart

Alex Stuart

Alexx Stuart is a passionate educator in the space she calls "living a low-tox life". Through her speaking, workshops, e-courses and online community, she helps people make the best new choices for themselves, their family and the planet.

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