Eco-friendly Swaps That Won’t Cost You the Earth

Those of you who have me on social media will already know that I am pretty passionate about saving the environment (imagine wanting to protect your own planet??) So, I have compiled a wee list of easy ways to be green that don’t cost much.

And yes, I have made all of these changes myself so you can trust that they are actually worth making. After all, the Black Eyed Peas always said to practice what you preach…


  1. Reusable Cotton Pads

cotton pads

What? As the name suggests, these are an eco-friendly version of that beauty essential. Made from cotton knit rather than traditional cotton, these bad boys can be used and washed again, and again, and again…and once more for good measure.

Why? Cotton is one of the “dirtiest” materials, with the non-organic cotton farming industry using nearly ¼ of the world’s insecticides. These leach into the ground and water supply, harming the natural environment and cotton farmers. This cotton is then dumped after one use and ends up in either landfills, or clogging pipes and the stomachs of sea creatures in our oceans.

How much? They’re around 60p each, with discounts for bulk-buying. I got my 4 for £2.30 including postage, which works out at a cheerful 57p each.

Where from? These are widely available on (I found they had the largest selection online).

Are they any good? Yes, I actually prefer these to traditional cotton pads. Because they are less absorbent, you need to use less product on them. So you save product and the environment, sounds like a win-win to me.


  1. Bamboo Toothbrushes

bamboo toothbrush

What? These toothbrushes are made with a bamboo handle, rather than the traditional plastic. The bristles still contain plastic, because apart from using horse-tail bristles *shudders*, there aren’t really many non-plastic alternatives yet.

Why? As you’ve probably seen all over the internet recently, there has been a massive movement to reduce the amount of single use and non-recycled plastics to reduce the amount of plastic dumped in the ocean. Bamboo is biodegradable, meaning it breaks down around 150 years faster than plastic and so is more environmentally friendly, and it helps keep sea life’s stomachs plastic-free.

Are they any good? Yep, they last just as long as traditional plastic handled toothbrushes, and they look pretty cool too.

How much? I got mine for 99p each, but got a wee 10% discount for buying six. Cha-ching.

Where from? These are widely available online, but they are cheapest from either Amazon or eBay. There are some independent online stores too, but they’re around 5x dearer.


  1. Bar Shampoo


What? Basically like a bar of soap, but with shampoo instead. Pretty self-explanatory really.

Why? Traditional shampoo bottles are another example of single-use plastics, with few being recycled. These are packaging free, thus reducing waste.

Are they any good? To my shock I must admit, they actually are. I thought that bar shampoo would dry out my hair or make it greasy and full of residue, but it doesn’t. I’m not going to say it made my hair silky smooth and so shiny it was reflective, because no product on this earth could perform that miracle on my frizzy mane. But, my hair feels the exact same as it did with normal liquid shampoos. LUSH has a range of bar shampoos to suit different hair types, and they all smell AMAZING too. *smells hair* Yep, deffo worth getting.

How much? LUSH ones cost around £7.50. This may seem a bit steep, but they last around 4-6 months depending on your hair length, so how many bottles of shampoo would you go through in that time? Now, add that up.

Where from? I get mine from LUSH because I love the smell, but they can also be found widely online.

*A more obvious suggestion would have been bars of soap instead of liquid soap but I’ve already written about bar shampoo so I’ll have to roll with that. But yeah, buy bars of soap too.


  1. Burt’s Bees ‘Bring Back the Bees’ Lip Balm

lip balm

What? This is a strawberry flavoured lip balm by beauty brand Burt’s Bees, which, for each of these lip balms sold will plant 5,000 bee-friendly wildflower seeds.

Why? As you are probably aware, there has been a huge ‘Save the Bees’ movement as the population is declining at an alarming rate. Basically, bees are the goodies that provide us with crops, flowers and honey; wasps are the baddies who fly in your face and just sting you for the fun of it.

Is it any good? It’s just as good as any other lip balm, and it smells (and tastes) amazing too.

Where from? This special Bring Back the Bees one is only available online, from either Amazon or Look Fantastic. Not to be confused with Burt’s Bee’s normal strawberry one!

How much? It costs £3.99 on both online outlets, but Look Fantastic has 10% student discount and its postage is cheaper than Amazon (unless you get it for free with Amazon Prime).


  1. Sell Old Clothes


What? When you’re doing one of those “I need to bin some clothes so I have excuse to buy new ones” clear outs, don’t just chuck your old stuff in a bin bag and dump it. Have a look at what you’ve got, and see if there’s anything you could get a couple pounds for online.

*Alternatively, you can donate these to charity shops, and for things that you don’t think people will buy, donate them to a clothes bank!

Why? Too many of us just bin old clothes, leaving them to lie for around 100 years in a landfill before they ~eventually~ decompose. This led to over 300,000 tonnes worth £12.5 billion being dumped last year from Britain alone (I couldn’t find any Irish statistics but that doesn’t mean we aren’t guilty too). Plus, the money’s dead handy for when that student loan runs out and you’re resorting to Super Noodles for dinner every night.

Is it any good? I tried this out a few months ago when I was moving into a smaller house with a lot less clothes room ( 🙁 ) and ending up pocketing just over £60. Not too shabby eh?

How much? You make money! Only thing you have to pay for is the postage – if selling on eBay, there will a small selling fee from eBay and PayPal.

Where? I sold mine on eBay, but Depop is another really popular marketplace too.


  1. Reusable Coffee Cups

coffee cups

What? Do I really need to explain this? Might leave you to decipher this riddle for yourselves.

Why? Around 200 million disposable coffee cups are thrown away in Ireland every year, with 99.75% NOT being recycled. A study by Recycling List Ireland found that 528,000 are thrown away every day which works out 22,000 an hour or 366 every minute. Although made of paper, these are lined with plastic which makes them basically un-recyclable and thus adding to the overflowing landfills. Bringing your own reusable cups therefore reduces this, and you can buy pretty ones with cool designs too.

Are they any good? Most reusable coffee cups are insulated, meaning they keep your drink hotter for longer. And, many coffee shops (for example Starbucks, Costa and Greggs) all offer a discount of 20-25p off every hot drink when you use one. Other brands like Caffe Nero and Clements offer double loyalty card stamps. Yay.

How much? This depends where you buy them from, with prices ranging anywhere from £2 to some coffee shop’s own brand ones for £12.

Where from? They can bought in LOADS of places, from B&M to Tesco and Primark to coffee shops and online.


  1. Ecosia


What? This one isn’t so obvious. Ecosia is a search engine which uses its profits to plant trees around the world. It works the exact same as Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines, but for around every 45 searches you do, a tree is planted.

Why? Ecosia has planted over 38 million trees already (16 thanks to me and my 700 searches so far). Deforestation is a global problem, and trees are essential- we need them to breathe (oxygen production), grow foods, make paper, home natural wildlife, and for soppy romantics to carve their initials into. Ew.

Is it any good? It’s just as good as other popular search engines at providing me with important information and statistics, or tell me the name of that short bald actor and my daily horoscope.  (It’s Jason Statham BTW).

How much? Same as Jennifer Lopez’s love – it don’t cost a thing.

Where from?


So there you go, 7 simple ways to help save the planet without having to splash the cash!

Feel free to comment if you have any questions, experiences of any of these you’ve tried or any suggestions of other eco-friendly swaps!


Niamh Murray is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: @_neeev, Facebook: Niamh Ni Mhuirí and LinkedIn: