In a nutshell – To Live LAGOM means to live ‘just right’, not too hot, not too cold. When you are using the perfect amount of everything you save money and it’s good for the environment too.
What is Lagom?
Lagom is a Swedish word that means ‘just right’. Like the porridge that Goldilocks found, lagom is not too hot and not too cold. I have been lucky enough to be part of the Ikea Live LAGOM project which started me off on a whole big journey to become more sustainable. The knock on effect of living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is the money and time-saving that happens alongside it. It has been pointed out to me that Goldilocks isn’t the best of role models. Let us just forget that she was into breaking and entering, stealing and breaking things and concentrate on her search for perfect comfort instead.
I’ve tried really hard to make this post useful and readable and to not come across as holier than thou. None of these ideas are meant to guilt trip you into living a more sustainable life, none of these ideas are suggesting that I am doing it any better than anyone else. It is simply a list of simple changes you can make if you want to, with the reasons why they are important in the wider scheme of things.
Why is it important to be sustainable?
We are running out of natural resources for energy, we have been stripping the earth of fossil fuels for thousands of years and they are not going to last forever. If you don’t give a hoot about the planet you may care that your energy bills will increase as the fossil fuels decrease.
Carbon dioxide produced by pollutants floats up into the atmosphere and stops the radiation from the sun escaping. It is forming a greenhouse over the entire planet (hence the term greenhouse effect). A slighty warmer summer is a nice idea but in reality this means that the water levels around the world will raise (like the mercury in a thermometer) and many places will flood. If you don’t care about the environmental impact of floods, you may care when you can no longer get hold of coffee, chocolate or rice as these products depend on a particular growing environment that will vanish as the water level rises.
What is wrong with throwing things away?
Between 1960 and 1980 rubbish in America increased by 80%. It wasn’t just Americans filling up the dumps, Canada and England both still have horribly high figures for waste that is sent to landfill. The basic and simple problem with landfill is that we are running out of space. To do it properly you need to seal the dumped waste so it does not leach any poisons into the groundwater or sea. That costs money. It is cheaper and better for everyone if we simply stop buying and throwing away so much stuff.
What can one person do?
You can do a lot. Follow the idea of reduce, repair and recycle to get as much out of your belongings as you possibly can. And if you think one person can’t make a difference here are some recycling facts and figures:
- 1 recycled tin can would save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.
- 1 recycled glass bottle would save enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.
- 1 recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3 hours.
- 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials.
50 ideas to Live LAGOM
In the 5 months since I swapped all the bulbs in the house to LED lights my electricity usage is down by 26%.
2) Remember to take a reusable shopping bag
They are pretty easy to find in the shops now and Juliette from the Live LAGOM project told me about Morsbags who have a free pattern on the website.
Even throwing a pillow in front of a drafty gap will save you heating the outside. Heat is attracted by cold and it will always try to escape.
4) Grow your own veg
You can grow salad on light windowsills but if you are feeling flush invest in a hydroponics unit to grow all year round.
5) Say no to plastic straws
They last forever and kill turtles if they get into the sea. There are paper, metal or bamboo alternatives. Or just go without.
6) Cook in bulk
Even the simplest menu planning can save you money and time. Cooking in bulk saves energy used to prepare the food and can be lots cheaper as you can use seasonal veg.
7) Repair your things
A brilliant place to start is www.mymakedoandmendlife.com run by Jen Gale who spent a year fixing everything instead of buying new. She is still mending now and has a really active and friendly Facebook group for menders of all skill levels and ages.
8) Borrow instead of buying
If you only need to use something now and then can you team up with a friend and share the ownership? There are various things that help you share, such as the Borrow It app and Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS). Facebook has a lot of lending groups too.
9) Shower instead of bath
Not quite as relaxing but the average bath uses 35 to 50 gallons of water, whereas a 10-minute shower with a low-flow shower head only uses 25 gallons.
10) Use a dishwasher with full load
It was a surprise to me that dishwashers use less water than hand washing. If they are on a full load.
11) Air dry clothes
They smell better and it won’t cost you a penny. Outside is best if the weather and space permit, but drying racks fold up when not in use and can be used indoors.
12) Cycle or walk instead of taking the car
Not only better for you but less car use means less fuel used and less carbon being trapped in the atmosphere warming us up.
13) Use a bus or train instead of driving
By the same logic, the more people you can transport at once the less overall energy used and the less pollution.
14) Buy less stuff
Stuff needs looking after, cleaning, storing and sometimes powering. There is no need to be a minimalist but most of us have too much stuff we will never use. If you want to start decluttering the easy way www.less-stuff.co.uk is full of ideas and helpful tips for getting rid of your clutter without getting overwhelmed. Start here.
15) Eat less meat
Over half the global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute.
16) When you do eat meat, buy organic
It is more expensive but the animals will have had a better life and there will be no chemicals in them. Tastier to eat, better for the animal and with no risk of water or soil contamination due to chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
17) Eat less dairy
It takes a lot of water to produce milk, and cows fart a lot which produces methane which is bad for the environment. There are many other ways to get calcium in your diet, including nommy kale!
18) Use rechargeable batteries
More expensive to buy initially but they will pay themselves back very quickly if you use them often.
19) Regift things you don’t want
Save yourself some money buying new things and find a better home for the things you don’t want. If you are taking things to a charity shop you can usually ask for them to go do a different branch. For ideas that will help you cope with unwanted gifts and stop them coming click here.
20) Compost your food scraps
A lot of local councils have schemes that help you compost, either by collecting your food waste or selling low-cost compost bins. Starting off a compost bin is easy and if you don’t have much space you could consider a wormery or a bokashi bin instead.
21) Upcycle instead of throwing away
The more uses you can get out of an item before it is thrown away, the more money you save and the less waste goes into landfill. Upcycling can be as easy as a lick of paint or thinking of a new use for an old thing.
22) Turn off appliances at the plug
TV’s and phone chargers are easy to leave on standby but that is not only costing you money, but using up energy for nothing.
23) Use grey water
Grey water is water that has been used already. If you wash dishes in a bowl, you could use the leftover water for plants instead of pouring it down the drain. Soapy water gets rid of aphids too.
24) Buy local food
Local food will be fresher and less likely to be packaged if you can get it from a market or greengrocers. Local farms keep green spaces open and hedgerows provide homes for loads of benificial mini beasts. It’s nice to chat with the people who grow your food too.
25) Get energy efficient applicances
The trick with this is to avoid panic buying and do some research before hand. I generally get second-hand everything but with larger things like fridges and cookers it’s worth finding an extra 50 quid to get new. The higher the energy rating the cheaper the appliance will be to run, the higher ratings tend to be on the most expensive appliances though.
26) Install a low flush loo or a water saver in the tank
Older toilets use around 4 gallons a flush, newer ones at least half that and if you can use up some of the space in the cistern you can reduce the water used. Water boards often give away water savers (which are just big plastic bags that sit in the tank).
27) Get an allotment
It is surprising what you can grow in a very small space but if you have the time for a proper allotment you could be producing most of your own food within a year. You can get ‘ladies’ allotments which are half sized too.
28) Grow salad on your windowsill
It takes very little effort to have nice fresh salad in the spring and summer. You need a pot of some sort, with drainage, on a saucer to catch water. Fill with soil and plant a few seeds on top. Small lettuce seeds need very little covering of soil. Water often but not too much and eat the outside leaves first. Seeds are in most supermarkets now and easy to find.
29) Wash clothes less often
I have a set of clothes I use when I’m DIY ing. They get dirty with paint etc. but they don’t need washing every time I wear them. It is worth thinking about what goes in the wash because I know I wash a lot of things from habit, without checking if they need it first.
30) Wash clothes on a lower temp
A 20 degree wash actually works fine, I’m very surprised! I’m now washing most things at 20 with every third load at 40 degrees so clothes get a hotter clean occasionally. Sheets are still washed at 60 or 90 but only once a month if that.
31) Always use a washing machine on full load
The machine will use the same amount of water whatever is in it, so you might as well fill it up and get the best use out of it.
32) Buy second-hand goods
Cheaper to buy, second-hand things often have lots more character than new. Places like Preloved, Gumtree, Freecycle and local Facebook groups often have bargains too.
33) Adjust your thermostat
Every degree lower on your heating thermostat will be about 3% off your heating bill. You probably won’t even notice it being cooler.
34) Replace paper towels with cloth
Use dishcloths and tea towels to mop up spills in the kitchen and get post with paper napkins – ours come from a charity shop, that’s how posh we are.
35) Give consumable presents
Cake, wine, biscuits and chocolate all make brilliant presents that don’t linger and clutter up peoples homes. Or give an experience instead, take someone out for lunch or on a day trip. Much better than an ornament!
36) Don’t buy single use water bottles
Before the Lagom project started I used to buy a 6 pack of sports top water bottles a week. A couple would go in the car, one in my handbag and I’d give them to my son to take to school. I’m surprised how easy it has been to use refillable bottles and the last 6 months without single use water bottles has been easy. There are many alternatives to single use water bottles.
37) Buy less imported goods
Buying local goods saves on the energy used to transport them and the packaging. You are also keeping people in employment if you buy locally.
38) Have a staycation and reduce air travel
I’m in the UK, it’s gorgeous and although it may lack in a reliable summer and white sandy beaches it wins in forests and mountains. There are many cities and parts of the UK I haven’t been to yet so I don’t really need to get on a plane for a holiday.
39) Use both sides of the paper when printing
This is easy to to, especially if you get into a habit of saving used paper in a pile next to the printer.
40) Preserve food.
Locally grown, seasonal food tends to result in gluts, times when there are so many carrots you have run out of ideas for them. Preserve them for another time, you can freeze food, make jams and pickles and even dry it.
41) Save seeds
It is very easy to save seeds from tomatos and a really great way of keeping a nice variety going if you have found a tasty one.www. howtosaveseeds.com has detailed instructions about what seeds to save and how.
42) Take the stairs
More exercise for you and less electricity used up powering lifts and escalators.
43) Avoid packaged food
Our local council recycles most things but it doesn’t take black plastic. Generally, unless it is something I really want, I don’t buy food that is packaged with black plastic now. It’s easy to choose loose veg instead of wrapped and if you use local butchers and markets you can take your own tuppaware.
44) Use non toxic paint
Disposing of the pots after use is a big problem with toxic paint, the chemicals can escape into the groundwater and soil causing terrible damage to wildlife. There is also the health implication at home so where you can it is better to look for non toxic symbols on your paint tins.
45) Eat seasonal food
Strawberries in January taste like water, they have come miles to get to you, used up water to wash and grow them, plastic to package them and fuel to transport them. Wait a few months until they grow naturally in season and they will be cheaper and taste much nicer.
46) Change to drip irrigation Don’t use the hose or sprinkler
Drip irrigation is a little hosepipe with holes in it that drips out small quantities of water to keep your garden plants alive in a hot summer. Poundland sell them so they don’t need to be expensive and they are brilliant at using less water.
47) Mulch plants
A top layer of well rotted manure, old compost, autumn leaves or even cardboard can protect the top layer of soil from drying out and save the need for watering. It can also keep down weeds.
48) Harvest rainwater
If you have space for a water butt, or any way of collecting rainwater there are some garden plants who much prefer it to tap. And it is free!
49) Stop junk mail
50) Turn off the TV and do something less boring instead
Ikea gave me £300 as part of the Live Lagom project which I have written about extensively. I am very grateful to be part of the project and I am still writing about it although I am no longer contractually obliged to. Adverts in this post may contain affiliate links where I get a tiny commission if you buy something. It won’t affect how much you are charged.
Sources and credits:
Josh Clark “How Landfills Work” 23 June 2015.
HowStuffWorks.com. <http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts/how-landfills-work.htm> 26 April 2017