Making Cents: Save the planet... and save a packet in the bargain

Gráinne McGuinness shares some tips on how to reduce your waste

Plastic usage has been in the news in recent weeks, as environmentalists highlight the harm done by the ever-growing amounts of waste clogging up our oceans. It is clear that reducing plastic will help the planet. But campaigners point out that in many cases acting in an environmentally- friendly manner can also save you money. So why not help the planet and your purse all at once, by trying out some tips to reduce your waste?

One of the simplest ways to cut out plastic waste is to switch to reusable travel mugs and bottles. Carrying a drink while out and about has gone from being unheard of a generation ago to being a given for many of us now. But that is no reason to have to constantly dump mugs and bottles.

Cork City Council recently made a decision to get rid of disposable single-use cups at City Hall, instead encouraging staff to use environmentally-friendly reusable cups which the council provided. Why not follow their lead and get yourself a reusable mug? Many cafes now offer a reusable cup discount to customers, so it will more than pay for itself in no time.

Bottled water is even worse in terms of adding to the plastic mountain. Nearly every workplace, public area and gym in the country offers access to drinkable water, get yourself a reusable bottle and fill up throughout the day.

Much of our plastic waste is bound up in our grocery shopping. Most of us have become much better at carrying longlife shopping bags since the introduction of the bag tax. If you are still inclined to forget, store a bundle in your car or get in the habit of rolling up the shopper and putting it back in your handbag as soon as you unload your shopping.

When shopping, take a moment to assess the amount of packaging on items as you are filling your trolley. Frequently, the most highly-packaged items will also be the most expensive. Where possible, buy loose produce and buy in bulk, both will reduce cost and packaging. More and more companies offer refills with minimal packaging, use them where you can.

There are also ways to reduce packaging in the bathroom. Many environmentalists recommend a return to the humble bar of soap. It has been replaced by by highly-packaged liquid handwash in many homes, but bar soap is kinder to the planet, wrapped in a small amount of paper or plastic and long-lasting. Dove and other skincare brands offer options that are nowhere near as harsh as soaps of old and will look and smell just as nice as liquids.

Bars are not just for the hand basin. Soaps can also be used in the shower and shampoo bars are also growing in popularity. Try Lush or Amazon for bars that promise to be just as kind on hair and last the equivalent of several plastic bottles of shampoo.

Go old school when it comes to cleaning. A while ago I did a tidy of the cupboard under my kitchen sink and was embarrassed when I lined up the number of cleaning sprays I had. I am far from a clean freak, having a general philosophy of “it’ll do” when it comes to housework, yet had somehow amassed a vast collection of sprays and polishes. They were all in plastic containers, and all promised to do the same job, clean, in slightly different ways for a dozen different surfaces and areas of the house. Not only is all the plastic unnecessary but I was spraying a staggering number of different chemicals around our home, including in the kitchen.

In many cases, the same cleaning job could have been done just as well with one of two products — bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar. Between them, these two simple (and incredibly cheap) items will remove stains, clean surfaces, unclog drains, remove built-up residue including limescale, and prevent and eliminate odours and kill germs. I now buy both in large sizes, which makes them even cheaper and reduces the packaging. I still occasionally reach for the sprays, but in many cases a sprinkle of bicarb or a paste of the two will do just as good a job on everything from the bins to the oven door.

If there are any consumer issues that you’d like Gráinne to address or if you have problems that Gráinne could help with, she can be contacted at


Electric Ireland has launched two new bundles to allow customers create smarter homes.

Customers who sign up will enjoy the benefits of electricity monitoring and appliance control. They can turn appliances on and off from their phone, set schedules, get bill forecasts and learn how much electricity your home is using each day.

The Smarter Home Control costs €3.99 per month, with a minimum contract of 36 months.

It includes Smarter Home Hub, Smarter Home monitoring clamp, 2 x Smart Plugs and Smarter Home App. Homeowners will benefit from free, expert installation and product demonstration, with kit and installation valued at €350. They can also add Smart immersion control for an extra €2.99 a month.

The second bundle, Smarter Home Comfort, costs €7.99 per month. It includes all the benefits of the other bundle and also offers either Nest or Climote heating control. Kit and installation for this bundle is valued at €550.

More in this Section

Expert tips for turning your outdoor space into a honeybee heaven

What are sustainable cocktails? Here’s one to try at home

6 amazing health benefits of eating strawberries and their tops

World Oral Health Day: 5 things dentists really wish you knew about brushing your teeth

Today's Stories

105,000 people in jobs cannot make a living wage, report

Immigrant students more likely to be bullied

Brexit fallback deal on border is ‘legally firm’

Charlie Flanagan to discuss laundries report with Ombudsman


New father’s life ‘changed forever’ after he was run over by surgeon

The biggest cancer killer will take your breath away

Hopefully she had an idea...

Power of the press: Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks discuss 'The Post'

More From The Irish Examiner