Derval O'Rourke: Five top tips for sustainable living

In my house we try to be conscious of our choices and how they affect sustainable living.
Derval O'Rourke: Five top tips for sustainable living

Derval O'Rourke. Photo Joleen Cronin
Derval O'Rourke. Photo Joleen Cronin

In my house we try to be conscious of our choices and how they affect sustainable living.

For many of us life is busy and we’ve lots of balls in the air, for that reason I feel that the areas you make an effort to be sustainable should be ones that are achievable for you and that you will implement long term. This week I’m sharing my top 5 tips for sustainable living and a gorgeous summer salad recipe.

Here are my top five:

1) Lifestyle choices: There are a few different ways that we’ve made an effort to be sustainable in recent years in our household. We use a compost which is great for waste. Last Christmas I got a bike and I make a conscious effort to drive less and either cycle or walk more. Cutting back on driving has been a great positive change. Obviously I’ve started working from home more which again cuts down on travel in the car.

2) Reduce single use plastic: It’s easy to forget that plastic is not biodegradable and that the plastic we ‘throw away’ still ends up somewhere be it in our oceans, in our dumps or littering our streets.

Plastic is everywhere and it is having a huge impact on our planet. Simple swaps that can make a huge difference include:

  • Declining plastic straws and cutlery when out and about is a super step.
  • Using a re-usable water bottle and avoiding buying plastic bottles where possible. As a bonus, this can also be a great way to encourage yourself to drink more water throughout the day. I always encourage people to keep one with them and to aim to refill it 2-3 times throughout the day.
  • Use a reusable cup instead of a disposable coffee cup, I try to use mine as much as I possibly can.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables loose, as opposed to in plastic bags if you can. 

Bananas are a classic example; buy them loose and you immediately cut down on the plastic that you take home with you.

Also ask wherever you buy your loose fruit and vegetables if they can reduce their plastic use, if consumers use their voice more change is more likely to happen.

3) Reduce food and general waste: Food waste is incredibly unsustainable.

If you can cut down on how much food you waste it will be great for the environment but also on your wallet. My aim before I do a food shop is to have very little food left in the kitchen meaning that we’ve used it all up. If you click on to website or their instagram account you will find lots of ideas and top tips to reduce your food waste.

4) Shop local and in season: I try to source my food locally where possible.

Of course, there are times this doesn’t happen but I’m conscious of it.

I buy my meat from the butcher and my fish from the fishmonger whenever possible. Aiming to increase the amount of seasonal and locally produced foods you eat can reduce the air miles the food has had to travel and can drastically reduce its carbon footprint.

A great resource for local in season food is neighbourfood. Check out their website for food shopping.

5) Clothes/Toys/Other items:

I’ve massively reduced my clothing buys in recent years. I aim for quality with my clothes and try to buy clothes that I will wear for years instead of a few weeks. I bought two Irish designer Heidi Higgins dresses and they are my go-to dresses for occasions and have also been worn by my friends.

I give clothes to friends or charity shops rather than throwing them away. When it comes to the kids' clothes I make a big effort to share clothes with friends who have kids a similar age. Kids grow so quickly and for me I think it’s a huge shame for clothes to be underused. I love sharing kids' clothes.

Toys are another item that I make a big effort to share and re-use. Kids go through different stages and grow out of toys. Lots of my kids' toys are second hand from friends who kindly passed them on to us. We have also used second hand buggies, high chairs and travel cots. Consider who might be happy to pass on their previously loved items to you and vice versa.

Fitness Tip: Take a new route for your walk today - explore some new paths, roads and just enjoy the fresh air.

Wellness Tip: Make your bedroom free of stimuli that cause stress or remind you of work.

Strawberry Summer Salad

This salad has been the top pick by members on in May.

I love to add leftover chicken for a protein punch, you could also try feta, grilled halloumi or torn buffalo mozzarella.

Serves: 6, as a side Prep time: 10 minutes


2 carrots, grated 50g hazelnuts, toasted 4 spring onions, thinly sliced 1 punnet strawberries, roughly sliced Large bunch of mixed leaves Bunch of fresh mint leaves, roughly torn natural coconut yogurt, to serve


Add all ingredients, except the yoghurt, to a large mixing bowl. Toss well to combine and drizzle over the yoghurt.

Serve with some fresh sourdough bread on the side.

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