"I can make that!"

By Amy Webster, posted 21/09/20

An introduction to eco-friendly DIY by our Comms Volunteer Amy Webster


A quick introduction about myself. Born and bred in Brisbane, Australia I unknowingly moved to Edinburgh weeks before the pandemic hit. With a Bachelor of Design and a Graduate Certificate in Science (Environment and Sustainability) my aim was to continue into a job that tickled my passion for sustainability, community and creativity. Covid-19 thought I was overreaching with simply wanting a job but luckily I came by part time work and I found Shrub, an outlet for my passions, a community to be a part of, and a space to (hopefully) make a difference. As part of the Comms Working Group I hope to contribute my penchant for writing and scientific research, my love of illustration and photography and an unwavering belief that a little humour can tackle anything.

How many times have you gotten home from the shops only to remember that you forgot to buy something? If not the main ingredient for dinner that night, it’s usually something you ran out of days, if not weeks ago. What if I told you there were ingredients in your cupboard that could fill the void of many plastic-packaged products and more. What if I told you there was this mystical world of cheap and easy craftiness that was better for the environment, your health and your wallet. That world is called DIY (Do-It-Yourself) or make it yourself.

DIY Citrus cleaner

Why do-it-yourself when you can just buy it?

There are many great advantages to DIY.

The price: It’s cheaper. For example, on the cheap end, a new cleaning spray costs around £1 per bottle. A 1L bottle of vinegar can be less than 60p and be used to make numerous bottles of cleaning spray.

The simplicity: You don’t need to be a wizard - it’s easy! Recipes can be as easy or complicated as you like. If you can measure and mix, you can already make 100s of DIY products.

The environment: Reuse! Save on new, unnecessary plastic by refilling containers you already have. DIY helps save the planet through recycling and upcycling materials, bottles and ingredients already in your home. Most cleaning products come in plastic all destined to become waste. Instead, refill and reuse and eventually, one far day away, you can then recycle.

It’s rewarding: It’s fun, you’re learning new skills and it’s rewarding knowing not only that you made it yourself, but that you saved another plastic bottle from the bin.

Less toxins: The ingredients list found on many products in our homes might as well be in Latin. With toxic ingredients, palm oil and other nasties commonly found in everything from cleaners to face creams, making products yourself gives you more control to live a less toxic and less environmentally harmful life.

Gifting: Handmade gifts, whether perfect or comically misshapen, are far more personal and heartfelt.

The example: Vinegar!

A staple of most kitchens, dirt cheap, readily accessible and purchasable in large quantities, vinegar is a magical ingredient found in numerous DIY recipes. Let me give you the example below, all purpose cleaner, as it could not be easier and is a great introduction to the world of DIY. I should mention that you do not need to be precious about measuring and you can most definitely reuse an empty spray bottle, thus saving it from an eternity in landfill. Distilled white vinegar is most commonly used for its cheapness but apple cider vinegar works great too, has the same benefits and a better smell.

The simplicity and wonderment of DIY is knowing how to use the ingredients and just how multipurpose they all are, which all comes from Googling and practise. With vinegar and a couple more simple ingredients, you can make numerous products; toilet bombs, bug repellent, dishwasher tablets, face masks, hair conditioning spray, laundry soaker and a cleaner for the kitchen, bathroom, windows, tables …the list goes on. Why is vinegar so magical? It’s cheap and has a long shelf life. It’s natural and biodegradable so it can be used indoors and outdoors. It creates an inhospitable environment for many microorganisms due to its pH of 2.0 and the acetic acid content making it great to use at home.

Baby steps!

My big tip for starting your DIY journey. BABY STEPS. There are a million and one recipes online which can be both daunting and confusing. Keep it simple. You will get to know how to use, mix and most importantly, how multipurpose each ingredient can be. As each product slowly runs out in your home, have a look at a DIY alternative that includes ingredients you already have or can easily and sustainably source. You will start to see similar ingredients overlapping and realise that you only need a few ingredients to make many different products.

My journey started in the kitchen, namely the dark and dreaded shelf under my sink that contained a cleaning product for every different surface or space in my apartment. A DIY citrus cleaner was project number one, chosen as a way to use up the lemon peels I quickly accumulated. Over months, that shelf went from full to near empty with vinegar, castile soap and bicarb proudly taking their place. As I learnt, most of my DIY cleaning recipes shared those same ingredients in varying quantities.

To finish is one of my favourite DIY recipes, the aforementioned citrus cleaner. Not only does it smell great and work well, but it’s beautiful sitting on my kitchen bench and gives my food waste another life. The next time you run out of something at home, have a quick pause and consider DIY-ing it. Trust me, you’re baby steps away from making your life easier and greener.

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