The 10 Day Eco-Challenge

For anyone who knows me you’ll know I’m not one for extreme lifestyle changing challenges. I don’t like New Years resolutions and I didn’t do Veganuary. I’m not an Eco-hero, I’m just a regular person in society exploring ways to live my life more sustainably.

This morning as I stared at the sandy base of my shower timer I wondered if I would realistically be on my bike in 10 minutes to arrive on time for work. As I ran for the bus it popped into my head that despite plotting this 10 day Eco-challenge (to background snooze alarm sounds) all I managed to achieve this morning was wrapping pizza leftovers in bee’s wax wrap.

I can do better than this, I thought as I squished in between the morning commuters. Maybe this challenge would be really interesting to kickstart me back into reducing my carbon footprint. I never had intentions to achieve a wholly carbon neutral lifestyle, but I wonder what it would entail in today’s world. What are the barriers I’m faced with and how am I going to overcome them to achieve my goals with ease? I truly believe this is the key to living more sustainably, if the effort is too extreme you’re more than likely going to give up.

So starting from tomorrow I’m going to do this! My boyfriend has the heads up so he knows not to buy cheese today and he can prepare for some whinging and moaning from myself! I’ll post the diary extracts from my day at the end of the post and I promise to be honest and share the highs and lows, and the triumphs and failures..


Day 1..

I survived day 1 and felt all the better for cycling more miles as part of my daily commute. During warmer months I would usually cycle the 33km round trip to my office, however when the elements are cold and harsh, such a long cycle isn’t feasible everyday. I did however today change up my routine slightly taking the train, which is a kilometre from my home.  After renting a Dublin bike, like I usually do, I completed 6km of cycling in total.

Feeling more refreshed and energised I spent the day negotiating with my brain and stomach not to eat dairy.  It was mostly fine; black coffee once the office soya milk ran out, porridge with water, lentil stew lunch. But then the chocolate cravings hit and hanger surfaced its ugly head The corner shop was pretty limited for choice and there wasn’t a dark chocolate bar in sight. After baffling the shopkeeper with my peering at labels and ingredients lists a Dime bar won over then dark Fry’s Cream (only because I figured a thin layer of chocolate wasn’t worth getting upset about, and anyway the Fry’s Cream I found to have palm oil, and the shopkeeper was getting too amused for my liking). So I failed on chocolate. Oh well. After a long day of work and night college soup was on the menu at home. My heart broke when I couldn’t have the cheese toasty but the final straw was not being able to spread real butter across my bread. I made some weird attempt at DIY butter (2 tbsp coconut oil, 3 cacao butter disks, a sprinkle of salt and turmeric)… don’t do it, it’s gross. I’ll be better prepared tomorrow for the late night fixes.

Day 2..

Today wasn’t half bad my an means. Nothing felt like too much effort and if it’s not too soon to say I think I’ve got my mojo back. After what could have been a wobbly start when I missed my train by seconds, I just ploughed on with the bike and cycled the 15km journey to work. I was well prepared with my treat snacks and didn’t bother with the strange dairy substitutes (I’ve learnt eating normal whole food is a lot better than experimenting with processed meat and dairy substitutes, although I have to say Linda Mc Cartney sausages have even won-over the stomach of my other half).

Just before lunch I got to skip out of the office to witness the Dublin #SchoolsStrike4Climate protest, which warmed my heart and boosted my passion for demanding #ClimateActionNow.

Check in tomorrow for day 3, I’ll be in college in the morning and hopefully I can get some gardening in if the weather allows it. Got to get the beds ready for planting season.

Day 3..

So Valentino day threw my Eco-challenge a bit off kilter. All was going well up until the evening time, I’d actively traveled to work, brought all my reusables and had avoided single use packaging for the most part. We had packaging-free Valentine gestures with garden cut blooms and homemade treats. Later I had dinner date reservations at my favourite Pakistani restaurant thinking I’d have lots of vegan options. I’m not going to over analyse and check everything I eat, but as I put away onion bhaji and tarka dal I realised the eggy buttery taste which had been absent in my diet over the last few days. An oversight on my part, but a tasty one none the less. On a side note I also did a big declutter of the house, storing away seasonal clothes and donating unused items to charity. Sometimes when we can clearly see what stock we have, be it food or clothing, it can reduce unnecessary consumption.


Day 4..

Today I’m noticing a huge lack of energy and I need to get better at looking after my diet in order to be healthy. I’m fairly active during the day jumping between my office job, my masters studies and blogging, combined with a long and fairly active commute I’m probably not fuelling my body with enough protein and calories. I must review the recipes I picked up at a vegan cooking demo. I really appreciated Holly’s approach to veganism, and from her demo I took away that I can incorporate more plant based foods into my every day diet rather than go fully vegan. There can be pressure from hardcore environmentalists to abstain from all animal derived products, but the environmental benefits will still be considerable if we all collectively reduce our dairy intake rather than remove it from our diet entirely.

With the weekend nearly upon me I’m really eager to get outdoors and switch off from the working week. I’m actively trying to reduce time spent online; be it social media, checking emails or just trawling through information. Has anyone seen the new ‘Your Activity’ feature on Instagram? I’ve gotten my personal usage down from 15 minutes a day to an average of six minutes, I can even set a reminder to tell me if I go over my preset usage cap. Social media is great, but it comes hand in hand with negative issues such as addiction, low self esteem and bullying. Anyway, the weekend plans entail a community beach clean, a family trek/picnic and hopefully some gardening.

Day 5..

The mornings are certainly becoming brighter and a little warmer. With my bike left in the office I decided to walk the 20 minutes to the train this morning. I grabbed my Dublin Bike as usual once I got into the city and made my way to college for the day. TU Dublin’s canteen can certainly do with a revamp in terms of offering healthier whole food and I think I’m the only person to avail of the ceramic cups. Honestly, when did this takeaway cup become mainstream and I cannot understand people choosing to use it when sitting in to have a coffee. The TU Cafe does use compostable cups and do sell keep cups but on inspecting the refuse bins many people seem to be discarding their waste in the wrong way. I must see if the Conscious Cup Campaign can do a stand or a talk a the next student event.

Day 6 & 7..

It’s the weekend, hurrah! I’m merging the accounts of the two days since they were pretty similar in terms of activities. I have to say eating and preparing gorgeous vegan dishes was so much easier without the time constraints of a busy working week schedule. Breakfasts are veggie sausage sambos with avocado dressed with honey, salt and pepper. Lunches are minestrone soup packed with plenty of vegetables, barley and orzo pasta. Dinners are vegetable Penang curry, again (I made such a big pot). I’ll admit, a few slithers of birthday cake past my lips, oops again… The weekend was hugely enjoyable and I finally got out into nature with friends and family. Saturday the family and myself went trekking in County Wicklow. The forest was beautiful and we had a typical Irish picnic in the car when the rain rolled in. I did a quick beach clean assessment before tomorrows event and even salvaged a huge piece of drift wood for up cycling into a bench.

The beach clean on Sunday was a great success, it was so nice to see many of the same committed volunteers joining and meeting new faces alike. Róisin was up from the West and together with 15 volunteers, young and old, we shifted 15 sacks full of debris and a jar full of micro-plastics and nurdles. Toasty and zapped from a beach day in the sunshine I enjoyed the worlds best cat nap before settling down for the evening.

Day 8..

Day 8, nearly there. Nothing epic happened today, it was a regular old Monday. I stocked up the office fridge with bean salad, guacamole and chips. I cycled 16km home to the backdrop of a beautiful twilight sky over Dublin Bay. For dinner I made a really tasty white wine pesto pasta with pine nuts.

Day 9..

It’s the last day of the working week for me before my trip away. The to-do list seems endless and keeping the calories in while racing around packing and cleaning can be tough. I haven’t measured myself or weighed in (I don’t do this) but I feel fitter and cleansed from my week of increased active travel and zero animal protein intake. As I’m packing I try on the dreaded swimsuit, which I picked up a few weeks before (heed: shopping and fitting swimsuits in January is a form of self harm), however at the close of my 10 day Eco-challenge I’m feeling not half bad as I stand in front of the mirror…

Day 10..

Hooray! It’s holiday time for me and much needed in the depths of this cold Irish winter. I’ve saved a small bit from travelling actively to work and I’m feeling brighter and fitter. I’ve weened myself of milk in coffees, which I feel I can stick to now as part of my routine. The bike is well and truly dusted off and I’m looking forward to the brighter months where I can enjoy travelling to work by bike. My handbag is never without my flask, keep-cup, bamboo cutlery set and bag for life and I’m rarely caught off guard without my reusables. I don’t think I’ll be going vegan however, I’ve mastered an awesome white wine pasta and a Thai curry which helps me incorporate more plant based foods into my meals. The flight I’m about to take will bust my carbon footprint through the roof, however I’ve learnt a huge amount from the last 10 days and I’m feeling positive about my journey and that everyday I am consciously doing more to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

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