For World Environment Day, we sat down with Projects member and creator of The Humble Home, Emma Croman, to talk top conscious living tips, fave eco-friendly swaps and what’s in store for The Humble Home. Emma is a photographer offering a modern take on garden, horticulture, sustainability and lifestyle photography. She created The Humble Home as an outlet for her own content. Believing that there is so much nourishment to be found in humble moments, the blog and Instagram account is a celebration of those moments and aims to share how it’s possible to create soulful spaces and experiences without having to spend a lot of money or at a cost to our planet.
Tell us about The Humble Home and why you created it My blog has been going since 2014 – it was formerly called Retr-eat because I had recently graduated as a nutritional therapist and the idea was to inspire folks to eat seasonably without breaking the bank as well as choosing greener options for home life. I spent a lot of time with my Grandad when I was a kid – he had lived through the war and really valued everything they had. He was a major reuser and loved his garden and this way of life has always been a goal for me (perhaps reusing the teabags is a step too far though!). It had a name change to TIDE when I first got my van and was travelling a lot so was producing more content around that but still with a sustainable edge but frankly the pressure to produce content while travelling was exhausting and pushed me more towards really making the most of my home life while I wasn’t travelling which was becoming a lot. I craved routine and grounding at home and so looked inward to what I genuinely love sharing and that is little home moments. But the world of interiors has exploded and I felt like a massive imposter taking photos of my stainless steel sink and old bathroom in my rented home.
But someone sent me a message to say thank you for showing a normal home and it was a lightbulb moment – in a world of nothing ever being enough how do we enjoy what we have rather than needing more and making our home space somewhere that is unique to us rather than following trends. I felt there was as much of an audience for people who are making the most of their home without having a budget for renovations and making the most of what we have is better for the planet too – we all know about fast fashion but there isn’t as much awareness about the impact interior trends are having on our planet. So I wanted to strip it back to what my original message was all those years ago when slow living was the trend – highlighting that way of life is one for the long haul, for ourselves and for the planet. The Humble Home just felt like the perfect name for that.
Why is conscious living so important to you and what do you love most about it? I absolutely recognise that corporations and governments need to step up and do more to stop the destruction of our planet. But we also have our own roles to play in what we consume. A good friend of mine who is a conscious money advisor said something to me that stuck ‘we vote for the planet with every pound we spend’. For me, each decision I make on what I consume is a vote. The term conscious living is so much more useful than eco living because being conscious isn’t saying you have to move to a yurt in the woods and live solely off solar power but it’s a realistic approach to navigating the world we live in, making small steps that are doable and casting the right vote with our money. I also really enjoy living with less – the virgo rising side of me loves processes and routine but the Leo and ADHD side of me loves chaos so having less in my home grounds me and makes me feel less overwhelmed. What are your top tips for someone who is just getting into conscious living? Start small and introduce one thing at a time. It is a minefield out there now with endless green washing. One thing I would beware of is umbrella companies – when you decide to buy from a brand check who they are owned by and a quick internet search will tell you how these parent companies weigh up. That said, there are some excellent companies on the market now doing great work. If you can start anywhere start with your cleaning products – a lot of these products are not ocean friendly, have been found to be toxic to our own health and come in plastic bottles. To top it all off, the parent companies are still engaging in brutal animal testing. Remember that recycling isn’t a free pass – recycling is not an earth friendly process and a lot of what we put out to get recycled never makes it to a recycling plant.
In Brighton we have great refill shops and once you get into the habit of refilling your bottles you don’t look back. But there are also mail order companies such as Spruce and Smol that people swear by. I use a mix of Spruce and Fill products from Milk & More and my washing detergent comes from Ecoleaf at HISBE which works out cheaper than an eco brand you can buy in the supermarkets.
There is a narrative around conscious living that it’s more expensive. I don’t find this to be the way as I live on a very small budget each month. Some products do cost more but for the right reasons and I find it balances out with things you save on – often with eco friendly cleaning products you find you only need a small curation of products for your home as opposed to six different bottles.
And, while I know this is always a contentious subject, reducing meat and dairy consumption is a great step in the right direction. I was at a talk with Isabella Tree (of the Knepp rewilding project) a few weeks ago and she spoke of a stat that if everybody reduced their meat intake by just a little it would go a huge way to reduce carbon emissions – contributing to these carbon emissions is the need to grow grain to keep our huge demand for cattle fed. Recently Paul Whitehouse did a documentary on the state of our waterways and found that chicken rearing is a huge issue for our rivers. So if we were conscious of this while out buying our lunch, perhaps we can make the right vote with our money.
Finally, try and avoid trends within fashion and interiors. If you go for something that is timeless you are likely to get years of use out of it. We are all feeling the pinch at the moment so spend money wisely. It’s unrealistic to say don’t buy from the high street but if you do, really think about your purchase and the longevity it will have. I tend to sell things on Vinted to create a budget which I use for higher price point, small batch things because I like to support independent business where I can and always live by the buy well, buy once rule but if there is a basic I need I will buy from the high street if I know I will get lots of use for it. And for furniture, Facebook Marketplace can be a treasure trove! I love nothing more than spending a Sunday morning scrolling through and seeing what people have for sale. Top tip – change your filters on the left hand side to search only for used goods which will filter out the endless tat that is being sold.
What are some of your fave eco-friendly home swaps? I absolutely love Spruce, as an every day wipe down cleaner it’s great but their new floor cleaner is the one for me – I use it to clean down cupboards, skirting boards and of course, the floor. Good old vinegar is a wonder – just water it down with lemon juice and you’ll have taps that sparkle.
Again, I tell anyone who will listen about Milk & More. They are really great at keeping ahead of new refill solutions and it all comes delivered to your doorstep. I have Rerooted oat milk from them as well as my dishwasher tablets, shampoo and conditioner, porridge oats and dry goods as and when I need them. You can order online and add one offs or to a regular order and your one off buys just come the next day they are delivering on your street (mine is three days a week).
What conscious brands could you not live without? I am absolutely obsessed with Truthpaste – it’s a Brighton company and I know when I stop using it because my teeth start to hurt! I love how natural and effective it is and that it comes in a jar rather than a plastic tube.
I also love AKT deodorant, it’s really effective, unisex and smells incredible. It might seem quite costly but a tube lasts over two months. I also really love Green People – I use a lot of their products but especially their sunscreen. It really works and it is reef friendly too which is so important as our sunscreen use is having a huge impact on our reefs. What’s your favourite budget renovation you’ve done to date? I think it has to be the sofa! I’ve had my IKEA sofa for 8 years and it was looking tired and stained from a pond loving Labrador. The blue colour of the cover wasn’t evolving with my tastes in interior decor either! So I did a test by dying the arm covers and was delighted to find they came out a luxurious dark green – so I did the rest of the covers! Then I donated the dye pods to a local school who use the pots to store pens. I’ve now got a revived sofa that matches my neutral living room and haven’t had to spend a grand on a new sofa! I also really love my garden, it started as a messy concrete yard when I moved in and I’ve slowly created a little city oasis out there with a number of herbs and salad leaves growing which saves so much money and plastic packets!
What’s in the works for The Humble Home? I’m in the process of buying my first home and having got out of lifelong debt I’m not planning on going back there so I’m going to be documenting my process of renovating a 30’s semi with limited budget. Expect renovations done with recycled materials and fit outs with marketplace finds. Additionally, I want to make container gardening a bit more of a focus and share as I learn how we can reconnect with growing food for ourselves. And of course all the usual sustainable swaps!
The Humblings is the monthly newsletter for The Humble Home where you can get lots of exclusive content. I would love to see you there! For budget renovations, green living tips and the most beautiful pictures you’ll ever lay your eyes on, head to The Humble Home blog here, follow the Instagram here and sign up to The Humblings newsletter here. If you’d like to learn more about our own sustainability mission as a co-working space you can read about our conscious practices and journey to becoming B-Corp certified here.