When you’re starting out on your sustainability journey it may feel like you have to change everything about the way you currently live, especially when the need to reduce our carbon footprint is weighing heavily on us all.
What sustainable choices can you actually make in your life to make an impact on the fight against climate change? From small changes you can do right now, to choices that may take a little more time, here are 8 lifestyle changes that will make our world a better place.
Avoid single-use and non-recyclable plastics
It’s hard to walk into a home without seeing cupboards stacked with single-use, non-recyclable plastic packaging. It’s even harder to walk into a supermarket without seeing these plastics. Making the change to avoid these will help reduce the 295 billion pieces of plastic waste thrown away each year in the UK.
Coffee stirrers, straws, utensils, and mesh vegetable bags are some of the worst pollutants, as these can get ingested by birds and marine animals causing them to suffocate. 100,000 marine animals die from getting entangled in plastic yearly, and that number is just the creatures that have been found.
Reduce plastic straws by using a metal, glass, or silicone alternatives, alongside a reusable coffee cup for your cafe trips. Bring reusable bags on your next shopping trip, and reusable utensils when you travel outside. You can even bring bento boxes to your favourite takeaway restaurant to avoid single-use food containers.
Eat locally and eat seasonally
15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, this includes the transportation of your food from their growing point to your local supermarket.
You can play a role in reducing this, whether it’s from a farmer’s market, greengrocers, or the supermarket, buy locally sourced produce whenever possible and, even better, try to choose seasonal produce over out-of-season products. Not only are the flavours of in-season produce outstanding, but your purchase also impacts the quality of life for local farmers.
Reduce your animal consumption
Raising livestock for meat, eggs and milk generates 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the second-highest source of emissions and greater than all transportation combined. These emissions occur from every stage of production, from breeding and feeding the livestock, to the processing and packaging of the meats.
Farming also releases two incredibly powerful greenhouse gases, methane from livestock and nitrous oxide from nitrogen fertilizers. As the majority of these emissions are a result of the production and preparation of meat and dairy, eating less meat or switching to a vegan diet will produce a positive impact on reducing these harmful emissions.
To put this into perspective, if the entirety of the USA stopped eating meat, it’d be like taking 60 million cars off the road.
Wish-cycling is when an incorrect item or material is added to the recycling stream, and a batch of recycling is contaminated because of it, meaning that the whole lot will be rejected and end up in a landfill.
This often happens when a well-meaning individual, like yourself, throws something into the recycling, hoping it will be able to be recycled. Waste centres will often have to reject large quantities for recycling because they are mixed with this plastic. Either do your best to find a specific bin or, as painful as it will be, chuck it in the normal bin, especially if it’s a compostable item, as it will be able to break down once it’s made its way to landfill.
And by the way, remember to wash your recyclables. If your item arrives at the recycling centre covered in food it may have to be thrown into the rubbish bin due to contamination.
Reduce your online shopping
There are times when online shopping is essential, especially when you live in a remote or rural area, but reducing your online shopping habits will reduce carbon emissions created from planes and trucks delivering products to your doorstep.
Certain items can be hard to get these days except through online shopping, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic when we are encouraged to stay indoors! Online shopping grew 129% week-on-week in the UK and Europe during the height of the pandemic, but only buying what you need is the answer.
With 20% of online returns ending up in landfill because they are unable to be resold by the retailer, alongside the popularity of express shipping options like next day delivery this all has a big potential to increase carbon emissions because air freight products have three times more emissions than maritime or road shipping.
Shopping in person will drastically reduce the number of carbon emissions created and the amount of packaging you consume, or if you are shopping online plan it so you can reduce the number of online deliveries by getting bulk orders together, preferably from a sustainable provider.
Reconsider your driving habits
Cars are often a necessary evil, especially if you travel long distances to work or you live far away from your family, but you can reduce your carbon footprint by making more thoughtful decisions on how you use your car.
There are the obvious choices you can make such as riding a bike or taking public transportation, but if this isn’t an option then consider a more fuel-efficient vehicle like a hybrid or electric car. If a new car isn’t within your budget, making changes to your driving habits is a great choice.
Group your errands to do them in as few stops as possible, and complete all your shopping in one trip rather than popping out to get some extras. You could even consider a carpool whilst shopping or travelling to work. Reducing your engine idling by avoiding travel in heavy traffic or by turning off your car when you have to wait longer than a minute or two can actually have a big impact.
Make your home greener
Improving your home’s energy efficiency is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Ensuring your home is effectively insulated using sustainable materials, installing energy-efficient double or triple glazed windows, adding a smart meter to your home, and choosing eco-friendly light bulbs are easy ways to reduce your home’s impact on the environment.
Try to avoid the use of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in paints and finishes, plastics, and chemicals. This improves the air quality of your home, and reduces environmental impact, as VOCs play a significant role in the formation of ozone and fine particulates in the atmosphere, which results in smog.
Conserve your water
Earth’s growing population is placing an increased demand on our natural water resources. Conserving your water will help keep everyone’s water pure and clean, whilst protecting the environment, and reducing water pollution.
Small fixes to reduce water use include replacing/fixing leaky taps and toilets, choosing low-flow showerheads and reducing your shower time, and replacing older water-heavy appliances like washing machines or dishwashers. You could also switch to something like a water-conserving toilet that can save almost 13,000 gallons of water each year.
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