We’re all well aware of the devastating impact our behaviours have on the planet. From throwing away too much single-use plastic and buying new clothes, to traveling by plane and eating meat, so many of our actions are detrimental to the environment. And despite the agreements made during COP26 in Glasgow, the plan is not nearly enough to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5C over pre-industrial levels in time.
It’s still worth doing our bit to protect the planet and reduce our individual carbon footprint, though, because every little action helps, even if doing so isn’t always easy. In fact, 16% of UK consumers think it’s too expensive and 15% don’t know enough about what they can do. But despite this, reducing your carbon footprint is certainly more than possible.
That said, adopting an environmentally friendly lifestyle takes time, so to get you started, here are a few suggestions to help you easily make some changes and reduce the amount of waste you contribute to the planet.
1 – Dispose of your non-recyclables
Recycling is key to preventing excessive amounts from entering landfill, where materials like plastic don’t biodegrade for hundreds of years. While most of us know what can and can’t be recycled, there are some items that we might be unsure of how to dispose of. Although bubble wrap, windows, mirrors, packing peanuts and polystyrene shouldn’t go in your standard recycling bin, this doesn’t mean you should simply throw them away either. So, what can you do instead?
Be sure to ask your local council about its recycling facilities, as they may have a partner that manages these materials. For example, London-based waste management company Bywaters incinerates non-recyclable items and feeds the energy generated from this process to The National Grid to power the UK. It notes that: “this provides a more sustainable means of disposal, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and generating cleaner energy.”
2 – Carry reusable items
When we’re constantly on the go, it’s easy to forget about the waste that builds up. Just a couple of trips to your local coffee shop and lunch bought from a supermarket can create a lot of unnecessary plastic waste. While many cafes have redesigned their drinks cups to contain recyclable components, most are not fully recyclable. This means the consumer has to separate the cup themselves, and throwing it away is often much easier. In the UK alone, we throw away 2.5 billion cups every year, which clearly isn’t sustainable as this creates a lot of plastic waste. When you add things like straws, lids, and stirrers into the mix, plastic pollution becomes a much larger problem. It seems you can’t get a takeaway coffee without creating some kind of waste.
One way to reduce your impact is with reusable coffee cups and water bottles. There’s so many of these on the market nowadays, in different shapes, sizes and colours — there’s no excuse not to have one. This, for one, is a swap that is easy and affordable, and can even save you money as companies often offer discounts to customers who bring reusable containers. Meanwhile, you can refill your water bottle at most restaurants and bars, as well as places like train stations and airports that have water stations.
3 – Reduce consumption of animal and dairy products
One of the best things we can do for the planet is go vegan, or at the very least reduce our consumption of animal and dairy products. Eating meat creates greenhouse gases such as methane, CO2 and nitrous oxide, which contribute to global warming. In fact, The Guardian reported that meat accounts for over 60% of all emissions created from food production.
The rearing of livestock causes deforestation, uses excessive amounts of water (over 1,000 gallons makes one steak) and degrades soil, which leads to carbon being released into the atmosphere instead of absorbed by plants and trees. Meanwhile, the biggest dairy companies in the world have the same combined greenhouse gas emissions as the UK.
Veganism reduces energy consumption, prevents species extinction and protects the planet’s rain forests and land. The New Scientist found that one person can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases their diet makes by up to 60%, just by going vegan. However, if overhauling your diet overnight isn’t doable, any little change makes a difference. Swap your dairy milk for a plant-based alternative, get involved with meat-free Monday and look for vegan alternatives to animal products.
4 – Shop secondhand
Fast fashion — a highly profitable and exploitative business model based on replicating high fashion designs, and mass producing them for a low cost — is a major player in the climate change problem. Every year, the production of fast fashion consumes more energy than flying and shipping combined, accounting for 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions within the industry. These clothes are made through exploitative labour practices, use cheap materials that don’t last long, and add plastic particles to our water when washed.
Consequently, ditching fast fashion is the way forward, and you can do this easily by shopping second-hand. Start by browsing your local charity shops for some cool finds, or use one of the many secondhand clothing apps available, such as Depop or Vinted. This way you’re not feeding directly into the industry, using new resources or generating tonnes of waste. You’re also giving new life to something that’s still wearable. Dropping fast fashion can have both a hugely positive impact on the environment and save you money considering secondhand clothing is often cheaper than new items in most cases.
Photo is from pixabay
Guest Author Bio