Every day, we make choices that have an impact on our environment. What we buy, where we buy it from, how we eat, travel, dispose of garbage… the list goes on. I hate to break it to you, but we’ve been making these choices with too little regard to the future of our planet. Like, waaaay too little regard.
Of course, there is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of our governments, scientists, change-makers, lobbyists, town planners and businesses to name but a few. Of course.
But what about each of us as individuals? Can one person really make a difference? Well, our options can be overwhelming, and that overwhelm can lead to inertia. And so we carry on, hedonistic consumption junkies hoping someone else sorts it out for us before it’s too late. Before all our finite resources are completely depleted. Before we run out of space for landfill. Before half our marine life disappears in a sea of plastic.
In fact, each of us can make a difference. If we collectively shared good sustainability habits daily, the global impact would be huge. And when we vote and act with our feet and our wallets, then businesses, corporations and even councils and governments start to take notice, and the movement gains even more momentum.
It doesn’t even have to be too hard. Here are 5 easy ways to live a more sustainable life that you can literally start doing today.
I probably don’t have to tell you never to buy a plastic bottle of water again. Or that those takeaway coffee cups are a pollution hazard and can’t be recycled. Make this the first thing you do - get yourself a reusable coffee cup and buy or re-use a glass water bottle and take it everywhere with you. Recycle everything, and I mean everything! Fill up those paper and bottle bins every week for collection. Give your old clothes to a charity, a friend or even sell rather than throw out. Before popping anything in the garbage bin..think twice. Can it be recycled, re-used, repurposed?
Avoiding plastic entirely isn’t easy, as we’re often at the whim of others. We can, however choose to refuse a plastic straw (use stainless steel ones at home). We can take reusable bags to the supermarket (keep them in your car so you don’t forget them).
We can avoid buying fruit and veg that’s wrapped in plastic or in a Styrofoam tray. We can take our lunch to work in glass containers or paper bags. We can shop at no-waste retailers and buy in bulk (even join a food co-op if you’re super organised).
We can store food in glass containers in the fridge or cover the bowl with a plate or buy beeswax covers instead of using cling wrap for everything. Just by being more mindful of where plastic pops up is a start. Try living a day without it entirely, it’ll help your be more conscious of where it creeps in unexpectedly.
An alarming amount of food ends up as landfill. You can avoid food wastage by planning your meals for the week to ensure your shopping list includes only what you need and uses up all of what you buy. Coriander garnish on Monday night’s dinner? Plan something for later in the week that also uses it so you don’t throw the rest of the bunch away after it’s gone manky in the fridge. When your veggies and fruit are looking like they’re on the way out, juice, roast or freeze them..
I love the rule ‘buy well, buy once’. Take the time to consider what you’re buying… don’t go cheap if it means you’ll need to replace it in 5 minutes (or if it means it was made unethically in the first place).
If you buy something of quality it should last (and if there is a hiccup, then ‘repair not replace’ is another good motto). For food, shop locally and in-season. Ideally fruit and veg should come from a growers market and we should have one or two meat-free nights a week to reduce our carbon footprints.
Check where and how your clothes are made. Buy second hand where you can (for clothes, books, furniture), join a library, always donate items you no longer need or want. Switch to eco-friendly laundry detergents and non-toxic bathroom products.
There are so many things you can do before even leaving the house… for example:
• switch your light bulbs to LED ones
• wash your clothes on cold
• take shorter showers
• turn off electrical items at the socket
• if you’re cooking something in the oven, make a bigger batch and freeze half of it, or pop something else in at the same time
There are lots of simple ways we can up the sustainability ante at home. Even a simple ‘No Junk Mail’ sticker on your mail box does its bit (globally, 100 million trees are harvested annually just for unsolicited junk mail that’s rarely even read!)