Hellie shares her 5 top tips for how to live more sustainably.
Since lockdown began, questions have been raised about the links between pandemics and the environment. This has sparked an increased interest in sustainable living. Over 75% of people surveyed in the UK – according to Futerra – said they had done something during this time to make their lifestyle more sustainable. Over 87% thought we should be making some of these drastic lifestyle changes, which we have made for coronavirus, to also help prevent climate change.
This is exciting as it shows there is a real interest in how to live more sustainably:
- But how can we persuade people to turn thoughts into action?
- How can we make sustainable living accessible and affordable for people?
- And, how can we make sustainable living trends last long after this pandemic?
In this blog I am going to share some easy and affordable tips for how you can live more sustainably. They are all things that you can easily continue after the pandemic. I hope they will give you some inspiration for how to make small but impactful changes to your lifestyle.
Reduce food waste and have a more sustainable diet
Food waste is a huge problem in the UK. Around 70% of the food we throw away annually is food we could have eaten. So living a more sustainable lifestyle requires us to reduce our food waste. This is something everyone can easily do and helps us to save money too.
I have found pre-preparing meals at university to be one of the best ways to combat food waste. I often only do a food shop once every three weeks. This is because I make meals in bulk, prepare food, and freeze it. Freezing meals is not only a great way of stopping food from going off but also having meals that are easy and quick to make.
At university I have been vegetarian, cutting all meat products from my diet. I also try to make most of my main meals vegan. The great thing about vegetarian meals is that leftovers can also last much longer.
Making my own meals has changed the way I think about my diet. I am now much more aware of my meat consumption. Also, as a university student, not buying meat, has made my grocery shops much more affordable, as well as environmentally friendly.
Going vegetarian or vegan, even just partially, can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint. Livestock farming is estimated to produce up to 50% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Beef and lamb are the worst offenders, and even cutting only these meats from your diet can have a big effect.
Support Local Businesses
Another way to reduce your diet’s carbon footprint is by shopping local. Use any small businesses who are supporting local farmers and producers.
By shopping local and supporting small businesses you are getting food that hasn’t travelled half the world to be put on your plate. Reducing your food miles, you are often going to be getting organic fruit and veg which hasn’t been grown using pesticides that harm our wildlife.
During this pandemic it is so important to support local businesses that have had to adapt. In Bath, local businesses like the Thoughtful Bakery are selling fruit and veg boxes, fresh bread, eggs, milk, and meals. They are also running a fund to make care packages for frontline staff who are working during the crisis. The work of small businesses like these is so important to help local producers and the communities around them.
Stop wasting water and reduce your energy use!
A tap that drips 30 drips a minute can waste up to 1,041 gallons of water a year. Water is a finite resource; we should be using it carefully and limiting our waste as much as possible.
So using this time to sort out any dripping taps can reduce your water usage and save money on your bills. Even simple things like turning off taps when you are not using them can also make a difference.
I have tried to be more mindful of how much water I use daily. For example, cutting my showers slightly shorter can save litres of water at a time. Using the washing machine, or dishwasher on less than a full load also wastes huge amounts of water, as well as energy. At university I avoid using the washing machine until I have enough clothes for a full load. I also rarely use the tumble dryer which uses huge amounts of energy. Instead I let most of my clothes air dry. This weather is also ideal to air dry your washing and reduce your energy usage.
Reducing your energy usage will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also your bills. Switching off lights and plug sockets when you are not using them, and boiling less water are small ways you can do this.
It is also worth looking into getting a smart meter to see how much energy you are using. They won’t reduce your energy usage for you but if you use it to monitor and reduce your consumption then they can really help towards your bills.
Become more self-sufficient
Using your spaces, both indoor and outdoor, big, and small, can help you to become more self-sufficient. Even with small amounts of space you can grow herbs and plants that you can use to cook with.
Growing your own fruit and vegetables does not have to take up a huge amount of space. You can grow plants such as beans, peas, strawberries, and tomatoes using small spaces. If you have more space however, it is worth making a larger vegetable garden. Buying seeds to plant can also be a cost-effective way of getting your food. Plants you grow will continue to produce throughout the summer for a fraction of the price. You get a lot more food for your money by growing your own.
Food you grow yourself is much more organic and environmentally friendly. It does not use harmful pesticides like food we buy from the supermarket, that are damaging to wildlife. It also reduces food miles, and plastic used.
At home I am lucky enough to have a vegetable garden where we have grown all sorts. This has included; aubergine, okra, courgettes, gooseberries, peas, beans, tomatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, carrots, cabbage, apples, and lots more. My dad loves his vegetable garden and the food we get tastes so much better than shop bought. Often by the end of the summer most of our meals will come from food we have grown ourselves.
A lot of the food we buy in supermarkets comes from all around the world, but often we do not acknowledge this. It has become so normal for us to buy food not knowing where it comes from. Trying to be more self-sufficient and mindful will reduce your environmental impact.
Stop fast fashion
It can be hard to persuade other people to be more mindful of their fast fashion habits. I know some people who shop almost weekly online. However, small changes you can make to reduce your impact will help.
Clear out your wardrobe for clothes and items you don’t use. If you have clothes you don’t wear anymore then look at ways of re-purposing them. For many people during quarantine, up cycling their clothing has been a new project. Upcycling clothing is a great way to reduce your waste. Recently I turned an old dress into a new top and used the spare fabric to make hair accessories.
Around 350,000 tonnes (or £140,000) of used clothing goes into landfill every year in the UK. As well as this almost 4,000 litres of water is used to make one pair of jeans. The fashion industry has a huge impact on the environment. From its water usage, microfiber pollution, carbon footprint and waste of materials.
However, it is not only bad for the environment but for human rights. Often clothing from the fast fashion industry will be made in countries where child labour is essential to the production. There can be human rights abuses and in Bangladesh, for example, the average hourly wage for apparel workers is $0.13.
We often forget all of this happens. We try and block it out of our mind when buying clothes. But our consumption habits do have consequences. Where possible try and avoid buying new. Use websites like eBay and Depop to find second-hand items, reducing your carbon footprint.
If you do buy new it is important to remember two important things.
• How much will I wear this?
• Where did this come from?
Always keep in mind that your clothes have had an impact on the planet, and people.
If you want to go further make sure your clothes are made from organic materials. As synthetic fibres have huge environmental costs, as they break up and end-up in our water ways and oceans. Around 700,000 fibres can be released in a single wash, which end up polluting our water. The chemicals needed to make them are also a huge pollutant. Spending a bit more money to invest in clothes made from natural and organic fibres is worth it for your health and conscience as well as the environment.
These are just some ways you can reduce your environmental impact and consider how to live more sustainably. My main tip is to become more mindful in whatever you do. As taking time to notice your consumption habits can help you to make lasting changes to your lifestyle. Whether from changing your fast fashion shopping habits, to using less energy throughout your home. Being conscious of how you live will have a big impact on your finances and wellbeing, as well as helping to save planet.
I hope you find these tips for how to live more sustainably helpful and please let us know what you think, and if you have any more to add!
Hellie Painter firstname.lastname@example.org