We’re all trying to do our bit to help the planet, but it can often feel as though our small gestures don’t really make a difference. If you ever find yourself meticulously separating your cans from your bottles thinking ‘is this really worth it?’, the answer is - yes. Whilst they may seem insignificant to you, our small efforts combined are making a big difference. Here’s 10 things you may already be doing (or could easily incorporate into your life) that are helping towards creating a more sustainable planet.
Buying second-hand furniture
When you’re browsing Facebook marketplace or gumtree for a new chest of drawers, your intention might be saving money rather than making a conscious sustainable choice, but you are! From transporting materials, to the energy used in manufacturing products, producing new furniture generates hundreds and thousands of tonnes of carbon each year. According to a recent study, the online second-hand furniture market is saving the UK the equivalent amount of carbon emissions as one car driving 150 million miles per year.
Remember the outrage when the 5p charge was introduced for plastic bags? Well, we’ve sure been made to feel silly for that. According to government data, sales of single-use plastic carrier bags have dropped by more than 95% in England’s main supermarkets since 2015. Quite the team effort, so next time you run back to your house to grab the bag for life you left at home, give yourself a big pat on the back.
Choosing refillable products
From replenishing your rice at a local refill store, to opting for a refillable moisturiser, this is a great way to save on materials. Through selling refills in the year 2020 alone, Rituals saved 3.4 million litres of water (that’s 3.4 full sized Olympic swimming pools), the Co2 equivalent of 1,411 return flights from Amsterdam – New York, and energy equal to the annual use of 1,806 households.
Conscious kettle use
How many cups of tea or coffee do you have a day? 1? 2?.. 5? The age-old routine of tea making consists of just filling the kettle up under the tap, right? But let’s say you just want one cup? The more sustainable method would be pouring just a cups worth in. Half a kettle of water takes half as much energy to boil. It’s estimated that 165 billion cups of tea are drunk in the UK alone per year, if everyone is consciously filling their kettles, that’s a lot of energy to be saved.
Biodegradable tea bags
Keeping on the tea theme, let’s talk about biodegradable tea bags. Around nine billion PG tips tea bags are enjoyed by tea lovers every year in the UK. Having now made a move to 100% fully biodegradable tea bags, PG tips alone have saved 330 million tonnes of traditional plastic per year- the equivalent of 66 million plastic bags. An easy switch that saves a ton of waste!
Going meat free
It’s probably not going to be news to you that the meat industry is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions. But whether you’re toying with the idea of meat-free Mondays or have cut out meat completely, it’s helping. Daily meat consumption in the UK has gone down by 17% in the last decade. A Beyond Burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions and requires 46% less energy, 99% less water and 93% less land compared to a quarter pound of U.S. beef, so if you’re opting for a veggie burger, good on you.
Buying second-hand clothes
Let’s face it, we all love leaving the house in a fresh new outfit. However, every year the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic metres of water (enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people) and dumps half a million tons of plastic microfibres into the ocean (the equivalent of 50 million plastic bottles). Buying your clothes second-hand is a much more sustainable choice, and with the number of apps offering these services, it’s never been so easy. According to data from eBay, the equivalent weight of 900 double-decker buses was saved from landfill thanks to sales of pre-loved items in 2020 alone.
The next time your recycling bin is full and your tempted to stick your recyclables in the regular bin, here’s some food for thought: Recycling a single aluminium can saves enough energy to power a TV for up to three hours and recycling five plastic bottles creates insulating fibre to fill a ski jacket.
Coffees, hot chocolates, mulled wines all have one thing in common - paper cups that can amount to a huge amount of waste. Starbucks throws away 8,000 cups a minute which adds up to more than 4 billion cups a year. The solution? Bring your own. Let’s say you like to buy a cappuccino five times a week, that would be 250 cups a year. Using a reusable cup for this number of coffees would mean you save 9.21 kg of Co2.
According to the Drawdown project, fighting food waste is the number one solution to reverse the climate crisis. Although we should all be finishing every bite of our meals and champion the leftover lifestyle, household waste is not the big factor, but there’s something else we can do. Have you ever noticed that all the vegetables in the supermarket seem to be perfectly straight or round? It’s no coincidence. Supermarkets filter out all the odd shaped fruit and veg with most ending up as waste and do you know what? They all taste the same. Companies like Oddbox (oddbox.co.uk) are offering more sustainable alternatives to grocery shopping. Buying one of their boxes of misshapen vegetables for a year saves enough energy to power a house for six months and saves as much water as you’d drink in 52 years.
Although we could all probably be doing more to reduce our carbon footprint, let’s take a second to be proud of what we’ve already done for our planet in our small but important steps towards creating a more sustainable future. So, let’s continue to keep pushing in these areas and more!