Becoming environmentally conscious is as easy as 1, 2, 3… 15! Charlotte Willis provides her top 15 tips towards a mindful, responsible and green lifestyle.
Green and Proud
It never ceases to amaze me how out of touch the majority of us are with our environment. Somewhere between the hustle and bustle of a 9-5, while we preoccupy our thoughts with lusting after the latest and greatest trend, consuming at an alarmingly exponential rate, it seems we have become grossly out of touch with where resources come from. The very planet that gives us life, we actively abuse and mistreat daily, without so much as a passing thought.
Now, times are changing, and we are seeing a shift in consumer patterns towards sustainability and responsibility. Individually, we can all choose to make a difference to the fate of our planet. You might not believe the efforts of one person can help reduce environmental pollution, but what if every reader of this feature made five changes to their lifestyle? Just think about how many resources could be saved.
The combined impact we can make together is as important as those made on a governmental scale, and all it takes is these 15 easy switches.
1. Stop Food Waste
The average household will throw away a third of its food shop every week. Besides the damage to your wallet, food wastage contributes a significant strain on environmental resources, producing needless crops that could have been salvaged if thoughtful planning was applied. Buy smaller amounts of perishable items, little and often, to maximise freshness, and freeze vegetables, herbs and fruits that are over-ripe to use at a later date.
2. Switch Your Lightbulbs
Sounds simple, but this seemingly unassuming swap could end up saving you a lot of money, and a lot of energy. LED and lower energy lightbulbs typically use between 25-80% less electricity and will last anywhere between 10-25 times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb would. What’s not to like?
3. Live Simply
Minimalism is an emerging movement among the environmentally-conscious global community. Minimalism encourages us to live within our means in an uncluttered and simple manner, making conscious decisions regarding each purchase we make and decision we take.
Every time you go to make a purchase, think to yourself, ‘Do I really need this?’, ‘Can I wholeheartedly say that this product or item will enhance my life?’ Adopting this minimalist attitude will help declutter your life, reduce your monthly outgoings and help to conserve environmental resources. Win Win!
4. Use Natural Cleaning Products
A staggeringly high proportion of commercial cleaning products contain ingredients that are either derived from animals or are tested on animals. Not to mention the vast array of harmful and polluting agents concealed behind warning labels.
Switching to natural cleaning products, which have minimal impact upon the ecosystem (such as Waitrose’s Ecological Range or Ecozone), promotes environmental harmony and helps reduce our dependence upon animal testing.
5. Re-use and Re-work
There’s no doubt about it, we have become a throw-away society. While it is always easy to toss out an old, tatty chair and replace it with a new one, upcycling your old furniture is now a unique, thrifty reinvention opportunity. From a simple re-upholster of a cushion to sanding down and painting old wooden tables, chests and stools, a bit of DIY here and there creates some interesting and alternative styles that you can’t find on the high street.
6. On Your Bike
Recent statistics suggest the number of people cycling at least five times per week in Britain has reached almost
3 million, and it’s increasing year on year. Ditching the regular four-wheel morning commute in favour of two-wheeled transport will cut your carbon emissions, burn through some extra calories and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 46%. Now that’s one hell of an incentive!
7. Go Paperless
Sick of receiving endless letters through your mailbox and stashing bills, important documents and files in a drawer under the stairs? The solution is simple: go paperless. Transforming to a paperless lifestyle entails being pretty computer savvy. You could set up an online filing system using the Cloud and opt to go paperless for your significant documents, such as bank statements and phone bills. Just ask your providers to opt you into paperless, and away you go – saving lots of trees and transport costs along the way.
8. Refuse Single-Use
Single-use plastics are the scourge of modern society. Everything from coffee cups to plastic cutlery, disposable razors and straws – you name it, there will most likely be a wasteful, single-use plastic derivative invading your green-seeking lifestyle. Be mindful and plan ahead. Are you grabbing a coffee before work? Take your own cup. Fancy a take away? Take your own Tupperware box for the restaurant to use. Always remember to opt for paper straws where available and refuse plastic alternatives.
9. BYOF (Bring Your Own Food)
If I had a penny for every time I pass a commuter on a lunch-break carrying a Pret sandwich or a Boots meal deal… While the odd lunch out is good for the soul, regular commuter lunches all too often come served with a hefty side of environmental damage. Wrapped in plastic and plastic-enforced packaging, most options on the high street are either non-recyclable or difficult to process in common recycling plants. Why not take your own food to work instead? Wrapped in tin foil or in a Tupperware box, you’ll save yourself a fortune and most likely make responsible, healthier meal decisions.
10. Stop Fast fashion
The fashion industry is the second most heavily polluting industry on a global scale. There’s no doubt that our spending habits have become accustomed to £3 T-shirts and bargain basement clothing, but at what cost? Toxic chemicals sprayed on genetically engineered cotton; harmful polluting dyes and chemical run-off from factories in our waterways and oceans; and thousands of people trapped in the middle of a tiny profit margin battle between consumers and producers.
What can you do? Buy responsibly-produced fashion from retailers such as H&M, People Tree and ASOS Africa. Reduce the amount of clothes you buy and throw away, re-work and re-style your clothing, donate and recycle wherever possible.
11. Waste Well
Part of living includes wasting. There’s no escape from the fact that we all use items and produce waste. But what if I told you I know people who can fit their entire year’s worth of rubbish into a single mason jar. Impressive, huh? Living a zero-waste life doesn’t entail a complete cessation of garbage production, it simply requires you to waste well and waste efficiently.
Recycle all you can, compost your kitchen and garden waste, refuse to buy and use single-use items and reduce your burden upon plastic. (For more information visit goingzerowaste.com)
12. Buy Local and Buy Big
Checking out local farmer’s markets, produce shops and community gardens yields great environmental benefits. Buying locally produced fruit and veg supports farmers in your area and gives them more of a direct source of income. These farmers might also use a more sustainable and smaller-scale method of farming, which helps conserve natural wildlife and soil preservation.
Eventually, you’ll be able to pick up a bargain or two when you become a regular customer, even more so if you buy in bulk. One of my favourite items to bulk-buy are tomatoes. You get a better price and can freeze, refrigerate, juice and sauce to your heart’s content. Another way to support farmers is to buy ‘wonky’ veg, which is usually only slightly malformed fruit and veg, at a lower price.
13. Make Your Own Cosmetics
I am a great lover of a long soak in a bathtub full of aromatic oils and bath salts; even better when I’ve made them myself using organic and natural ingredients, without the need to resort to plastic packaging. If you consider how many bottles, tubes and tubs you use every day during your morning routine, I bet that the number is around 5-10. That’s 5-10 plastic containers that will require replacing in a month’s time.
Instead of relying upon these products, whip out your essential oils and make your own! I make my own bath oils, face oils, face wash, body wash, shampoos and conditioners – and they don’t require too much effort or time, I promise! (Turn to page 66 to find details of how to make your own bodywash.
14. Bottle It Up
Reducing the amount of resources you use daily is as easy as keeping a bottle with you! Staggeringly, it is estimated that 1 million plastic bottles are bought and used every single minute across the globe. A scary fact. The solution is simple: keep a glass or reusable water bottle with you at all times, that way you’re sure to never use another plastic water bottle again.
15. Go Solar
Not solar panels on a house (although that would be quite a great addition if you have the resources and the house on which to erect them), I’m talking about using solar energy to charge your phone, smart watch and tech equipment. These nifty inventions can be found online, and don’t cost too much (a decent phone charger is about £35).