10 STEPS TO A MORE SUSTAINABLE LIFE
Most people I know, love and appreciate our Mother Earth, but do we really treat her with the respect she deserves? And more to the point… Do we really know how?
Of course we don’t want our oceans filled with plastic or our air filled with pollution, but the sad fact is, most of us contribute to it every single day, without even realising.
It was only a few days ago that I found out the capsules I use in my coffee machine every day are actually completely un-recyclable. To which I was horrified, especially considering the amount of coffee I drink. So… I’ve done some research and put together this list of ‘10 steps to a more sustainable life’ (as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s), all of which are pretty easy changes to make, to show our beautiful planet just how grateful we are.
1. UNDERSTAND YOUR HOME RECYCLING | Apologies if I’m stating the obvious, but it helps if you actually take the time to figure out what can and can’t be recycled. Did you know cotton pads, wrapping paper, tissues and pizza boxes can’t actually go in the paper recycling bin? Having 3 separate bins at home is a great place to start. One for plastic, metal, glass, paper and card which is then recycled to produce other similar products. One for food waste, which is then turned into electricity or commercial compost. And one for everything else, which sadly then goes to landfill where it will sit for thousands of years.
2. QUIT BOTTLED WATER | One million bottles of water are bought across the world every minute. I repeat, EVERY MINUTE. Less than 50% of these are recycled. Invest in a decent water filter for your fridge and a stainless steel bottle to fill up and take out with you. Drinking water from plastic bottles is not only bad for the environment but also bad for your health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently announced a review, after a new study revealed over 90% of the world’s most popular bottled water brands contain micro plastics. Bottled water has been on a journey around the country, sometimes the globe, before it gets to the shop you buy it from. During this time, it is usually exposed to warm temperatures and the water essentially cooks inside the plastic, meaning it absorbs the toxins and chemicals. By quitting bottled water you save yourself and the planet. Win - Win.
3. INVEST IN QUALITY NOT QUANTITY | Fast fashion has become a massive part of our buying culture. Due to cheap labour in eastern countries, retailers can now afford to produce and sell clothing at an extremely low price point. But with that, comes extremely low quality. And so thus was born fast fashion. Once upon a time there were 2 fashion seasons - Spring/ Summer, Fall/ Winter. We now have 52 ‘micro seasons’, meaning our wardrobes are constantly updating and churning out a consistent flow of landfill. On average we wear 80% of our wardrobe 20% of the time, so surely it’s better to invest in those key pieces wisely, knowing that they will last? Not only does the quality feel good physically on our skin, but also mentally, as we know we’re not supporting the exploitation of workers in other parts of the world. This idea isn’t just limited to fashion either. It relates to homewares, footwear, basically anything that can be mass produced (or not as the case may be). As a wise woman once said ‘Buy cheap, buy twice’.
4. GO VEGAN / VEGETARIAN / FLEXETARIAN / WHATEVER-TARIAN | Any kind of step towards cutting out meat, or at least thinking about it more consciously makes a huge difference. There are 3 main reasons for doing this; for the environment, for your health and above all (in my opinion) for the animal cruelty. However, for the sake of this article, lets focus on sustainability. The Union of Concerned Scientists lists meat-eating as the second-biggest environmental hazard facing the Earth. (Number one is fossil-fuel vehicles). Because we’re breading and killing animals on such a mass level, we’re using a large quantity of the earths land to raise the animals instead of growing crops, meaning precious water and soil are lost, trees are cut down and untreated animal waste pollutes our rivers. A typical pig factory generates the same raw waste as a city of 12,000 people. In fact, raising animals for food is the number one source of water pollution. We’ve exploited our animals and our earth all in one go for long enough. It’s time to change for everyone’s sake.
5. ALWAYS CARRY A BAG FOR LIFE | Fold it up and find a regular home for it that works for your lifestyle… for me personally its somewhere in the depths of my handbag, it may be in your car or coat pocket, just somewhere that you get used to it always being. The introduction of the 5p bag charge in the UK last year saw a drop in 85% of plastic bag usage, which is pretty amazing. However, one million plastic bags are still used worldwide every minute. If we organised ourselves a bit better and had a constant home for our bag for life, we could eradicate them altogether!!
6. CONSIDER THE PACKAGING | When you take a moment to look at the pointless plastic that covers most of the food we buy, it’s actually ridiculous. Mother Nature covered our bananas in a lovely yellow protective case, so why are big chain supermarkets now selling them in a sealed plastic bag? Why are my avocados on a little cardboard tray wrapped in cellophane? It’s thoughtless and completely unnecessary. This problem is not limited to food either. Our toiletries, clothing, children’s toys, adults toys (?!), pretty much EVERYTHING comes covered in nonsense that we look at for a minute, before ripping off and shoving in landfill. Obviously, if anything, we should all be writing to the companies who do this and asking them to stop, however if nothing else, lets at least just opt for the naked carrots and think about where we shop.
7. SAY NO TO STRAWS | Who knew that something so small could be so detrimental to our planet? Apologies for the dad joke but… they really do suck. Firstly, they’re single use but never biodegrade, meaning that that one drink will live on forever. Secondly, most of the straws used across the world end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life. An estimated 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs. When they ingest plastic, marine life has a 50% mortality rate. Think how devastated you were as a kid when your goldfish died… how can we really let this happen to millions of fish, animals and plants in our oceans every day? Just because we can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
8. BE CONSCIOUS OF YOUR COFFEE | Did you know that disposable coffee cups are pretty much impossible to recycle? I didn’t until I started writing this and I’m now feeling really guilty. The cardboard is coated in a plastic, meaning only 1 in every 400 cups can actually be recycled. Treat yourself/ the planet to a reusable coffee cup or flask and as an added bonus, a lot of coffee shops (independents included) now offer a discount on the price of your drink if you bring your own cup.
9. SHORTEN THE SHOWER | If there’s anyone who needs to learn from this, its me. It’s all too easy to turn on your shower, wait for it to warm up, get distracted, then finally get in and spend a bit too long shaving your legs. I’ve even been known to put the shower on just to steam my outfit for the day because I can’t be bothered ironing. And when I stop to think about it, it’s actually really not cool (literally). Not only do showers use energy to heat the water, but they deplete the earth’s 1% of fresh water. They also use 5% of CO2 emission in the UK alone. Shortening the time, temperature and pressure is a small change for us that could have a dramatic impact on the bigger picture.
10. BUY VINTAGE | Whether its clothes, guitars, lamps or rugs, there’s a million reasons to buy vintage. Back in the glory days, before the times of fast fashion, there was less pressure for cheap, quickly made goods and everything was generally made high in quality and built to last. Buying vintage also guarantees you something unique, unlike the mass produced products of today, so there’s no chance of going to your mate’s house, to find they have the same living room as you. The history that comes with buying vintage obviously speaks for itself, along with the investment for future, as goods often increase in value over time. Above all else, choosing to buy a beautiful piece of history prevents landfill wastage and gives us the opportunity to continue protecting our dear Mother Earth.
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