Living an environmentally-conscious lifestyle doesn’t mean changing your entire life. There are lots of everyday things you can do that won’t break the bank. Even the smallest of changes goes towards making a positive impact.
Buzzfeed created a similar study last year, with lots of handy visuals. Since I can’t list absolutely everything (really, this blog would go on for days!), it can be a good idea to check out a few other blogs for additional tips and ideas.
#1 - Evaluate your Lifestyle
Sometimes it can be difficult to really see the impact we make. To get an idea of the size of your carbon footprint, it can be useful to use a Footprint Calculator. These can be useful in seeing which aspects of your lifestyle are causing the most impact. This can be a handy way to see how you could create a more sustainable lifestyle.
I did it based on my lifestyle as a student in Leeds, and here are my results!
As you can see, my home environment makes up almost half of my carbon footprint. So I looked up ways to help reduce this.
Students may not have the option over the insulation in their rooms. But we can reduce the amount of heating we use. Doubling up on socks or adding an extra layer can reduce the energy used to heat our homes. Especially if, like me, switching the heating on switches it on for the entire flat.
To reduce my impact while I’m at uni, I’m going to try other ways of keeping warm before opting for heating!
#2 - Making Easy Swaps
Swap non-recyclable items for items made from reusable materials. Here are a few of the easiest swaps to make. For instance, swapping plastic toothbrushes for bamboo ones. Or, swap out your bottled hair and shower gels for shampoo and body bars.
You could also swap out your plastic bottles, and takeaway lunch meals and coffees. Opt instead for a bamboo lunch box and a reusable water bottle or coffee cup.
Swapping out daily essentials -
How it helps: Most of our daily essentials, such as toothbrushes, are non-recyclable. (seriously, did you know that there are still toothbrushes from as far back as the 1970s?). So swapping them out for biodegradable ones really makes a difference.
How you save: you can keep to your budget by making slow changes when you can. Bamboo brushes are roughly the same price as regular toothbrushes, so when you’re ready for a new one, the change won’t break the bank. As well as this, having a reusable coffee cup or packing your lunch can actually save you money, and be better for you.
Ditch plastics for paper -
You’ve likely already seen the movement. More and more companies are getting rid of plastic straws. Instead, they're favouring eco-friendly paper ones. But did you know you can too?
How it Helps: Plastic straws are massive contributors to ocean waste problems. According to the BBC, 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year in the UK.
How you save: Buying plastic straws only to have them go in the bin after one use is like throwing money away. They’re easy to get hold of and great if you’re someone who likes to use straws in drinks.
Swap your buying methods -
How it helps: Buying secondhand goods such as electronics and clothes reduces their demand. This means less materials go into creating new ones.
How you save: Often, the items are still in very good condition. and are cheaper than their regular retail price.
Shopping for clothes in charity shops is also a good idea, as profits will be going to a good cause.
Or, you could try upcycling your old items into something new.
#3 - Change Your Grocery Shopping Habits
Plastic packaging from food, and food waste make up a considerable amount of the waste we produce. According to Plastic Free UK, most families throw away about 40kg of plastic per year, which could have otherwise been recycled.
That’s a lot of trash!
Luckily, there are lots of ways we can reduce the amount of waste we make. And it all starts with a little change…
Skip packaged veggies, buy loose
Where you can, try to buy loose wholefoods. This can be something as simple as buying loose potatoes instead of packaged ones.
Or if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, certain stores let you bring your own containers. This means you can buy things such as grains and other items in bulk.
How it Helps: Buying foods unpackaged means there is less waste to throw away
How you save: Buying loose veggies means you can buy as many as you need instead of a pack that may have too much. As well as this, it is often cheaper to buy bulk foods with your own containers.
Find Quality in Farmers’ markets:
How it helps: Farmers’ markets are great ways to find local, organic food. Shopping there means your food has travelled less distance to reach your plate!
How you save:According to a survey featured by the independent, Farmers’ markets can offer better value for money than supermarkets. Plus. you get to know exactly where your food comes from, while supporting local people.
Bring your own bags
It’s a trend that has existed across the country for years. Many people already bring their own bags to supermarkets. But there are also many that don’t.
If you’re needing that extra incentive to start using your own bags… here it is!
How It Helps: It’s an easy way to save the planet -We use up to 1 trillion plastic bagseach year. Only recycling about 1 in 200. Reusing your bags can help reduce this number, and keep them out of natural environments.
How You Save: It’s cheaper- At first that extra 5p bag charge doesn’t seem like much, but it can build up to a surprising amount. If you use roughly 4 bags for your weekly shop, that’s 20p. After a year that becomes about £10. After 5 years, that 5p bag charge racks up to £50!
OR you could try and cut out the middle man… er, market. And try growing your own produce.
4 - Reduce Food Waste
Food waste is also a massive problem, about a third of food produced goes to waste each year. That’s 1.3 billion tonnes!
There are many ways to tackle this problem. And it may even save you money...
How it Helps: Planning your meals means you’re more likely to stick to buying only the food you need. This can then help reduce food waste during the week.
How You Save: Planning your meals for the week ahead can make grocery shopping easier. If you have an idea of what you’re going to make, you’re less likely to buy more food than you can use. Planning for even a few meals can make a difference, and save you money.
Make use of leftovers and scraps
If you’ve made too much for one meal you can keep leftovers to have again later in the week. Or take them to work for lunch.
If you don’t fancy having straight up leftovers as your lunch, there are lots of ways you can reinvent your meal. Earn those culinary bonus points!
You can also use vegetable peelings and meat scraps (if you eat meat) to create stock. You can then use this as a homemade base for soups and other meals
How it helps: making the most of your leftovers reduces the amount of food that goes to waste.
How you save: Having leftovers for lunch at work means you don’t have to fork out extra money to buy it then and there.
Freeze what you don’t use or eat
You can freeze individual ingredients as well as pre-made meals. There are a surprising amount of items that you can freeze.
How it Helps: Freezing your food will make it last a lot longer. This gives you plenty of time to use it before it goes off. This way you reduce the likelihood of throwing it out.
How You Save: Freezing meals and ingredients will save you from having to throw them out when you don’t know what to do with them. Simply thaw them out as you need them.
#5 - Consider Going Veggie (even just 1 day a week)
Animal agriculture contributes to over 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s roughly equal to the amount of emissions produced by the transport sector. (That’s every car, truck, boat and plane!).
Cut back on Meat
How it helps: Making changes to our diets is simple, and makes a huge impact. A research conducted at Oxford University found that reducing our meat intake could cut carbon emissions by almost a third. And switching to a vegetarian diet can cut emissions by 63%.
How You Save: Meat is already expensive, and it can actually work out cheaper to reduce the amount of meat you buy.
Cutting out meat doesn’t have to be boring! There are lots of fun and inventive recipes that taste as good as (or dare I say better than) meat.
#6 - Consider Other Transport Options
How it helps:
Reduce pollution - Using public transport can reduce air pollution and save energy. Buses emit only 20% as much carbon monoxide as a car would. And trains emit almost 100% less hydrocarbons and carbon monoxides.
Reduce Congestion -less cars on the road means less traffic- it’s simple!
How You Save: The cost of owning and running a car can add up over time. Things such as petrol, insurance, road tax and maintenance are certainly not cheap!
Public transport can reduce both cost and emissions.
Walk or Bike
How it Helps: Biking is one of the most efficient ways to get to work, or wherever you want to be! Biking to work will reduce your carbon footprint by significant amounts. This is because biking and walking don’t emit any air pollution.
How You Save: It will also save you money, as you’re spending much less on petrol. (and parking).
If public transport or biking aren’t options for you, then carpooling might be the next best thing!
How it Helps: Carpooling even with only three people means that two other cars will be off the road. This will reduce carbon emissions.
How You Save: It can be a great way to get to know your colleagues better. And can help you save money through splitting fuel costs.
How This All Helps
It can feel like all these small things are doing nothing. Especially when you can’t see the changes happening. But every little thing makes a difference. And thousands of small changes can make a big difference. So doing whatever you can will make a change.