Starting any journey can be a daunting task, especially one that involves awareness of ourselves and implementing lifestyle changes. However, the very definition of a journey implies development over time, and this is particularly useful when starting out with sustainability. There are ways in which each and every one of us can incorporate more eco-friendly habits into our daily life, it is important to get to grips with how the decisions we make are impacting the planet but doing so in a way that is manageable and maintainable.
I have put together three ways to get you started with being more environmentally conscious. All of which can hopefully become a natural lead to other sustainability measures.
1. Where possible, avoid single use plastics
Single-use plastics have become extremely commonplace, designed to provide convenience in a fast-paced society. It has been normalised to consume plastic items such as water bottles, straws, carrier bags and coffee cups and discard of them after one use. This is problematic as plastics are made from non-renewable resources and require lots of energy to produce. After being discarded, they do not biodegrade, they simply end up reducing in size into fragments called microplastics, which end up in our waterways and landfill.
To work out which single-use plastics to avoid, it is necessary to work out which of them you are using in a typical week, it’s probably more than you think! Luckily, the market for plastic-free alternatives has hugely increased, making it much easier to ditch the single-use plastics and opt for its plastic-free + reusable counterpart. Here are some examples of great alternatives:
- Bamboo cutlery, straws, and toothbrushes
- Shampoo and conditioner bars
- Reusable shopping bags
- Reusable coffee cups
- Washable nappies
- Reusable feminine hygiene products
- Beeswax food wraps
- Reusable cotton pads
Of all the industries, the fashion industry is one of the greatest polluters. Fast fashion (the mass production of cheaply made clothing) has created a lot of harmful effects on both the environment and to those in the supply chain, which is simply not sustainable. Much like single-use plastics, clothing has become largely disposable, and a stark reminder of how prevalent throwaway culture is. Slow fashion is pretty much the antithesis of fast fashion. The Good Trade describe slow fashion as “an argument for hitting the brakes on excessive production, overcomplicated supply chains and mindless consumption”. Slow fashion principles encourage slower consumption as well as taking care of our clothing and the people that make them. These principles harken back to pre-Industrial Revolution times where quality and durability of clothing was of utmost importance. Clothing was also made and sourced locally.
Here are some top slow fashion principles:
- Consume less clothing as a rule.
- Focus on the clothes that are already in your wardrobe.
- If you are buying, choose quality items that are made to last.
- Shop second-hand where possible.
- Opt for items made from natural materials e.g., organic cotton + linen.
- Treat clothing with care and repair when necessary.
- Re-wear clothing.
- Wash items less, particularly items such as jeans and jackets.
3. Rethink how you travel
It goes without saying that some methods of travelling are certainly ‘greener’ than others and there are many ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint without ditching your beloved car altogether! They are as follows:
- Walk or ride your bike for shorter distances – they are both carbon-free transportation methods.
- Car share – this cuts down on the number of cars on the road and therefore harmful emissions!
- Take the bus or train for slightly longer distances – follows the same principle as carsharing contributing to less congestion on the roads.
- Where possible, reduce the number of long-haul flights you take.
Following the tips above are great steps in the right direction. However, sometimes hopping in the car is unavoidable. Here are some eco-friendly tips for when you do decide to travel by car:
- Keep windows closed – this will reduce drag and therefore fuel consumption.
- Remove your roof rack when not needed – this reduces wind resistance.
- If you are stuck in traffic, turn your engine off.
- Try to drive smoothly – accelerating and braking gently can use less fuel.
- Driving at around 50mph (where legal of course!) – this uses less fuel than greater speeds.
- Routinely check tyre pressure – under inflated tyres can increase fuel consumption.
I hope that these three tips can be beneficial to those of you embarking on your sustainability journey. Just remember, that there are lots of ways to be sustainable, many of which are not possible/as easily accessible for some. So, try not to put too much pressure on yourself as this can take away how rewarding the process can be! With lots of people making small changes, this can lead to collective action and big changes in the right direction.