Trying to move towards an eco-friendly lifestyle can seem overwhelming. Few of us realise the implications our fast-moving and disposable lifestyles have on the environment until we're forced to take inventory of it. Everything from the holidays we take, to the amount of food we're eating (and then wasting), the products we buy; even the way we shower has an impact on the environment.
It's easy to feel disheartened when you don't know where to start. You may feel insignificant in the face of something as huge as climate change but even as individuals, we're not powerless. As governments mobilise economies and industries to tackle environmental emergencies, we need to remember that we can contribute to that fight, too. There are small eco-friendly changes that we can all make to our lifestyles.
10 small sustainable swaps for an eco-friendly lifestyle:
Getting your food shopping delivered could reduce your carbon footprint
This isn't going to be true for everyone but see if it applies to your household. The Good Energy website writes that it's better for one food van to deliver to 10 customers than for those 10 people to drive to the supermarket individually. Green Biz reports that the average grocery delivery van will make 120 stops within a 50-mile radius producing around 6 ounces of C02 per drop. The average customer travelling to the store and back creates 24 times the amount of CO2. The Conversation furthers this by saying that big supermarkets are often better placed to use cleaner vehicles for their deliveries, making online food shopping eco-friendlier. Some stores will even indicate during the booking process when someone else in your local area has ordered a delivery. The van can then make multiple drops within an even smaller radius, producing far less C02 than had each household driven to the store separately.
Of course, it's not going to be a sustainable swap for everyone. For some people, visiting the store will be more environmentally friendly. It will also depend on how well your store manages its delivery timeslots. Supermarkets that rely heavily on substitutions for unavailable items could encourage more trips to the store. When home delivery isn't an eco-friendly option, it's still worth thinking about your food shopping habits. Looking at the types of food you buy and the journey it's had from a farm or factory to your kitchen can help consumers make more sustainable choices. Meal planning will help reduce the number of times you need to go out and buy food (or waste unwanted food items). You can avoid travelling to the store during rush hour or at peak times to save idling in traffic and increasing the number of carbon emissions your journey creates.
Driving to Reduce Fuel Consumption
We're often told that we should be buying cleaner cars but it's rarely that simple. Fortunately, there are things we can all do to improve fuel efficiency when we're driving. Your tyres should be correctly inflated. Under-inflated tyres have more contact with the road surface which increases drag, which increases fuel consumption. Speaking of drag, make sure your car isn't carrying more weight than you need. Roof racks, trailers, and heavy items in the boot or trunk all create resistance which increases fuel consumption. If you're going to be stationary for a while, turn off the engine. You'll use less fuel doing this than when it's left idling. This will also help with air quality in urban areas.
Go Meat-Free One Day a Week (or more)
This is always a controversial one but reducing the amount of meat in your diet will make a significant impact on your carbon footprint. You don't have to become a card-carrying vegetarian. Going meat-free once or twice a week is an easy eco-friendly swap that most of us can make. Research suggests that consuming less meat and fewer dairy products in your diet could reduce the carbon footprint of your food by as much as 73%. Gone are the days when cutting meat out of your diet meant settling for soggy bean burgers or pebble-dry nut roasts. There's a world of flavour out there so take advantage of it and try new things.
Check Your Tea for Plastic
You might be surprised to learn that there's plastic in your teabags. Switch to loose-leaf tea for a more environmentally friendly cuppa and when you're done, throw it into a compost bin. Most of the major tea companies are looking into ways to make sustainable teabags and some have had more success than others. Be careful about over-inflated environmental claims when buying products. This is known in marketing as green-washing and some of the most well-known brands have had to retract advertising campaigns after prematurely celebrating their sustainability credentials. Fortunately, it's not difficult to find alternative brands that are plastic-free.
Switching Off From Standby
Most of us are used to leaving our televisions, computers, and games consoles on standby. Standby is when a device isn't turned on but is still receiving power. Televisions will noften have this feature. A single device in standby mode won't make much difference to your energy bill but if every piece of technology in your home is left on standby, then it could be costing you £30 a year. Encourage other people in your household to unplug at the wall where possible. Money.co.uk says we should all be turning our games consoles off as leaving them in idle mode can use as much electricity as when we're playing them.
Drying Clothes Outdoors
Ditch the Parchment Paper
You can't turn the TV on now without being confronted by a baking show. If you've had the urge to take up cake making or biscuit baking, then one easy sustainable swap is to stop using baking or parchment paper and switch to using a silicone mat. As the Edgy Veg website points out, you can use a mat thousands of times whilst reducing the amount of cooking oil as they don't need to be greased.
Swap Bottles for Bars
As consumers become increasingly eco-conscious, we're seeing a bigger shift towards recyclable plastic bottles and fewer chemicals used in the manufacturing of personal hygiene products. Take a look at what you have in your bathroom, wash bag, or make-up kit and you'll begin to see the size of the problem. 90% of liquid beauty products come in plastic bottles.You may not be able to replace everything but make a start by switching to a shampoo or moisturising bar. It negates the need for a container (or can be put in a r eusable container). And they smell fantastic, too.
Let The Grass Grow Under Your Feet
When the sun starts shining, the last thing many of us want to do is walk the lawnmower up and down the grass in our gardens. Now you have an excuse not to. Letting the grass grow not only reduces the amount of petrol or electricity that you're using, but it's also better for any local wildlife visiting your garden and helps with drainage if you're at risk of flooding.
Fresh food waste that goes to landfill in a bin liner produces more methane as it decomposes than the same amount left to rot inside a compost bin or in the open air. Methane is around 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide so each time we throw salad, vegetable cuttings, stalks, or out-of-date fruit into our kitchen bins, we're contributing to greenhouse gas emissions without realising. Compositing provides an easy and efficient way to reduce the amount of food waste going to landfills.
It's going to take a global movement to fight back against climate change but we can all contribute right now by making small changes for an eco-friendlier lifestyle. When you've made the changes in your life, encourage and inspire others to do the same. They might seem small but it's a group effort that soon adds up.