The issue of climate change is one that can’t be ignored any longer; and, as a species, we’re all responsible for making small and large changes that will help to lessen the environmental damage that we’ve inflicted on our planet.
We’ve put together ten useful, and very detailed, tips to help you to live a greener, more eco-friendly life...
1) Reduce your food waste
Approximately one third of all food produced in the world gets wasted each year. You can help to reduce food waste in a number of ways:
- Plan your meals before you shop.
- Make a shopping list so that you only buy what you need.
- Store your food properly to prolong its shelf life.
- Cook things in batches and freeze for later.
- Learn to use your own judgement – many foods are perfectly safe to eat after the ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date.
- Use vegetable peelings and any veggies that are past their best to make stock – boil them with a couple of litres of water and some seasoning for half an hour or more. Strain the liquid and freeze for use in recipes that call for stock.
- Get a compost bin and compost any food waste that you have; or check if your local authority collects food waste for recycling.
Reducing the amount of food you waste will also save you money too, which is an added bonus! For more information on reducing food waste, visit the Love Food Hate Waste website, where you’ll find some great tips and innovative recipes.
2) Reduce your meat consumption
In its simplest form, the argument for a vegetarian diet is this: if we feed animals on plants, then eat those animals, we use more resources and produce higher volumes of greenhouse gases than if we just eat the plants ourselves. There’s a bit more to it than that, and this Washington Post article on the environmental implications of diet is worth a read.
However, it can’t be ignored that the meat production industry contributes to around 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions, so the eco-conscious amongst us can help by altering our eating habits...
- Reduce the amount of meat that you consume.
- Opt for grass fed meat rather than grain fed.
- Choose sustainably-sourced fish rather than farmed fish.
- Stop eating processed meats, opting for whole cuts instead.
- Halve your servings of meat, filling your plate with vegetables, grains, and legumes instead.
- Observe ‘Meat Free Monday’ in your household and prepare tasty vegetarian meals for the family.
- Bulk out your meat dishes with lentils, beans, and grains to reduce overall meat consumption.
3) Reduce the amount of water you use
When you turn on the tap in your house and water comes out, it’s easy to forget (or ignore) the journey that those droplets of H₂O have taken to reach your glass. However, a great deal of energy is needed in order to process and clean water each day, not to mention the energy required to heat it when you turn on the hot tap. If you want to live a more eco-friendly life then it’s vital that you adopt measures to reduce your water use...
- Don’t leave the tap running while you brush your teeth; instead, use a cup of water to rinse your mouth out and wash your toothbrush.
- Take showers instead of baths as they use a lot less water; and fit a low-flow shower head to save even more water.
- Only boil the amount of water that you need, rather than filling and boiling a full kettle every time.
- Place a couple of buckets in your garden to catch rainwater, and use this to water plants or wash your car instead of the hosepipe.
- Use a cistern displacement device to reduce the volume of water that gets flushed each time.
- Make sure your washing machine and dishwasher are full before switching on, and use the eco setting if the machine has one.
- When washing dishes by hand, fill the sink rather than using running water.
If you have a water meter and pay for the water you actually use rather than just a standard rate, saving water will also save you money, so it’s worth speaking to your water company about the possibility of having a meter installed.
4) Rethink your transport options
Transportation is responsible for a decent proportion of the greenhouse gases that get emitted into the environment. So one of the easiest ways you can go green and have an impact on global warming is by rethinking your transportation options...
- Use public transport for your commute – not only does it benefit the environment, it also gives you chance to use your commuting time to do something productive like read a book or learn a new language with an app like Duolingo!
- Use your company’s carpool scheme to buddy up with colleagues and take turns being the designated driver.
- Leave your car at home for shorter journeys, and travel on foot or by public transport instead.
- Consider getting a bike and cycling to work instead of driving or taking public transport.
- Work from home one day a week if possible in order to reduce the amount you’re using your car throughout the week.
Whilst greener living is generally focused on reusing and recycling products, when it comes to cars it’s sometimes better to opt for a newer model as they tend to be more fuel efficient. If you are in need of a new car, a hybrid vehicle that runs on both petrol and electric is a good option as it will have cleaner exhaust emissions.
5) Insulate your home
When the weather is cold you’ll naturally want to crank up the heating and keep things warm and toasty. However, if your home isn’t properly insulated you’ll end up using way more energy than you need to in order to keep it cosy and warm. Here are some ways that you can insulate your home and use less energy to heat it...
- If your home has cavity walls or a loft, consider having them professionally insulated.
- Double glazed windows and well-sealed window frames will prevent heat from escaping from your home.
- An enclosed front porch can add an extra layer of defence against heat loss.
- If a porch is not an option, try devices like keyhole covers, letterbox covers, and draught excluders for the front door.
Once your home is insulated sufficiently, you should be able to turn your thermostat down by a few degrees. Your home will be retaining more of the warmth it generates, and will be working less hard to generate heat, thus allowing you to use less energy.
6) Be a savvy shopper
There are people out there who reject consumerism and live their lives in a way that is dedicated to reducing waste and helping the environment without spending a penny. Commonly known as ‘freegans’, this niche group of people survive by retrieving discarded food and goods from supermarkets, and living off the land. However, it’s a pretty time-consuming and dedicated lifestyle which is not for the faint of heart. For most of us, shopping for food and items is a necessary part of life, but there are ways that you can care for the environment whilst you shop...
- Take reusable shopping bags with you when you go to the supermarket, and carry one in your handbag or coat pocket to avoid having to use plastic bags.
- Do your food shopping online and have it delivered – this helps you to keep track of what you’re spending, and it’s like carpooling for your groceries!
- Before purchasing new things like clothing, furniture, and home wares for example, have a look on sites like Freecycle for free items in your area, as well as visiting charity shops, and checking out sites like eBay, depop, and Shpock for pre-loved items.
- Choose environmentally responsible retailers for those times when you really must buy new.
- When shopping for groceries, make a list and only buy what you need in order to avoid overspending and having excess food that will go to waste.
7) Reuse and recycle
Landfill sites are ugly and unsightly, which is not great for the immediate environment around them; but they are also really bad for the overall environment of the planet too. Landfill sites are some of the biggest sources of methane gas, which is one of the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming and climate change. You can help to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill by following these tips...
- Before throwing something away stop and think whether it can be reused in any way at all.
- If you can’t reuse something yourself, put it on Freecycle or a similar site, as it may be really useful to someone else!
- Recycle as much as you can – paper, card, Tetra Pak (drinks cartons), glass, plastic bottles, aluminium cans, and empty food tins can all be recycled easily from your home as most local authorities supply residential bins for them.
- Recycle old batteries – there are outlets throughout the UK where you can drop off your old batteries.
- If you have kids, or enjoy arts and crafts, keep things like empty toilet rolls and cardboard boxes for entertainment on a rainy day!
- Stay clued-up on the types of things that can be recycled, and how you can recycle them.
- Have things repaired when they break, or learn how to repair them yourself. There’s plenty of information on the internet to help with everything from darning your socks to fixing your washing machine.
8) Replace your bulbs with LEDs
Traditional incandescent and fluorescent bulbs have served us well for many years, but it’s time we faced up to the fact that they’re just not very energy-efficient. Switching your household light bulbs to eco-friendly LED bulbs will save you money on your energy bills, as well as being better for the environment for a number of reasons...
- LED bulbs use up to 80% less energy than incandescent or halogen bulbs.
- They are made from thick epoxy resin which makes them durable and virtually unbreakable, meaning fewer bulbs that end up in landfill.
- They have a maximum lifetime of up to 50,000 hours, which means you won’t have to change them very often.
- Their long life means you’ll need to buy fewer bulbs, which reduces your carbon footprint in terms of the manufacture and logistics of the bulbs.
- LED bulbs don’t contain any pollutants that are harmful to the environment, such as lead or mercury.
- LED bulbs are also fully recyclable!
9) Go paperless
Paper-based bills and statements are costly for companies to issue, and often annoying for customers to receive in the mail. We’re all so busy these days, and it’s far easier and much quicker to view bank statements and pay bills online. Many companies and banks even have purpose-built apps now so you can perform these tasks on the go from your smartphone or tablet. Going paperless has a number of great benefits for you and the environment...
- Receiving your statements via email and managing your accounts online means that there is no need for the paper on which the statement is printed, as well as the envelope, and any inserts that the company might include.
- Going paperless is better for the environment – as more and more people choose this option over time, the demand for paper will reduce, thus saving trees from being chopped down.
- Paperless billing also saves you time – you can view your statement and pay your bills at any time, and you’ll spend less time shredding sensitive documents and recycling the paper.
Why not go further in your pursuit of a paperless life, and read your daily newspaper or favourite magazine online instead? This will help to reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to the reduction in trees being chopped down and paper waste being recycled.
10) Reduce your use of chemicals
Most of the cleaning products available on the market use harsh chemicals to tackle germs, dirt, and grime. Although these chemical-based cleaning products are effective at cleaning your home, they are also bad for the environment, as well as being potentially harmful to your health too. It’s not just household cleaning products either; your daily toiletries also contain chemicals which can find their way into the water supply of various wildlife. Cutting down on your chemical use is easier than you might think...
- Make your own cleaning products – many of your store-cupboard essentials double up as household cleaners. Vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, olive oil, and lemon juice, as well as rubbing alcohol and essential oils are all you need to keep you home clean.
- Make your own beauty products – coconut or olive oil mixed with brown sugar makes a lovely, natural body scrub, while ingredients like banana, honey, oats, yoghurt, eggs, and avocado can be used to make a variety of effective face masks.
- Choose cruelty-free products – makeup, cosmetics, and cleaning products that aren’t tested on animals, and are free from animal-derived products are better for the environment.
In conclusion, there are a wide variety of ways in which you can reduce your carbon footprint and make a difference to the future of the planet. Whether you make one or two small changes, or go all-out and pledge to make your life as green as possible, as long as you’re doing something you’ll be contributing to the greater good.