A part of me didn’t want to write this blog post. I’m aware that there is a large chunk of the public who are fed up hearing about climate change, and I didn’t want to create another glossy, yet general post about how you can be eco-friendly which would’ve been overlooked by the masses as it was written by yet another environmental advocate who is banging on about global warming and plastic pollution. It’s a shame that a subject which so many are so passionately trying to bring to the forefront of people’s minds, is being viewed upon by many as an irritation, with worrying indifference and denial, even though it is an issue which will impact us all if it’s not dealt with soon. I’ve never known scientific information to be dismissed and/or ignored as much as that about climate change – however, I know that if we’re to educate the public efficiently and to push for change to start and be rapidly implemented sooner rather than later, none of us who are eager to learn or to teach the facts can give up. So with that in mind, I give you 17 easy eco-friendly habits that you can start today.
BUY FEWER CLOTHES AND INVEST IN HIGH QUALITY ITEMS
Cotton production requires an extortionate amount of water and, according to The Times, 20,000 litres of water is required to manufacture one t-shirt and one pair of jeans. This has led to, in one example, to the drying up of the Aral Sea, which in 1960 was the fourth-largest lake in the world at 68,000 square kilometres in size (roughly the size of Ireland). Today, only 10% of the Aral Sea remains.
The loss of the Aral Sea has altered the local climate dramatically, as winds have increased and humidity has fallen through the floor, making the area extremely dry and dusty. This has also led to the demise of the fishing industry which has damaged the local economy to meet the Western world’s fashion ‘needs’. The moral of the story is: buy fewer clothes and help contribute to the reduction in the amount of water being soaked up and the alteration of local climates. High quality items will last longer, so you don’t need to buy as many or to replace as often and are usually manufactured in areas where pollution regulations are strict.
DON’T THROW YOUR CLOTHES AWAY
To follow on from point 1, it’s important that we use the clothes that we buy as much as possible. I’ve found it mind-boggling how so many young girls buy clothes and only wear items once or twice, or they buy clothes without considering whether they’ll wear them efficiently before they make the purchase, and so the items get thrown away or hidden in the back of their wardrobes. These habits contribute to excessive cotton production, manufacturing pollution, increased use of recycling technologies and plastic production as 60% of our clothes consist of plastic-containing synthetic materials to make them last longer, making them partly non-biodegradable and adding to landfill. Instead, give your clothes to charity or sell them to people living nearby you!
DRINK OUT OF GLASS BOTTLES
Glass bottles are a fantastic alternative to plastic as glass contains natural properties. Even though glass is not biodegradable, it is eco-friendly as it is easily recyclable. Metal bottles aren’t such a great alternative, as it has been suggested that some metals can enter the water in the bottle and when consumed can contribute to increased metal levels in the body. Also, many metal bottles on the market have plastic coatings, which also isn’t beneficial for your health, as plastic has been found to leech into the water and has an oestrogenic effect on the body, which can cause hormonal imbalances.
BUY YOUR FRUIT AND VEGETABLES LOOSE
It’s really simple – if you buy any food out of plastic, non-biodegradable packaging, you’re helping to reduce the effects of plastic pollution! It’s encouraging to see how supermarkets are giving increasing amounts of options to purchase food out of non-biodegradable packaging, and I hope more initiatives are brought out in the future.
ONLY WASH YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THEY NEED WASHING
60% of our clothes are now made of a concoction of materials which include plastic, such as polyester, elastane and anything that’s waterproof. Every t-shirt, every bra, every sock, every pillowcase and more contains plastic, and when put into the washing machine or given a quick handwash, the plastic particles break off and flow into our water systems, creating a variety of issues (see How Plastic Fabrics Are Damaging Us & The Environment to learn more). Also, my family stopped using fabric conditioner about a year ago and we haven’t noticed any difference without it! It would be a great way to reduce plastic, and cut down on the amount of chemicals being washed into our water systems. Plus, it’ll cut your costs down, so it’s a win-win!
SWITCH OFF YOUR SOCKETS
It sounds obvious, but it’s something we all forget to do at times. I’ve found that I regularly forget to switch off my phone charger and laptop charger!
BUY LOCAL PRODUCE
Buying food from local suppliers is a fantastic way of helping the fight against climate change. If you go into your local supermarket or have a look in your fridge and see where your everyday essentials are being imported from, you’d be horrified to see your blueberries could be coming from Argentina and your potatoes from Egypt! If you can buy British produce (if you’re from the UK of course) that would be an amazing way of preventing flights and transportation pollution which occurs every single day. It’s also a brilliant habit to get into as you’ll be supporting your country’s economy, industries and community.
TAKE A “DO I REALLY NEED THAT?” APPROACH
The Western world has a consumerism addiction, and even if we don’t view ourselves to have a buying problem, we all either consume more than is actually necessary or take for granted the accessibility to our everyday ‘requirements’, such as conditioner, plant-based milks or even our morning cup of coffee. Asking yourself “do I really need that?” will help to scale back your purchases, the amount of manufacturing that is needed, and the amount of pollution that is created to meet our buying habits.
ONLY BUY SINGLE-USE PLASTIC ITEMS IF THEY’RE RECYCLABLE
95% of plastic isn’t recyclable, largely because many plastics are dyed with colourful pigments. Black plastic or any other dark coloured plastics, either can’t be recycled or struggle to be recycled, as recycling technologies can’t detect the items. Recycling facilities sort plastic by beaming a light on the items as they pass through the sorting technology, and since the dark colours can’t reflect light, they don’t get picked up and continue through the system – this also contributes to potential contamination of other materials, such as glass and paper, and prevents that from getting recycled as well. These items then either go into landfill or are burnt – increasing carbon emissions and the impact on climate change.
ENJOY ACTIVITIES THAT DON’T REQUIRE TECHNOLOGY
This is a bit ironic for me to say, considering that one of my main habits is blogging, which requires a laptop and a phone to take pictures on, to do research and to market with social media! However, it’s important that I do have a break to rejuvenate, and taking time away from technology is a fantastic way of helping the planet as you’ll be using less electricity and, consequently, less fossil fuels. Getting outside has been scientifically proven to help mental health and is a great way of relieving stress and escaping for a while from the hustle and bustle of life.
REUSABLE BAGS OR NO BAGS
A lot of plastic bags can’t be recycled in many recycling facilities, usually because of their colouring. However, buying a bag that is reusable and strong, which will allow it to last for years, is one of the best ways to reduce our consumption of plastic. My generation have been brought up to view plastic as the devil, and many of us would prefer carry our items if we’ve forgotten our reusable bag, or if the one we have with us is full, rather than to buy a brand new one. Greenpeace found that in 2018, sales of Bags For Life increased to 1.5 billion and the amount of plastic used by supermarkets rose to 900,000 tonnes. It wouldn’t shock me, and I think it would be an incredible and significant improvement, if plastic bags were banned completely. There was a time in our very recent history that we lived without plastic with ease, and I think it’s vital that we intelligently embrace a backstep to simpler and biodegradable packaging and carriers, rather than viewing a potential turnaround back to the olden-days as a disaster for mankind, as so often any downward trend is believed to be.
TAKE A REUSABLE CUP WHEN GETTING YOUR COFFEE FIX
I’ve always liked coffee – in fact, I started to drink it years before I ever took my first sip of tea. However, over the past year I must’ve only had 3 or 4 cups, but I have friends who drink it all day every day and a couple who struggle to function without it – scary, I know! However, since so many of the population love their daily cup of coffee, it’s vital we make it environmentally friendly as well! By taking your own cup, we can reduce the amount of cardboard cups and plastic covers being thrown away! Yes, they can be recyclable, but since there are plastic coverings and pigments used, sometimes they can’t be, or struggle to be, recycled. Also, as we rush about in our busy lives, we usually throw these disposable cups and lids into general waste bins which go straight to landfill, contributing to carbon and methane emissions.
ASK TO NOT HAVE A STRAW
Similar to the point above – asking to have your drink without a straw is exceptionally easy! It helps to cut down on plastic production and waste.
STYLE RATHER THAN FASHION
Rapidly changing fashions are a way to make all of us spend money in order to be ‘modern’ or ‘on-trend’, which results in huge manufacturing processes to meet the consistent demand of the Western world. Unfortunately, it’s been reported that many of our favourite high-street brands manufacture items in developing countries which have limited pollution and waste regulations, allowing toxic chemicals to be pumped into the water systems which the local citizens rely on for drinking, bathing and even food. The poor waste regulations, alongside the low pay rate, allows companies to manufacture an extortionate amount of items while keeping their costs low, which results in a large profit. By focusing on buying classic and timeless pieces, which don’t go out of style, rather than what is fashionable at the time, you will help to reduce these negative environmental impacts, as well as avoiding throwing clothes away and into landfill when they’re no-long considered to be “in”.
“DO I REALLY NEED THE HEATING ON?”
I’ve never enjoyed having the heating on high – it dries my skin, makes my eczema worse and makes me feel really tired and groggy! I’ve always preferred to wrap myself up in a hoodie or a blanket, and luckily for my parents our heating bill is relatively low thanks to that! Many of our heating systems rely upon fossil fuels to warm us during the winter, and while I’m saying that not having your heating on full blast is a fantastic way of helping the fight against climate change, I’m definitely not advocating that you freeze!
CUT DOWN ON THE NUMBER OF FLIGHTS YOU TAKE
It’s been reported that the maximum number of flights each of us should take a year is 1 in order to keep the rapid climate change at bay, which won’t even get you back from your holiday! I’ve got a huge desire to travel, and since I got poorly at 18 I haven’t been on holiday for over three years. However, in that time, I have ordered makeup products from the US, which has accounted for the flights I haven’t taken myself. I don’t want to cut myself off from life, I want to go a visit the places that I’ve always dreamed of going to, but I know that when I do go on my next adventure, it’ll mean the world to me. Sometimes, cutting back and not indulging ourselves every time we want something shiny or new, is a great way of helping ourselves to appreciate what we have when we receive it, and to not take our privilege for granted.
AIR DRY vs TUMBLE DRY
I know this is difficult in the UK since it’s so often cold and/or rainy, but if you can air dry your clothes instead of using the tumble dryer, you will both be cutting down on your electricity bill but also on the amount of carbon you’re producing. According to an article by the Guardian, washing and drying a load every two days creates around 440kg of carbon dioxide every year per person, which is “the equivalent to flying from London to Glasgow and back with 15-mile taxi rides to and from the airports”, purely due to the amount of electricity which is required to produce the necessary heat. Also, by air drying you’re cutting down on the number of microplastics being broken off your garments and into the water system.