Every day, it seems, we read or hear about more and more environmental problems our planet is facing. Scientific reports, predicting disaster if human society continues the way it is going, get more and more regular. Our planet is admittedly in great danger and mostly because of our own actions, therefore we are the ones who need and also who can change that.
One major issue we need to tackle is the extensive use of plastic and single use products. A few decades ago, disposable and single use products were not part of our daily routine whereas nowadays the majority of the products we consume are. This has resulted in increasingly harmful consequences for the environment.
But that is not all. Many of our daily habits have a terrible impact on our environment and we need to reduce it if we want to save our home, Earth.
So what can we do? We can ‘Be aware and care’. There are many ways that each of us can change our daily activities that are easy, painless, and be done immediately. The first step is knowing what we can do and deciding at what scale each of us can afford, to make a change. To begin with, it’s easier to start changing some daily habits and routines. Sometimes it can be really hard at the beginning, but once you get used to it you realise that you are contributing to the planet and that is a better option for everyone.
If you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle but don’t know how, try following some of these tips:
Reduce Plastic Consumption
While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become addicted to single-use or disposable plastic — with severe environmental consequences. The same properties that make plastics so useful — their durability and resistance to degradation — also make them nearly impossible for nature to completely break down.
Here are 10 swaps you can make:
- Plastic toothbrush → wooden/bamboo toothbrush
- Normal cotton swab → bamboo/paper cotton swab
- Tampons and pads → reusable period pants and menstrual cup
- Disposable plastic straws → reusable metal straw
- Disposable plastic water bottle → reusable water bottle
- Single use razors → reusable razors
- Plastic bags → reusable bags
- Disposable cotton pads → using a piece of fabric and washing it
- Shampoo, conditioner etc.→ solid shampoo and conditioner or refill
- Toothpaste → toothpaste tabs
For example, we should use a wooden/bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic toothbrush. Plastic toothbrushes are made of polypropylene plastic and nylon; both of them come from non-renewable fossil fuels. So, using a biodegradable toothbrush is the best alternative to avoid polluting the Earth with materials that take almost 1000 years to finally break down.
Being so used to liquid shampoo, conditioner etc. we are often not aware of the environmentally friendlier alternatives. One solution is to use the solid equivalents instead. Another thing could be to refill the same bottles instead of constantly buying new ones.
Instead of the regular toothpaste that comes in a plastic container the toothpaste tabs can be stored in a metallic box which can be refilled thus reducing the plastic used.
Tackling Water Shortage
Another problem is water scarcity which already affects every continent. Water usage has been growing globally at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, and an increasing number of regions are reaching the limit at which water services can be sustainably delivered, especially in arid regions.
Three easy ways to reduce your water consumption:
- Take a shower and not a bath.
- Stop the tap while you’re brushing your teeth.
- Use a dishwasher instead of handwashing.
When taking a step towards facing this issue it would be advisable to try and take more showers than baths. In this case, there are also other important factors like frequency.
Turning off the tap water when you don’t really need it might seem like a small step, but it is quite important one.
Dishwashers are, on average, four times more water efficient than washing by hand per place setting. The most water-efficient full-size dishwasher uses almost 10 times less water to wash the same amount of dishes as washing them by hand.
Cut Down On the Energy We Use
It is inevitable that, to maintain a comfortable and civilized society, we require a lot of energy for industry, transportation, and electricity. This, however, brings about massive consumption of fossil fuels; then global warming progresses rapidly, and this makes various environmental problems much more serious. The energy problem that receives the most attention is the greenhouse gas emissions.It is the production of energy that is responsible for 87% of global greenhouse gas emissions. To bring emissions down towards net-zero will be one of the world’s biggest challenges in the years ahead.
If you want to make a difference in the amount of energy you use, we suggest trying the following steps:
- Buy home appliances (fridge, washing machine etc.) with good energy efficiency.
- Open windows to allow a breeze instead of turning on the air conditioning.
- Hang your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer.
- Use LED lighting or CFL bulbs instead of incandescent lighting.
- Turn off your devices at night, including your wifi box.
- Use rechargeable batteries where possible.
When purchasing new devices for your home, try going for the option that has the highest energy efficiency level. Efficiency signifies a peak level of performance that uses the least amount of inputs to achieve the highest amount of output. It minimizes the waste of resources such as physical materials, energy, and time while accomplishing the desired output.
LED light bulbs are more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, but because they are so efficient, they will save you money over their lives. LEDs can also last as much as 20 times longer than an incandescent bulb and 3 times longer than a CFL.
Assuming the average lifespan of a rechargeable battery is about four years, you could buy a single rechargeable battery instead of the 10 alkaline batteries you’d otherwise burn through in that time.
Results of a study suggest that roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year. This inevitably also means that huge amounts of the resources used in food production are used in vain, and that the greenhouse gas emissions caused by production of food that gets lost or wasted are also emissions in vain. Other interesting figures are that over 50% of EU food was generated at household level, 88 (± 14) million tonnes of food is wasted per year while the waste per person totaled 173 kg.
There are four simple things you can do to avoid wasting food:
- Don’t throw away food after the expiry date.
- Store the food properly.
- Cook the portions you will eat.
- Adopt a flexitarian regime (plant-based, with smaller amounts of meat, fish and dairy) or consider a radical diet change.
People often mistakenly believe that they must waste any food with an expired date of durability, even if it expired yesterday and even if the food may be still edible. It is important to note that the date on the package means the recommended date of durability, until which the food may be sold.
We can reduce the quantity of waste food by only buying the quantity of food that we can use until the expiry date, as well as by storing the food appropriately. If we cannot avoid the build-up of surplus food within the date of minimum durability, we could give the food to humanitarian organizations, where upon their volunteers may distribute the food to people who need help.
Significant resources are needed to produce animal products for food compared to plant-based foods. Red meat in particular has a very high carbon footprint. A vegan meal is orders of magnitude smaller in terms of emissions compared to a meat or dairy rich meal.
Sustainable commuting usually refers to environmentally friendly travel modes, such as public transport (bus, tram, subway, light rail), walking, cycling, and carpooling.
We would like to show you four ways for how you can make your travelling more sustainable.
- Use public transport instead of a car.
- Take the stairs over the elevator.
- If you’re in the market for a new car, invest in electric-powered vehicles.
- Organise carpools to work, sports, events and other activities.
Decrease the Trash We Produce
The truth is that usually we are not even aware of the amount of trash we produce. Take our clothes for example, the fashion industry is one of the main polluting industries in the world. Fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. What’s more, 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year.
Wondering how to reduce your personal trash generation? We got you covered:
- Wear second hand clothing.
- Donate unused items.
- Support fashion brands that are ethical and environmentally conscious.
- Recycle or donate your items when you are ready to dispose of them.
- Differentiate waste correctly and recycle.
To lessen the impact the fashion industry industry has on the planet, you could buy more of your clothes from second hand shops and sustainable clothing outlets.
If you don’t use a product or wear a piece of clothing anymore, give it to a charity shop or someone you know would make use of it to help reduce waste.
Some brands are manufacturing their clothes in a way that is ethical and environmentally friendly. For example, when a product has been Fairtrade certified it means it has been produced by a company committed to sustainable production. Keep an eye out for the Fairtrade mark on the packaging of products you buy.
Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. The recovery of energy from waste materials is often included in this concept. The recyclability of a material depends on its ability to reacquire the properties it had in its original state. It is an alternative to “conventional” waste disposal that can save material and help lower greenhouse gas emissions. Recycling can prevent the waste of potentially useful materials and reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, thereby reducing: energy usage, air pollution (from incineration), and water pollution (from landfilling).
Start small, change takes time!
By Konstantina, Laia e Mariana – Make It Blue 2021