We hear a lot about sustainability and being environmentally friendly in the news, but how many of us truly know what it means to live sustainably on a practical level?
Move beyond the jargon and you’ll see that living sustainably and supporting the environment isn’t difficult. It’s easy to understand and can be achieved without having to give up the things you love or turn your lifestyle upside down.
Here are some simple ways you can live more sustainably at home and at work.
Calculating your carbon footprint
Sometimes being aware of what we’re doing is enough to motivate us to make some changes. Start by calculating your carbon footprint – this is a measure of how much carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere through our daily living, and is an indicator of how much pollution we’re responsible for on an individual level.
The WWF Footprint Calculator asks a series of simple questions and takes just a few minutes. How did you do? Your results might surprise you.
First, let’s start with the small, simple tweaks you can make. These tips require making just one or two adjustments to things you’re already doing. How many can you manage?
- Cut down on meat – Farmed livestock contributes a huge amount of pollution to our atmosphere. Try cutting down on how much meat you eat by replacing it with other sources of protein.
- Eat seasonal – Getting food from farm to table creates a huge amount of pollution. Challenge yourself to fuel up on seasonal fruits and veg as much as possible; winter is a great time for root vegetables, while the summer is perfect for juicy berries and the autumn is great for apples.
- Plan your meals – A third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, and we all know the feeling of throwing away food because it hasn’t been eaten. Planning your meals in advance and buying only the ingredients you need can help you save money and reduce waste – a win-win.
- Go reusable – Making the switch from disposable to reusable is a great way to cut down your footprint. Try replacing items you normally use just once with long-term options; a reusable coffee cup, water bottle and shopping bag are just three areas that can make a difference over time.
- Switch to paperless – Most banks and utility companies now offer the option to receive bills and other mailing over email rather than through the post. Switching to a direct debit payment also helps reduce the need to send out mailings in the first place. The other advantage is your important documents are all available online whenever you need them – so you don’t have to worry about losing a bill ever again.
- Take a shorter shower – Cutting your morning shower down by two minutes can save more than 10 gallons of water. As you move through your morning routine, try and cut down water wastage – brush your teeth with the tap off and choose a shower over a bath.
- Stream music and movies – In addition to creating clutter around the home, DVDs and CDs are much more wasteful than their digital alternative. Streaming services like Spotify, Netflix and iTunes give you thousands of movies and albums at your fingertips, all without ever producing a physical copy.
Once you’ve mastered the small tweaks, you can start to look at making larger changes to the way you live. Though these require more time and effort, once you make the switch it will feel as effortless as the smaller changes on our list.
- Buy second-hand – Buying second-hand is a great way to save some money and help the environment while you’re at it too. Start with age-specific items – toys for example are quickly outgrown and often arrive in charity and consignment shops almost as good as new, along with other childhood items like prams, car seats and cribs. When you’re done with an item, rather than throwing it away, take the time to sell or donate it – an old sofa may feel worn and dated to you but would be happily received by a local housing charity for example.
- Go vegan – Switching to a vegan lifestyle is a great way to eat healthier and reaffirm your commitment to sustainable living in the process. Instead of getting your protein from animal products, a vegan diet is all about eating plants and legumes. Farming these products takes up much less space and creates less pollution in the process.
- Ditch your car – Getting rid of your car will slash your bills and also help the environment. Instead, walk, cycle or use public transport to get where you’re going. For many of us, living without a car entirely isn’t convenient, but it is possible to perhaps share one car per household. Services like City Car also make achieving this goal easier: you can rent a car for an hour or two at a time when you need it.
- Set a waste target – Cutting down on household landfill waste is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint, but will require a few thoughtful changes. The aim here is to recycle as much as possible and move away from disposable products entirely. A compost in your back garden will reduce food waste, while cloth can eliminate the need for paper towels and a reusable carrier bag will mean plastic bags become obsolete. Steer clear of foods that are wrapped in plastic packaging by buying loose fruit and veg and picking up meat from your local butcher rather than off the supermarket shelf. Growler beer stores mean you can get your beer and cider in refillable jugs a litre at a time, and shopping from your local farmers market means there’s less packaging and waste because your food and other items are not travelling as far.
So tell us: do you care about living sustainably? Are you tempted to try anything from our list?