It seems that everywhere you look these days, sustainability is a hot topic. I read this stat and it really caught my attention:
If Earth’s history is compared to a calendar year: Modern human has existed for about 37 minutes. One third of Earth’s natural resources has been consumed in the last 0.2 seconds (by modern humans).The World Counts
Humans impact the environment is so many ways with things like overpopulation, burning fossil fuels, deforestation and over-farming…to name just a few.
We’re altering the planet and triggering climate change and soil erosion, as well as reducing the air quality and causing countless premature deaths.
I mean, just look at the counter and you can see the clock is ticking…
It’s scary to think that my daughter could live to see the end of rain forests, which would mean:
- Almost 50% of the world’s plant, animal and microorganism species would be destroyed
- The climate would shift, causing monger dry spells and widespread flooding
- 5 to 6 times more greenhouse gases would be released into the atmosphere
The list goes on…
So, what is sustainable living?
Put simply, sustainable living is about minimising your impact on the Earth and its resources by making smart decisions about the energy you use and the products you consume.
The way humans have used the planet’s resources is causing damage to the environment, which will have far-reaching consequences for future generations.
The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things…yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the lost of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plantsThe Guardian
The start of a more sustainable lifestyle
I’d be the first to admit that I’m certainly not the most environmentally aware.
Up until the last fear years or so, I’d always dismissed the damage we’re doing to the environment as ‘unimportant’ because compared to big corporations and titans of industry, there wasn’t much little ol’ me could do to swing the needle on climate change.
Becoming a parent changes you I think. Well, it certainly did for me.
When my daughter was born, suddenly future generations really mattered. I realise now how selfishly I’d look at the world, worrying only about what was directly relevant to me.
That dynamic changes dramatically when a child is born because you’re no longer living your life for just you – you’re suddenly preparing for the future you want your child to have.
I want my daughter to grow up in a world that has rainforests, not had them. And, I want her children…and her children’s children, to live long and happy lives on a planet we can sustain for many, many generations to come.
So here it is, the first step on what will be a long journey of learning I’m sure.
I started last year by making the shift to Smol Laundry and dishwasher tablets, which are an eco-friendly, plastic and cruelty free alternative to your traditional household brand.
You can read our full review here.
Smol tablets are delivered in slick cardboard packaging and the delivery frequency is calculated based on your actual usage, which is a great way to ensure you only buy what you need.
Not exactly going to transform the world, but it’s a start.
Over the next few months/years I’ll be sharing our journey to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly life as a family.
Our guiding rules
Of course there are so many ways we can live a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
These will be our starting focuses and, although it’ll take time, it’ll be so worth it in the end.
1. Save Energy
One of the easiest ways to use less energy and reduce your carbon emissions is to simply switch things off that you aren’t using.
For example, some simple things that’ll make a big difference are:
- Turning down the thermostat more often
- Using energy efficient lightbulbs
- Using energy efficient appliances
- Switching off plug sockets that we’re not using
- Hanging clothes out to dry instead of using the tumble dryer
2. Use Reusable Alternatives
Single-use plastics are everywhere. They’re cheap, easy to produce and have been used in recent years on everything from shopping bags, coffee cup lids, water bottles, straws and so much more.
Some stats you need to know:
- Over 40% of total plastic usage is for packaging
- Almost 500 billion plastic bags are used each year
- In the last ten years, we’ve made more plastic than during the whole of the last century
- 14% of all litter comes from drink containers
According to Plastic Oceans, 10 million tons of plastic is dumped into the sea every year, which has a devastating impact on wildlife.
It takes decades (if not more) for plastics to biodegrade and when it’s consumed by marine life, it can have a knock-on impact on humans too.
The toxins in the plastic can be passed through to humans when we eat seafood, causing hormonal abnormalities and developmental problems.
Instead of using single-use plastics, we plan to make the switch to reusable products where possible.
Some things we plan to try (If we’re not doing it already):
- Paper Straws
- Paper and card packaging and coffee cups (Ideally FSC certified so it’s from managed and sustainable woodlands)
- Reusable sealable containers rather than cling film
- Bamboo toothbrushes
3. Use Renewable Energy
Using renewable energy where possible is a great way to reduce carbon emissions.
For example, making the shift to an electric car instead of a petrol or diesel-fuelled one is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment!
I currently drive a diesel car and I plan to make the change to an electric vehicle in just a few months; I’ll be share our experience!
The clock is ticking too, in November 2020 the Government announced that new petrol and diesel cars and vans will no longer be sold in the UK after 2030.
4. Recycle, recycle, recycle
According to WorldBank, by 2050 global waste will increase by 70%. Waste has a huge negative impact on the environment and when rubbish ends up in landfill sites, it produces harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses.
By being making an effort to recycle as much as possible, less raw materials are needed to make new things which eat away at the planet’s natural resources.
5. Conserve water
In the UK, we’re very lucky to have 24/7 access to safe and clean drinking water. Lots of people take having water for granted, but the water supply is becoming more and more unpredictable.
Did you know that 12 out of the 23 water companies in England were rated as being under serious water stress in 2020?
According to the Energy Saving Trust, the average household in the UK uses around 330 litres of water every day.
Here are some things I’m going to try this year:
- Instead of taking baths (I love a bath), I’m going to take short showers instead where I can
- Turning off the tap whilst we’re brushing our teeth
- Using the dishwasher less or filling it as full as possible
- Always fill this washing machine to get the best use of the water
- Installing a water butt in the garden so we can water the plants
6. Buy Fair Trade products
Choosing to buy Fairtrade certified products means farmers and suppliers get a better deal and more stability in terms of what they earn, which allows them to care for and educate their families better.
Some statistics about Fairtrade from Friends of the Earth:
- There are no 1.65 million farmers and workers in Fairtrade certified producer organisations
- There are 1,226 Fairtrade producer organisations across 74 countries in total
- One quarter of all Faitrade workers are women
- 26% of workers spent their Fairtrade premiums on education
I’ve never really taken much notice of Fairtrade products before and this year I plan to make a more conscious effort to make the switch – particularly for things like wine, tea, rice, orange juice, coffee, sugar and bananas.
8. Reducing Food Waste
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), if food waste was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China.
Households are reportedly to blame for 53% of all food waste in Europe and when we waste food, all of the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it goes to waste too.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, up to 11% of all greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stopped wasting food.
Some things I want to do more of this year:
- Planning meals to make sure we buy more efficiently
- Freezing food
- Using leftovers as ingredients for new meals
- Composting food waste rather than throwing it away
9. Wear sustainable clothing
The global fashion industry is believed to be responsible for 10% of all global carbon emissions.
‘Fast Fashion’ is the term used for mass-producing at low prices, which requires a huge amount of energy and resources.
Aside from the waste that Fast Fashion causes, the harmful toxic fabric dyes and chemicals can enter and contaminate fresh water supplies too.
More and more brands are taking an ethical and sustainable stance on clothing production.
For example, I buy my shoes from Vivobarefoot who create shoes using a eco-friendly materials that are natural, recycled, durable and locally sourced.
More content on this to follow!
10. Use eco-friendly cleaning products
Cleaning products often contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Some can pollute streams and rivers, and others may take a long time to break down.
Some cleaning products contains chemicals may be ingested by wildlife, which in turn may be consumed by us, causing health problems and even birth defects.
This year I plan to make the switch to ethically sourced, biodegradable cleaning products that are less impactful on the environment.
11. Eat less meat
I’ve always been a big meat eater, but the production of meat is a huge contributor to climate change.
The meat and dairy industry accounts for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gases and the conversion of land for beef and animal feed production is a leading cause of deforestation in tropical regions like the Amazon.
I plan on making a conscious effort to reduce our consumption of meat and dairy products over time because, based on the facts, it seems hard to justify, right?
Side note: If you haven’t seen it already, check out ‘Kiss the Ground’ on Netflix. It’s a great documentary that gives an insight into short-sighted farming practices and the use of pesticides.
12. Go paperless
It’s amazing how far technology has come in the last few decades, and yet we still waste so much paper.
I don’t know about you, but I have a few drawers that are stacked FULL of old letters, receipts and other things that I keep just in case I need them again in future.
Getting letters and receipts emailed to you rather than posted is the easiest way to reduce the amount of paper you use almost immediately. Having it in your inbox means you can quickly search for any important documents too!
There are so many apps and tools out there designed to help remove the need for paper altogether. From ‘task list’, notepads, eBooks and so much more.
Note: It’s not always possible to get rid of all paper and sometimes it’s nice to sit and read a real book. I just plan to be a little more considered in how I use paper.
13. Grow your own produce where possible
Growing your own food has a whole range of health benefits and it also helps to reduce the need for pesticides that contribute to water and air pollution.
Because you’re not buying your produce from a supermarket, you can reduce the amount of plastic needed for packaging (although lots of supermarkets are making an effort to reduce their plastic usage), as well as the amount of fossil fuels used to transport it.
I’m not lucky enough to have a large garden, so being able to grow all of the produce I need just isn’t going realistic. That said, I plan to plant some herbs and a small amount of vegetables to help contribute to a bit of a reduction!
14. Donate rather than dispose
As children grow up, their toys and clothes change with them. Sometimes it seems like my daughter has her toys for no more than a few months before she’s bored of them and onto the next interest.
Plastic is used in so many toys and where possible, I plan to donate as much as possible to avoid any unwanted items going into landfill.
If those items can be used, re-used and re-used again by other children, then we can reduce waste.
Likewise, where possible I try to source Evie second-hand toys to save the items going into the bin!
15. Spend more time outside
OK, this is a bit of a wild card, but hear me out.
This year I plan on spending as much time in the countryside as possible.
It’s difficult to feel a connection to the planet you’re trying to save when you’re surrounded by an urban concrete jungle or sat inside in front of a TV.
There are so many green areas that are surprisingly close by and by spending more time outside enjoying nature as it was intended, the impact we’re having on it is that much harder to ignore!
Over the coming weeks, months and potentially years, we’ll be sharing our journey to living a more sustainable life and we’d love to hear your stories, advice and tips on how to do it!
To reiterate what I said at the beginning of this post, my current lifestyle is nowhere near good enough for somebody who wants to have less of a negative impact on the world.
But hey, we all have to start somewhere, right?