You can reduce your environmental footprint without making huge lifestyle changes. You just need to know where to start
By: Ed Cooper
Sustainability is more than a buzzword. In fact, it's is the only way to live if we want to avert some of the scariest environmental outcomes caused by our wanton consumption of the planet’s natural resources.
Still, it can feel like a lot. Which is why many of us are still mastering the art of living a more sustainable lifestyle, and struggle to alter the daily habits that impact the world around us.
Despite what many may think, committing to more sustainable practices at home and work comes with a myriad of rewarding benefits and doesn’t have to entail a complete lifestyle change. Nor is it just about washing your clothes at a lower temperature or forgoing plastic caps on your coffee, either — there are plenty of small switches that can have big impacts. Let’s unpack a few.
If the pandemic wreaked havoc for your wanderlust and you’re looking to redress that in 2022, tweaking your travel is a great place to start. Transport almost always relies on fossil fuels that pollute the atmosphere with CO2. But you can mitigate your impact (and not just with carbon off-setting).
Book your trip with an eco-friendly travel company or stay in an eco-focused hotel and, once your feet are on the ground, opt for cycling and walking to bolster your new eco-holidayer credentials. You’ll be in good company, too: a booking.com survey of 29,000 travelers across 30 countries found that 83 per cent believe sustainable travel to be vital, with 61 per cent agreeing that the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged them to adopt a more sustainable approach to future travel.
You are what you read. Your reading list — or, perhaps more appropriately, your pile of dog-eared novels, non-fiction reads and autobiographies — is one of the best ways of retrospectively analysing what you’ve been ingesting over the past year or so. Does it reflect your new eco-focused goals and will reading more of the same help you achieve them? Or, conversely, will it take you further away from your objective? This year, try adding a few eco-focused reads to your repertoire. Allow us to recommend The Future We Choose, Earthshot and Bill Gates’ appropriately-named How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.
If one of your 2022 resolutions is to take a more diligent approach to health and fitness, why not align it with your new eco goals, too? Swapping one meal a day to plant-based cuts your food-related carbon emissions by 33 per cent, and you can halve them by switching to two plant-based meals a day.
Helpfully, Huel is completely plant-based, and nutritionally complete, which makes it the completely simple and delicious way to nail your fitness and sustainability goals. In fact, one 400kcal serving of Huel results in just 0.6kg CO₂e of greenhouse gas emissions. When compared to sandwiches and fast food, which produce 2-3kg CO₂e, it’s a no-brainer.
An important aspect of working towards sustainability and a net-zero lifestyle is to consider where you spend your money. It’s called ‘ethical consumerism’ and it applies to everyone, whether you’re a frugal foodie or an impulse indulger.
In 2019, it was estimated that ethical spending had increased by 80 per cent in the last 20 two decades, to a total of £41bn a year. It’s simple to join them: when you’re next adding an item to your basket, consider the amount of plastic or non-recyclable materials being used, the water and energy required for its manufacture, the waste that was binned and, of course, the miles the food has travelled. If that seems like a lot, look for an alternative that does it all (clue: it’s nutritionally complete, completely plant-based, and you’re on its website).
You’ve taken a look at your reading list, now take a look at your wallet, purse or digital banking app. Where are you keeping your money? Depending on which corporation you bank with, you may be inadvertently supporting an institution that’s actively investing in planet-destroying industries such as mining or fossil fuels.
The switch? Research where your banking provider is focusing its investments and, if necessary, make a switch to one that prioritises more sustainable and ethical investment practices, including renewable energy and not-for-profit organisations.
One of the best ways of simultaneously supporting your local community and nixing air miles on your favourite foods is to support agricultural causes that are close to where you live. This can include utilising shared allotments or gardens, local farmers’ markets and, more recently, ‘vertical farming’, a non-traditional but eco-friendly method of farming that’s predicted to reach $24.1bn by 2030.
Cleanliness is next to godliness, and the same can be said for having a regimented skincare routine. But how environmentally ethical are the products you rely on for your complexion? At the very least, sub-out your standard products for cruelty-free and vegan options, with no testing on animals by the supplier or associated third parties. Similarly, shop for ‘solid’ shampoos over those in plastic containers, look for products housed in recycled, recyclable and reusable packaging, and where possible opt for refillables over single-use.
We’ve saved the hardest ‘til last. But one of the best things you can do to contribute to the improved health of the only planet we’ll ever get to call home is to have open and earnest conversations with those around you. Are they, like you, planning to make switches to a more sustainable lifestyle in 2022? A sustainability report from Deloitte found that 61 per cent of people had “limited my use of single-use plastic” in 2020, 45 per cent had “bought more locally produced goods”, but only 30 per cent had “reduced consumption of meat or animal products” throughout the year. Perhaps, then, it’s time to finally have that conversation.
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