We can all make changes to reduce the impact we have on our world – and even make it a positive one.
Turning the tide on climate change and loss of biodiversity can feel like an overwhelming prospect for the individual. But if we all did a little, it would add up to a lot. The choices each of us make in our daily lives, from what we consume and waste to how we spend and save our money can have a direct and measurable impact on the world and society we live in.
To mark Earth Day, we round up 10 ideas for being more sustainable in our daily lives that begin with the most important change-makers of all: us.
1. Buy less
The amount of rubbish generated by the UK could fill Britain’s largest lake, Lake Windermere, in just eight months.
Our current linear economy of taking resources from the ground, using them, then throwing them away, has to change. The future of a healthy and sustainable planet is round: a circular economy where we use resources sparingly and recycle them endlessly.
If we all cut down on the products we buy, and repurposed or recycled those we do more often, it would make a huge collective difference to the burden we put on our planet. The key to this is not aiming to be perfect – just do what you can and it DOES add up.
2. Eat less meat and more plants
The livestock sector – raising cows, pigs and chickens for us to eat – generates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all vehicles on our roads combined.
Shifting to more plant-based foods is a big step to combatting climate change, soil, air and water pollution, ocean dead zones, and many other problems caused by industrial livestock production. You don’t have to go completely ‘meatless’. Simply eating fewer meals with meat or dairy each week is one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint – as well as potentially improving your health.
3. Use your pension positively
Many of us focus on smaller lifestyle changes we can make to reduce our carbon footprint, but are you unknowingly contributing to climate change through your pensions or other investments?
According to the Make My Money Matter campaign, swapping your pension to a sustainable fund is 27 times more effective in reducing your carbon footprint than not flying and going vegan combined.
Our Good Guide to Pensions will help you find out where your retirement money is invested, how it’s being spent, and show you how to move it in line with your morals. There is currently around £3 trillion in UK pensions pots that could be working towards building a cleaner, healthier tomorrow.
4. Use clean power
Around 40 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions come from our homes. Consider switching to a green power company like Bulb, Green Energy, or Pure Planet. Turning off appliances and lights can help to save power, and reduce your energy bills too. Advice from the Energy Saving Trust and installing a smart energy system can also help you to manage and track your energy usage and reduce carbon emissions.
5. Say no to plastic
We produce 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. That’s almost the weight of the entire human population. Only around nine per cent of plastic waste is recycled (and most plastic can only be recycled two to three times anyway), with the rest ending up in landfill, rivers or the sea.
With summer coming and Covid restrictions on indoor dining, many of us have made picnics the go-to way to get together. However, convenient picnic foods are usually heavy on plastic packaging. Marine conservation organisation Ocean Generation has some easy-to-follow tips in its Picnic Without Plastic Challenge.
6. Clean green
With the coronavirus pandemic leading to a sharp rise in the sales of cleaning products, avoiding mainstream brands that rely on single-use plastic and harmful man-made chemicals can make a big difference to the planet.
One way to be more planet-friendly at home is to make your own cleaning products using natural, homemade ingredients such as lemon, bicarbonate of soda and white wine vinegar. If you don’t have the time to make your own products (or just aren’t a big fan of the smell!), choose sustainable brands like KINN, The Squeaky Shop or Clean Living. Many cleaning products are mostly water, so opting for a concentrate you can add water to and refill your existing bottle with is a great planet-saving hack.
7. Invest for impact
If you have some savings, consider investing so your money can work harder for your future and the planet’s. Positive impact funds and portfolios only invest in companies that clearly and demonstrably benefit the world, through helping to meet one or more of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
You don’t need to think of it as being charitable. There’s evidence that positive impact investments can offer higher financial returns than other approaches.
Our Good Guide to Impact Investing contains everything you need to know about investing for positive impact.
There are an increasing number of DIY investing platforms – like The Big Exchange (co-founded by The Big Issue), Clim8 Invest and tickr – which put your money into planet-friendly funds with minimum effort required from you – and a low minimum investment.
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