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Environment Lifestyle

Simple things you can do to help the planet

paper cutouts on a green surface

The climate crisis is – in my opinion – the most pressing issue in the world right now. Whilst I may not necessarily understand all the science and the politics, I do know that my actions count. We all have to act collectively in order to make change happen at scale. Small things, by many, can have a big impact. Here are some simple things that you can do to help the planet.

Reduce your food waste

Apparently, in the UK, we waste 6.7 million tonnes of food each year. That equates to a cost of £250 – £400 per household per year! Not only is this a waste of money, if food waste is not recycled properly it produces methane gas, which is bad for the planet. Even if you recycle food waste, you should be aiming more to reduce your food waste overall.

Ways that you can do this is by planning your meals in advance so that you only buy what you need and bulk cook and freeze meals where you can. Love using herbs but don’t need a whole bagful? Consider growing your own herbs rather than buying them. You don’t need a garden to grow herbs, or any outdoor space at all – just a window sill.

Meal Planner

Take a look at the Too Good to Go App. They are on a mission to reduce food waste from food shops and restaurants. You can find nearby shops and restaurants offering meals/produce that will otherwise go to waste for a big discount.

Eat less meat

Becoming vegetarian or vegan is not for me, however I am well aware of how eating meat is harmful to the environment. So I opt to go completely meat-free at least one day a week and try to eat mainly vegetarian lunches. Meat Free Monday is a global initiative to get people to give up meat just one day a week in order to help save the planet. Check out their website for vegetarian recipe inspiration.

Recycle your food waste

Of course, even with the best intentions and careful planning, you will be left with some food waste. Order a food waste caddy from your local council (they’re free) and pop all your food waste into a compostable bag (check with your local council if they provide free ones). When recycled responsibly, food waste can be turned into fertiliser and the methane produced can be turned into natural energy forms.

Council food caddy for food waste

Support sustainability charities

There are so many charities around the world who are working hard to save and protect our planet for future generations. Consider setting up a monthly donation via direct debit, a one-off donation or fundraising for them to support their vital work. Not sure which charities work in climate and environment? Here’s 12 UK sustainability charities that need your support.

Buy second-hand

I adore clothes and fashion but I do not adore this culture of fast fashion that we live in now. I’ve consciously made an effort to buy less and I have always been a fan of charity shops and buying second hand where possible. Consider limiting your clothing purchases or take a big leap and commit to not buying anything for a year. If you’re doing a big clear-out, please donate any clothing that’s in good condition to your local charity shop. If you’re crafty, consider making something out of clothing that’s not in a good enough condition to be donated. Let’s stop clothing ending up in landfill!

Support sustainable brands

There are so many brands with sustainability at their heart – from clothing to cleaning products and candles. When purchasing products, look for those with sustainable credentials. Do your research as a brand calling themselves ‘eco-friendly’ doesn’t always mean that they are. The Independent has this handy list of UK sustainable brands so bookmark this article.

One of my friends bought me this fabulous candle from sustainable brand, Selfmade. Not only is it an eco-conscious brand with a label that has seeds in to plant, it also donates 5% of its profits to Black Minds Matter.

Selfmade candle on a bathroom shelf

Reduce single use plastic

We all know how important it is to limit single use plastic as much as possible. Purchase a metal or glass straw so that you don’t need to use a plastic one. Ask stores to switch from plastic straws to paper ones. Reuse plastic shopping bags – or better yet, buy a cloth one. Write to your supermarket and ask them to stop wrapping fruit and veg in unnecessary plastic packaging.

Shop in zero-waste shops where you bring in your own containers for everything from pasta to detergent. Not only will you help reduce single use plastic, but by buying only what you need you can reduce your food waste too.

The Source zero waste shop in West Hampstead

Use a reusable cup/bottle

If, like me, you love getting a coffee on your commute, help the planet by using a reusable cup. Some coffee shops will even reward you for doing so by giving you a discount or extra loyalty points.

Purchase a reusable water bottle to stop yourself buying bottled water when you’re out and about. Clare Davis, founder of Bottle Soc, wanted to create a product that would both protect reusable bottles from damage but also allow their owners to put their individual stamp on them. She came up with bottle soc, a washable, personalised cover for water bottles that come with a shoulder strap – genius.

Switch off your plugs

A simple step to helping save energy is to switch your plugs off at night or whenever you’re not using an appliance. Switch computers, kettles, toasters, TVs and anything else that doesn’t need to be on. You can even purchase a Standby Saver which will allow you to turn off all your appliances at once. Not only is this better for the environment but it can also save you around £35 a year on your energy bills.

Upcycle

Got an item of furniture that you no longer use or has seen better days? Instead of taking it to the tip, why not upcycle it and give it a new lease of life? If you’re not the crafty type, list it on eBay or Facebook Marketplace as an upcycling project. Or post on your own social media networks – no doubt someone you know would love to take it on as a project! There are even charities who will upcycle your old, unwanted items – like Emmaus Mossley.

Change up your cleaning products

Just how eco-friendly are your cleaning products? Consider buying products that use recycled packaging, offer refills (so that you buy less plastic) and use ingredients that are natural and biodegradable. I switched to Method cleaning products, after being concerned about how my cleaning products were potentially harming the planet, and love them. Other eco-friendly cleaning brands include Ecover, Daylesford Organic and Bower Collective.

Method eco-friendly cleaning products

Save water

Did you know that keeping the water running whilst brushing your teeth uses around 3 litres of water a minute? Water is such a precious resource and must not be wasted. There are so many things you can do to help save water – such as cutting down on the time you spend in the shower, only using your dishwasher and washing machine when they are full, fixing dripping taps etc.

Travel more eco-consciously

If possible, walk wherever you can or cycle. The next best eco-friendly option is public transport rather than driving yourself. Try to travel by bus, train, tube or tram where you can. If you do need to travel by car to work, start a car pool with colleagues near you so that only one car is needed instead of several.

Flying is obviously a big contributor to carbon emissions, which are harmful to the planet. Ask yourself if you really need to fly or whether you can get to your destination in a more eco-friendly way. If you do have to fly, consider offsetting your carbon. The Gold Standard Marketplace explains more about carbon offsetting as well as highlighting projects to support to offset your carbon footprint. Gold Standard was set up in 2003 by WWF and other charities to “…ensure projects that reduced carbon emissions featured the highest levels of environmental integrity and also contributed to sustainable development.”

Go paperless

Most utility companies and banks have paperless options so opt to have bills and statements sent via email rather than receiving bills and statements by post. And it’s not just letters. Have a magazine that you love? Consider their digital version rather than the paper one.

Change your browser

There are (probably) trillions of searches on the internet each day. Imagine if your searching could help the planet? If you change your browser to Ecosia, it certainly can as they use ad revenue to plant trees where they’re needed most. How awesome is that?

Ecosia search engine

So those are my tips for simple things you can do to help the planet. I’d love to hear your tips and recommendations so please leave them in the comments!

Kirsty Marrins

Reader, writer, occasional runner, travel lover.

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