Extreme weather in recent years has brought more awareness to the climate crisis, and now millions of people are doing their best to make a difference. There are lots of small changes that you can make in your daily life that add up over time if your New Year’s resolution is to be more sustainable in 2020. Here are 20 tips on how to lead a more eco-friendly life in 2020 and beyond.
1) Eat Less Meat
Veganism and vegetarianism are becoming more and more popular, with an ever-expanding variety of meat-free products available. However, there is also the option of flexitarianism. Every little helps, so eating a bit less meat is better than nothing at all. Jumping into Veganuary isn’t for everyone, but you could start by introducing Meat-Free Mondays to your weekly routine.
2) Eat Locally & In Season
The luxury of importing seasonal foods all year round comes with a high price of energy consumption and carbon emissions. More than half of the food consumed in the UK is actually grown here, so consumers should be more aware of the foods that they can buy and eat without contributing to the drastic energy use. Source your produce locally wherever it is possible.
3) Grow Your Own Plants
You don’t need to plant an entire vegetable garden to grow your own food (though you could if you had the available space). A small yard or a balcony can host some small planters or plant pots. Peas, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, cucumber, radishes, spinach, and courgettes are the easiest to grow. If you can’t grow vegetables, you can still grow house plants or windowsill herbs.
4) Reduce Food Waste
You could organise a food swap with friends, family, or neighbours if you have food that you don’t want to use, or donate it to a local food bank to help those in need. For the food that you do use, don’t throw the waste in the bin. Get a food waste bin from your local council if they offer collections or start your own compost bin for food scraps, then use it to grow plants.
5) Use Less Water
Wasting water is a massive problem, especially in drier areas. Conserving water also helps you to save money on your water bill, which is an added incentive on top of helping the planet. Use water more efficiently by using the half flush on the toilet or installing a water-saving device in the cistern. Time yourself in the shower so that you don’t keep it running for too long.
6) Be Energy Efficient
Another way to save money as well as the planet is to avoid wasting energy. Speak to your utility company to find out if they offer renewable energy and make the switch if they do. Make small changes around your home such as weatherproofing windows, changing light bulbs to LEDs, washing clothes in cold water, and hanging laundry to dry instead of powering a tumble dryer.
7) Say No To Plastic
If you haven’t already ditched single-use plastic bags, now is the time. Take reusable bags with you for shopping and stop using bin-liners in your bins. Just rinse out the containers every few days instead. Avoid plastic-wrapped food if you can buy loose versions (for example, 4 loose onions are cheaper from Sainsbury’s than a bag of 3) and stop buying water in plastic bottles.
8) Dispose & Recycle Properly
Are you taking full advantage of local recycling schemes? Claim the bins, bags, boxes, caddies, or any recycling receptacles from your local council and fill them with the appropriate recyclable materials for collection. Be aware that greasy, oily, or dirty materials may be considered contaminated and sent to landfill anyway – so clean or rinse out bottles and packaging.
9) Invest in Reusable Products
From non-toxic cleaning products for the home to recycled toilet paper, there are plenty of alternatives available to wasteful everyday products. Reusable coffee cups and travel mugs or reusable water bottles can make a huge difference. Switch to rechargeable batteries for battery-operated products, and replace paper towels or napkins with washable fabric cloths.
10) Switch to Eco-Friendly Beauty Products
Personal hygiene is important, but unfortunately, a lot of products for this are single-use or disposable. Buy reusable cotton pads for removing make-up that you can put in the washing machine. Switch to bamboo instead of plastic for toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and cotton buds. Avoid microbeads and non-biodegradable glitter and look for recyclable cosmetics packaging.
11) Make Do & Mend
Fast fashion is no longer trendy. The industry is one of the most damaging when it comes to negatively impacting the environment, so instead of new clothes every month, make the most of your existing wardrobe. You can fix shoes and bags or mend clothes with some wear and tear instead of simply replacing the item with something new and throwing the older item away.
12) Buy Less
Consumerism is not sustainable. Following trends and having to own the latest products can be an addiction that damages your bank balance as well as the planet. Stop collecting material things and think about what you need rather than what you want. Before “recycle” comes “reduce” and “reuse” – cut back on your shopping and repair or upcycle your existing possessions.
13) Shop Sustainably
If you want to change up your wardrobe or home without the guilt, then shop second-hand. Online marketplaces, charity shops, and thrift stores might have everything you need at a fraction of the price and environmental impact of buying new. As convenient as it can be sometimes, avoid using 1-day shipping. More traffic and distribution centres means more pollution.
14) Sustainable Gifting
A nice way to spread sustainability without being critical or overbearing is to give people sustainable products as gifts. How about reusable utensils for on-the-go, paraffin-free candles, ethical bath and body products in zero-waste packaging, organic cotton clothing or towels, reusable bottles/coffee cups/food storage boxes, beeswax wraps, or a biodegradable phone case?
15) Walk the Walk
Literally. An easy way to help the planet and be healthier is to walk more. If you can walk, or even ride a bike, then do that instead of driving. Take buses or trains if your destination is too far away to walk. Fewer cars on the roads means less pollution and emissions contributing to climate change. You can even car-pool or take public transport a few times a week to reduce driving.
16) Avoid Flying
Aviation is another industry which has one of the worst impacts on the environment. Avoiding air travel would massively reduce your carbon footprint if you are a frequent flyer. Cut down the number of flights you take, and where flying is unavoidable, use direct flights and purchase carbon offsets for every flight to make up for the damaging emissions.
17) Travel Responsibly
Travelling is both fun and enriching, but it should be done responsibly. Nobody needs to be jetting off on multiple holidays a year all around the world. When you do travel, take your ethical practices with you and make sure that you reduce, re-use, and recycle and respect the environment wherever you are. Many hotels allow you to refuse single-use towels.
18) Talk the Talk
Action is often more important than words, but words can be inspiring and spark active change. This is why it is important to have conversations about issues like climate change and be vocal about eco-friendly behaviours. You can join in on protests, but meaningful change will only happen if you vote for governmental parties with sustainable policies and climate action plans.
19) Support Climate Action Organisations
You might not agree with some of the actions taken by protest groups like Extinction Rebellion, but supporting climate action organisations is vital to boost the collective voice and put pressure on those who have the power to enforce actual changes. Sign petitions and make donations if you are unable to attend events or marches. Research climate action groups in your area.
20) Volunteer in Your Community
As well as getting involved with national and even international climate action organisations, it is important to get involved with climate action in your immediate community. Pay attention to local civic developments and give your feedback. Engage with reducing food waste by volunteering in a soup kitchen or recycling and waste disposal by organising litter clean-ups.