Ideas and advice to help you improve your sustainability
We are often asked what you as an individual can do to be more sustainable. However, we understand that few people can implement such behavioural changes all in one go. Therefore, we decided to supply our tips in weekly segments. Each week we will suggest two pieces of advice to help you reduce your carbon emissions and environmental impact in your daily lives.
Clean Green Recycling
Contamination of recycling can cause entire loads to be rejected and sent to landfill or burnt, wasting recourses, carbon and your effort!
These tips are aimed to increase awareness of the common causes of contamination:
1. Know what is (and isn't) recyclable - This is an area where many people can get confused. What can and can't be recycled does vary depending on your region but there are some common mistakes in recycling. Here is a quick list of what should not be recycled but commonly is: oven glassware and wine glasses, greasy pizza boxes, coffee cups, used kitchen rolls and tissues, nappies (!!), plastic bags, soft plastic packaging (thin plastic packaging for fruit and vege and snack etc), cling film and crisp packets. If you are unsure if a material can be recycled, then quickly check the label or if it doesn't say then don't recycle it, to prevent it from contaminating your load. Remember that other items such as textiles, electronics and food waste can also be recycled through separate processes.
2. Rinse it - Any residue food or drink left on the recycling is contamination. If there is sufficient contamination in a load then it will all be rejected. Simply rinse out your cans, bottles and containers before putting it in the recycling to remove this residue. It doesn't take long and it will help to ensure you recycle as efficiently as possible, reduce your carbon impact and save the council money by reducing the need for unnecessary sorting. To save water, rinse them using the left over water from your washing up. Make sure it dries before putting it in the recycling as water contaminates any paper/cardboard in there.
National Vegetarian Week
The 14th to 20th of May is National Vegetarian Week!
This week, our tips are to remind you to consider what you eat and how simple dietary changes can have a significant impact on your carbon footprint:
1. Give it a go - Why not take the challenge and go vegetarian (or even vegan) for the week. It doesn't matter if you miss the exact dates, you can try this out whenever suits you best. As discussed in week 5, meat consumption contributes significantly to our global carbon footprint, and a recent study found that in the UK switching to a non-animal diet can reduce your carbon footprint by 163.86 kg CO2e per year! Check out the National Vegetarian Week website for a selection of recipe ideas to get you started.
2. Remember to use in season food - To assist in reducing the impact of your food further, we thought we would remind you what food is in season to help decrease the air miles of your food (week 7). For May in the UK, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, spinach and rhubarb are all in season, so you could try fun new recipes to prioritise in season foods such as these. Avoiding air freighting and greenhouses when buying your food can reduce the footprint of your food by 10%*, so that little extra thought into your food can go a long way.
Low Carbon Holidays
With the warm weather finally here many will be looking ahead to the summer and starting to plan their holiday, so we have decided to base this weeks tips on helping you plan a low carbon holiday by focusing on the two significant causes of emissions:
1. Travel - The transport used to get to and around your holiday destination can accumulate a large amount of emissions with international travel accounting for around 1 GtCO2e each year! Flights make up the majority of these emissions, so try reducing your flights as much as possible by considering going on a "staycation" or choosing destinations with shorter travel distances. If you are traveling within Europe, why not make the most of the trains, ferries and coaches to get to and around your destination. Return transport to Paris from London will produce 112 kgCO2e when travelling by air but only 11 kgCO2e when travelling by train+ . Whilst on holiday, think about using public transport or cycling instead of more carbon intense modes of transport where possible.
If you do fly, why not compensate for your emissions through offsetting? Calculate your emissions using our free online calculator and then offset by supporting one or more of our international offsetting projects.
2. Accommodation - When planning your holiday, another major consideration is your accommodation. The emissions associated with your choice of accommodation can vary considerably. For example for staying in a hotel, your emissions can vary between 3 to 60 kg CO2e a night* depending on how the hotel is run and your consumption choices. To ensure that you limit your emissions, why not search for eco-accommodations which have proven their efforts to increase their sustainability such as by sourcing local, in season food and/or using renewable energy. To go the extra mile, you could even opt for camping during your staycation to truly limit the carbon footprint of your holiday.
Decarbonise your Doorstep
This week we are focusing on how you can reduce your impact with what you have delivered!
These tips are aimed at helping you start to think more broadly about your more unconscious consumer habits:
1. Glass Bottled Milk - 5.5 billion litres of milk are produced in the UK each year, 97% of which is packaged in plastic bottles- that's a lot of plastic! For those who are unable or unwilling to switch to dairy free alternatives, you can still reduce the impact of your milk consumption by replacing the plastic bottles with glass. These glass bottles can be reused up to 25 times before being recycled, making the most out of the resource. Check your local stores for the glass alternatives or search online for one of the resurging glass bottled milk delivery services to further reduce your plastic consumption and the impact of your milk.
2. Avoid Mail - On average, each letter thrown away is worth around 30 gCO2e+ (reduced by around half if fully recycled) and the average unwanted catalogue has a much larger footprint as they are delivered wrapped in plastic. You can prevent this unwanted post from piling up and increasing your environmental impact by simply asking the supplier to stop sending them. For the mail that you do want, why not go paperless and ask for your statements, bills and newsletters to be sent by email or be made available online. This will help to reduce your carbon footprint and your demand for resources.
All that Glitters
Did you know that glitter and sun cream can cause lasting damage to our oceans!
With summer and festivals just around the corner, our tips this week are focused on helping you plan to make the most of the fun in the sun while reducing your environmental impact:
1. Biodegradable Glitter - If you've ever used glitter before, then you'll know that it has a habit of getting everywhere and staying there. Many people are unaware that most glitter is actually made out of plastic and that it’s seemingly eternal presence is not confined to just your houses and clothing. Once washed down the drain glitter becomes another of many single use micro plastic pollutants that harms marine life for hundreds of years. However, there are biodegradable alternatives that are available. Made from natural compounds that are degraded over a couple of months, they enable you to sparkle guilt free. Unfortunately, plastic glitter can also be found in many cosmetics, so consider trying to avoid sparkly cosmetics unless the glitter is stated to be biodegradable.
2. Eco-friendly Sun Cream - You may be aware of the ban on sales of products containing microbeads in the UK, which comes into force later this year, but you may not know that this only refers to rinse off products, so that leave on products such as sun cream are not included. Sun creams can further harm the environment as they often contain Oxybenzone which has been found to contribute to coral bleaching which kill corals and is toxic to other marine life, such as algae, fish and mammals. Fortunately, once again there are eco alternatives available to help you protect your skin and marine life. Before you go swimming in the ocean, check that your sun cream is coral reef safe and that it does not contain plastic microbeads.
This Sunday, the 22nd April, is Earth day!
Our tips this week take inspiration from Earth day and what it is trying to achieve, to help you reduce your environmental impact:
1. Plastic free cotton buds - This year, the primary focus of Earth day is to educate and inspire change regarding plastic waste. We have already discussed in previous weeks how you can reduce your consumption of single use plastic such as by giving up straws, plastic bags and using reusable coffee cups and water bottles, so this Earth day ensure that you utilise these tips and encourage others to do the same. Additionally, consider switching from plastic to biodegradable cotton buds. Plastic cotton buds are one of the top ten forms of beach litter and pollute the ocean as they are commonly incorrectly flushed down the toilet. Biodegradable alternatives help you further reduce your plastic waste and to protect marline wildlife.
Download our Beginners Guide to Reducing Plastic Waste Poster
2. Tree planting - Give back to the Earth by planting a tree. Trees are essential to protecting our environment, improving air quality, preserving soil and conserving water whilst taking up carbon. Whether by adding to your own garden (if you have the space) or through our tree planting programmes, this is a great way to help combat climate change, compensate for your own carbon footprint and support wildlife.
In other news: The UK Government announce consultation on potential plan to ban plastic straws and cotton buds
Spring showers may be miserable for us, but they are great for the garden!
As this is the time of year that many fall back in love with their gardens, we thought we would supply some tips to help you maximise the environmental benefit of your garden and reduce your carbon footprint:
1. Harvest rain water - Make the most of the April showers by collecting them in a rain water harvester. This water you collect can then be used in the summer to water your garden and plants. This will help to reduce your water bill and reduce your carbon footprint whilst also helping to conserve water reserves.
2. Be Bee Friendly - Bees are essential for the environment, our crops and our economy (pollinating 80% of European wildflowers and providing at least £1.8 billion to the UK economy each year through pollinating our crops) but their populations have fallen significantly due pesticides and loss of habitat. Do your bit to support bees by providing a source of water and bee friendly plants in your garden (such as lavender, crocus and marjoram). You could even consider going an extra step and let your grass grow a little longer and building a bee "hotel" out of bamboo sticks. Small actions like these can go a long way to aid in protecting bees and supporting the pollination of plants and crops alike.
Turning the laundry day blues green
The washing and drying of our clothes accounts for 120 million tonnes of CO2e each year!
Building off of our previous piece on fashion, here are some more tips to help you reduce the footprint of your clothing:
1. Avoid Plastic Microfibres - As you ensure that any new (or second-hand) clothes that you buy are built to last, consider the material that the clothes are made out of. Polyester, acrylic and nylon clothing shed plastic micro fibres during each wash which then pollute the ocean. Each year, half a million tonnes of plastic microfibers from these clothes reach the ocean! Buying clothes made from natural materials such as wool and linen, that do not pollute and will eventually biodegrade, can help to reduce your environmental impact.
2. Wash Smart - As noted in Week 11, in the UK we have improved at washing at lower temperatures, but further savings can be made, by ensuring to wash certain clothes (such as jeans and jumpers) less often, fitting more garments into each wash and hang drying as much as possible. By turning the washer down from 40 to 30 degrees and hang drying rather than tumble drying can bring the emissions per wash down from 2.4kg CO2e to 0.6kg CO2e*.
Eggcellently Green Easter
Spring into sustainability this Easter!
Our tips this week help you to be carbon conscious this Easter:
1. Choose Eco Eggs - When picking your chocolate eggs, consider what you can do to reduce their impact. There are plenty of ways you can select an egg that is more sustainable without compromising on taste by thinking about the amount of packaging and if it is recyclable or plastic free, whether the chocolate is fair trade and organic or even if you could get a vegan dark chocolate egg. This goes for all the Easter chocolate, not just the eggs.
2. Sustainable Sunday Roast - When it comes to the Easter roast, ensure to utilise our previous tips, such as using in season food and avoiding air miles, unsustainable palm oil and excessive plastic packaging. In addition, if you do have meat with your roast; purchase sustainable and ethically farmed meat and consider cooking less meat, and self serve portions to make sure that people only take what they eat to reduce food waste can reduce the impact of your meal.
Switch off Power for Earth Hour
This Saturday (24th March) show your solidarity for the planet this Earth Hour and switch off at 8:30pm!
Following the theme of Earth Hour, our tips this week suggest ways you can turn down your energy use:
1. Take a break from electricity - Taking direct inspiration from the event, why not try and dedicate more time taking a break from our highly energy consuming lifestyle. Consider spending a little more time doing low carbon activities such as reading, sport, going for a walk or playing games and keep away from TV, laptops and shopping. These small breaks in energy use will add up and help to reduce your carbon footprint.
2. Travel Green - Like your lights, give your car time off when you can and consider lower carbon alternatives to reduce the emissions of your transport. Each mile in a car produces 290gCO2e, travelling a mile by train therefore saves 218gCO2e, whilst each mile walked or cycled produces zero. Next time you pop to the shops or to a friends, try to leave the car behind and walk, cycle or lift share to save money and do your bit for the environment.
Waste goes out of Fashion
With winter almost over, the spring sales are in, but we can all be more carbon conscious with how we shop!
Our clothing habits are becoming increasingly unsustainable. This week, our tips are tailored to help you improve the footprint of your clothes:
1. Keep for longer - Clothing use (the amount of times a garment is worn) has decreased 36% while clothing production has doubled; this "fast fashion" - buying cheaper clothes more regularly - results in many clothes being thrown away within a year. Inevitably, this puts pressure on resources, pollutes the environment, creates waste and increases global carbon emissions. By spending a bit more on clothes that will last (as Coco Chanel once said, 'Fashion goes out of fashion, style never does'), your clothing use increases and your clothing purchases decrease, helping to reduce your carbon footprint whilst saving money in the long run.
2. Recycle or give to charity - Following on from last week's tips, this is another area where people commonly are not taking the opportunity to donate or recycle fully with 87% of textiles ending up in landfill or incinerated. Most councils will collect textiles recycling alongside your weekly rubbish collection (check your councils website for details), otherwise you can make the most of your local collection points. We are improving - the UK has seen a 15% reduction in clothes sent to landfill from households and a shift to washing at cooler temperatures, saving 700,000 tonnes CO2e each year - but we all need to keep doing our bit to reduce the impact of our clothes.
Keep Calm and Carry on Recycling
Did you know that in the UK, less than 50% of our waste is recycled!
We need to think about more than just plastic when it comes to our waste. This week we suggest two areas of recycling that are commonly overlooked and how they can help reduce your impact:
1. Food Recycling - Each year in the UK we create 7 million tonnes of food waste from our homes. If thrown in the bin and sent to landfill, this waste releases methane - a green house gas 25 times more potent than CO2. By sending it to recycling instead, reduces its environmental impact and enables the food to be turned into soil fertiliser or even a source of energy within an anaerobic digester.
2. WEEE Recycling - This is the type of recycling that people often know the least about. WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Small WEEE products - such as batteries, microwaves and hairdryers - are often collected by councils as part of your weekly bin collection (check your councils website for information) and larger appliances can be dropped of at local collection points. Recycling the WEEE waste means that the metals and materials can be recovered and reused and avoid going straight to landfill. This is part of a Circular Economy.
Stay switched on by switching off
Our demand for energy accounts for 25% of the UKs total emissions!
This cold weather makes us all want to stay inside where it is warm and dry, so these tips are designed to help you reduce the impact of your energy use without having to leave the house:
1. Switch to a green energy provider - Reducing your demand on fossil fuels and helping to encourage the investment in renewables may be easier and cheaper than you think by switching to a green energy provider or tariff. You will need to be wary of potential "greenwash" and ensure the supply is truly what they are selling it as, but sourcing your electricity from 100% renewable sources is a great way to reduce your footprint.
2. Turn off appliances when not using them - This may sound like an overused suggestion, but ensuring to turn off your lights, TV and computers once you are done using them really can make a difference. Together, leaving them on or on standby unnecessarily can account for an extra 1,200kg CO2e a year*! Remember to also consider your other appliances such as your dishwashers, washing machines and speakers to help save carbon.
In other news: A supermarket in Amsterdam has opened the worlds first plastic-free aisle
This week, keep clean without dirtying the planet!
The bathroom is a commonly overlooked source of carbon savings. Our tips this week help you reduce the impact of your bathroom:
1. Use bar soap and shampoo - Drinking water is not the only source of plastic bottles, the bathroom is full of them. Although we are increasingly better at recycling our waste in the kitchen and outside, we recycle only 50% of our bathroom packaging. Using bar alternatives reduces your plastic waste and can often save you money as the bars often last longer than the bottled alternative.
2. Take shorter showers - During this cold weather, the warmth of a nice long shower is particularly appealing - especially in the morning. Yet, this can be a quite carbon intensive habit. Having a 15 minute shower every day for a year can produce between 164 and 450kg CO2e depending on your boilers fuel and efficiency*. Reducing your shower time to 5 minutes cuts this by two thirds, saving you around 110 to 300kg CO2e!
Love Food Hate Waste
This week show your love for the planet by being carbon conscious with your food!
If you are planning to cook something special this valentines (or any other time), these tips can help you reduce the impact of your meal:
1. Use in season food - Buying food that is out of season can rack up your emissions. Perishable foods that are grown in green houses and flown in from far away are the worst offenders. Those that are shipped however, are not nearly so bad. Knowing what is and isn't in season can be tricky, but shopping at a local farmers market can cut your need to check the labels. Otherwise, try to keep track of what is in season and avoid foods with large air miles to reduce your impact.
For example, a pack of asparagus flown in from Peru is worth 3.5kg CO2e yet a local in season pack is only 125g CO2e. In comparison, apples only range from 10 to 150g CO2e if sourced in season or shipped*.
2. Make extra for later - Make the most of any extra effort you put in and cook more than you need on the night to make yourself lunches/dinners from the leftovers. This is a great way to make the most of your time, save money and reduce food waste whilst creating easy tasty meals.
In other news: February 14th is also World Bonobo day, find out what you can do to help protect this magnificent and peaceful ape
Pass On Plastic
An increasing number of companies and MPs are pledging to reduce their plastic! Join in and cut more plastic out of your life!
Your choices, working in addition to changes made by companies and MPs, brought on by consumer pressure, can and will help reduce our plastic use and its impact on the environment. This week we have two more suggestions on how you can avoid plastic:
1. Bag for life - The plastic bag charge has already encouraged a fantastic 83% reduction in plastic bag use in the UK! Yet we still use over 2 billion single use plastic bags a year. Keeping a bag for life in an easy and convenient place (in your car or folded in your bag), so that you never find yourself at the till without one, is a simple way of helping to move us closer to giving up single use plastic bags completely.
2. Reusable coffee cups - In the UK, we use 7 million coffee cups each day! Less than 1% are actually recycled due to the plastic lining used to make the cups waterproof. Purchasing a reusable coffee cup and taking it with you next time you get a coffee will reduce your environmental impact and could even earn you a discount in certain stores.
Food for thought
Veganuary may now be over, but there are still plenty of ways you can make simple changes to your diet for the better of the planet!
Our suggestions for this week offer food for thought on how you can reduce the carbon footprint of your meals:
1. Reduce your meat and dairy consumption - The consumption of meat and dairy products accounts for a massive 15% of global emissions! We are aware going vegan is asking a bit much for most but by simply committing to reducing your consumption of meat and dairy, perhaps even going meat or dairy free a couple days a week can reduce your carbon emissions dramatically.
2. Avoid unsustainable palm oil - Chris Packham's recent BBC documentary 'In Search of the Lost Girl' was another reminder of how our consumption habits can wreak havoc on the environment and those who depend upon it. Palm oil causes mass deforestation when unsustainably sourced - 300 football pitches of forest is cleared each hour for palm oil! Unfortunately, palm oil, like plastic is so engrained in our lives it is hard to remove from your weekly shop completely. However, keeping an eye out and choosing products without palm oil or which are certified to be sourced sustainably can go a long way.
In other news: CBBC Newsround - Watch two school girls grill Iceland boss about plans to ban plastic in this super report
From road rage to carbon save
Commuting is no one's favourite part of the day, but it is an easy source of carbon savings!
Alongside the usual advice to consider greener modes of transport, our tips this week offer ways to reduce your commute and your environmental footprint:
1. Utilise flexitime to avoid traffic - Simply leaving for and from work half an hour earlier or later can help you reduce your time stuck (and contributing to) congestion and the footprint your commute has. Whilst stuck in traffic, your car produces 3x the amount of emissions for the same distance compared to if the road is empty*. By avoiding rush hour, you save yourself carbon, time and stress.
2. Work from home - Eradicating your commute entirely! Speak to your employers to see if you can have one day a week working from home. A 5 miles congested commute produces 22kg CO2e each day*, so annually you would be saving over a tonne of carbon!
It doesn't cost the planet
The green movement is often accused of being too costly and time consuming for individuals to reasonably implement, but that is not the case!
Many simple eco-friendly changes are quick and easy and actually save you money from the get go. Our suggestions for this week do just that:
1. Turn down the heating - We know it is winter but by simply donning a fluffy jumper or warm thick clothing and turning the heating down by a degree can reduce your energy consumption by as much as 8%! Remember to turn off the heating whilst you are out and make the most of your blankets and slippers to stay comfy and cosy these cold evenings whilst saving carbon and money.
2. Ditch bottled water - Another easy way to reduce your plastic waste! Simply get in the habit of taking your own water with you in a reusable bottle (preferably metal) and avoid purchasing the single-use plastic alternative. Better for the planet and your bank account.
Plastic, not so fantastic
With Theresa May's plans to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042, we all still need to do our bit to reduce our use of plastic!
Plastic waste is devastating to the environment and wildlife, as highlighted in Blue Planet 2. Over the weeks, we will include suggestions to reduce your plastic waste and environmental impact, here are two easy ones to start:
1. Say no to straws - According to ITV, 8.5 billion straws are used (and then thrown out) each year in the UK. Yet, this is one of the most avoidable single use plastics, simply ask not to have a straw with your drink and voilà, you have reduced your plastic waste with very little effort.
2. Avoid plastic food wrapping - Try and select the produce with the least packaging such as fresh bread which comes in paper bags instead of plastic. If you can, go to a local farmers market (remembering to take your own bag) where it is easiest to purchase plastic free food.
Take the challenge
Challenge yourself to set a resolution that will really make a difference to you and the planet!
As it is the first week, we thought we would give you simple suggestions that will ease you into the process and set you up for the year:
1. Measure your carbon - this will help you get a better idea of your impact and which areas you should focus upon to reduce it.
2. Set a carbon reduction target - setting yourself a goal gives you something to strive for and enables you to track your progress, so that this time next year you can see just how much you have achieved!
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* Burners Lee, M., (2010) How bad are bananas: The carbon footprint of everything, London: Profile Books
+ BEIS GHG Conversion Factors for Company Reporting (August 2017)