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.
Autumn is the perfect time to construct wildlife friendly features in your garden!
Our tips this week focus on ways to improve your gardens' ability to attract and support wildlife:
1. Bird boxes - Bird populations are struggling, largely due to habitat loss. Birds such as Swifts, House Sparrows and Starlings rely on houses for nests yet our houses are becoming less and less bird friendly leading to population decline (London's House Sparrow population has decreased by 60%). A simple way to help support birds is to put up some bird nesting boxes in your garden. This helps to provide the birds with suitable nesting locations to help rear their young and protect them from predators. There are a number of different nest box types which can suit different bird species. The boxes can be attached to walls, trees or buildings and with a range of choice in style - and the option to build/decorate your own - they can be a great addition to your garden whilst also enabling you to admire and support nesting birds. Look online for advice on how to build/buy and install bird boxes to improve the sustainability of your garden.
2. Garden Pond - Ponds are great for a range of wildlife, supporting newts, frogs, birds and insects, yet 70% of ponds in the UK have disappeared making garden ponds even more vital to support biodiversity. A pond can be a beautiful feature in your garden and will add diversity to the types of plants and animals for you to enjoy. For those able to construct larger ponds, autumn is the best time to do so as it will not disturb any amphibians and ground conditions should be good. If a larger pond is not feasible, then even the smallest water feature will be beneficial. These can be constructed easily using anything that will hold water such as an old sink, washing up bowl or even a small container. Whether small or large, make sure that animals (such as hedgehogs) can get out of the pond easily through an added slope or steps made from logs/stones. If you need to top up your pond, try to use harvested rain water. Then simply plant some pond plants and wait for wildlife to turn up!
Water Saving at Home
This week we look at ways to improve your water usage at home:
Showers have become part of our daily routine, although few of us are really aware of the full financial and environmental cost of our bathroom routines.
1. Water efficient shower heads - Daily showers account for one of the biggest water uses in the home. A typical shower in the UK lasts 8 minutes, using an estimated 62 litres of hot water (BBC). Whilst a quick shower is usually more water efficient than bathing, high-volume power showers often result in an increase in water and energy use compared to a bath.
Water efficient shower heads are a cost effective and a good way to save water in your home. They work by controlling the flow, spray pattern and volume of water allowed to flow through them - reducing the amount of water used but still maintaining an enjoyable shower experience! If you have an electric shower at home, water saving shower heads are not recommended as they are already quite water efficient. This week, look at investigating the most appropriate ways you can reduce your water consumption in the shower and what options work best for you. Some handy tips and gadgets can be found here.
2. Water saving cisterns - Flushing your toilet reportedly accounts for up to 30% of the water used in your home. By installing a water saving cistern in your toilet, it helps to displace the water in your cistern so that the volume of water in your flush is reduced by 1-3 litres. Furthermore, a Save-a-Flush device is a harmless bag of crystals which when placed in your toilet cistern will expand and save around 1 litre of water every time you flush. Check with your local water supplier to see whether you are eligible to receive water saving devices for free!
Back to School
Summer holidays have unfortunately come to an end so time for the kids to go back to school!
This week we provide some tips to improve your sustainability in and around schools (but can also be applied to work):
1. Sustainable school run - When dropping the kids off to school the transportation option that is best for the health of your family and the planet is simply to walk / cycle / scooter. By avoiding the use of a vehicle, you will reduce your carbon impact whilst also getting some exercise and reducing the amount of harmful gases released into the air. However, not everyone will have the time or ability /resources to do this. Perhaps if you live too far away, you can still try and check where possible to see if there is any other way that you can reduce your impact such as through using a suitable bus service, lift sharing with others who take the same route or even if there is a way to drive part of the way then walk.
If you do drive to the school, ensure that you do not idle when dropping them off. Children are more susceptible to air pollution found in and outside of classrooms, which can cause long term health conditions such as asthma and may even harm cognitive intelligence. So where possible try and review your school run and see how you can reduce your environmental impact and improve the air quality around your school.
2. Sustainable pack lunches - If your child takes a packed lunch to school each day there are a couple of ways that you can try to improve the sustainability of what is packed. One easy way is to ensure all your containers are reusable such as reusable lunch boxes, reusable sandwich/snack bags and reusable water bottles which will help you reduce single use plastic. Take a look online to see what works well for you, there are many different variations and choices to pick from. Additionally, ensuring that the food you buy is devoid from as much packaging as possible, is in season and low carbon (such as by reducing meat and dairy consumption), can also make a difference. Remember to compost or recycle any food waste that is left over.
More ways that you can be environmentally conscious and resource efficient in the kitchen!
1. Boil only what you need - Whether using a kettle or boiling in a pan, many people are prone to using too much water. Not only does this often result in the water being wasted but it also means that energy is wasted to heat the excess water. For boiling in a pan you only need enough to submerge your food and using less water not only prevents wastage and saves energy but also helps to keep more nutrients in your food. Steaming your food uses less water than boiling, particularly if you stack your veg to steam on top of your boiling pasta/potatoes/rice and you can even try to roast or grill more often to further reduce your water consumption. With the water that you do use, you can ensure that it does not go to waste by saving it to use to water your garden and house plants.
2. Freeze leftovers - Another way that you can reduce your food waste is to take full advantage of your space in your freezer to keep food for longer. Freezing food is great for if you have leftovers from dinners that you don't want or won't have time to eat during the next week so that you don't end up just throwing it away. These ready-made dinners frozen in appropriate portion sizes can then be used for a quick and easy tasty meal at a later date. Yet there are many other foods you can make the most of through the freezer that may be overlooked. You can use it to store baked goods such as cakes and bread as well as any excess fresh produce that you have grown yourself to have in a later season. Freezing fruit is very easy and is perfect for using in smoothies or juices or even to turn into your own ice cream alternatives. However it should be noted that not all food should be frozen. Veg with high water content such as lettuce and cucumber and certain dairy, so if you are uncertain about particular foods, check online for advice before you freeze it.
Renewable Power Boost
In the coming years, coal is set to be pushed out even more in favour of renewables and lower carbon energy!
This week we expand further on how you can use renewable energy to improve your impact on the environment:
1. Solar Powered Appliances - As previously discussed in Week 26 solar power can be a great clean source of energy that you can harness yourselves. But large solar PV and solar thermal panels are not the only way you can make the most of solar, you can also get devices and chargers with their own solar power. For day to day devices, solar powered options are often best for low powered appliances such as lights (perfect for garden and bike lights), speakers and keyboards etc. There are plenty of options out there which can help you save carbon and reduce demand for grid electricity.
When it comes to chargers for phones or tablets etc, there are a range of larger portable solar panel chargers that are handy for camping trips and hikes. Alternatively there are smaller portable power banks (which you charge from the mains) that can be topped up with solar. So for those who are looking for ways to decrease their reliance on grid energy and those who want to power their devices out and about, look into solar power options to see if they can help you to reduce your carbon.
2. Support Carbon Offsetting Projects - Carbon offsetting enables you to compensate for your carbon footprint by supporting carbon saving schemes. This is particularly good for making up for the emissions you can't prevent. For each tonne you offset, a tonne of CO2e is saved. There are many different types of offsetting projects available to support with different benefits. This week our main focus is on renewable energy, so are referring to offsetting that provides support to renewable energy projects which help to reduce demand for energy powered from fossil fuels - but it should be noted that there are other types of projects such as community based and preventing deforestation projects which also have other humanitarian and biodiversity benefits.
Make sure that your source of carbon offsets is robust - look out for the Quality Assurance Standard (QAS) logo to make sure that the provider is adhering to the highest of standards. The projects supported by offsetting often would not be able to be funded without it and each tonne of carbon saving is not sold until after the project is up and running and the savings have been verified. These savings are verified to a number of different standards (such as VCS, VER and CCB) and the QAS standard - helping you to ensure the project you support is of high quality and under a rigorous auditing process, thus is truly reducing emissions.
We only endorse offsetting as a method to account for emissions you cannot reduce yourselves and compensating should not prevent you from continuing to decrease your carbon and environmental footprint. But offsetting is a great way to support renewable energy projects and to help reduce global carbon emissions.
Take a bite out of food waste
Your grocery shopping habits can have a big impact on food waste!
We have previously mentioned how much of an issue food waste is (with over 7 million tonnes of food waste produced by households in the UK each year), so this week our tips aim to help you alter your shopping habits to reduce your food waste:
1. Plan ahead - One of the best ways to reduce the amount of food you throw out is to simply plan your meals before you shop. This will enable you to keep better track of what you have in your kitchen and prevent forgotten foods going off before you even use them (saving you money). Done well, it can also save you time and money by making extra at dinnertime and portioning up for lunches later in the week. If you enjoy being flexible with your meals, then you don't have to plan for every single meal, just plan for most and ensure to buy foods that can be used in a variety of dishes for the rest. Planning ahead will ensure that you only buy what you need whilst also giving you the option to prepare food beforehand to save time on days you want to spend less time cooking.
2. Buy misshapen foods - Large amount of edible fruits and vegetables get rejected from supermarkets and end up being wasted purely because they are misshapen and considered too ugly for purchase. Yet these produce are still just as tasty as their aesthetically pleasing peers so why are they left to rot and causing farmers to need to overproduce? Some supermarkets are now starting to sell these misshapen foods, often at discounted prices, and other misshapen veg box delivery services have been set up to help tackle this issue. So next time you do your food shop, look to see if there is the option to buy misshapen produce in your supermarket or through alternative services online to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste.
Be Smarter with your Smartphones
Our smartphones have a much higher environmental impact than you may realise!
The tips for this week aim to help you to reduce the largest part of the carbon footprint of your phone:
1. Keep them for longer - The majority of the emissions account for the production process of the phone which includes the sourcing of precious metals including gold, silver, yttrium and palladium along with many others materials which are rare and difficult and expensive to mine. Most people now replace their smartphones every one or two years, with 1.5 billion smartphones being sold last year alone, which puts a huge demand on these limited resources. Therefore, the most significant way that you can reduce the impact of your smartphone is simply to keep it longer.
The decrease in battery life is often a key component to phones being replaced, so to make it last longer, ensure that you keep your phone out of extreme temperatures particularly when charging and take off certain cases when it is charging to prevent battery damage. To make it last longer day to day, simply make changes to use less power such as by turning down the brightness and using Wi-Fi rather than your mobile network where possible.
2. Recycle it - When it comes time to get a new phone (hopefully after you have extended its life as long as possible) make sure that the materials do not go to waste. Less than 10% of replaced smartphones are recycled, with many just ending up forgotten in a drawer. By ensuring to recycle your old phones you can help reduce the demand for materials further, enabling the reuse of those rare metals and reducing the need for mining. Alternatively, if it is still in good shape, you can make a bit of cash by selling the phone on.
August 1st is World Overshoot Day, the day that marks that we have used more than our sustainable resource limit!
To help reduce our impact and to 'move the date', our tips this week help you further reduce the carbon footprint of your food:
1. Berry Picking - Berries are in season so why not go and pick your own. You can pick them wild if you know your berries well or you can make a trip to a pick your own farm. This is a perfect way to get great tasting in season and local berries helping to reduce your carbon footprint. For ultimate carbon reductions, use public transport or cycle to your berry picking location. Whichever berry is your favourite, there are lots of different types to pick from strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackberries, whitecurrants, gooseberries, blueberries and more. In season food often even tastes better than those grown in green houses as well as being better for the planet.
Remember to check online for what other foods are in season. For example in summer garlic, beetroot, runner beans, lettuce and broccoli are just a selection of what is in season - can you add these into this weeks meals?
2. Buy Local - After you plan your meals to include as much in season food as possible, check out where you purchase said food from local sources. There are several sites online that can help you find your nearest farmers markets and shops, there are even box delivery schemes where the fresh, in season local food is delivered straight to your door. Take a look at what works best for you and see if you can make the switch to help reduce the environmental footprint of your food.
What's cooler than being cool?
Keeping cool without heating the planet!
This consistent heat has many looking for ways to keep cool, so our tips this week help you to find eco-friendly solutions to do just that:
1. Cold Showers - Having a cold shower rather than a warm shower will help to cool you down whilst saving energy. Cold showers also help you wake up better in the morning and have a range of other health benefits including improved circulation. Even if you can't quite bring yourself to go for a truly cold shower, then simply turn the temperature down a few degrees.
2. Smart Cooling - Turning the aircon down does not cool the room faster. If you use aircon, make sure to keep the temperature at the temperature that you actually want it to be rather than dropping it all the way down to 15 or 10 degrees. This ensures that no excess energy is wasted making the room cooler than you actually want it should you forget to turn it off once you get to a comfortable temperature. Closing the windows will also make sure that the aircon cools the room in the most effective way and prevents the cooled air from escaping.
For those without or not wanting to use aircon, opening windows and doors to enable ventilation throughout the whole building will help to keep it cool. Blinds can be used to reflect the light (& heat) away from the window and turning off or away any unused electronics that will act as sources of heat can make a difference.
This record long heatwave is threatening our water supplies!
With hosepipe bans coming into force in parts of the UK, this weeks tips focus on ways you can conserve water outside of the house:
1. Use a watering can - Hosepipes use 540 litres an hour! The majority of this water will be wasted so by using a watering can for your plants and a bucket for your car (ideally using the collected rain water from your water butt) can use your water much more efficiently. It helps you to use only the water you need, with no potential to accidently leave it running, and also to ensure your water usage is targeted more directly at the plants/car, helping you to reduce your water demand.
2. Water in the morning or evening - Being strategic with the watering of your plants can also play a part in reducing your water use. When watered in the heat of the day, a lot of water can quickly be lost due to evaporation. By watering in the early morning or in the evening when it is cooler, you can ensure that less water is lost which will mean you'll need to use less water to keep your plants happy. Additionally, grouping plants together (especially potted plants) and using a layer of mulch can help to further increase the amount of moisture retained, preventing your soil from drying out and reducing your gardens water demand.
Keeping Cool in a Heatwave
Everyone likes to get out and about in this lovely warm weather!
Continuing along the Plastic Free July theme - here are some sustainable tips to follow when out of the house during this warm weather:
1. Refill water bottles - An easy plastic to cut out this month is plastic water bottles. It is important to stay hydrated, especially when it is hot, but instead of buying new bottles from supermarkets, refill a bottle you already have using a local fountain. Find-a-Fountain, enables you to locate a fountain (or tap) near you with the aim to help reduce the amount of disposable bottles thrown away and to increase the number of free water sources across the nation.
2. Sustainable BBQs - We all love a barbecue when the sun comes out! Whether in a park or in your back garden, try to reduce the plastic you use from food packaging and look for reusable cutlery and cup alternatives where possible. For further ideas, see this article on How to Enjoy your Summer Barbecue without Hurting the Planet.
Plastic Free July
Plastic Free July has begun - a movement challenging you to give up single-use plastic for the month!
Our tips for this week take inspiration from plastic free July and how you can make the most of it to help you make long lasting changes:
1. Save your plastic - It may sound strange but for the month keep any single use plastics that you use in a bag (or in a bottle to create an EcoBrick). This will help you to track your single use plastic and identify your key problem areas to help you prioritise your focus on making changes that will have the biggest impact on your plastic use. It will also help you to identify just how much plastic you use in total to help motivate you further to reduce your plastic.
2. Pick it up - This tip is less aimed at the savings that you will personally make and more the savings and improvements you can bring to your wider environment. Whenever you are out and about and you see some rubbish on the ground, simply pick it up and put it in the bin (or recycling if applicable). This way you will help to improve the environment for you and others and to help prevent pollution and harm to wildlife. Any additional materials that are recycled will also help to reduce our demand on resources.
This glorious sun is capable of giving us more than just this heatwave!
This week our tips aim to encourage you to consider how solar power technology can work for you to reduce your carbon emissions:
1. Solar PV - By producing renewable electricity through your own solar PV, you will reduce your demand on electricity from the grid. Grid electricity has a much higher carbon footprint due to the contribution of fossil fuels (generating renewable energy produces no emissions but there is a small amount of emissions embedded in creating the panels). Using solar powered electricity saves you 3.84 kg CO2e per 10 kWh+ (equivalent to running a 100 W bulb for 100 hours). Producing your own electricity can also save you money in the long run as it reduces your bills and any excess electricity your panels generate can be sold onto the grid. In the UK, the tariff you can get for selling to the grid is part of the Feed in Tariff (FIT) scheme - check out the online calculator to see an estimate of the costs and savings.
2. Solar thermal - Solar thermal uses the sun to heat your water, reducing the amount of energy required for you to use hot water. Similar to solar PV, this reduces the cost of your bills and saves you carbon - every 10 kWh of natural gas use prevented by using solar thermal saves 1.84 kg CO2e+. Again, you may also be eligible to receive financial payment from the government to support any renewable heating systems (such as solar thermal, biomass and air and ground source heat pumps). In the UK, this can be done through the Renewable Heat Incentive for which there is an online calculator to help you see how much you could be eligible to receive.
However, for both solar thermal and PV, the suitability depends on several aspects (for example roof tilt and direction) and obviously savings will be significantly less on overcast days. Yet, utilising solar power as it can still be a great way for you to reduce your carbon and demand for fossil fuels whilst potentially even making money in the long run. So why not take a little time to consider if solar power can work for you to help reduce your footprint.
Gardens are much loved over the summer, but people often overlook the simple ways their gardens can help them reduce their carbon footprint.
There are many ways you can make the most of your garden to improve your self sufficiency and your environmental footprint, such as by harvesting rainwater and being bee friendly as discussed in week 15, this week we add to this with two more tips:
1. Grow your own - By growing even a little of your own produce in your garden helps you to improve the environmental footprint of your food. Doing so decreases your foods transport distance (particularly air miles) and helps you to use in season food, reducing the need for plastic packaging and the amount of land needed to grow the produce elsewhere. It can also be greatly satisfying to produce the food yourself and can be much easier than you think. Don't let lack of space prevent you, certain crops can be grown in pots on even the smallest patios or windowsills. Simply look online for tips (such as the RHS grow your own guide) and even if now is not the correct time to plant your chosen produce, then you can start preparing your garden and planning in advance to improve your crop.
When planting your seeds/young plants, consider using compostable plant pots or even upcycling old plastic containers such as yoghurt pots to decrease your plastic use.
2. Compost - Another way to make the most of your garden and reduce your carbon is by composting. As discussed in week 10, when sent to landfill, food waste decomposes anaerobically (without air) and produces methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. However, when composted or recycled through your food waste bin, these emissions are significantly decreased. Additionally, composting supplies you with free fertiliser that you can use in your garden to help your plants (and produce) prosper and grow. By using this homemade fertiliser you are then reducing or ending your reliance on chemical fertilisers which can damage the environment, particularly by polluting water supplies and water habitats. Home grown compost can therefore be used to improve your soils structure and nutrient content whilst also helping you to get rid of your own food waste and saving you money and carbon.
Driving Down Carbon
Our transport is responsible for 14% of global carbon emissions!
This week our tips focus on how you can reduce the carbon impact of your daily travel:
1. Bike it - This week, the 9th to 17th of June, is Bike Week in the UK, so take inspiration and try to cycle instead of driving where possible. This will help you to make the most of this sunny weather whilst improving your health and reducing your carbon - a mile by bike rather than car saves 290 gCO2e+! Going for a cycle ride can also be a fun and social low carbon activity for you to explore new areas and get some exercise. Great for your health, reduces air pollution and traffic and saves you money - cycling more is an easy carbon win with many additional benefits.
2. Go Electric - When it comes time for you to buy or lease a new car, look into your options for going electric. Electric and plug in hybrid cars can significantly reduce your carbon emissions compared to driving diesel and petrol cars, particularly as the decarbonisation of the energy grid continues and governments invest more in renewables and nuclear to generate the electricity. In fact, on average in the UK, driving an electric car produces less than a 1/3 of the emissions of driving a petrol car+ - obviously this saving is even bigger if you use a renewable energy tariff or electricity from your own solar panels. Being fuelled by electricity also makes them a lot cheaper to run and means they produce no air pollution (or reduced for hybrids). With fewer maintenance costs and additional tax savings and incentives, electric cars can also be more economically viable than you think. So next time you are in the market for a car, check online and ask retailers for information on electric and hybrid cars to reduce the carbon, environmental and health impact of your driving.
See our Electric Vehicles page for more information.
World Environment Day
Tuesday 5th June is World Environment Day and this year plastic is a big!
1. Measure your plastic footprint - I am sure that you are aware by now of the catastrophic impact that plastic pollution is having on the environment with 13 million tonnes of plastic are leaked into the ocean each year. 50% of the plastic that we use is single use, meaning that simple changes in our behaviour can drastically reduce the amount of plastic pollution we each produce. By measuring your plastic footprint using our free calculator will help you to identify key sources of your plastic waste and get you thinking about areas of plastic you may not have considered.
2. Make a pledge to reduce - Once you have worked out your plastic footprint, why not set a target of how much you are going to reduce and/or what single use plastics you are going to give up. This can be used to help motivate yourself (and others) by giving yourself something to strive for and to measure your achievements against. Take part in the #BeatPlasticPollution Tag as part of World Environment Day to communicate your target and to nominate others to do the same. You can also take a look at our Plastic Waste webpage to get inspiration on how you can achieve your reductions through refusing, reducing, reusing and recycling. By decreasing your plastic footprint you will be doing your bit to prevent pollution, protect wildlife, and reduce your carbon footprint and your demand on resources.
Download our Beginners Guide to Reducing Plastic Waste Poster
Waste not want not
We often find it easy to fall into a throw away culture that significantly increases our demand on resources.
This week, we aim to help you reduce your environmental impact by choosing a "waste not want not" ideology:
1. Buy Recycled - Buying products made from recycled materials helps to reduce your demand for resources,, contribute to a more circular economy ans reduce your carbon footprint by decreasing the need for primary production. As well as the simpler options of buying recycled paper and glassware, there are many interesting and different kinds of products you can buy, from shoes and phone cases made from recycled plastic, clothing made from recycled natural fibres to bikes made from tin cans and many more. Just look online when you come to buy a new item and see what options there are to reduce your footprint.
2. Upcycle - When an item has lived out its use, or you simply do not want it anymore, consider upcycling it into something new. It doesn't have to be a complicated project, just look online for fun ideas. Some simple ideas include turning old or slightly chipped mugs into candle holders, turning old containers/jars into plant pots or decorative storage containers, and sprucing up old furniture rather than throwing it away. This half term may be coming to an end but upcycling can also be a fun way to engage your kids such as making bowling pins out of old plastic bottles and paint. Giving new life to old items rather than buying new cuts your emissions, saves money and reduces your demand on resources.
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 (June 2018)