- Lifestyle & Sports
- 08 Oct 20
Ingrid Angulo on how small changes can be of massive benefit to the environment.
Sustainability has become somewhat of a buzzword of the past few decades. Amid political debates erupting around the globe about climate change and environmental protection, the burden of saving the planet feels heavier than ever. The global conversation about sustainable development becomes easily overwhelming, especially for young people under the pressure to make the right decisions in up-keeping the delicate balance of the planet, as well as their own personal lives. A common misconception about crafting a sustainable lifestyle is that it’s expensive, difficult, and frankly complicated – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Small changes add up, and many of them are also just as budget-friendly as they are environmentally-friendly. So, as the new college year starts, here are a few smart tips...
Replace disposable household items
Items like sponges, cling film, and liquid soap can easily pile up in the bin over the course of a year. Silicone dishwashing scrubbers are a great and easily accessible alternative to kitchen sponges. The material doesn’t collect bacteria as easily as a traditional sponge and the scrubbers last 2-3 months each, a major step up from a 2-3 week lifespan. Bar soap is another simple replacement, eliminating the extra packaging required for its liquid alternative. Beeswax cling film is a bit pricier than traditional single use plastic, but it can be recreated at home and lasts up to two years with proper care. Eco-friendly and reusable household items are part of an ever-growing market, so it’s worth checking out the local shops for any new innovations.
Use reusable water bottles and coffee mugs
Once perceived as an innovation in packaging technology, plastic water bottles have rapidly become one of the world’s biggest culprits of waste. Worldwide, astonishingly few plastic bottles are properly recycled, filling landfills with plastic that takes nearly half a century to properly disintegrate. Combined with the fact that production takes 2,000 times the energy it takes to produce tap water, switching to a high-quality reusable water bottle filter has the potential to make a major impact. Some coffee shops will also offer discounts when you bring your own thermos to the shop, aiding both the environment and your wallet. If you forgot your reusable mug on a chaotic morning coffee run, some coffee shops also offer reusable mugs for a small deposit.
Clean and sort recyclables properly
Recycling is one of the core principles of eco-friendly living, but unfortunately much of what’s meant to be recycled is treated as regular waste. Global policies on processing plants have become stricter in the past two years, leaving tonnes of recyclable waste unused. Containers that have even the slightest amount of organic waste, such as takeaway boxes, cannot be properly recycled and run the risk of contaminating a whole batch of waste. It’s a good idea to do research on what can and cannot be recycled as well as what the recycling policies in your area look like. While it’s impossible for an individual to solve the world’s trash crisis, taking a few extra minutes to do your part can make a significant impact.
Carefully plan your grocery trips
Food waste is another major environmental offender. The waste produces a large amount of methane as it decomposes in landfills, contributing to climate change as it traps heat in the atmosphere. One of the best ways to prevent food from going to waste is by making smaller and more frequent grocery trips. Buying only what you know you’ll need for the week reduces the amount of produce that gets lost in the refrigerator, rather than realising the fruit you bought two weeks ago has since gone bad. Focusing on local products also reduces the environmental impact of mass transport and can support eco-friendly farming practices. Best of all, condensed shopping trips can help you save money.
Save your food scraps
No matter how meticulously you plan your shopping trips and meal plans, it’s almost inevitable that some of your produce will start to go bad before you get a chance to use it. Thankfully, much produce that’s on the verge of going rotten can be easily repurposed. Turn wilting greens into a pesto sauce, dry out wrinkly tomatoes in the oven, or freeze overripe bananas for future smoothies or baked goods. When peeling vegetables like carrots and celery, it’s also a good idea to keep the scraps and use them to cook homemade stock that can easily be frozen and reused for cold-weather comfort soup.
Limit takeaway orders
Sometimes, life gets hectic and you realise far too late that it’s nearing 8pm and you’re hungry, but don’t have time to cook. JustEat and Deliveroo are always right there, but the impact of takeaway can add up quickly. Food containers are often unable to be recycled, and improperly doing so can create major problems for processing plants. In the cases where ordering takeaway is your only option, you can request that the restaurant forgo utensils.
Buy secondhand clothing
Fast fashion is one of the most notorious contributors to global pollution, producing 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions. The industry is also often criticised for appalling labour practices, in which textile workers are forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions for incredibly low wages. As an alternative, charity shops offer unique finds at lower prices, plus a fun experience. For those who don’t feel like sifting through physical racks of clothing, Depop is a great option for on-trend online secondhand shopping. The vast online marketplace also offers the opportunity to clear out your closet and sustainably rehome the pieces you haven’t worn in years.
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