It really isn’t hard to be a little greener in your life.
Some may wonder why they should bother – after all, what does it matter if a handful of people in the west reduce their carbon or eco footprint when all those millions in other parts of the world are increasing theirs.
My answer to this is…
I do it because I have the ability to. I do it because I value our planet. I do it because I want my children and descendants to have a planet with air clean enough to breathe, water clean enough to drink, enough food, wildlife, wild places, peace and freedom from fear. I do it because I know the consequences if I don’t. I do it, because in the west our consumption of material goods, energy and resources is much greater per person than most in less ‘developed’ countries. I do it because our eco-footprint is greater. (I think you get the gist)
But I am no angel. I have a car (as a family we have 2). I had children (2 again). I live in a house, use gas and electricity and do many things that I know are detrimental to the planet.
But I do take steps and these are some I try to use all the time (and try to encourage my children to think about too). I think anyone can do them too. You might not want to do them all at once, but perhaps try one until it becomes habit and then start another…
‘Do I really need this thing?’ (A key question – how often do you impulse buy?)
‘Will this thing last and is it well made?’ (sadly, many of the items we buy are designed to break or become obsolete in only a few years).
‘Where does it come from?’ (aim to buy locally made and sourced or as close as possible)
Does it have a logo to indicate that the product you are buying was not tested on animals?
2. Do I need to take the car? how many journeys do you make that are less than 1 or 2 km? Could you walk or cycle these? Can you try and do a lot of jobs in one trip so that you don’t have to make multiple trips? Could you have a car-free day?
3. Can I turn the thermostat down a degree or two? (turning the thermostat down a degree or two can save you 10% of your heating bill! Do you need the heating on all day? If you are active in the house this can keep you warm even when the thermostat reads 16oC. If you are sitting down, could you pop on a jumper and pair of socks rather than crank the heating up?)
4. Eliminate, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle
Eliminate – the need for any waste. See point 1 above, and before you buy things, consider the packaging and refuse things that have too much packaging (kids toys – another rant in the making!).
Reduce – the amount you buy, the amount of packaging (and gift wrap) you use, the amount of waste you create.
Re-use – if it can be re-used by you or someone else, then go for it! Re-use at home, give to a charity shop, sell at a car-boot sale, make into recycled art or musical instruments, see if a school, playgroup or other group needs it, … the list is quite endless.
Recycle – there is really little need to throw much away into landfill or incineration. I am always shocked when I hear stories of new or nearly new items being found in the landfill bins. With a little effort from everyone, we can recycle most products.
5. Become a Charity Shop Connoisseur
I love Charity Shop shopping as it makes me feel everyone is a winner. I get what I need at a low price. The charity makes some money and the item(s) bought don’t end up in landfill.
I often buy kids toys, clothes (I hate shopping for clothes as everything in a shop seems so similar. In a charity shop you have loads of different brands, styles and somehow more choice, but less confusion) and books in charity shops. Both my kids like going to them as they know they can get 1 item each – usually a book for Monkey and a toy train or car for Chimp.
6. Use What You Need and When You Need It
From only using lights on in the rooms you are using to boiling only enough water for the number of mugs you are going to fill, there are many examples of only using what is actually needed at the time it is needed. Turning on the taps whilst still putting the toothpaste on the toothbrush or whilst getting undressed for your shower.
7. A focus on Water
Water, especially hot water, is a much greater use of energy than you might think. In the UK every drop of water that comes through our taps is drinkable.
It has been pumped from underground, stored in a reservoir or taken from a river. Then pumped to a treatment station where large particles are removed and the water is treated with chemicals to kill any bacteria or other bugs. Then it is pumped to our homes, work places, play places. We use it. It then is flushed away or runs away down drains to sewage treatment works where it is cleaned and returned to rivers, lakes and the sea. Every step of the way, energy is used. In our homes, about 25% of our energy use is taken up with heating water!
This is why it is important to save water. Oh, and in the south-east of England there is actually less water per person than in the Sudan or Syria! (evidence here )
So even the little things can help with saving water – turning taps off when washing hands, using a mug for water when brushing teeth, short (5 min) showers, only boiling the water you need in the kettle, washing up in a bowl and don’t leave the water running, using buckets not hosepipes to water the garden or wash the car and so on.
If we could all take these steps, some of them or others that can make a change, then the impact on our planet could be huge! We could give our grandchildren and descendants a healthier world.