We may not be able to solve the planet’s unsustainability singlehandedly. But we can all do our bit. Here are 6 easy sustainable lifestyle changes to kick-start the progress.
We are living in a plastic epidemic.
Humans are addicted to it. It is everywhere. Hiding in or behind products that you least expect. We can’t escape it. It’s annual production rate is terrifying; exceeding well over 300 million tonnes a year. It is simply out of control. And showing no signs of slowing down.
Why is plastic a problem?
Plastic isn’t biodegradable so it accumulates in landfills, the oceans and often on streets. It doesn’t disappear over time but becomes long-lasting, highly toxic, “plastic dust”.
Its detrimental effects are endless: ocean pollution: killing marine wildlife, greenhouse gas emissions, landfill accumulation…
The production of plastic is even problematic. This is because the majority is made out of propylene – a material made from non-renewable fossil fuel based petroleum and gas. Their extraction and production creates greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. The production process of plastic itself is inefficient. For example, the amount of energy needed to drive a car for 1 km is equivalent to the energy needed to produce nine plastic bags.
Single use plastic is the biggest issue. Used once and then thrown away. Sadly, it often seems unavoidable. We use 100 billion plastic drink bottles and 500 billion plastic bags a year. Just think, that’s over a million bags a minute. This means an average plastic bag’s ‘working life’ is only 15 minutes.
So, what can you do to reduce single use plastic?
- Hello Reusable Bags
Move aside plastic bags. You are no longer needed. Opting for bags for life, paper or fabric bags will have an immediate impact on reducing plastic bag production. The lower the demand, the lower the production.
Supermarkets now charge 5p per plastic bag. Although this may have made us more aware of the issue and mindful of our plastic bag use, it is clear that more needs to be done. The Government is looking to raise the charge from 5p to 10p per bag. Again, further highlighting the importance of addressing this issue. Yes, we could accept this charge, pay more and continue using plastic bags as usual. But, at what price? How much will it cost the earth?
Your first pro-active step is simply saying NO.
- BYO Coffee Cup
Don’t be fooled, single use coffee cups are lined with plastic to make them waterproof.
Lots of coffee shop chains and independents offer a discount when you use your own coffee cup. An extra bonus. Save money, and feel good knowing you are helping combat single use plastic, one coffee cup at a time. Everyone’s a winner.
You can get on-the-go coffee cups made out of bamboo fibre and even collapsible designs to fit in your handbag. It is easier than ever to BYOC (bring your own cup) No excuse now.
- Don’t use plastic straws
In the UK & US alone 550 million plastic straws are thrown away each day. Opt for biodegradable or paper straws instead. They often have pretty designs too.
- Say Goodbye to plastic bottles
Arguably one of the biggest culprits, but one of the easiest to change.
The process of producing bottled water requires 6 times as much water per bottle as there is in the actual container and 2,000 times the energy required to drink tap water.
By using a water bottle or flask (you can get some great 12 hours hot and 24 hour cold ones) you can immediately help fight this crazy production rate. Added bonus: drinking tap water and consciously refilling your own bottle you will save money and also make you more aware of how much water you are drinking.
- Don’t chew gum.
Sink your teeth into this: chewing gum is made out of plastic. Yes, you are chewing plastic. Surely that can’t be a good thing?
Let’s not even go into it being littered on streets, handles, under tables…
- Re-wearing is the latest trend.
From product production to the packaging, the fashion industry uses far too much plastic. At every stage. And often unnecessarily.
The industry is polluting; clothes release half a million tonnes of microfibers into the ocean every year. This is equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles. What’s more, these microfibers are almost impossible to clean up and are now found in food chains. In other words, we may end up eating our own clothes.
We are a society of consumers. We easily get sucked into buying the latest ‘must haves’, being convinced that our lives will be so much better when we are head to toe in the latest look. The brainwashing comes thick and fast. Can’t really afford it? Oh, but it will be so worth it. Imagine it now. Up to date in this season’s items, confidently striding down the high street as if it was our personal catwalk, admired by all in our path. Sound good? Yes, I’m sure it does.
But is it really necessary? Do we need to continuously add to our ever-growing wardrobes? Is it that much of a no-no to re-wear an outfit?
We are very wasteful. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s latest research revealed that more than half of fast fashion production is disposed of in less than a year, and one rubbish truck full of textiles is landfilled or burnt every second. Why not up-recycle those tired items? Give them a new lease of life.
Not only will being more sustainable with your wardrobe save you huge amounts of money, you will also be helping save the planet.
In April 2018, at a Net-a-Porter event showcasing their upcoming autumn trends, one of the most popular accessories was in fact the black Net-a-Porter.com-branded “keep” cup that the coffee was served in, rather than the latest Gucci handbag or high-vamp shoe.
Is the society cleaning up its act?
Yes. Change is coming. Be part of it.