Sustainability: the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
Environmental sustainability: the responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect global ecosystems to support health and wellbeing, now and in the future.
Environmental sustainability has become more of a known term in recent years due to our ever-worsening environmental situation. There are so many different ways to be environmentally sustainable. We can divide environmental sustainability into two areas, systematic and personal sustainability. Systematic environmental sustainability is looks at trying to make sustainable changes to our society as a whole, this may include, changing government policies, introducing new laws, building in infrastructures and using more sustainable resources. ‘Personal sustainability’ looks at the individual changes one can make to life a more sustainable lifestyle. There are many arguments on which type of sustainability is more important, some say we can’t make personal changes until the correct systematic changes are in place, while others say it is more important to make personal changes and hopefully systematic change will follow. However, systematic and personal changes should work together, and both have their own different importance’s which will lead to a more feasible environment. In this article we will be looking at personal changed you can make.
Firstly, it needs to be understood that sustainability is a journey. Some things may be harder than others to introduce to your life, which is why it’s okay to mess up, its ok to not be one hundred percent ‘sustainable’ all the time. The main goal is to try your best, we're not perfect therefore trying your best is all that matters.
Secondly, environmental sustainability should be viewed through and intersectional lens. Intersectionality is the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. It is important to take into account that some communities are likely to experience climate change faster, and some have already experienced devastating effects as they are not fairly protected by environmental laws. For example, food deserts, (an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food) are a huge problem in many areas of the world, this makes it extremely challenging for many people to try and live a more environmentally friendly life style. If you are in a position like this please know that it is more than understandable if you are unable to make swaps listed below. However, it's completely appalling at how difficult it can be to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle which is why huge systematic changes need to take place
We will look at sustainable changes that you can make in these areas:
reusing, reducing and recycling
donating and volunteering
Each section will have links to videos, websites, documentaries and more to hopefully make this as informative as possible. It goes without saying that you should take what you can do, leave what you can’t do from each section.
Reuse, reduce, recycle:
This may already be ingrained into your mind due to interventions at school and the work place, however it is the perfect moto to live by when trying to live more sustainably.
REDUCE the amount of waste you produce
REUSE items as much as you can
RECYCLE items when possible
Nevertheless, this moto is not set in stone. For example, as helpful as recycling may seem many items, we put in our recycling bins don't get recycled at all, in fact an astonishing 91% of them are not recycled. This could mean trying to reduce how much you buy that item or looking for other alternatives.
We get the chance to make a sustainable choice three times a day, however not many of us thing about the environmental effect we make with our food. One in three of all the food we produce is wasted, which can have detrimental effects on our environment such as letting off greenhouse gases which contributes to climate change. Many of the products we use to make and store our food also have negative effects on the environment as they are usually non-recyclable which means they will end up in land fill.
Here are some swaps you can make with your food choices:
REUSABLE BAKING SHEETS
Reusable baking sheets are amazing as they can be used for many, many years which will reduce the amount of waste you produce and save you money in the long run.
UNBLEACHED BIODEGRADABLE SHEETS
If you aren’t able to invest in reusable baking sheets try using unbleached baking sheets. Unbleached baking sheets are the brown ones while the white ones are bleached. The brown parchment paper is 100% biodegradable.
ZIPLOC REUSABLE BAGS
The average American uses 500 Ziploc bags every year which is very worrying as they are usually single use plastics. Try switching to reusable Ziploc bags which again which save you money in the long run and reduce your environmental impact.
BUY IN BULK
Buying in bulk is a great way of helping the environment as it reduces package waste and less transportation is needed per shop.
REUSABLE COFFEE CUP/REUSABLE COFFEE FILTERS
The average person drinks three cups of coffee a day, if your using single use cups it adds up to 10 pounds of waste each week. This is terrible for the environment as it ends up in landfill and produces very large amounts of carbon dioxide. 99% of paper coffee cups aren't recycled, therefore is better to stick to reusable cups and filters.
Olio is an app that connects neighbours with each other so that any surplus food can be shares instead of thrown away. It can also be used for non-food items.
TOO GOOD TO GO
Too good to go is a food app that lets you purchase food from stores and restaurants that wasn't sold at a discounted price instead of it going to waste.
Food waste fills generates, methane, a greenhouse gas. Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. By composting wasted foods methane emissions are significantly reduced.
DON'T WASTE FOOD
Sometimes we mindlessly throw away food without thinking of the environmental impact. If you no longer want the food there are many different ways to repurpose it such as giving it to friends and family, using food sharing apps, donating to food banks, giving to the homeless, composting and much more. You could also store it in a container and save it for another day.
Veganism has been on the rise for the last few years. A vegan diet excludes all animal produced products such as meat and dairy. There are many different reasons why people go vegan such as animal related reasons and health reasons but we'll be looking at the environmental reasons. Animal agriculture causes an estimated 18% of all greenhouse gases, meat consumption is thought to be the leading cause of modern species extinctions, cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day, and the list goes on. However, eating a plant-based diet could diet could help reduce your environmental impact drastically, for instance, daily you could save 1100 gallons of water, 45 lbs of grains, 30 square feet of forest, 10 lbs of co2 and 1 animal.
A vegetarian diet excludes eating animals themselves and also has a great impact on the environment. For the average 2000 calories diet a vegetarian produces 8.5 pounds of co2 emissions, while a meat eater produces 16 pounds of co2.
EAT LESS MEAT
If veganism and vegetarianism is daunting to you, you could try eating less meat. Things like ‘meatless Mondays’ have become popular as a way to limit meat consumption. By limiting meat consumption, you could reduce you average daily co2 emissions to 10.3 pounds from the 16 pounds an average meat eater produces.
We also have an article on cutting back meat consumption:
EAT LESS DAIRY
Cutting back on dairy is another step you could take to lessen your environmental impact. Dairy cows and their manure produce gas emissions which contribute to climate change. Meat and dairy production produce more emissions than any other type of food production so cutting back on dairy is also a good option.
Single use plastic has many disastrous impacts on the environment such as pollution of waterways, having a high carbon footprint, the extinction of marine species, and the degradation of the environment in general, so why not pick up a reusable set of cutlery to keep in your bag for whenever you need it.
TEA BAGS AND REUSABLE TEA STRAINERS
Did you know most normal tea bags aren’t biodegradable? Many tea bags contain up to 25% plastic. To avoid this, you could use plastic free tea bags or using reusable tea bags.
Creating meal plans can be a great way to allocate your food and hopefully limit food waste.
DONATE FOOD TO FOOD BANKS
Food banks are always accepting things like tinned foods, dry carbs and much more, so if you’re not eating it instead of wasting it donate it.
WHATS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEST BEFORE AND USE BUY?
Many people don’t know the difference between “best before” and “use buy” and this contributes to the unnecessary food waste. Use by indicates that the food is no longer safe to eat however, best before indicates quality. Best before dates show how the quality of the food might be reduced after that date but they are still safe to eat after that date.
BUYING UNWRAPPED FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
If you take a second to look around a grocery store it won't take long to see items wrapped in unnecessary plastic, this makes it hard to try and be more friendly however, many fruits and vegetables come unwrapped so keep on the lookout for them.
GROW YOUR OWN FOOD
Growing your own foods if that's something your able to do is a great way of reducing food wastage that comes with buying pre-packaged foods. It can also help reduce fossil fuels as the food won’t be imported from all over the world.
REUSABLE PRODUCE BAGS
Many supermarkets supply plastic bag for fruit and vegetables and a lot of the time we don’t come prepared and are forced into using them, which is why you should bring your own or even make your own to try and reduce waste
Making jams is a great way of prolonging the shelf life of foods you probably wouldn't have gotten round to eating ended up throwing away.
BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINERS TO RESTAURANTS
Many restaurants provide single use plastic containers for leftovers which a majority of the time end up in landfill, therefore next time you go out to eat maybe bring your own container to put any left overs in
Fermenting foods is almost a ‘lost art’ in modern day but it is another great way of prolonging the shelf life of food
Another way to prolong the shelf life of food, it can last many months in the freezer and also prevents food wastage.
A lot of toiletries are single use and thrown away without a second thought, in many circumstances this can be easily avoided. Hopefully this section will give you a few ideas.
1 billion tooth brushes are thrown away each year in the U.S. alone, and around 50 million of those end up in landfill. Toothbrushes are primarily made of polypropylene plastic and nylon, which are sourced by non-renewable fossil fuels. This could be reduced by using more environmentally sustainable options such as wooden toothbrushes and tooth brushes with replaceable heads.
Many people are unaware of toothpastes environmental impacts, many toothpastes contain chemicals that are actually very harmful for the environment such as, ‘helidone pink’, this is extremely toxic for marine life, furthermore, this poisonous substance usually stays in soil for more than a year which also has awful effects. Sodium pyrophosphate, another commonly used substance contains phosphor, this builds up algae growth in sewage systems and in the water at the end of the sewage line. These algae built up will cause and increase in the co2 being produced and released into the water which creates a dead spot. So eventually fish and other animals present in the water will suffocate and die. Finally, a lot of toothpaste containers are non-recyclable so end up in landfill.
Alternatives include tooth paste tablets that foam in your mouth, using toothpaste with biodegradable containers and natural ingredients or even making your own.
On average 13,000 pads or tampons are used in a lifetime. The majority of pads are 90% plastic one pack of sanitary pads contain the equivalent amount of plastic as four plastic bags. The cotton fibre that's used in tampons contributes to 80% of their total environmental impact. Once tampons and pads are disposed in waterways or landfills, the chemicals in them leach out into the environment and travel to nearby ecosystems. Finally, the centre of marine conservation claims that over, 170,000 tampon applicators are collected along U.S. coastal areas in just one year.
It has become more and more popular to use more sustainable products in recent years such as period underwear, diva cups, reusable pads, reusable applicators, and biodegradable pads or tampons. These are much better for the environment as they can be used for many years, for example on average tampons produces 12.80 MJ of fossil fuels per cycle while diva cups only produce 0.74 MJ.
Cotton swaps have contributed to the 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean and contributed the destruction of ecosystems. There are many more environmentally friendly options such as reusable ear buds, tissue or just leaving your ear wax in your ears, as that’s what we were designed to do.
PACKAGE LESS SOAP/SHAMPOO
Switching to package less soap is a great alternative as it greatly reduces plastic waste.
Almost all tissue is wrapped in plastic and again the plastic is mainly single use, so is either thrown away or hopefully recycled, so many companies are producing plastic-less tissue that comes in a paper wrapping.
Making your own products such as lip balm, deodorant, body sprays and more can be a more sustainable option as you know what is going into the product and how it is being made.
Bar soap is overall better for the environment as it doesn't contain as much plastic packaging (and can even come package free). On average bar soap also uses 30% less water than liquid soap.
REUSABLE SAFETY RAZOR
Shaving razors are usually single use plastics and end up in landfill, so switching to a reusable razor can help reduce this wastage.
Water usage and pollution is a huge problem. It causes serious problems for marine life, land, the ocean and us humans. Although many of the solutions involving water revolve around systematic changes, there are also many individual changes we can make, here are a few.
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE
It’s a well-known fact that plastic bottles are very bad for the environment. In fact, 100 million bottles are used every single day and 80% of these end up in landfill or the ocean. Furthermore, it takes 3 litres of water to make just 1 bottle and 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide are used every year in the production of plastic bottles, which is why many more people need to make the switch to using reusable bottles.
TURN OFF TAP
This seems quite obviously however many people fail to do so. But turning off the tap when you are not currently using it can save up to 200 gallons a month (from brushing your teeth alone).
DRINK TAP WATER
If it is safe for you to do so, drinking tap water is another great alternative, this is because it can be used to refill reusable bottles and also stop the usage of plastic water bottles.
HAVE SHORTER SHOWERS
On average 20% of ever shower duration is wasted, every minute wasted equates to 2.5 gallons of water and on average a shower is 8 minutes long. Using your shower time more efficiently could potentially save 5 gallons of water per shower.
TAKE LESS BATHS
Taking baths consumes a lot of water so taking them less frequently and taking more showers instead is a good idea.
We use transport to go wherever we need to go, but many forms of transport can be detrimental for the environment, this section looks at better alternatives.
USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
It’s estimated public transport such as trains, busses and coaches can cut the emissions of using a car in half. This is because there are more people in one place and less fuel is needed.
Cycling is another great way of transport as it has much better environmental effects than the use of the car. So, if your able to, consider using a bike
Walking is also great way to reduce emissions as no vehicle is needed.
If your unable to use the other methods maybe consider car sharing, this could be sharing a ride to work or wherever you need to go, because the less cars the better.
SLOW DOWN WHEN DRIVING
European environment agency stated “Cutting speed can also significantly reduce emissions of other pollutants, particularly reducing NOx and particulate matter (PM) output from diesel vehicles. The safety gains from slower driving are also indisputable”, so there really isn’t any harm done when driving at a slightly slower speed.
USE E TICKETS
Normal tickets are usually non-recyclable as they are treated with a thin layer of plastic to keep them from wearing, however e tickets have become more popular with consumers due to the rise of mobile phones, so consider buying your tickets online to reduce waste.
All energy sources have some impact on our environment. Fossil fuels, coal, oil, and natural gases do substantially more harm than renewable energy sources, including air and water pollution, damage to public health, wildlife and habitat loss, water use, land use, and global warming emissions. This section looks at ways to use energy more sustainably.
It was discovered that reusable batteries can have up to 28 times less of an environmental impact than regular disposable alkaline batteries.
LED lights are very eco-friendly as they last much longer than conventional lights and are also less energy wasting than regular lights.
TURN OF LIGHTS WHEN NOT NEEDED
This has been drilled down us for years now, but we may forget now and again. Always remember to turn off the lights in empty rooms and other situations when light is not needed, this is a good way of saving energy.
It’s a fairly unknown fact that plugged, unused devices still have an environmental impact. This is because the majority of our products use fossil fuels, so unplugging reduces energy demand and carbon emissions.
TURN OFF TV WHEN UNSUED
Again, from time to time we may forget to turn off the tv, so always remember to turn it off when unused to save energy.
SOLAR POWERED ITEMS
solar powered items entirely rely on gaining energy from the sun and then it changes it into electricity or hot water so that we can use it therefore, using it means that you are not producing any greenhouse gases or contributing to global warming. It can reduce the carbon footprint of your home by 80% in one year. There are vast variety of items that can be solar powered such as chargers and lights.
Ecosia is a web browser that works just like google however, ecosia focuses on sustainability and helping the environment. Their severs run on 200% renewable energy and the funds from ads on every search request removes 1kg of co2 from the atmosphere. Also, on average for every 45 searches they are able to plant a tree in different locations around the world.
Childcare is hard, and we may not always choose the most sustainable method but, hopefully this section will make it easier for you to implement more sustainable practices.
Disposable diapers have greater impact on ozone depletion, as they mostly end up in landfill, which is why many people have decided to switch to cloth diapers that can be washed, however cloth diapers can be equally as bad if you use a huge amount of water, so do some research before making the switch.
Sustainably sourced wooden toys are a very good alternative to plastic ones, they also be recycled much easier when needed to be.
Second- hand toys are a great idea as it reuses the already large number of toys we have, once sanitized they can work just as well as new toys.
JAR BABY FOOD
Jared baby food can be better than the environment as they can easily be reused to store other things or recycled.
The environmental impact of paper is significant, which has led to changes in industry and behaviour at both business and personal levels. Paper manufacturing used up to 40% of all global wood. The process of manufacturing paper releases nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and carbon dioxide into the air, contributing to pollution such as acid rain and greenhouse gases.6Many things need to be changed and you can start with changing the way you use paper.
Reusable notebooks are usually refillable or are able to be wiped clean, this may be a good swap as it can take 1 tree to produce only 100 notebooks.
E-Books don't need trees to be produced or even read, their impact is drastically less than that of print books because they are designed to be used over and over and don’t get damaged.
Library books are a good way of reading as it shares books with a huge amount of people so can largely reduce paper wastage.
SECOND- HAND BOOKS
If you want to own a physical book second- hand books are a good idea as they reuse books that we already have instead of printing brand new copies.
PAPER GIFT WRAPPING
A surprising fact is that most conventional wrapping paper can’t be recycled, this is because it is treated with plastic, paper gift wrapping paper however, can be recycled as they aren’t treated.
Not many consumers stop to think about the environmental impact of their shopping habits, but the reality can be tremendous. This section looks at how you can have a more sustainable shop.
REUSABLE SHOPPING BAG
Plastic bags have a major impact on the environment, it takes many years to for them to decompose. There are also toxic substances that are released into the soil when plastic bags perish under sunlight and, if plastic bags are burned, they release a toxic substance into the air causing ambient air pollution. Overall, there are many negatives when using plastic bags. However, the simple swap of carrying a reusable bag around can have huge benefits for the environment and the people around us.
Thrifting is the latest trend and can also have many environmental benefits. We have an article that looks at thrifting and what it is.
shopping locally for food is a good idea this is because, it can be valuable for the environment as well. By not using pesticides and other harmful toxins, farmers are improving air quality and preventing water and air pollution. Due to it being local and directly given to supermarkets, there is often less waste. For instance, many imported goods often go bad before they are purchased, producing lots of waste. By buying local, this is avoided, and food waste is significantly less. This is the same for other products.
Second- hand shopping in general is a good way to reduce waste. This could be thrifting, shopping on eBay and many other ways of buying pre-owned items. It repurposes already made things such as clothes, furniture and toiletries, (some of which have not even been used) and limits the waste of throwing them away and making new ones.
Handmade items usually use less energy in comparison to huge production lines. So, in general, handmade products are more environmentally sustainable. If the product is also made locally, and not shipped from overseas, the energy to create it and get it to the end consumer is further reduced.
There are a lot of benefits of using sustainable brands, they focus on a variety of things such as, reducing environmental impact by reducing carbon emissions, limiting waste and many other ways.
ZERO WASTE STORES
Zero waste stores have been on the rise recently, a zero waste shop focuses on enabling customers to live a more zero waste lifestyle through eliminating packaging and encouraging the use of containers from home to fill and refill with bulk wholefoods, natural beauty and cleaning products plus much more. This has many benefits as it drastically reduces waste.
So many of us don’t think about the impacts of our cleaning products, from air pollution to toxic waste there are so many issues that we really need to think about.
It was found that wet wipes make up 90% of the materials blocking our sewers, this can cause long term problems for marine life and the ocean. Therefore, many people are seeking out alternatives to try and limit their individual damage to the environment. Washable wipes are a good alternative as they can be reused for many years before having to throw them away
Paper towels are low quality paper, low in fibre content so, they cannot usually be recycled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” paper and cardboard waste—of which paper towels are a contributing factor—make up the largest percentage of waste materials in the U.S.” This cannot be ignored, and it is important to seek out other alternatives. For instance, reusable towels can significantly lower carbon emissions as they can be used time and time again.
DIY CLEANING PRODUCTS
Commercial cleaners are filled with toxic and polluting substances designed to make domestic life easier. The cost of these chemical-based products can be high: long-term health concerns for the family and environmental pollution caused by their manufacture and disposal. Green cleaning products are less hazardous for the environment, too. Homemade cleaning products don’t contain chemicals that cause significant air or water pollution and are often in recyclable or recycled packaging. They are usually made from vinegars and other natural ingredients and there are tonnes of recipes online.
COMPOSTABLE BIN BAG
Compostable bin bags break down which means the plastic gets absorbed by the earth. They are much better for the environment and using them makes it much easier to recycle.
WOOL DRYER BALLS
wool dryer balls last around 1,000 washes – that’s almost 10 years if you do the laundry twice a week. The most eco-friendly kinds are made of 100% organic wool that has been felted and wrapped together in a tight ball. They are non-toxic, hypoallergenic, sustainably produced and, can cut dryer time by 20 to 45%.
AIR DRY CLOTHES
Air-drying clothes can reduce the average household's carbon footprint by 2,400 pounds a year. It is a very sustainable method of drying clothes as it doesn’t need any household appliances that may use a lot of energy.
A lot of us opt for the single use option of storage like plastic wraps and Ziplocs because of the convenience of it however in this section we will find that there actually are so many easy, sustainable alternatives.
TWIST TIES/ROPE AND PAPER TAPE VS PASTIC TAPE
Twist ties, rope and paper tape are considered better alternatives to plastic tape as they can easily be reused and recycled, plastic tape is worse the environment due to it being extremely hard to recycle.
REUSE GLASS JARS AND CONTAINERS
Reusing glass jars and containers very sustainable as it can be used to store a variety of things and can be used for many years. Similarly, glass is 100% infinitely recyclable with no loss in strength or quality so you can recycle it after using it.
Sustainable packaging experts The LCA Centre found that the purchase of a refillable product creates 70% less CO2 emissions, uses 60% less energy and 45% less water than if you bought a brand-new bottle.
Donating and volunteering:
Donating and volunteering can really help make change on a local level and on a global scale, there’s are two very important parts of living a sustainable lifestyle, they help us reach goals as a community and create a more sustainable environment.
The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. The global fashion industry is generating a lot of greenhouse gases due to the energy used during its production, manufacturing, and transportation of the millions garments purchased each year. Donating clothes instead of throwing them away can help reduce this statistic.