Industry and agriculture are responsible for a large amount of the planets pollution problems. However 30% of carbon emissions are produced from our homes. Our high consumption lifestyles contribute even more.
One solution is lobbying for political change and legislation to curb industry and change the behaviour of the population. There is also a lot we can do as families and households to make our homes and lifestyles greener.
“There are some simple changes we can all make to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on our environment. Every bit helps.”
Some of the solutions and ideas listed in this article are cost-free, and just require effort. Others are almost effort-free and can even save you money. There are also some grander steps that require investment in your home but offer big long-term savings.
Whilst it isn’t expected that everyone can or wants to do everything suggested (some of which may not even be applicable to your home), hopefully, there are at least some changes we can all make to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on our environment. Every bit helps.
Rather than putting your vegetable food waste in your food waste bin, put it in a separate composting bin to be transferred to a larger outdoor composter. You can make room for this even in the smallest of gardens.
The resulting compost can be used in beds or pots, and better still to fertilize your veg patch to grow more food. Your composting waste doesn’t have to travel anywhere and doesn’t go into landfill – it goes to good use, and saves compost being transported to you. A super easy cost free step.
The war on single use plastic now seems to be well under way, and there are many ways you can reduce your plastic waste.
Apply the simple principle of trying to avoid products in any form of packaging, especially if it is single use. You don’t have to go all in when you start a plastic free lifestyle, simply use up the products you currently have in your home and replace them with a plastic free alternative. Start by replacing your plastic toothbrush with a wooden one, or your liquid soap for bars. There are lots of small changes that can be made and you won’t even notice the difference!
If it is recyclable – no matter how small – recycle it. There are loads of multi-section recycling separator bins you can buy to make the job of sorting your rubbish easier, and increasingly councils are collecting more and more for recycling.
Non-recyclable waste should be the smallest of your bins, particularly if you avoid non-recyclable packaging where possible. I find ours tends to be just full of polythene wrappings, which hopefully councils will get onto recycling at some point. Recycle everything you can – you have to put it in a bin, so it may as well be the recycling bin.
Although I have worked with green technologies for many years, I have come to view the electric car as perhaps the easiest green technology for everyone to adopt. If you own a car you could be driving a much greener electric car.
The electric car is so much superior in terms of both mechanics, performance, reliability, running costs, and fuel cost.
Driving electric will also cut the carbon impact of your driving by more than quarter; even more if you charge it using green electricity. An EV will cost you the same to buy as your current or planned new car, yet it will save you loads of money in running costs.
Whilst we can strive to produce our own green electricity for our homes, for many the investment costs of such systems can be unattainable. It is now possible to buy green electricity produced by solar and wind from many green energy companies.
Whilst green energy currently costs a bit extra compared to traditional mixed oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy, it is green and guilt-free, and a big step forward in reducing the carbon impact of your home. Also the more green electricity we buy the more investment there will be in green power. Getting your electricity from someone like Ecotricity is an investment free way of solar powering your home.
Be it food or furniture, anything produced locally will have a much lower carbon footprint due to lower transportation cost. This is especially true with food, much of which has been transported many miles – either within the UK, or from overseas.
If you are able to reduce the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables you buy from imported sources, favouring those produced in the UK, a lot of transportation carbon is saved. Better still grow as much as you can yourself for lovely fresh zero-carbon food.
If something breaks, rather than immediately throw it away and buy a new one, perhaps try and fix it. White goods such as ovens, washing machines etc, for example, are easily fixed, with spares readily available. Thanks to the internet, spares for all kinds of things can be easily obtained, together with useful online videos of how to repair almost anything.
Every new product requires materials, labour, transportation and energy, which all have a carbon cost; not to mention that the old item will go to landfill to pollute our environment. Fixing something can be fun and satisfying, and it will even save you money.
Upcycling is also a great alternative to buying something new, and it is particularly good with furniture, where a quick coat of paint, or a quicksand and some oil can transform something old, rather than throwing it away to buy something new. If you don’t have the energy to repair or upcycle, then look at buying recycled or second-hand items – less new things and less old things going into landfill.
It sounds so simple, yet I find this hard to explain how to actually waste less in practice.
The principle is simple – don’t throw away something that can be re-used or has an alternative use. The easiest examples I see are in food – if it is on the turn use it – if you make too much freeze the extra – if leftovers can be used in another dish use them.
Get online and look for upcycling projects or ways to reuse your most common waste such as plastic bottles or old packaging.
Before you buy something, ask yourself do you really need it. Everything we buy, use or consume comes at a cost to the environment. Every product requires materials, labour and transportation and energy, which all have a carbon cost.
Generally approaching everything we do or buy from a standpoint of how sustainable it is, and if it comes at a carbon cost how necessary is it, is a good approach to a greener lifestyle.
Farming for dairy has a surprising large environmental impact, with dairy cattle producing lots of emissions and requiring lots of space. Switching to one of the many dairy alternatives, such as Soya or Almond milk, for example, can help.
We have mixed results in our household, with half the family now having Soya milk instead, however cutting down is still better than nothing, and we have halved our dairy milk consumption. If everyone’s household managed to do the same that is still half the number of dairy cattle and half the problems they cause.
Whilst a vegan diet is perhaps what we should all be striving for, I do realise that it is not something that is going to be easily adopted by everyone. I believe we should simply all push to eat ‘less’ meat and dairy. Whilst veganism is easy for some, it is harder for others and particularly whole families, such as ours, and as a result, we just eat lots of veggie and vegan meals. We don’t eat beef or lamb, and we try to eat as little meat as possible.
Eating a lot less meat is much easier than eating no meat, and if everyone ate half as much meat and dairy we would have half the problem relating to livestock farming and the environmental problems it causes.
To begin with try 2 veggie days a week, and not eating beef or lamb (except for special occasion.) This alone will make a big difference and will hopefully lead to becoming veggie half of the week, and hopefully eventually veganism.
I don’t want to upset the vegans out there by saying eating meat is ok – I just want to be practical and realistic based on the experience I have had with my own family. It is better to have half the population eat half as much meat than 10% of the population go vegan, and I believe the former is much more possible to achieve.
Growing my own fruit and veg has become my hobby. Out of a modest sized 30m2 veg patch and 5m greenhouse we manage to grow a surprisingly large amount of our food, particularly during the summer when almost everything is home grown. Not only is it good for the soul, good exercise, and is great for the kids to appreciate the origins of their food, it is also cheaper and much greener. Picking a pepper fresh from the greenhouse as opposed to it being transported a thousand miles and placed in plastic is so much greener. I cannot stress enough the pleasure of growing your own food and turning it into a lovely meal for the family. Lots of effort, very little cost, and lots of satisfaction.
I hope the above suggestions help and provide inspiration. To some level at least we have managed to incorporate most of these things into our home and lifestyle. Most of which are now second nature and require little or no effort. Our household running costs have been greatly reduced as a positive by-product.
I don’t expect that every household will do everything recommended. It is my hope that everyone can do that little bit more to be greener.
Lets all do all we can to make our lifestyle’s as green as possible. Thank you for reading.