The thing I hear most often from my friends, is that they would like to be more environmentally- friendly, but they don’t really know what to do or how they can make a difference in their day to day lives. For them – and for you – I have compiled a few practical steps towards having a more eco-friendly 2017, without having to live like an off-grid neanderthal. Whilst it might not be possible to do all of these things all of the time, keeping these ideas in mind for the next 12 months could add up to making a much bigger impact.
1. Eat more mussels
We all know that eating less meat is good for the planet, after all, a third of the earth’s available land is already used in the production of meat products – and that’s only going to get worse as the population grows. The worst offenders in terms of carbon footprint are beef and lamb, with chicken and pork faring much better – so it might be time to say goodbye to that steak for a while.
The greenest animal protein however, is the humble mussel – grown on lengths of rope hung beneath the surface of the sea, it takes relatively little energy to rear them and get them to our plates. They even have the added bonus of capturing carbon dioxide and locking it up in their shells. The result is that their carbon footprint is 20 times less than chicken, and 50 times less than beef.
Bring on the moules frites!
2. Buy a reusable coffee cup (and be sure to use it)
Most takeaway coffee cups aren’t recyclable, and take 100 years to break down in landfill. There are a few great coffee shops in Cardiff which use biodegradable cups, but I like to go one better; I’m in love with my fully reusable, ceramic Vera Wang cup – I get a compliment every time I use it. The only problem is, I keep leaving it in work. This year, I am setting a reminder on my phone to take it home every night, and another one to pack it again the next morning so there’s never an excuse for me to grab a takeaway coffee without it!
3. Go easy on the hipster food trends
Seems a funny one if I am encouraging you to eat less meat doesn’t it? Who doesn’t love avocado on toast – and surely it’s better than a bacon butty? Maybe not. Reports are coming in that our hipster obsession with foods like avocado and quinoa is causing havoc in the countries where they’re grown, as land is being illegally cleared to keep up with western demand. There are lots of so-called health foods causing problems, in fact. The answer? See below.
4. Eat more locally grown food
We never used to be able to eat blackberries year-round, for instance. But these days, we can get anything we want from the supermarket – they just ship it over from the other side of the world- but this causes problems like the one mentioned above. Reduce your carbon footprint by eating local, UK-grown food as much as possible and check out this article for more info on why.
5. Recycle in the office, not just at home
There are only a couple of recycling bins in my office (which irks me no end) but I always make a point of saving up my plastic packaging, cans and paper and walking across the office – rather than chucking it in the trash can next to my desk. Nag your bosses, office managers and whoever else you need to, and make sure you’ve got somewhere to recycle in work, you’ll be amazed how much packaging a few al-desko lunches can add up to.
6. Walk, bike,or run to work – or set up a car share
Swap the car for a journey on foot and you’ll get healthier whilst being green – what’s not to like? If you can’t quite manage that, see if you can car share with a colleague or two; you can take it in turns to pack the coffees in your new reusable cups!
6. Buy second hand, or share with your neighbours
Before you fork out for that brand new Ikea sideboard or games console, go online and search secondhand first. Using sites like eBay, Gumtree and Freecycle, you can track down furniture, appliances, clothes, bikes and other items, often cheaply and sometimes even for free!
Borrowing instead of buying is also a good idea – instead of purchasing new books and movies, share with your mates. Power tools and other appliances are also good to share, plus you’ll cut down on the number of barely-used appliances cluttering up your closet or garage.
7. Boycott excessive packaging
I ordered a lovely, organic t-shirt and some jewellery from Mango last week, and they arrived a few days later packed in three cardboard boxes and three cellophane bags. WAY TOO MUCH PACKAGING! I won’t be ordering from them again. Whether it’s fruit & veg, makeup, clothing or toiletries, stay away from brands who over package their products – in today’s world, it’s an increasingly irresponsible move. And yes, that means pod-based coffee machines, too.