It might not be January just yet, but it’s never too early to start making some eco-friendly resolutions you can really stick to.
Whilst it might not be possible to do all of these things all of the time, keep them in mind for the next 12 months and each small change could add up to a much bigger impact overall.
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 – so it might be time to cut down on the steak dinners.
The greenest animal protein 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. Switch to a greener energy provider
I recently switched my gas and electric to Bulb energy, who supply 100% renewable electricity and 10% green gas at prices that don’t cost the Earth. The process was quick, and once I had given them a few details, they contacted my previous providers for me. Simples.
3. 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 – and the ‘biodegradable. ones aren’t much better. The best solution is always a reusable mug. I’m in love with my reusable, ceramic Vera Wang cup – and it saves me accepting a minimum of two disposable cups per week; that’s 104 cups saved by one person alone – imagine what a difference we could all make? Check out this guide to Cardiff coffee shops who accept reusables.
4. Go easy on the hipster foods
Who doesn’t love avocado on toast – and surely it’s better for the planet than a bacon butty? Maybe not. Reports are starting to highlight that the western 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 increasing demand. There are lots of so-called “hipster” health foods causing problems. Try my smashed peas and feta on toast instead.
5. Eat more locally-grown food
We never used to be able to eat blackberries year-round; picking season was something to look forward to and to savour. These days we can pop in to the supermarket and buy them in plastic tubs any time we like, shipped over from Spain or Morocco. But that doesn’t mean we should.
Sticking to locally grown produce and a seasonal diet could help reduce the carbon footprint of your weekly food shop significantly. Shopping at local farmers markets – and buying organic – is even better. Check out my seasonal calendar before your weekly shop – and think about signing up to a local veg box scheme.
6. Recycle at work, not just at home
There only ever used to be a couple of recycling bins in my old office (which irked me no end) but I always made a point of saving up my plastic packaging, cans and paper and walking across the office to the main recycling points – 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.
7. Walk, bike,or run to work – or set up a car share
Swap the car for a journey on foot and you’ll be improving your physical and mental wellbeing 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 even take it in turns to pack the coffees in your new reusable cups 🙂
8. Buy second-hand, or share with your neighbours
Before you fork out for that brand new Ikea sideboard or fancy 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.
9. Stop wasting food
Wasting food feeds climate change; if global food waste were a country, it would be third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US.
At the moment, 70% of all food waste in the UK comes from wasting food at home; it’s the rest of that loaf of bread, the forgotten potatoes, the soggy bagged salad left at the back of the fridge. This ‘edible’ element of household food waste is responsible for 14 million tonnes of CO2e alone – as much greenhouse gas produced as flying from London to Perth more than 4.5 million times.
But by using up every edible bit of our food, we can all do our bit to look after the environment. The average family of four could also save just over £60 a month by reducing food waste. I’ve got loads of food-waste fighting inspiration on the blog, from recipes to tips from local Cardiff chefs.
10. Boycott excessive / single-use packaging
Last year I was quoted in an article on the Independent, who screen-grabbed my angry tweet about Marks & Spencer selling slices of cauliflower ‘steak’ in a plastic tray. These then came wrapped in even more plastic, and were on sale for £2.50 each. Whilst I absolutely recognise that pre-cut veg is a necessity for people with certain disabilities, I don’t think you can call cauliflower ‘steak’ with salsa verde a necessity in anyone’s book.
We all saw that heartbreaking episode of Blue Planet, with the mummy whale hanging on to her calf who had died after ingesting plastic waste. And we all want to do something about it. Whether it’s fruit & veg, makeup, clothing or toiletries, stay away from brands who over package their products – in today’s polluted world, it’s an increasingly irresponsible move. Check out my guide to Cardiff’s zero waste shops for inspiration.
Have you made any eco-friendly resolutions? I’d love to hear them – let me know in the comments below.