Five ways to make your life more sustainable

As lockdowns continue to ease across the UK, more and more of us are slowly getting back into our regular pre-covid routine. Saying goodbye to days spent in pyjamas and working from home, tasks that were once mundane are exciting. As we adjust to our new norms, it’s good to take a moment to pause and consider if the habits we’re returning to are healthy and sustainable.

Sustainability isn’t a niche lifestyle choice anymore, it’s simply part of living in the 21st century. Reducing the number of natural resources we use in our daily lives, individuals, corporations, and governments across the globe are fighting to lessen the effects of climate change. In doing so, we can protect our environment for our generation and the future ones to come!

While this is a daunting task, there are dozens of ways we can help achieve it at an individual level. Below I have listed five easy ways you can make your life more sustainable. From running your dishwasher to using a reusable water bottle, these small changes to your lifestyle will lower your carbon footprint and help the fight against climate change.

  1. Run your dishwasher

The chore of doing the dishes. Some of us love it, and some of us hate it. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, I’m sure many of us do them by hand. I’m certainly guilty of this! However, while it may be quicker to wash by hand, dishwashers are better for our environment. 

This is due to the lower amount of energy and water that is consumed with a dishwasher. Studies show that people are careless when washing their dishes by hand – leaving the hot tap running as they do this chore.

Doing the dishes by hand with this extravagant use of water emits approximately 8,000 grams of CO2 versus a dishwasher at 65°C which emits 990 grams of CO2. If you want to be more sustainable, running your dishwasher in a colder setting, turning off the heat-dry feature, and running the dishwasher in default settings will further reduce your CO2 emissions.

  1. Eat sustainably sourced red meat

Did you know that the meat and dairy industry accounts for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions? According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, red meat is responsible for 41% of these global emissions.

While cows naturally produce large amounts of methane, the current mass-production of cattle, and the unsustainable habits they rely on, contribute significantly to these emissions. These habits include overgrazing pastures and feeding cattle grain over grass during their ‘finishing’ stage. The latter is so common that only 3% of cattle are truly grass-fed through all stages of production.

However, responsible grazing and livestock practices, such as grass-fed beef, can significantly reduce these emissions. A recent study shows that cattle raised with adaptive multi-paddock grazing – a practice of regenerative agriculture that rotates the paddocks the cattle inhabit to avoid overgrazing – can be carbon negative in the short run and carbon-neutral in the long run as healthy soil can absorb enough CO2 to offset the methane emissions.

Spending an extra pound or two to buy grass-fed beef, especially those raised on a farm with regenerative agriculture practices, will help reduce our global CO2 emissions. Further, buying local, sustainably sourced red meat will lower your food miles and carbon footprint.

  1. Reuse your food scraps

Another eating habit that can reduce your carbon footprint is reusing your food scraps. As I wrote in my post Why you should reduce your food waste, reusing your food scraps is a fun and easy way to reduce the amount of food entering our landfills, and thus the amount of CO2 emitted into our atmosphere.

I like to turn my stale bread into salad croutons. You can also save vegetable trimmings to make a stock or turn leftovers into new meals. If you get tired of eating leftovers, they can be frozen and reheated on a busy day.

  1. Drive less

While we have driven less over the past year due to global lockdowns, we must remember to drive less as we get into our new routines! Going on a walk or bike ride is a nice way to get outside and enjoy nature without emitting any forms of CO2. For longer distances, public transportation provides a sustainable alternative to a typical car which emits approximately 4.6 metric tons of CO2 per year. If you live in an area with poor public transportation, options such as carpooling will help reduce your carbon footprint.

  1. Use reusable alternatives

Single-use products are harmful to our environment. As the name implies, these products are designed to be used once before entering our landfills, where they will sit for dozens to hundreds of years. The average aluminum can takes 250 years to decompose. In comparison, a plastic water bottle takes 450 years to decompose. Only massively produced by 1907, every piece of plastic ever made still exists today.

Commonly known reusable eco-friendly alternatives such as reusable water bottles, metal straws, and green bags have helped reduce the number of single-use products in our ecosystem. While this is a great start, many of us still use single-use products, especially plastic-based ones, daily. Typical plastic goods, such as Ziploc bags and plastic saran wrap, can be replaced with reusable containers or wax wraps. Beyond plastic, rechargeable batteries are an eco-friendly alternative to single-use ones that take 100 years to decompose. These efforts will help you reduce your waste while saving you money.

Hopefully, this list is helpful, and you will find new, sustainable habits that are easy to incorporate into your daily schedule. Every effort makes a difference and helps us combat climate change. I certainly plan on implementing these measures and hope you do as well!