5 Simple Things You Can Do Today For A More Sustainable 2018
Sustainability is one of those things we know we should do better but often fail to because it feels either too cumbersome, or like we have to give up on fun. To “be more sustainable” evokes feelings of effort with little or no reward.
But, this does not have to be the case!
In this monthly column, I — a self-ascribed sustainability geek — will share my simple tips for how to make your life more sustainable, without compromising on your quality of life. My goal is to show you that leading a sustainable life can lead to more happiness and fulfilment, not less, and that by doing so you’ll do good for the planet — and for you!
To start, here are 5 things you can do today to live more sustainably in 2018.
1. Get that cup of coffee to go again…
Do you enjoy a steaming cup of coffee to go in the mornings? That’s great! What’s even better is that there’s no need to forsake this pleasure to live more sustainably. All you have to do is invest in a reusable takeaway mug — preferably made of bamboo or some other biodegradable material. Why? It’s very difficult to recycle disposable cups. To make these paper cups waterproof they’re lined with a layer of polyethylene — a common form of plastic — which can’t easily be separated for recycling. In the UK, consumers use up to 4 billion disposable cups a year, of which less than 1% are actually recycled. As you might have guessed, this results in a lot of trash. If you’re a regular takeaway-coffee-drinker, switching to a reusable cup will quickly make a big impact on your carbon footprint.
Many coffee shops also offer a discount to customers who bring their own cups. That reusable cup will pay for itself in no time!
2. Mmmm, tap water!
While we’re on the topic of beverages, let’s talk about water. We can’t do away with water but we can do away with the plastic bottles it comes in. I strongly recommend you treat yourself to a reusable water bottle and fill it up with water from the faucet — if you are lucky enough to live in a country where this is safe.
If you’re currently in the habit of lugging bottled water home from the store to keep hydrated, also consider switching to drinking water from the faucet. Depending on where you live, you may want to buy a filter for your faucet but this will pay for itself over time with the savings from not buying water.
Making both of these changes will save you time, money, and be a lot more convenient. And as a bonus: You won’t be adding more plastic bottles that do not decompose to landfills.
Did you know that most plastics can only be recycled once or twice?
If you for one reason or another can’t drink tap water, choose glass bottles over plastic bottles as these can be recycled infinitely.
This tip is deceptively simple as it’s so easy to forget to do it. Just unplug your devices when you don’t use them. Simple as that. This will decrease the energy you use and can also avoid your batteries being exhausted.
4. Get a reusable shopping bag or backpack
The average lifetime of a plastic bag in New York City is 12 minutes. Afterwards, that plastic bag is tossed out and transported to a landfill where it will take more than 500 years for it to disappear. Get a few canvas tote bags (often these are given away for free as promotional material) or a proper backpack and you’ll never need a plastic bag for your shopping again. I use my multi-functional backpack for everything from everyday necessities — gotta have somewhere to keep whatever book I’m reading at the time — to groceries and as hand luggage when travelling. It’s one of my best purchases by far. Also, if you can — and you can! — skip the plastic bags for your produce.
This last tip will require a bit more effort but it can also have so many benefits for you. Instead of ordering takeaway or going out for lunch, prepare your own at work (if your office has a kitchen) or cook a little extra for dinner to leave you with some leftovers that you can bring to work in a lunch box the next day. This will not save you time but it will save you money as eating out or ordering in is way more costly than preparing your own food. Takeaway food also comes with a lot of packaging, often in plastic and styrofoam (which is difficult to recycle), adding to that never-disappearing waste mountain.
Preparing your own work lunches will likely be much healthier — depending on what you choose to cook — as you have full control of what you put in your meal and your body. To start simple, try it out once a week at first. You may find that the time spent cooking will give you a chance to wind down after a long day at work and allow you to immerse yourself fully in an activity that does not involve staring at a computer screen. If you’re not much of a cook, use this as an opportunity to hone that skill. You may find that you really enjoy it!