World Environment Day 2018: 12 small changes you can make to live a more eco-friendly life

Sarah Jones
Tuesday 05 June 2018 19:42 BST
(Getty Images)

Today is World Environment Day - a day when our focus turns to the impact we’re having on the environment and how we can clean up the planet.

As awareness increases, people are becoming more willing than ever before to make changes to their lifestyle but, more often than not, the effort these changes require can make living a more eco-friendly life seem near-on impossible.

But, while large steps like having solar system home or hybrid car certainly promise to make a huge difference in the world, there are other more accessible ways you can reduce your carbon footprint.

Here, we take a look at some of the easiest ways you can go green.

Switch to eco-friendly tea bags

According to the trade body the UK Tea and Infusions Assocation, teabags account for 96 per cent of the 165 million cups of tea drunk everyday in the UK.

But, while many are often considered compostable, the majority of those sold are only 70 to 80 per cent biodegradable because they contain the plastic polypropylene, which is used to heat-seal them.

So, why not make the switch to a fully biodegradable tea bag? Much easier to access than you think, The Co-op and PG Tips have already launched teabags made from plant-based material that is free of polypropylene, and 100 per cent biodegradable.

Swap don’t shop

When it comes to living an eco-friendly life, clothes shopping isn’t exactly the kindest thing we can do for our planet.

But thanks to the rise of swap shops there is now a way to get your fashion fix without contributing to the estimated £100 million worth of clothing waste that goes to landfill in the UK every year.

Otherwise known as “swishing” the concept is simple: You bring clothes you no longer wear to an event and swap them for clothes other people no longer wear.

There are a number of events you can attend across the UK including Swap In The City, in London, and Rags Revival, in Brighton.

Smarten your notes

Juggling tasks is an important skill that requires a sharp memory, and a never-ending pile of to-do lists.

So, to help you avoid drowning in a sea of Post-It notes try using your smartphone instead. Here, you can enlist the help of a range of apps to get on top of your to-do lists including Wunderlist and Google Keep.

They’re also especially good for sharing with housemates or partners to avoid doubling up on things like groceries.

Take a break from best before dates

Food labels can be seriously confusing, especially when it comes to understanding the meaning of best before dates.

According to a campaign by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), less than half of respondents understood how they worked and highlighted the confusion as one of the core reasons behind extreme food waste.

While compulsory dates have to be put on foods like meat, fish and dairy as they carry a risk if eaten after that date, a best before on products like fruit and vegetables signifies that they are simply no longer at their best but are still safe to eat.

Luckily, supermarkets are beginning to catch on with Tesco announcing that it will scrap “confusing” best before dates on nearly 70 fresh fruit and vegetable products.

Loving leftovers

Food waste is a huge issue in the UK, with an estimated £13bn of edible food thrown away from homes every year, according to the government’s waste advisory body, Wrap.

To do your bit, put foods like bubble and squeak or homemade chutneys back on the menu to help cut the mountain of food waste emerging from your kitchen.

Switch to a sugar scrub

Microbeads have long been used in the production of numerous products, including things like face scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste.

But, not only can they be harmful for your health, the little pieces of plastic can also damage the environment by ending up in the ocean after being washed down the sink.

The beauty industry is responding with a landmark step that will stop manufacturers from adding microbeads to cosmetics and personal care products but if you’re still concerned make sure to check the ingredients.

Alternatively, you can get the same results from adding biodegradable natural ingredients such as sugar to create everything from face masks to lip scrubs.

Persuade your boss to let you work from home one day a week

According to The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook, if one million people worked from home just one day a week it cold eliminate three million tons of CO2 each year.

If that’s not an option though, consider organising a carpool with friends or co-workers, or if you want an even better alternative, ditch the car completely and invest in a bike.

Do your food shopping online

Shopping from the comfort of your own home might feel lazy but it’s actually doing wonders for the environment.

It eliminates car trips and associated carbon emissions by using one delivery van, while the majority of major supermarkets also offer customers the option of requesting “no bags” when ordering in a bid to be more eco-friendly.

Drink responsibly…and sustainably

By drinking alcohol that’s grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides you are doing the environment a great service and according to recent figures, organic wine is on the rise among vino lovers.

Nowadays, you will find plenty of examples of organic wines and ales appearing on the menus of your favourite small bars or bottle shop shelves and, because the brewing process doesn’t contain certain chemicals, it also means you might just have a lighter hangover the next day too.

Switch out a day a week for veggie

According to new research from the University of Oxford, cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by up to 73 per cent.

Not only would this result in a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions, it would also free up wild land lost to agriculture, one of the primary causes for mass wildlife extinction.

While eating a vegan diet isn’t appropriate for everyone, you can help by choosing to go meatless one day a week and, on the days you do eat meat, make sure to choose sustainably raised options.

When it comes to eating fish, it’s also best to try and only eat rod and line-caught kinds, as industrial fishing methods can cause serious harm to dolphins and sharks.

Go paperless

Our letter boxes can quickly become inundated with an assortment of flyers and bills, so choosing to go paperless can make a massive difference to reducing the amount of paper that is used.

To do your bit, unsubscribe from unnecessary catalogues and opt for paperless billing and statements from your bank, gas and electric providers.

Not only will this be more environmentally friendly but it means you can view your bill any time, anywhere.

Eat like the queen

It can be tempting to head out for lunch most days but the unnecessary use of plastic cutlery, napkins and paper bags means that taking something pre-prepared with you is a far more environmentally friendly option, and could say you some cash in the process.

In a bid to cut back on plastic waste, some supermarkets are also urging customers to bring Tupperware with them.

Morrison’s is already offering customers the option to have raw meat and fish weighed at the counter and then placed into their own containers, while Tesco is trialling the same scheme across five stores, with the hope of eventually rolling it out nationally.

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