It doesn't have to cost the earth or make things more complicated, but at the same time if we all do our own little bit, many different things in our lives can help to make a difference and lessen our impact on this beautiful planet we call home.
Growing up in Germany, a lot my sustainability habits are just what we did at home and, my parents being big on protecting the environment, certainly added to my way of living from an early age. So I'll never get people who throw their litter into the beautiful countryside, for example. WHY???
I'm definitely not an expert on this subject, but here some simple ideas I want to share with you that can help us all to live a more environmentally friendly life and minimise our CO2 footprints:
Step One = Reduce Your Waste - this is a much better, easier and often cheaper way to live green - think what you really need (or not!), where you could get it from and what the impact is of you purchasing something new.
And yes, I am a definite fan of the zero waste shops that not only help me to massively reduce my rubbish amounts in the first place, but also combat the superstores and chain stores. They provide a fabulous shopping experience. Our local one is in Llanfairfechan, set up and run by the lovely Laura who called it 'Nood Food', clever, right? Find her on FB if you want to see what she's up to. By buying store cupboard staples unwrapped, cleaning and bathroom goods refills, products that are only produced within the UK or Europe, wrapped in recyclable material where necessary, I've been able to reduce our household waste enormously. I only have to put my recycling bins out every other weeks and my black wheelie bin now only gets an outing every 3-4 months as I've not got much to put into it!
Farmers Markets are also a great way to shop local, support small businesses and buy unwrapped stuff - ours here on the North Wales coast is held at the RSPB Reserve Conwy on every last Wednesday of the month - good fun and open air shopping ;)
Take your own shopping bags and significantly reduce the use of plastic carrier bags, or if you do need the odd one, take them back to the shop next time as they're part of the soft plastics that can be recycled.
Things you don't want/need anymore - don't throw them away if they're not broken, take them to the charity shop of your choice, ask friends/colleagues if they need something like this, sell them on ebay or vinted and even get a bit of money this way.
I last bought cling film in 2008 I worked out the other day - I very rarely need to use it (mostly for my baking) as we use reusable containers and beeswax wraps for food storage when I need it. They're great because they last a long time and in the case of the wraps, they make ideal fire starters once they're no longer great for their original purpose. Also they're pretty, don't you think?
When you treat yourself to a cheeky take-away, consider where they source their food from and find one that doesn't use these abominable polystyrene containers anymore, but good old newspaper or cardboard boxes with wooden cutlery.
Step 2 = Recycle as much as you can - it's one of the easiest things that don't cost you anything as your local council provides the bins and their collection. I've never not recycled, though I have to say that what can be recycled where and how has certainly changed massively over the years and also, dependent on which country I've been living in at the time.
Here in Wales our black wheelie bin gets collected once every 4 weeks and mine normally only needs to go out every other month. We are lucky as the local council here lets us recycle paper, cardboard, glass, hard plastics and food waste straight at home.
I also collect crisps bags and soft plastics, which can be taken to your local supermarket (Tesco, Co-op and Sainsburys certainly take them). I'm sure others do, too. Maybe enquire when you next go shopping?
The Local Tip - or Recycling Centre - Do you know where your local one is? I regularly take my 'collection crate' where I collect bits and bobs (broken electricals, metal items, garden waste, etc.) as they accumulate for the next trip. It doesn't cost anything and I usually go there when going to the shops anyway.
Terracycle - Recently I discovered this great service https://www.terracycle.com/en-GB/ on the wrapping of a biscuit bar. They partner with lots of different companies to help recycle the 'unrecyclable' materials, e.g. razors, chocolate pouches, personal care packaging, cheese packaging, etc. So I've signed up with them for free, read up on the large variety of items they help recycle in cooperation with mostly the companies who produce the unrecyclables in the first place and am now happily collecting additional stuff to send (via Freepost) once I've got a box/envelope full of the stuff.
Step Three = Consider your CO2 Footprint (this means the total greenhouse gas emission you personally cause every day) - there are many websites and apps these days that can encourage you to look at this measurement and improve your habits - why don't you try out a free calculator to see how much yours currently is?
Managing your money by green banking is the easiest and most impactful small thing any of us can do apparently. Triodos is the leading environmentally friendly and ethical bank in the UK at the moment, but there are others like Ecology Building Society, The Co-op Bank, Charity Bank and Reliance Bank to name a few. Also check if your pension fund has a sustainable green option?
Walk and cycle more, drive less is an obvious thing, but most of us forget about it on a daily basis and it's just so much quicker to jump in the car and go out. But apart from making the conscious effort to walk/ride our bike when possible, we can also car share with neighbours/colleagues/friends or use one of the many services like https://liftshare.com/uk , https://www.zipcar.com/en-gb or https://karshare.com/ to get around and maybe not need more cars per household than necessary.
Fly less - hm, I don't know about you, but I fly a maximum of two return flights per year, so living on an island there's not much I can reduce this by, if I do want to travel (sustainably, of course!) and see more of our beautiful world. However, I've recently signed a petition that suggests that frequent flyers should pay higher prices to compensate for their impact on the globe. Whilst this is one idea, how about using all the technology the pandemic has enabled us all to use on a daily basis? Flying less should be possible in the day and age of video conferencing and online meetings.
Source your food and other items you buy locally (nationally) and responsibly. I mentioned several options above, but also reduce your impact by eating more seasonally (who needs strawberries in December???) and reduce the amount of meat and dairy products you and your family consume. We don't all have to become vegan/vegetarian, but eating meat/fish only once or twice a week would already have a highly positive impact on greenhouse emissions globally.
My last suggestion is to buy fewer new clothes (and not at places like Primark!!!), try the second-hand ideas I mention above and wash them only if necessary (I've been told that there are people who wash their pyjamas after one use????), avoid the big plastic containers when buying detergent ( I love my laundry sheets that come in a brown envelope and do clean my stuff beautifully!) and line dry them if possible. I know we're in Wales, it rains a lot here, but even so I manage to line dry most of my laundry in the months between February and October outside ;)
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list and I'm always looking for more ways to live a greener life, so any suggestions are welcome!
There is a working theory that once you do something for about 4 consecutive weeks it creates a habit - why not give it a try?