As we say goodbye to August, we welcome in a new month with open arms, and the start of #SustainableSeptember. This is a time when we consider our impact on the planet, both individually and collectively, and find ways to make a positive change.
So, what can you do to help? Read on to find 19 ways you can be more sustainable this month, and every month.
1. Recycle at home
If you don’t already, see if you can start recycling at home. Visit your local council’s website to find out what recycling services are available in your area, as the types of products that can be recycled, and how they need to be separated, can vary by council.
2. Make your next meal plant-based
Animal products can be hugely resource intensive, requiring large amounts of land and water – not just for the animals themselves, but also for the crops that feed them – and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. So, for your next meal, why not try going plant-based?
Just swapping a normal burger to a plant-based version generates 90% less greenhouse gases, has 99% less water impact and 93% less impact on land use. There are plenty of vegan and plant-based recipes around online - check out @woon.heng, @deliciouslyella and @rachelama_ for some amazing cooking inspiration!
3. Choose a green energy supplier
The energy we use in our homes accounts for around 20% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, so ensuring that energy comes from a renewable source can make a big difference to your carbon footprint.
4. Cut down on plastic
Most plastic we use in daily life comes from convenience and is used for only a matter of minutes, but it can last for 1000s of years in landfill, and pollute our oceans – that’s why we’ve chosen infinitely recyclable glass and aluminium over plastic bottles for our drinks. You can do your bit to reduce plastic by carrying a reusable bag with you when you go shopping, taking a reusable water canister instead of buying water bottles when you’re out, and choose long-term, reusable options over single-use items wherever you can.
5. Love your wardrobe
The fashion industry has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years following poor working conditions, polluting factories and clothes going to landfill (and, in some cases, even being burned). Minimise your fashion footprint by showing your existing wardrobe some love, and shopping second-hand where you can. Follow @venetialamanna to learn more about making style sustainable.
6. Choose responsibly sourced paper
Paper may literally grow on trees, but that doesn’t always mean it’s sustainable. Look for the FSC logo, which means it’s been sourced from a forest that meets the highest environmental and social standards. That’s why we use FSC certified paper in our packaging.
7. Support reforestation
Go one step further than FSC paper and donate to the Canopy Project, who plant trees across the globe for responsible reforestation.
8. Make your home more efficient
Here’s a change that can have a huge impact on the environment, and your bills! Ensuring you have proper insulation, double glazed windows, and low-energy LED lights will reduce the amount of energy you need to use on a daily basis, without making any changes to your routine.
9. Make your travel greener
Over lockdown, many of us have been travelling less – but as things open up again, it’s an opportunity to rethink how we used to travel, and adopt slower habits. Instead of driving, opt for public transport or, if you can, walk or cycle (which is also a great way to get some movement during the day!).
If you need to travel by air, look to offset the emissions using transparent and recognised Gold Standard certified carbon offsets.
10. Buy local
The products in your home have all made a journey on their way to you – food, clothes, electronics and more – so choosing suppliers in the UK and can often reduce the air miles (and their associated greenhouse gases). That being said, buying from abroad isn't necessarily a bad thing, as food grown sustainably and products traded fairly can be vital for developing countries – just make sure you choose products with the Fairtrade symbol.
11. Love your leftovers
Wasted food in the UK represents 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year – that’s the same as the emissions from 7 million cars (wwf.org.uk). There’s an incredible amount of resource (water, land, energy) required in getting the food from its source to your plate, so being mindful of the food that’s left behind can make a huge impact.
To reduce food waste in your home, try planning meals and using up food in your cupboards before going shopping, using a grocery list so you don’t overbuy, freezing leftovers, and being clever with scraps (odds and ends of vegetables can be composted or used in home-made stocks).
12. Switch it off
Lighting can account for a significant proportion of your household electricity bill, so aside from moving to LED lightbulbs, remember to switch off your lights when they’re not needed. Other items in your home can also be turned off when not in use: TVs, computers, and games consoles, to name a few.
13. Get involved in a cleanup
Ever heard of plogging? Picking up litter while on a group jog is the new group exercise class, and it’s a great way to clean up your local running routes, meet new people, and add some variety to your workouts. If you’re looking for something a little more sedate, there are also plenty of local group cleanups to get involved in, or you can always head out by yourself and collect litter near you.
14. Sell pre-loved items
Instead of sending unwanted products to landfill, give them a second life by donating to a charity shop, or selling online on a second-hand selling platform like ebay, depop or vinted. You could even make a bit of money too!
15. Save water
Although water is natural, it’s a limited resource, so reducing the amount you use around the home can make a big impact. Ways to cut your usage include turning off the taps when you brush your teeth, washing dishes by hand or ensuring the dishwasher is completely full before switching it on, using the smaller flush on your dual-flush toilet (or installing a save-a-flush, free from your local water supplier), cutting your shower shorter by 1-2 minutes, or lowering the level of your bath by an inch or two.
16. Try a veg box
A lot of produce comes packed in plastic and isn’t seasonally sourced. However, there are a growing number of fruit and vegetable box delivery services providing plastic-free produce to your door. Oddbox source fruit and veg from local farmers that has been rejected because it’s too big, the ‘wrong’ shape, or they’ve grown too much – and deliver at night to reduce delivery emissions. It’s also a great way to challenge yourself to cook new recipes, up your fibre intake, and eat a diverse range of plants (which is great for your gut!).
17. Become a Citizen Scientist
EarthDay.org have created an app that lets you gather important scientific data on air quality and plastic pollution near you. Through it they hope to create the world’s largest citizen science effort. The Global Earth Challenge™ app is available on Android and iOS devices.
18. Take a staycation
This one’s probably a lot easier to do during a pandemic! Even with carbon offsetting your flights, travelling by plane has a huge environmental impact, and will be one of the largest contributions to your annual carbon footprint. Try swapping up one of your foreign trips with going local, and enjoying the beautiful countrysides and cities that the UK has on offer.
Earthday.org works in countries around the world to drive meaningful action for our plant across climate action, science & education, people & communities, conservation & restoration, and plastic pollution. Support their work by donating to their fund.
Find out more ways you can get involved with Earth Day at earthday.org.