Reducing the amount we consume in our lives helps the environment and can save us money.
Amending our purchasing habits, looking at plastic and food waste, how we travel and how we use energy are important ways of reducing our impact on the environment.
Reusing carrier bags
Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to break down and can end up as litter in our countryside, rivers or the sea, where they can pose a threat to wildlife. Animals can easily get entangled in plastic bags, or they may be mistaken for food.
Try to reduce the number of single use carrier bags you use by taking reusable and long-life bags each time when you shop. If you have a lot of single use bags at home you can recycle them in some supermarkets.
Buying loose fruit and vegetables
Most supermarkets now offer loose fruit and vegetables in addition to packaged items. Local greengrocers and markets also provide the opportunity to use your own shopping bag and buy loose seasonal fruit and veg.
Remember: local products have a lower carbon footprint than items from far away and also support your community producers, keeping them in business.
Reducing single use plastics
Many of the things we take for granted are plastic; yet small changes in habits can make a huge difference. Take a look around your home and see where you could make small changes to reduce single use plastics. Many of them will save you money, too.
Here are a few ideas to get your started:
- Carry a re-usable water bottle and fill it up for free. Download the refill app to find thousands of local refill stations nationwide.
- Carry a re-usable coffee cup. In the UK more than seven million disposable coffee cups are used each day. Cups are normally made of two different materials that can’t be recycled unless separated and processed through a specialist scheme. Many businesses even offer you a discount for providing your own cup so it’s a money-saver too.
- Use washable cutlery when you grab a to-go lunch or go for a picnic.
- Avoid pre-packaged foods. Many local shops will let you put items into your own containers.
- Check your bathroom. Opting for bamboo toothbrushes, shampoo and conditioner bars, instead of bottles and bars of soap are a good start.
- Audit your garden. Try buying plants in biodegradable pots and reusing plastic ones, swap cuttings with friend and neighbours, use wooden seed trays or make your own from loo rolls or newspaper. Try making your own compost too.
Reducing food waste
Only buy food that is going to get eaten. This may sound obvious but as much as 20% of food bought is thrown away without even being opened. Reducing this also helps you save money.
Wasting food has a huge environmental impact too. If we reduced the amount of food we throw away, it would save the equivalent of at least 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s like taking one in every four cars off our roads.
Visit the Love Food Hate Waste website for recipe ideas, advice on savvy storage and tasty tips on making the most of the food you buy.
Food waste is damaging to the environment because producing, storing and getting the food to our homes uses a lot of energy and resources – all of which are wasted when food gets thrown away in our rubbish bins. When most of this food reaches landfill sites it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Growing your own
Nothing beats the taste of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs grown in your own garden - or the satisfaction and enjoyment you get from it. Not sure what to grow or where to start? The Royal Horticultural Society has all the tips and advice you’ll need.
Don’t forget that lots of edibles can be grown in tubs if you haven’t got room for a whole vegetable patch. Good crops for tubs and containers include strawberries, herbs, radish, lettuce and salads, tomatoes, courgette, spring onions, beetroot, chillies, chard, potatoes, french beans and cress.
Growing your own means eating seasonal crops with zero air-miles; perfect for reducing your personal carbon footprint.
Reducing meat in your diet
The livestock sector generates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all cars, trucks and automobiles on earth combined.
Reducing meat in our diets and shifting to more plant-based foods, is essential to combat climate change, soil, air and water pollution, ocean dead zones and other problems caused by industrial livestock production.
Deciding to eat fewer meals with meat or dairy each week can have a huge impact on our collective health and the health of the planet. Try:
- reducing your meat and dairy consumption by a few meals per week and telling five friends about your choice to find alternative proteins
- making fresh fruits and vegetables a bigger part of your diet
- buying local, sustainable or organic fresh produce whenever possible
Could you consider a train journey rather than a flight? Or perhaps holiday in the UK rather than flying further afield?
To help with climate change we all need to fly and drive less and walk, cycle and use public transport more. It’s estimated that living car-free saves an average of 2.04 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person annually.
Other things to think about when you travel include:
- packing sustainably - try to take just what you need, resist the impulse to buy new things and pack a reusable water bottle and lunch box for food
- planning where to eat - try to support local cafes and restaurants that make an effort to recycle, use seasonal ingredients and proper crockery and cutlery rather than throw-away packaging
Reducing junk mail
You can stop receiving junk mail by registering with the Mailing Preference Service. They’ll delete your details from the mailing list of companies.
You can also opt out of receiving unaddressed mail and promotional material via Royal Mail. Both these things reduce the demand for paper at the source.
Reducing nappy waste
Around eight million nappies need to be disposed of every day in the UK. These nappies sit in a landfill site for an estimated 500 years.
Using washable cotton nappies can not only save hundreds of pounds but also space in your bin and landfill sites.
The Energy Saving Trust provides ideas for saving energy and water in your home, helping the planet and reducing your bills.
Low energy light bulbs save electricity and money, lasting about eight times longer than normal light bulbs. Always switch lights off in rooms being unused. Smart plugs can help control electrical devices in the home and reduce energy consumption.
Why not look at switching to a renewable energy supplier to reduce your carbon footprint? Renewable energy is generated from natural resources such as the sun, wind and water, using technology which ensures that the energy stores are naturally replenished.
You can also install renewables technology (also called micro generation and low-carbon technology) to generate your own green energy.
Heating and home insulation
Discover simple yet effective ways to insulate your home, helping you to reduce heat loss and lower your heating bills.
Low income residents can also find out more about what help is available on our Energy Advice webpage.