5 ways to reduce your impact on the environment when you've already bought a reusable water bottle
Every eco-friendly blog, website or guide out there will have something along the lines of a 'Ten ways to reduce your plastic consumption' article. These are great - they're super useful for beginners and those who aren't quite sure where to start. Reducing your impact on the environment can be overwhelming and these kind of articles are amazing for easing people in with simple and straight forward steps. What about, however, when you have made all those changes? When you're all kitted out with your reusable water bottle, shopping bags and coffee cups? The five ideas below will give you some inspiration for those all important 'next steps' although I fully understand that not everyone can do all of these all of the time, and everyone is on their own personal path to reducing their impact.
1. Buy more than just your clothes second hand.
Most of my wardrobe is second hand. But you know what else is second hand...my actual wardrobe. Second hand and charity shop finds can be so much more than just clothes. You can find beautiful, often excellent quality, vintage and antique furniture in many charity shops as well as newer pieces and other homewares. Not only are you saving perfectly good items from the landfill, you also save the resources and energy required to make new goods.
If you're thinking you never see anything other than clothes and shoes in your local charity shops, it may be because many charities have dedicated separate shops for furniture and homewares, so it is worth searching online or asking in the clothing shops. If you're in Macclesfield or the surrounding areas, let me know and I can give you some suggestions (including a 4 story warehouse of second hand furniture, from which I have furnished pretty much my entire one bed flat for under £500...)
2. Swap your energy provider.
This is obviously one for people who have control over their energy provider, which if you live with other people or are living with parents, you probably don't. However if you are coming to the end of your current contract and it is something you have control over, why not switch to a 100% renewable provider. When I move into my new flat next week, I will be signing up to Bulb energy who are 100% renewable for electricity (my flat doesn't have gas). Other options are Co-Op Energy and Ecotricity. These providers are no more expensive than a standard provider but are a hugely positive step in lowering your impact on the environment.
3. Re-think your favourite holiday destination.
Travel is amazing and is a wonderful opportunity if you have it. However, flying is unfortunately really, really bad for the planet! Luckily for us in Europe we have loads of no-flying options when it comes to going on adventures. You could stay in the UK (or wherever you normally live) and explore somewhere close to home - there is so much to see and do right here that you would never be stuck for holiday ideas! There are also so many other methods of transport that don't involve taking a flight. Next time you want a fortnight away, why not see if you can get to your destination by rail or ferry instead - long train journeys also give you the chance to see more of the place you are visiting.
4. Double-check your diet.
Some people will tell you that the only way to eat an eco-friendly diet is to only eat, local, seasonal, vegan food. While that might be the ideal for many, it's only practical for a few. There are however, several realistic steps you can take to a more eco friendly diet.
You could try:
Reducing (or cutting out) meat, fish and dairy - try swapping cows milk for oat milk or making your bolognaise with vegetables or lentils over meat. Every reduction makes a big difference and you can build them up over time so you will hardly notice.
Buy local(ish) - Search 'quinoa impact' and you will see just how complicated our food supply really is. Even this seemingly innocent grain is actually pretty controversial. The good news is, companies like Hodemedods are showing us that many staple foods (including quinoa) can be grown here in the UK and there are so many local veg boxes to choose from! Very few people can eat 100% locally grown food, but the less food miles in your diet, the lower your impact.
Grow your own - This isn't really realistic if you have no outside space, but even if you only have space for a few little pots, crops like cut-and-come-again lettuce or small varieties of tomato or strawberry can be grown pretty easily. These foods then have no miles attached to them and you can control exactly how they are grown. Growing plants is also super fun and rewarding when you get to eat something you grew yourself!
5. Tackle your transport.
Reducing your car use can have a massive impact the planet. This is a really easy one for me - at 24 I've still not learnt to drive. I've therefore chosen things like where I live based on the availability of public transport and amenities like supermarkets. However, I 100% understand that being car-free isn't an option for everyone and no-one should ever feel pressured into making a change the don't want to or can't do. If you can, cutting down on car usage by walking or taking the bus more often can really help you to reduce your impact. If possible, you could also try finding people who work with you who live nearby and arranging a car share, or co-ordinating supermarket trips with a housemate and driving there together. Any time you can manage to use one car over two is a great step towards lowering your carbon emissions.
So those are my 5 'next steps' for once you've got the basics down. As I've mentioned, not everyone can do everything and you should never feel bad about what you can't do.
If you have any other ideas on how to reduce your environmental impact, let me know!