The ripples are still settling from the impact of Sir David Attenborough’s latest Blue Planet series, which has seen the world sit up and take notice of the problem we have with the plastic content in the oceans (what can the man not do?!)
It’s a cheering reminder of the power of public opinion: in response to the general horror of seeing a whale caught in some out of date fishing netting or how ‘microplastics’ can accumulate in the stomachs of dolphins, we’ve seen Iceland pledge to eliminate all plastic packaging by 2023, London start a campaign to boycott all plastic straws and Bollywood celebrities take to Indian beaches to pick up rubbish.
With this popular movement afoot, this seems like the perfect time to talk about ways in which we can make our lives a little greener.
Share and Share Alike
A major factor for environmental change is undeniably consumer spending patterns, and one of the most interesting evolutions of the economy in the past twenty years is the rise of the ‘sharing economy’.
We saw this first back in 2008 with the birth of Airbnb, but the idea has become so successful that it is now possible to ‘share’ all sorts unused commodities from your car parking space to your unwanted food stuffs through online sites and apps.
Storemates became the first site in the UK to help people share their storage space. Space starved people turned off by the expensive, environmentally unfriendly option of self-storage, now use the website Storemates.co.uk to find spare storage space in their local communities. Using a neighbours spare room, loft, garage or shed means you can use existing space rather than build a new self-storage warehouse.
Among the forefront of the Sharing Economy is Fat Lama, an online peer-to-peer rental platform launched in 2016. It has taken the sharing principle to a new level, allowing you to list anything (from domestic items like tool kits and fondue sets to professional gear like DJ equipment and campervans) for rental to people in your local area.
This is fundamentally a ‘green’ idea because it allows us to make the most out of our existing resources. Think about it, is it really necessary say in a block of flats for each flat to have its own power drill? If we embrace the idea of sharing our resources we can curb the level of production of items that will ultimately end up in landfill, whilst making a little extra cash in the process.
2. Seasonal Adjustment Diet (S.A.D.)
If you brought a medieval peasant forward to 2018, the all year round supply of tropical fruit and vegetables would arguably be one of the most surprising inventions of the modern world (for someone who’s diet consisted mainly of bread anyway).
However, this luxury comes at a price: the air miles and the speeded up ripening processes used to produce these fruits and veggies gives them a serious carbon footprint. If we seek to reduce the carbon emissions associated with the food industry, an easy way to do this is to embrace a seasonal diet as much as possible.
I am not advocating full scale peasantry here, but if you try to replace the ‘air mile avo’s’ with locally sourced fruit and veg you can help be part of a shift in consumer patterns that will see the carbon impact of the food industry decrease dramatically. It’s not all doom and gloom, seasonal fruit and veg definitely taste a lot better and will find yourself appreciating the seasonal luxuries far more.
3. Holiday Responsibly
Ecotourism is based on the idea that holidaying, so often linked to unnecessary carbon emissions and damage to iconic natural areas, can actually be a source for environmental improvement - if it’s managed properly.
Whilst you might not have heard of it, ecotourism is already a large and expanding industry. It incorporates anything from working on conservation projects to making sure you stay somewhere where tourism is sustainably helping the local economy, to having an element of cultural education on your holiday - usually through employing a local guide. Countries all over the world are investing in this area, with eco-friendly tour operators from Ghana to Germany.
4. Recycle Your Clothes!
I was very shocked to discover that one of the largest industries contributing to landfill these days is in fact the textile industry.
According to The Guardian some 235m items of Britons’ unwanted clothing are predicted to end up in landfill unnecessarily this spring time with a huge three-quarters of us admitting to binning our unwanted clothes.
The increase in wardrobe ‘turnover’ seems to come from the ever increasing pace at which high street fashion moves on. People are more likely to buy cheaper items of clothing more frequently than in the past and then discard them in half the time, leading to huge amounts of waste being generated.
The biggest tragedy of this is that nearly 100% of all clothing is possible to recycle. So if you are purging your wardrobe this spring, buck the trend and make sure you recycle your out of date accessories.
5. Beelieve in Better
The Great British suburbia is stereotypically characterised by its magnificently manicured lawns. Yet, however much you might feel yourself itching to reach for the mower in the summer months, one of the easiest ways to help the environment (and avoid your chores) is to leave your grass to grow.
Seems like a weird request, why, to save the bees! Sadly, research has shown that bee populations are declining for a number of reasons, one of which is the destruction of natural habitats in urban areas. This is not good news as they are one of our best pollinators.
So perhaps it is time to sacrifice the lawn for the flowers and allow our bees to gain an urban foothold.
6. Stop Paper Waste at the Source
This one is less to do with consumer trends and more about being organised in reducing the amount of admin that you do on paper.
This can be anything from transferring your bills and bank statements online, to being proactive and unsubscribing yourself from the pamphlet advertising that gets posted through your door everyday. It’s an easy step that on the most part will actually save you time, but, more importantly, also paper!
7. Charity Shop ‘Till You Drop
Despite the sterling work of Macklemore’s hit single ‘Thrift Shop’, shopping in charity shops can garner negative PR. However, the fast turn over of the fashion industry (as mentioned earlier) means that it’s not just the deceased who are ditching their unwanted stuff in charity shops.
This can mean that with a suitable amount of rummaging you can find some genuine bargains - especially if you check out the shops in the posh bit of town!
This is an easy way to help the planet because you are ensuring that items are not being thrown away far before their ‘expiry date’ and the proceeds go to charity - what’s not to like?
Guest blog provided by Fat Lama - Borrow stuff you need, lend stuff you don't!