Saturday, 13 December 2014

Tips for living sustainably

Sometimes it's difficult to know how to live a sustainable lifestyle that saves precious resources and reduces damage to the environment. Just changing small habits that we never really thought about before can make a big impact. None of us are perfect and we all have flaws, but here are a few tips that I've learnt over the years. Most of them aren't that much effort and only require a minor change to our daily routines. Many of them can also save us money and benefit us directly and immediately! If you have any tips that I haven't mentioned here, I would love to hear them!

I want to start by saying why it is important to consider the environment in everything we do. Unnecessary waste means the energy produced and resources used to manufacture the products were also wasted. 
Only using energy and products when we need to prevents the use of the energy that making the wasted products would require. For example, recycling used products means that they can be used again instead of new products being made. This can be applied to almost every resource we use in our daily lives!

Products and energy are created through power stations such as coal plants, which produce fossil fuels that contribute to global warming and has led to climate change and an increase in natural disasters. Therefore, even if we think recycling isn't a big deal, the products that millions of us don't recycle can indirectly lead to the destruction of the environment and natural disasters. Unfortunately I don't think there are enough of us who think (or even want to think) of the bigger picture and consider these kind of consequences to our actions. People may think some of my habits are slightly odd or unfashionable, but those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter! I think that social norms should accommodate sustainable lifestyles. At the end of the day, I'm thinking about what's best for the rest of the world and that matters more to me than other people's opinions.

1. Thinking before buying
- Do I/the person I'm buying it for need it?
- Is it worth it?
- What other things could I do with the money?
- Could you buy it second hand?
- Is it an environmental/ethical product?
- Are there any alternatives?

Reusing products
- Buy cheap second hand items from charity shops or on eBay
- Keep jiffy bags and use them again
- Collect elastic bands and make them into a ball

3. Reducing waste
- Consider the amount of packaging used on products you buy
- Using your own bags instead of plastic ones
- Only buy food you need and know you will use
- Create a shopping list and meal plan
- If you do have too much food you can create a new recipe, give it to a friend or freeze it
- Any natural food waste, such as fruit and vegetable peel and tea bags, can be composted
- Use a hanky instead of tissues
- Limit how much toilet paper you use
- Use a menstrual cup instead of tampons or sanitary towels

4. Recycling
- Have separate bins so you don't have to go through the waste at a later date
- It's best to place your recycling bin next to the general waste bin so you remember to use it and it seems effortless
- Sometimes it's difficult to know what we can recycle because it varies in different areas
- Generally, these are items that can be recycled:
> Paper: newspapers, magazines, note paper, envelopes, receipts, wrapping paper
> Cardboard: cardboard packaging
> Plastics: bottles, packaging
> Metals: drinks cans, tins
> Glass: bottles, jars
> Electrics: hairdryers, straighteners

5. Saving energy
- Switch the lights off when you aren't in the room
- Turn plugs off and unplug devices when they are not in use
- Wear lots of layers instead of using the heating
- Limit how often you turn the heating on
- Fill up the washing machine
- Use the microwave instead of the oven
- Insulate your house

6. Limiting water use
- Turn the tap off whilst you clean your teeth
- Only fill up the kettle with the amount of water that you actually need to boil
- Only flush the toilet when you really need to (depending on who you share it with!)

7. Travelling sustainably
- Only travel by taxi and car when you really need to
- Use public transport
- Walking or cycling are healthier, environmentally friendly and free/very cheap

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