OK so this isn’t strictly about travel, but it’s been on my mind a lot recently and I figure, if you love travel, you probably love the planet and don’t want the environment to be ruined.
I’ve not historically worried too much about sustainability. I tend to feel a bit overwhelmed and powerless – how could anything I do make any difference at all? Then last week I read an article in New York Magazine that totally rocked my safe little world – The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallis-Wells.
Now, I love disaster movies. The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, War of the Worlds, Contagion, Bird Box, A Quiet Place… anything where zombies or extreme weather or aliens or plagues or plants (I’m looking at you The Happening) go on a killing spree is totally up my street. Apparently I just love it when loads of people die on screen. Reading The Uninhabitable Earth felt like reading a disaster movie pitch. Except it’s what scientists actually believe we’re heading for if we don’t drastically change our behaviour as a species.
How you can help the environment
Scary right? Even if we don’t face the worst of it our children certainly will. After having all this stewing in my brain for the last few days, I’ve decided to take some steps to feel at least a little bit like I’m helping the environment and persuading the planet not to wipe us out.
#1 Switch to a green energy plan
Using green energy is one of the best things you can do to help the environment, and it doesn’t even need to be more expensive than what you’re paying your current provider. In fact, Matt and I just switched to bulb from E.On and we’ll actually be saving money. Other options out there are good energy, Ecotricity, Octopus and Green Energy UK.
On average, people who switch to Bulb save 1,900 kilograms of CO2 per year. Use our referral code to switch to bulb and get £50 credit!
#2 Reduce your food waste
Every year 1.9 million tonnes of surplus food is wasted by the UK food industry. 70% of household food waste in the UK is edible. Obviously this is hugely wasteful considering the number of people who don’t have access to enough food, but it also has a massive impact on the environment. In fact, if global food waste was a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after the US and China. (source and source)
The best ways to reduce your own food waste? Don’t over buy, be aware of use by dates, plan ahead, and freeze leftovers.
One of the most wasteful areas from supermarkets, in my opinion, is that they throw out misshapen fruit and veg. You can get round this by buying from local greengrocers, or from delivery services like Oddbox.
Recipe kits like Gousto and Hello Fresh are also a great way to reduce food waste. They supply exact quantities of each ingredient you need, which not only reduces the food waste in your own kitchen, but all along the supply chain.
Full disclosure, I actually work at Gousto. So you know I know what I’m talking about when I say it’s the best recipe kit out there. Use my referral code to get 50% off your first Gousto box!
#3 Plant more trees
It’s scientifically proven that planting millions of trees on the equator could slow or even reverse global warming. Even if you actually live on the equator, this is quite a big ask, but luckily there are lots of companies that are getting to work doing just this, like WeForest.
How can you help? Find out which brands are involved with efforts like this and give them your support, like Allplants. A quick, easy and free way you can get started is by using Ecosia, a search engine that plants a tree for every search.
#4 Stop adding to landfills
People who get periods – this one’s for you.
We all know we need to reduce our use of plastic – David Attenborough told us to and he’s basically British royalty. So I was looking at this plastic pollution calculator, more out of curiosity than anything else, and when I typed in 20 feminine products a month, it came to 300 a year. Which means I’ve added 4,200 to landfills in my lifetime as a perioding adult. That’s a scary number.
I’ve heard of more eco-friendly options like mooncup, but quite frankly that scared me. Something I’d seen on Instagram that had intrigued me for a while was THINX. They make underwear that apparently absorbs your period and is totally washable and reusable. So not only are they a more sustainable solution than single-use disposable tampons and pads, they’re also much cheaper in the long run. So I’ve ordered a saver pack and I’m waiting for them to arrive! Time will tell if they’re everything they promise to be.
Update: I love them. Super comfortable, super secure. They’ve really lived up to the hype!
#5 Seriously, the landfill thing
And obviously, if I use a make-up wipe every day you don’t have to be a genuis to figure out how many I use a year. But considering I started wearing make-up when I was about 14 that means there are over 5,110 make-up wipes lying in landfills because of me. No more.
W7 IT’S MAGIC! Make-up remover cloths sound too good to be true but they are actually amazing. I bought three and gave one each to my mum and sister, and we’ve all been using them since Christmas. Never buying wipes again!
#5 Watch your water usage
Water is one of the first resources affected by climate change, and the shortage of it is something people already struggle with around the world. Maybe you feel like the problem’s a little far from home, but did you know that England is on track to suffer shortages in the next 25 years? To combat this, we all need to reduce our water usage by as much as one third. (source)
- Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth.
- Take shorter showers.
- Fill your dishwasher and washing machine before using.
- Swap hosepipes for watering cans.
- Get a smart meter.
- Keep jugs and bottle of water in the fridge so you don’t have to run the tap to get cold drinking water.
#6 Cut out cows
This is one I’m struggling with the most. If you’ve read my Amsterdam post then you know how I feel about cheese. If you’ve seen my steak leaderboard then you know how I feel about beef. But it turns out cows are some of the worst eco-culprits in the food supply chain. Their methane farts add a huge amount to greenhouse gasses, and they consume an enormous amount of water compared to other protein sources.
So here’s my compromise – to cut down on cow rather than cut it out completely. I’ve decided to swap milk for dairy-free alternatives in my porridge, tea and coffee, and reserve cheese and beef for weekends and special occasions.
#7 Use less petrol
Traffic fumes = bad. Cycle, carpool, get public transport.
Of course, as a travel blogger I’m aware of the elephant in the room here – airmiles. The modern availability and affordability of flights has completely changed our holiday habits. To tally up my sins, last year I flew to Geneva, Cyprus, Rome and Florence. I’ve already flown to Geneva again this year, with flights to Athens booked for a couple of months time. And apparently every airmile equals three square meters of melted icecaps.
So here are some hail mary’s for the travellers reading: Buy locally grown fruit and veg. If you can’t stop yourself from flying then you can at least keep your food on the ground.
EDIT: Thanks to Genevieve for pointing out this cool website – My Climate has an emissions calculator where you enter your departure airport and destination, and it tells you how much money you need to donate to compensate for your CO2 emissions!
#9 Bank ethically
Ethical banks are banks designed around making sure they have no negative impact on the environment or on society. This includes choosing companies to invest in that also have no negative impact.
Yeah. Not a ton of options. Plus if you look at the Trustpilot reviews for the Co-operative Bank, they all say the same thing – great values, terrible online banking. Apparently they’ve only just released their banking app and it has loads of problems, so I for one am going to watch and wait for the right time to make the switch.
#10 Donations not dustbins
Fast fashion is fast becoming an issue. Every year, the clothing industry produces 2 million tons of waste, emits 2.1 million tons of carbon dioxide, and uses 70 million tons of water. And this is getting worse now brands like ZARA, H&M and Forever 21 have made Fast Fashion a retailing standard. Add to that the low quality of these clothes, often thrown out by the wearer within two years, and you’ve got a hugely wasteful industry. (source)
So what can you do? Reuse and repair should come first. Don’t give up on clothes until you have to. When that time comes, donate it to a charity shop so it can at least raise money for a good cause.
You can also choose to shop from brands that have signed up to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), a collective that aims to reduce wastefulness in the fashion industry.
#11 Stay informed
Staying engaged with the issue, being ready to join discussions when they come up, and staying informed of the latest technologies will all help you to help the environment. Try signing up for the Guardian’s Green Light newsletter.
And don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re already reading about ways you can help, and that’s the first step.
Let’s help each other too! What ways have you found to save the planet? Leave your tips in the comments!
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Here are some more cool companies I’ve found since writing this post:
Smol laundry capsules and dishwasher tablets use fewer chemicals than other brands, as well as packaging that’s made from both recycled and sustainable materials which are 100% recyclable too.
Who Gives A Crap make all of their products (toilet paper, kitchen role and tissues) with recycled paper and environmentally friendly materials, saving trees, water and energy. They also donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those in need. You can order a one off delivery of loo roll right to your door, or get a subscription and never have to run out again!
Biork is 100% natural and plastic free crystal deodorant stick. The container is made of cork, a renewable resource. One single natural cork alone binds eight grams of the greenhouse gas CO2. 100% natural, vegan, fragrance-free, no animal testing, no aluminium chlorides.
LUSH makes shampoo and conditioner bars that come wrapped in paper and are a lightweight alternative to traditional shampoo bottles, cutting down on your carbon footprint too.
Denttabs Toothpaste Tablets eliminate plastic tube usage. It has the right amount of Fluoride that is absolutely safe and keeps your teeth protected from cavities. Standard toothpaste tubes are near impossible to recycle owing to their blended material and leftover toothpaste inside, meaning around 1.5 billion get binned worldwide each year. Tablets last longer too – save more money, save the planet.
Ecover washing up liquid uses plant based and mineral ingredients without unnecessary chemicals, and comes in completely biodegradable bottles.