It is easy in our fast-paced lives to get caught up in a disposable culture, where we choose ease over sustainability. There are many reasons that this is short sighted - not only is it detrimental to the environment, but also our own wellbeing (and bank balance!). These small everyday "life hacks" can make a big difference to our lives, and the planet as a whole.
1. Buy quality clothes and recycle them!
No one likes the feeling of spending money on clothes, only to throw them away six months later having only worn the item once. To me that feels like a waste of money, and also has a huge impact on the environment. An expected 235 million garments of clothing will be sent to landfill in the UK this year. The disposable culture of fast fashion is causing huge problems, as cheap clothing is often made of materials which takes longer to biodegrade. Nylon for example, takes 30-40 years to biodegrade compared to cotton, which takes just several months.
Choosing to buy quality clothing or accessories less often will actually save you money in the long run. Higher quality materials can also be recycled more easily, or even resold through charity shops.
You could even end up making a profit on your clothes if you buy the right items - sales of vintage clothes have peaked over the past few decades, as have sales of silver and gold jewellery and accessories.
2. Buy local produce (or even better grow your own!)
It is estimated that our average meal has travelled several thousand miles to arrive on your plate. Not only is this at a massive cost to the environment, but your food will probably have lost a lot of its nutrients in transit for up to several weeks before you eat it.
You can cut down this impact by buying your food from local farms, and choosing to eat locally produced seasonal fruit and vegetables as much as possible.
3. Walk or cycle more
We all know the impact of carbon emissions from cars on our environment, and whilst there are ongoing improvements towards renewable energy vehicles, we are still at crisis point when it comes to the number of cars on our roads
A report released in 2005 showed that 69 per cent of all car journeys were for a distance under 5 miles - a shocking 23 per cent were under a mile!
We all know the benefits of exercise and being outdoors on our mental health - just 30 minutes moderate exercise a day has been proven to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases and prolong life expectancy. Not to mention that short journeys cost more in petrol and can damage your car in the long term.
4. Get used to outsourcing
It is a relatively new concept for us - to have someone provide a personal service for you that you've never even met, that may in fact be on the other side of the world. But as the world becomes smaller, and technology improves this is increasingly going to be the norm AND it can actually save us a lot of time and money.
Many more people who run their own businesses, or work remotely are choosing to hire virtual assistants to help them with everyday tasks, or to outsource work that they don't have the time or expertise to do themselves.
From an environmental point of view - outsourcing and remote working reduces the carbon footprint of commuting, and additional office space. From a personal standpoint - it saves you money, and hassle. I'd say that is a win, win!
5. Limit your use of plastic
There has been a lot of attention focused on reducing the use of plastic over recent years - and for good reason! Plastic bags and straws can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade, whilst takeaway coffee cups have come under fire recently for not being easily recyclable.
Half of the plastic used in the world today is for single use items. This is not sustainable, but the burden can be lessened significantly simply by making small changes.
For example - take a reusable shopping bag with you, take your own reusable cup in next time you go in for your latte fix (many coffee shops are now offering discounts for people who do this.)
Small changes can make a very big difference, and will quickly become a part of your daily routine.