Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. These three words have been a well-known phrase in all our lives for many years, and with this and the topics of global warming, climate change and carbon footprints constantly circulating in the media, eco-friendly solutions are top-of-mind for most of us.
So how do we take these three words and turn them into action? If you’re wanting to adopt an eco-friendlier lifestyle, but aren’t sure where to begin, read on below for six easy steps to help get you started.
- Cut out single-use products. This is probably one of the first and easiest ways to get started on your eco-friendlier lifestyle. Shopping bags, water bottles and cleaning bottles are just a few single-use products you can switch out for reusable ones. These changes might seem small and insignificant when looking at them on a smaller scale but consider how many of each are used on average each year, and you will see that they do make a huge difference. For example, according to the Earth Policy Institute, a trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide each year, equating to nearly 2 million each minute! For a few alternative options to your single-use products, check out Chilly’s water bottles and We Are Probiotic’s cleaning kits, and opt for Bags for Life when you next do your weekly food shop.
- Avoid buying brand new. If you are after a new coat or even a kitchen appliance for your student accommodation, first check to see if what you’re looking for can be purchased second-hand. Or even better, check to see if you can get your hands on a hand-me-down for free! Look at reselling apps such as Vinted and use Facebook Marketplace or other selling groups on Facebook for buying second-hand. And if you’re after a free hand-me-down item, check out the freebies sections on Gumtree and Preloved. (Be sure to collect your items safely by meeting in a public, outdoor space and bringing a member of your household or support bubble with you.) It might feel a bit different getting your items second-hand and handed down at first, but keep in mind how you’ll be supporting the environment by avoiding purchasing from the fast-fashion industry or other big corporate brands. (Not to mention the money you’ll be saving!) And remember that even if it isn’t brand new, it is still new to you!
- Go plastic-free. According to Mel Magazine, “91 percent of plastics end up as litter or in landfills, and that nine percent that actually does make it to some form of ‘recycling’ is often not actually recycled.” With this astonishing statistic in mind, it’s no wonder more and more individuals and businesses are going plastic-free! If you are wanting to join this movement by cutting down on plastic production and waste, try opting for alternatives to products you use every day, such shampoo bars, glass containers and bamboo cutlery. Take a look at these shampoo bars and this bamboo cutlery for a little inspiration to get you started on your plastic-free journey.
- Grow your own food. This is an incredibly fun (and tasty!) method to take towards adopting an eco-friendlier lifestyle. According to a blog from New Hampshire University, “Long-distance transportation of produce relies heavily on fossil fuels. Growing your own food would help reduce the reliance on this transportation that is harming the environment.” Not to mention, by growing your own food, you are avoiding the use of chemicals and pesticides, which can be incredibly harmful to the environment. If you’re worried about space (or lack thereof) in your flat when growing your own food, do not fret— You can adopt this method by potting or bagging plants that do not require a lot of sunlight, such as beans, peas, blueberries, and raspberries. Here is a great list of fruits and vegetables that grow well without direct sunlight, and here is some excellent advice to help you get started. Why not take it a step further by asking if you can place a few planters in your university accommodation’s courtyard, also allowing the other residents access to fresh fruit and veg? This is a great way to maximise your eco-friendly efforts, as well as form a sense of community in your residence.
- Volunteer to pick up waste. According to Nature’s Best, “700,000 bags of rubbish are removed from the UK’s roads annually, 744 items of litter are disposed per 100 meters of beach and 30% of people admit to littering.” While these are shocking statistics, there are a couple of steps you can take on your own or as part of a larger initiative with a group of people. (Socially distanced and only when it is allowed, of course!) To get started, simply grab your litter picking kit (you can create your own or buy one like this one) and head out on your daily walk outside of your flat, collecting any bits of rubbish you see along the way. Want to make a bigger impact? Check out websites such as Nextdoor to see if someone has already started a group in the city that you are studying in, or join a campaign through Keep Britain Tidy. Even better, why not start a group of your own by putting out a call in your accommodation’s residents’ group on Facebook? Whether you’re looking to start small or aim big, there are certainly plenty of options for you to choose from when it comes to litter picking projects!
- Become an advocate. If you are feeling especially motivated to live an eco-friendlier lifestyle and to make a positive impact on the environment, one of the best ways to do so is through becoming an advocate for the cause. Start by having a conversation with your flat mates, family and friends about how much protecting the environment means to you. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, try sharing this blog with them for starters. As you learn more about protecting the environment and get further into your eco-friendlier lifestyle, you can move on to educating others through sharing what you know on a dedicated social media account, a blog or even by hosting seminars. If you are passionate about making a change, sign a petition to lobby for the issues you care about, or even create your own. org and the UK Parliament are two excellent options for this and will likely be the most visible in regards to starting a petition. Perhaps the largest way to advocate for living an eco-friendlier lifestyle is through leading by example. If you aren’t feel confident enough in your journey to outwardly advocate for the cause, simply continue along your eco-friendlier lifestyle, and watch as others become inspired by your actions and slowly begin to follow your example.
There is no one definitive solution to eco-friendlier living, but there are many small steps that you can take to help you along the way. And if ever you are worried about whether these actions can truly make a difference, remember that when combined over time, small changes add up and make a huge impact on our environment. If we each adopted even one of the items listed above into our lives, imagine the positive ripple effect it could have on our planet!