Updated: Jan 29
A common factor holding people back from going green is the financial barrier. Unfortunately, the cheapest products on the market tend to get their 'great value' prices from the cutting of corners during manufacturing. When you buy something at a price which seems too good to be true, more often than not, it is. Selecting the cheapest ingredients and packaging, commonly from non-renewable sources, to produce products using unethical practises (i.e animal testing, working conditions and wages) creates the biggest profit margins.
I'm not here to point the finger and place guilt on people who may be struggling to start their sustainability journey, we each have an anchor holding us down which we are not so easily freed from. Instead, here are a few things you can try which help the planet at no extra cost.
Change your search engine to Ecosia
Ecosia uses the ad revenue from your online searches to plant trees where they are needed most. Since launching in 2009 they have planted over 107 million trees! They are completely transparent and post their monthly financial report so you can see exactly where the income from your searches goes. Each search removes 1kg of CO2 from the atmosphere and this work provides essential income to the workers who plant the trees in the worlds poorest places. You can make Ecosia your default browser on your mobile or desktop and there is a handy search counter so you can keep tract of your individual impact. On average you need around 45 searches to plant a tree.
Unsubscribe from mailing lists
How many unread emails do you have right now? I will bet the majority of us have a fair few (mine was over 2,000!). Globally, the world's email usage generates as much CO2 as having an extra 7 million cars on the road. Typing an email, sending it through the network, running the networks and storing the emails, all uses electricity. These emails only clutter up your inbox and your life. Reducing your email subscriptions is going to help you improve spending habits as well as lower your carbon footprint. How often do you open or even acknowledge all the spam emails which have the sole purpose of pressuring you to spend money? As a general rule, you should only buy products you know you need or want, rather than whatever a company is trying to push you into buying at a discounted price.
Unactionable work emails such as 'thank you' and 'received' are also major offenders. Research from OVO Energy found each UK adult sending one less 'thank you' email a day would save more than 16,400 tonnes of CO2 a year.
Stop wasting so much water
Water usage has always been a go-to topic when discussing a sustainable household. There are so many ways you can reduce the amount of water you use without it altering your life. Turn the tap off whilst you brush your teeth or wash dishes. Stop washing your clothes with the machine half full or too frequently. Save the water you used to boil rice or vegetables to water your plants or fill your hot water bottle. Go an extra day or two without washing your hair (this is also better for your hair!). I believe many of us are so accustomed to having clean water that we constantly take it for granted, however to this day, 1 in 4 people still live without basic access to clean water.
Say no to the plastic bag
I currently work in a retail store and it pains me to give plastic bags to customers who've bought items they could easily carry without a bag, usually to their car. It does not phase people that they now cost 5 pence, although the government recently announced it is going up to 10 pence. Some places like corner shops still give them out for free but it doesn't take much willpower to just say no if you really do not need it. I think free plastic bags was natural practise for such a long period of time, that people now feel it is their right to one when shopping and are almost lost without it. 5 pence is not far from free at all so it just isn't a big enough incentive to say no for most people. Everybody thinks 'it's only one bag', but when you consider that every piece of plastic ever made still exists today, it is just not worth it.
Extend the life of what you own
Most items we own can have their lifespan shortened because we simply don't know how to care for them properly. For example, if you are washing your jeans in the machine after every couple wears, they just wont last. Hot water and detergent can speed up how quickly they fade and the washing process only loosens denim as cotton threads expand but don't retract. There is a lot of debate over how frequently to wash your jeans. Bahzad Trinos, denim specialist at Naked & Famous Denim suggests "if you're just doing normal stuff wearing a pair of jeans on the weekend, you could easily go 6 months to a year without washing." Personally, I have not washed my jeans in over 6 months and I've never gotten any complaints about smelling if that's what you are worried about. This is just one common example where the majority of people are unaware about prolonging the life of a product. It is important to keep informed about how to maintain what you own and reduce the need for prematurely buying new items.
Ultimately, the biggest change we can make to become more sustainable, is simply consider the impact of our actions.