switches for your sustainability journey

Being more sustainably minded isn’t an overhaul you can make overnight. If you feel weighed down, frightened or guilty about not being able to do enough to help the state of our planet, we completely get you. But it isn’t an all or nothing game. It’s also absolutely not about a small number of people doing things perfectly, it’s about strength in numbers—achievable, long-term changes adopted by many of us.

We all know that to truly combat climate change, we need to fight the real problem: powerful companies and governments. However, making personal changes you can stick to is a journey which can enrich your life and empower you day-to-day. So, below we’ve compiled a list to help you enter the new year with a renewed sense of focus and intent.

1. calculate your carbon footprint

To take steps towards reducing your carbon footprint, you first need to understand how much you’re producing. Try Carbon Footprint’s calculator for a good estimate, or Resurgence, which requires more information but is slightly more in-depth.

2. switch to energy saving light bulbs

Although more expensive to purchase than traditional or other low energy bulbs, they use so much less electricity that you’ll quickly recoup your outlay in lower bills. They’re about 10 times more efficient at converting electricity than filament bulbs. To replace a traditional 60W bulb you’ll need a 6W LED bulb. Not only will they have a positive impact on your finances, but if millions switch to LED’s, the efforts will make a small but significant dent in the UK’s energy demand say environmental analysis website Carbon Brief.

3. buy clothes and home textiles made from natural materials

When the option is there, avoid plastic-based fabrics such as nylon, polyester and spandex. Natural fibres that are born from the soil will one day return there without harming our earth. Cotton can take under a year to biodegrade, while synthetics like nylon take around 30-40 years. Washing machines don’t currently have filtration systems to catch these tiny plastic particles— too small to be seen with the naked eye—so they’re washed into the oceans that connect us all, making their way into our food chain and drinking water.

4. wash at lower temperatures

Did you know that only around 10% of the energy used for your washing machine comes from powering the motor? The most amount of electricity actually goes into heating the water. Turning down temperatures when possible—depending on the reason for washing—will dramatically reduce running costs and carbon emissions. Thanks to today’s hardworking detergents, cleaning power will still be high. Lower temperatures are also great for preserving colour dyed fabrics.

5. hang-dry your clothes

We always advise trying to avoid the tumble dryer whenever possible. However, we also live in the real world and understand how useful they sometimes are if you have kids, a hectic schedule or the weather isn’t ideal. As tumble dryers use seriously large amounts of energy, common sense says use your clothesline whenever possible for a zero-emission alternative. If you do need to occasionally use one, try to do so on a low heat setting.

6. embrace wonky produce

It may not look exactly like the fruit and veg we’re conditioned to look for, but it tastes exactly the same. This may come as a surprise, but it turns out that reducing food waste is actually one of the most important things we can do to reduce global warming. A little Google search will bring up companies who take misshapen rejects from farmers and deliver them direct to your door, or look for these items in your supermarket which are on the rise.

7. reduce food waste

Did you know that about a third of all the food produced or imported into the UK is wasted. According to scientists, around seven million tonnes of waste is created by households. With this in mind, try to thoroughly plan your weekly meals. When you do end up with browning fruit or vegetables not at their freshest, there are myriad recipes online that utilize them. We love recipes and shopping lists in the Hemsley and Hemsley cookbooks by the Hemsley sisters. It’s also important to ignore best before dates, you can use common sense to tell if your food is no longer fit to eat or is still perfectly fine. Best before dates are just a guideline and open to interpretation, rather than use by dates which are the dates relating to food safety and hygiene.

8. ditch the coffee cups

The world uses an estimated 16 billion single-use coffee cups each year. Due to the plastic lining that keeps them waterproof, most cannot be recycled. If you haven’t already, invest in a reusable coffee cup and keep it in your car or bag ready for when you need it. There are companies who make collapsible cups to make it super easy to keep them close by when they’re not in use.

9. support ethical and sustainable brands

Support brands that have authentic commitments to treading lightly on the earth. Invest in those that use organic cotton, repurposed materials, recycled materials and are conscious of water and chemical usage.

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