We all know we need to do more to help the planet, but being environmentally friendly doesn’t mean you have to go vegan and put up solar panels. There are small things you probably do on a daily basis that are harming the environment.
Why not make a change in time for Earth Hour? It’s a global movement promoting the issue of climate change, where businesses are encouraged to symbolically turn off their lights for an hour starting at 8.30pm on Saturday March 25.
Saving an hour’s worth of energy is a good start, but here are a few little things you should probably stop doing to keep your environmental streak going. We’ve only got one planet, you know.
1. Buying your coffee in paper cups
There’s a reason you feel bad when you half-heartedly chuck your morning coffee cup into the recycling – it’s because you shouldn’t be doing it.
Those cups aren’t just paper – they contain a thin layer of polyethylene which makes the cups waterproof. This is incredibly difficult to separate from the paper part, making them basically impossible to recycle.
Your coffee can stay (we’ll get to that later) but ditch the waste by investing in your own travel cup. Loads of coffee shops give you money off if you bring your own mug, so it’ll pay for itself.
2. Eating dairy
Before you ask for that milky latte in your brand new reuseable cup, consider that dairy is pretty bad for the environment.
Cows produce loads of methane and nitrous oxide, which are greenhouse gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
This makes up 14% of the world’s total emissions, which is more than that of cars and planes combined.
Which means you might also want to reconsider…
3. Eating beef
Look, we all know that eating meat isn’t great news for the environment, and beef is the main culprit.
Red meat demands 28 times as much land and 11 times more water than pork or chicken. Giving up beef is comparable to giving up driving, according to a study from 2014.
You could start by not having beef on the weekdays, and go from there.
4. Having baths
Put down that bath bomb, because it’s well known that short showers are better for the environment than deep baths.
A six-minute shower uses about 62 litres of water, while a bath uses 80.
But you do need to remember to keep your showers short. High-powered showers are also best avoided as they can use as much as 136 litres of water in six minutes.
5. Wearing polyester
Polyester, although often recycled, has the habit of releasing hundreds of thousands of tiny microfibres whenever it’s washed. And it gets worse as your clothes get older.
Most of it can get through cleaning plants and then goes into freshwater and the ocean.
When they get there microfibres suck up other pollutants, which is the big danger. These end up in fish, and so potentially inside us. Stick to natural fibres such as wool and cotton.
6. Throwing away food
According to estimates from earlier this year, British households are throwing away £13 billion worth of edible food annually.
Of the 7.3 million tonnes chucked in 2015, 4.4 million of that was avoidable – so food that was edible at one point, rather than eggshells or tea bags. This avoidable food waste generates 19 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, which is equivalent to the emissions from a quarter of the UK’s cars.
So try to plan your meals for the week before you go shopping to avoid letting food go to waste.
7. Buying cheap clothes all the time
Clothes demand more oil, chemicals and water to produce than you might think. Certain retailers’ low low prices and shorter fashion seasons mean we’re buying more clothes and wearing them less often. In the US, 80 pounds of fabric are thrown away per person per year.
Most of this ends up in landfill, which isn’t good either. Cotton is biodegradable, but even natural fibres have been processed so much that they often release toxic chemicals when they break down. Synthetic fibres can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.
So next time you want to invest in a trend piece, ask yourself whether you’ll get a significant number of wears out of it rather than buying something destined for the bin at the end of the season.