Yes, yes, before you say anything, I do wholeheartedly believe that it is giant corporations creating climate change and not us using our tumble dryers twice a day. Yep, 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions, but it’s usually because we are still buying dirty oil to put in our dirty cars so that we can go to the supermarket and buy fruit not in season wrapped in unnecessary plastic. We might not be causing 71% of emissions, but we certainly are funding it slightly. So, what can we do?
The biggest drawback why your average citizen does not care about the environment, is because saving it means inconvenience for them. Yes, Citizen Joe, you might have to take slightly longer to get to work by taking the bus, but at least we might avoid our offices being completely underwater in 50 years’ time!
I must admit, it is very annoying dragging around my reusable steel water bottle and my glass keep cup, both of them clanging around in my bag so I sound like a 2nd grader’s percussion group, but I prefer the alternative, which is, you know, continuing the survival of the human race. It’s become so engrained in me now, especially after watching Greta Thunberg and the whole Extinction Rebellion crowd, and actually reading the COP26 reports – I do feel a little dirty drinking coffee out of a Styrofoam cup, drinking a crisp new bottle of Evian, or having a plastic straw in my Mojito. Yuck.
If Greta Thunberg, who is wildly busier and infinitely more important than I am, can take a sailing boat across the Atlantic to get to a meeting, then surely I can handle taking the bus to work. And if I’m a few minutes late to work, then my boss can DEAL, because I’m saving the planet.
But yes, in today’s world of Deliveroo and Amazon Prime, inconvenience is a big dealbreaker for us. Which is why I’ve compiled a short, and definitely not exhaustive, list of small things you can do, that doesn’t inconvenience you, that is actually a big deal. Trust me – even a little goes a long way.
1. Choosing cotton buds with paper stems
We’ll start off easy. Cotton buds. Everybody uses ‘em. But apart from the drawbacks of cotton itself (if you really want to go all out, LastObject does a great reuseable swab), you can buy two different types. One with a plastic straw connecting the cotton buds at either end, or one with a paper stick connecting the two. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of plastic swabs floating around in the ocean (as they will do for the next 1000 years before they break down and then we later find them in our blood), or felt absolutely disgusted running into one of them while snorkelling (who knows what that cotton swab was used for), which is why it’s so important to make sure you buy the paper ones. It makes no difference to you, and they break down quicker. Easy-peasy.
2. Carrying a reusable water bottle
Look, I know I said that thing about carrying it around being annoying and sounding like a 2nd grader’s percussion group… but it doesn’t have to be steel! Okay, plastic might be the devil, but if you reuse it until the day you die, then pass it on to your children – what’s the harm? I have Tupperware from my grandmother, and it still works perfectly fine! Also, you can fill reusable bottles with anything you like. Slow Friday at work? Why not put in a little gin in there to make things more exciting? (I mean, don’t, but hypothetically you could…) Use that £2 that you would normally use to buy yourself an overpriced plastic bottle filled with glorified tap water on a pint later at the pub! Or a flat white in a cardboard cup from an artisanal coffee joint. The world is your oyster. Plastic is also lighter, but my steel one is Prada – so you get what you give, really.
3. Washing your recycling
You might think you’re doing the planet a big ol’ favour by recycling all those plastic hummus containers, right? WRONG. I mean, you are, but the real question is: do you wash them out though??? Bad news: if your recycling isn’t clean, it doesn’t get recycled. Although the recycling rate in the UK has gone from 11% to 44% in the last 20 years (good), apparently only 30% of the plastic sent for recycling actually gets recycled, and worse, in the USA, only 9% of plastic gets recycled. The rest gets sent to landfill.
Contamination can stop a whole load of recycling from getting recycled. Yep, if the rest of your bag of recycling is squeaky clean, it will still get sent to landfill because of that one dirty hummus pot. What does this mean? It means wash out your recycling, or put it in the bin. Rinse it in the sink with your other dishes, or if you’re really lazy, chuck them in the dishwasher, and then in your recycling bin.
4. Choosing natural fibres
I rate natural fibres so hard. In summer, I basically live in silk shirts, in which I feel easy, breezy, and beautiful. Cotton tees also do it for me, paired with my fave denim Levi shorts. The thing is, I’m a natural deodorant connoisseur, and summertime really pushes my deodorant to its capacity of staving off that rush-hour Central line smell. I used to wear these Zara cotton t-shirts that also had a good amount of polyester in them, and I noticed that at the end of the day, my natural deodorant was not doing its job. You know why? Because synthetic garments hold smell. If you’re going to a fondue restaurant for dinner, do not wear polyester. You will smell like fondue forevermore. It also retains moisture, which in the summer makes you hotter, and in the winter makes you colder. Not ideal. Also it’s not as hardy as natural fibres, which last longer, but also never biodegrades! Literally the worst of both worlds! Check the label when you buy clothes; it’ll save you mega bucks in the long run, it’s better for your skin, and better for the planet.
5. Choosing seasonal fruit and veg
This one is a little tricker unless you’re a farmer or a biologist who really knows their fruit and veg. Honestly, I don’t know the seasonal fruits either, but it’s all solved by opening your mouth or a quick google. I go to my local greengrocer for my fruit and veg rather than big supermarket chains, because I get yummier ingredients, and the inside knowledge of greengrocers. Do not underestimate them. Buying seasonal fruit and veg not only tastes better (because it hasn’t been sitting in a fridge/freezer for half the year, waiting to be put on the shelf), but also cuts out the CO2 emissions of flying those summer strawberries across the world to you in the depths of winter in a big ol’ jumbo jet. If you’re going to eat veggies, shouldn’t they be the tastiest they can be?
6. Choosing fruit and veg that isn’t wrapped in plastic
Another reason I frequent my local greengrocer, they don’t wrap everything in plastic. I once saw a picture on Reddit of a Chinese supermarket selling mandarins. The thing was, the mandarins had been peeled, and then individually wrapped in plastic wrap to keep them fresh. …If only there was a… natural alternative… that mandarins naturally had…? Just keep the skin on, you absolute psychopaths! I have the same problem with cucumbers, and I see it everywhere. Do cucumbers really need to be wrapped in plastic?? Cucumbers, with their natural harder outer coating, wrapped in plastic? Why? Refusing to buy fruit and veg wrapped in plastic is a big deal. Usually the brands that wrap their produce in plastic are worse ingredients anyway. When’s the last time you saw a farmer selling apples at a farmer’s market wrapped in plastic? It’s better for you, and better for the planet.
7. Sharing is caring
I follow a lot of chefs on Instagram who post amazing recipes. Unfortunately, I do not have the money or space to buy a variety of slow cookers. I literally cannot fit any more in my kitchen. Enter: the sharing economy. In our capitalist world of today where ownership is king, it’s actually more viable for us financially, and better for the planet ecologically, to share things that we have, that others don’t. You’ve got an air fryer? Great. Swap it with your friend’s slow cooker one weekend and boom, you’ve solved the problem of money, space, and it saves the planet from having to break down an extra plastic pressure cooker once we’ve all turned to dust.