A huge part of our everyday lives, maybe excluding the year of 2020, is focused around travel. Whether that be for work, to visit family or for holidays. However, travel is also the largest contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to 34% of our total emissions. This does include domestic flights but no international ones. So, what can we do to reduce these?
The ideal way to reduce your travel’s carbon footprint is to swap driving for walking or cycling as much as possible and then looking to public transport. Where this is not possible, we recommend going electric. The number of electric cars available has increased impressively in recent years, meaning there are many to choose from both first and second hand. You can read more about electric cars here.
When it comes to travel for holidays, trains and driving are more environmentally friendly ways to travel to your destination than flying. Alternatively, take a shorter flight and road-trip the rest of your journey – reducing your carbon emissions and enjoying beautiful views!
If you are flying consider taking fewer, longer holidays and opting for economy class as the carbon emissions are spread across more people, reducing your carbon footprint. Additionally, try choosing a more environmentally conscious airline, you can see our recommendations here.
Eating and Drinking
As you can see from the below chart, a plant-based diet contains food products with much lower carbon emissions than one which includes meat. Therefore, we suggest trying plant-based meals anywhere between one day a week to the whole week!
When you do eat meat, try to more often opt for the smaller offenders such as pork and poultry, when it comes to fish try to choose wild-catch. Look at brands’ sustainability policies (shops and products) and try and support those with the best credentials.
However, meat is not the only food with high emissions. Chocolate and coffee, which are very present in nearly everyone’s diets, can cause serious greenhouse gas emissions. This is why we recommend choosing sustainable brands. For example, Tony’s Chocolonely who are making big moves towards social and environmental sustainability. And you can read about some of our favourite coffee brands here.
When shopping for your food, first try local suppliers and farmers markets. These are better than supermarkets as the produce has lower travel emissions associated and most often less packaging. When you do go to a supermarket, look out for products with less packaging and try to avoid brands that are greenwashing.
When it comes to fruit and veg, choose ones that are both local and locally in season. These have lower travel emissions and do not require polluting activities such as greenhouses. Moreover, if you have the space to, grow your own fruit and veg! This will save money, allow you to make and use your own compost, and reduce pesticide use. Not to mention being a fun activity to keep your garden looking beautiful! Despite all this, there are a couple of exceptions. For example, bananas are not local to the UK but can be grown seasonally elsewhere. 50 calories of a banana has a carbon footprint of 65g CO2e compared to 50 calories of a cheese burger which has 250g CO2e. Second, canned or frozen foods which are not in season at the time, but were when they were grown, such as canned tomatoes or frozen peas! One of the most important factors is to avoid air-freighted foods at all costs. To transport one ton of food for one mile is roughly 48g by boat but 1527g by plane.
When it comes to drink, in particular water, one of our golden rules is to always carry a reusable water bottle with you so you don’t need to add to the growing issue of single-use plastics. Unfortunately in the case of non-alcoholic beverages a lot of the big-names are doing little to help the climate crisis and often have questionable human rights in their supply chain. We would recommend more conscious companies such as Lemonaid Beverages, Karma Cola, Gusto Organic, Pip Organic and Belvoir.
As for hot drinks, tea and coffee can also have big environmental footprints associated, as well as poor conditions for workers. For tea, there are some smaller brands doing some great work such as Hampstead Tea and Hambleden Herbs. If choosing teabags, try ones which are organic and don’t contain any plastic. Though Fairtrade has received some criticism, it is one of the more reliable certifications when it comes to tea. Coffee has similar problems associated due to how it is grown. Read more about the environmental footprint of coffee here. However, one of the most impactful parts of your hot drink is the milk you choose to put in it. As you have seen from the graph above, cow’s milk has a huge carbon footprint. For this reason we recommend also trying different plant based milks to find your favourite. There are many available now ranging from nut milks such as almond and coconut, beans milks such as soya and pea or cereal-based milks such as oat and hemp.
The good news is that when it comes to alcohol there are lots of brands making great moves towards sustainability. For beer, Brewdog are now carbon negative and have a wide range of delicious beers on offer. Brands such as Toast Ale and Future Brew are using leftover bread to brew beer in the fight against food waste, a huge contributor to global emissions. As for wine we recommend choosing organic, which means no use of harmful pesticides, fertilisers and no additives used. Alternatively, you can get biodynamic wine which takes organic one step further via unique methods of treatment of the soil and crops. Finally, for spirits there are also some great brands out there. Cooper King provide carbon negative gin, whilst Two Drifters have a carbon negative rum and Greensand Ridge, who won a spirits sustainability award, have partnered with Toast Ale to create a whiskey titled Inbread Moonshine. Who knew drinking could be so sustainable!
Powering Your Home
When it comes to powering your home, you can opt for solar PV panels – provided you have the appropriate roof space and sunlight. You can read more about them here. It is unlikely you will be able to generate all your homes’ power needs through solar PV alone. You will most likely end up overproducing and selling back to the grid during the day, and needing grid supply in the evenings. Even with a battery storage capability, you will probably have to mix it with an energy tariff from the grid. For this we recommend a renewables energy tariff.
Having your own solar PV will result in cheaper energy in the long term, taking about 14 years to payback. However, if your home is not suitable for solar PV, we strongly recommend you choose a green/renewables energy tariff. You can read more about those here.
Lighting Your Home
If you are working on a new build or a big home renovation, we recommend putting as much natural light into your house as possible, as this will reduce the need for turning on the lights. A great, inexpensive option for this is sun tunnels, especially when there is limited space for a roof light and they can be fairly easily retrofitted.
When it comes to lightbulbs, some are more efficient than others. We recommend using LEDs. These are the most energy efficient and have a much longer lifecycle than other both compact fluorescent (CF) and incandescent.
Decorating Your Home
Whether you’ve moving into a new house or just redecorating, there are certain things that will make your home eco-friendlier and are often more cost-effective options.
Our favourite option is to choose second-hand furniture. There is loads available on Gumtree and Ebay, or apps like Shpock. Choosing pre-loved usually takes a bit of time so as long as you can afford to, be patient to find some furniture you’ll love and be able to give a second life to. If you’re moving to a new home, have a look at the Gumtree in that area to see whether there are any items you like that you can reserve. Also, don’t forget to give any furniture you’re throwing out a second life by posting it on these sites!
However, if you cannot find what you need second-hand, choose the brand you buy your furniture from consciously. There are many great companies providing beautiful, sustainable and upcycled furniture which is built to last. We also love shopping through local businesses as you reduce transport emissions and support your local community. If you are buying wooden furniture, make sure it is FSC certified.
When it comes to curtains, choose thermal ones. These will keep the heat in and the extra cost will be repaid through your heating bills in no time, as they can reduce window heat loss by up to 25% in the winter. To get the best gains, ensure they are fitted properly. This means as close to the window frame as possible, sealing the top, sides and bottom and ensuring they drop to the windowsill or floor.
Re-painting your rooms can be an easy way to give your home a new lease of life, however some paints can be seriously damaging to you and the environment. Choose paints with low-VOCs as these are both better for the environment and have little-to-no fumes when painting. Earthborn offer a great range of paints which contain extremely low traces of VOC and containing no acrylics or oils. Beware of brands claiming to be VOC-free, natural or organic as these claims are often misleading.
Finally, be sure to add some greenery to your home. Not only does it have proven mood-boosting qualities, it can also improve your air quality.
How to Clean Your Home
When it comes to cleaning products they can be harmful in two ways. The first is the packaging. Often made out of plastic, and sometimes non-recyclable due to mixed materials in the pumps, cleaning product packaging can be an issue. Secondly, there is a concern about the chemicals in cleaning products that may pollute streams or rivers.
There are many DIY, cleaning options that can save both time, packaging and harmful chemicals. For example, baking soda can be used to remove the odour from carpets, turned into a paste to clean your oven or mixed with vinegar to create a toilet bowl cleaner. Read more about natural cleaners here.
If the situation does call for cleaning products, try to choose the eco-friendlier options but watch out for supermarket brands which may be greenwashing. There are some great brands online doing refillable solutions, try browsing online for eco-friendly products.
We strongly recommend avoiding air freshers altogether. Many can contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment and people, even the organic ones. They can also include a lot of packaging. Instead, try a natural air freshener such as boiling cinnamon or lemon, or any other plant you like. Alternatively, opt for some eco-friendly candles. Either choose those in glass containers that you can reuse or invest in a candle holder and buy free-standing ones.
Finally, avoid electrically powered cleaning devices where possible. Try to use the dustpan and brush rather than your hoover to clean up spills and where possible hang clothes out to dry rather than putting them in the tumble drier.
British households produce 26 million tonnes of waste a year, that’s the same weight as about 260 large cruise ships. Of this, 12 million tonnes are recycled whilst 14 million tonnes are sent to landfill.
We would first recommend reducing in general. This means choosing products with reduced packaging, buying only what your household needs and buying products with long life-spans.
Then turn to recycling and composting. When choosing products with packaging, try to choose those which are recyclable. Most UK packaging now has on-pack recycling logos (OPRL) and you can read more about recycling and logos here.
Composting rather than putting organic waste in the landfill can be hugely beneficial to the environment. When put in landfill, organic matter decomposes anaerobically, producing methane. Instead, start composting to save the environment and provide yourself with a free fertiliser for your plants. Read more about composting here.
The fast-fashion industry is a major issue for the world’s climate and something we need to give up if we hope to curb the climate crisis. But the good news is, there are still lots of sustainable options to update your wardrobe with.
We love giving things a second life which is why we strongly recommend checking out your local charity shop or Depop for some pre-loved clothes.
However, not everything can be bought second-hand, so look for clothing brands doing their bit to help the environment. Greenwashing is common in the fashion industry, so watch out for big brands that may have a ‘sustainable’ collection but the company themselves still massively contribute to fast-fashion. There are some great clothing brands out there, see which ones we recommend here.