As our planet is troubled by climate change, plastic pollution, water contamination, deforestation and other environmental threats, it has never been more important for us all to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Thankfully, you don’t need to drastically change everything you’re doing to make that happen – there are many small steps you can take which make a big difference in the long run. We’ve put together 6 new habits to pick up in 2021, which will help you live a more sustainable lifestyle and make a positive difference.
1. Buy second hand whenever you can
Many resources go into creating new things – whether they be electronics, clothing, furniture or anything else in your life. For sustainability purposes, as well as the potential for some great money-saving, try shopping for whatever you need second hand before you buy new.
Second-hand items would otherwise be sent to landfill or otherwise disposed of – even though the items could still be used for a long time. As our mindset got progressively more used to the linear concept where resources make their way from the beginning of the production cycle to landfill, it now seems completely normal for us to buy anything that we need new, rather than second hand.
Take clothing, for example. If you buy a garment second-hand, you’re saving all the pesticides, fertilizers and water used in creating the fabric, dyes released from factories and greenhouse gas emissions transportation adds to your carbon footprint. Additionally, if you have some clothing at home that you’re not wearing, you can upcycle it – for example, you could turn jeans into shorts just by cutting off the legs! The most sustainable option is already in your home!
2. Swap plastic for more sustainable alternatives
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental challenges we are facing today – as we are producing more than 300 million tons of plastic every year.
Plastic is a very durable material – but that also means it practically never goes away. Instead of becoming one with earth like paper, glass or metal, plastic doesn’t decompose. It falls apart into smaller, microscopic plastic particles called microplastics which linger in the environment, attracting toxic substances.
Considering the environmental impact of plastic, we’re using it for trivial functions which aren’t worth the environmental cost – such as water bottles or produce packaging.
A plastic water bottle is only used once – you could reuse it and refill it but doing so could have negative impacts on your health as the bottle leaches chemicals and gathers bacteria. A good solution, which helps protect both the environment, is water bottled in aluminium or glass, plastic-free.
Both glass and aluminium can be recycled indefinitely, as they don’t lose quality through the process. They can also be reused without worry about a negative impact on your health. We certainly need more glass aluminium bottles on supermarket shelves, as most stores only store cans as an alternative to PET bottles – and these lack the opportunity to be reused.
3. Ditch synthetic fabrics
Since we’re on the topic of plastic pollution, did you know that fashion is one of the biggest contributors? That’s because the industry, especially the fast fashion branch (also known for many other sustainability issues), has been becoming increasingly fond of synthetic materials including polyester, acrylic or nylon. Why? Because they’re cheap to make.
However, these fibres are made from plastic and have the same negative effects on the environment (if not worse) as a plastic bottle. Firstly, because of the problems with recycling plastic, most of the clothes eventually end up in a landfill. Besides that, synthetic clothing also releases microscopic plastic particles into the greywater any time they are washed. In fact, according to recent research, synthetic clothing is the source of over 1/3 of all microplastics in the ocean.
4. Take public transport – or carpool and use Rideshare
Which public transport do you have available in your area? If you’re lucky to live in a place where public transport can take you to most places you need to travel to, make use of it to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
However, not all of us live somewhere with a good, affordable public transport system which could be used as a way to improve our sustainability. In that case, there’s still a solution which helps you reduce your carbon footprint to a fraction – carpooling.
If you have the same journey as a friend, family member or colleague, take one car together! You’ll still have the comfort of taking the car but at a much lower environmental cost. Another cool alternative is Rideshare. Rideshare is becoming more and more popular in cities across the world as it eliminates the need to own a vehicle while providing your with all the benefits of ownership.
5. Buy your produce plastic-free
How is the produce you’re buying packaged? Most of the fruit or veggies you can buy at the supermarket has some form of plastic packaging, which is only used once before being thrown away.
The first step to take is to simply look for unpackaged or plastic-free options at the same store you’re used to shopping at. If you’re buying any produce you need a bag for, get yourself a set of reusable produce bags.
Alternatively, if your store simply doesn’t have enough plastic-free options, you may want to give your local farmer’s markets a try. Generally, the majority of the produce you buy there is completely unpackaged and plastic-free.
6. Choose reusable alternatives and reuse what you have
With anything you buy, it’s always best to choose reusable rather than single-use options. The single-use mentality is one of the biggest environmental problems in our society, let’s switch it to the greener alternative of reusing!
This applies to both reusing what you have (e.g. re-wearing outfits to multiple events) and the decisions you make when buying something new. Remember that it’s always most sustainable to reuse what you already have. Instead of buying recycled wrapping paper for Christmas presents, why not rather use old newspaper or paper shopping bags to wrap them?
Additionally, some worthwhile investments help you save waste that would otherwise be coming your way – such as the reusable produce bags we already mentioned, reusable coffee cups or makeup remover pads and cotton rounds.
Let’s take some steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle in 2021 – for a greener, better year. We recommend starting with one of the six steps we mentioned and picking up others as the previous one becomes a habit. That way, you can build lasting habits which will truly become a part of your routine.