It’s no secret that our Earth is struggling after decades of overconsumption and excess use of the world’s natural resources. A UN report states that use of the planet’s natural resources for human use has tripled in just 40 years, showing that our actions are simply not sustainable in order to look after the planet for future generations.
The Paris Agreement was set in 2015 to limit the earth’s temperature increase to 1.5°C and leaders across the world have agreed to take major steps to reduce emissions to reach this target by 2030. Here are some of the main reasons for you to take a step forward to a greener lifestyle and reducing our personal emissions:
1. Reduces our carbon footprint
Methane and CO2 are the most polluting greenhouse gases to our atmosphere which leads to a rise in the earth’s temperature. ‘Carbon Footprint’ is a term given to the total number of greenhouse gases generated by actions we choose to take.
Being aware of our carbon footprint is the first step to work out our true impact on the world in terms of our CO2 emissions and the WWF has created a handy calculator to work out your personal contribution.
The UK’s average footprint per person is 9.3 tonnes per year (WWF) and considers your impact through looking at home, food, travel and purchasing lifestyle factors and the greener our lifestyle, the lower our footprint will be.
If you take the quiz and find your carbon footprint is higher than you’d like, try making these easy switches to lower your overall footprint: cut down on travel or when you do, use public transport or car sharing, cutting out meat/dairy, switching your energy provider or cutting down on energy usage, switch to reusable products over single use items. The WWF app has some great suggestions and targets you can set yourself!
2. Less waste
Going green and being more mindful of the products you use and actions you take will inevitably lead to less waste.
Following the well known mantra ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ we can reduce our overall waste by being aware of the products we buy and how waste can be reduced or repurposed meaning less goes to landfill. Try using reusable products like bags and bottles, compost any suitable food or paper waste and recycle items at proper recycling points.
Waste doesn’t just have to mean rubbish either. You can be wasteful in terms of your water and energy usage so make sure you’re only using the tap, lights or heating when you need them and turn them off when not in use to avoid wasted energy.
3. Reducing single use reliance
By choosing reusable products over single use items, we’re sending a message to businesses that there is no appetite for these products which makes them consider more eco-friendly alternatives. We can make changes in our home and personal lives but worldwide corporations have a responsibility to set a good example and make it easier for consumers to be green too.
For example; McDonald’s changed from plastic straws to paper straws in 2019 after millions of customers called to ditch them following reports of plastic straws being harmful to marine life. Similarly, Carlsberg have gotten rid of the plastic rings previously used to package cans, which again had been reported to have a negative impact on marine life, and finally many UK supermarkets and cleaning companies such as Cif have switched to concentrated refills for cleaning products which reduces the amount of plastic per product and impact on transportation.
4. Saving energy
Overall, going green can have a huge impact on energy consumption either directly or indirectly.
We can directly choose our energy suppliers and make conscious choices to conserve electricity and water. Try turning down the temperature of your boiler, set your thermostat 1 degree lower and turn off lights and appliances when not using them.
Equally, choosing the products we buy has an impact on energy consumption by the amount of effort that has gone into producing that product. A person can save up to 150 plastic bottles a year by using 1 reusable bottle in its place therefore saving CO2 on the production of single use plastic bottles compared with the production of one longer lasting product. We can also indirectly contribute to lower energy consumption by choosing locally produced products or food to cut down on air miles and transportation.
5. Improving ecosystems
It is clear that reducing our carbon footprint will impact improving our ecosystems. Taking some of the steps outlined already, we can conserve the natural resources of the world such as water, minerals and trees, and make the air and water cleaner for plants and animals to thrive.
Reducing deforestation by making better use of the land and available resources can help to maintain a balance in the ecosystem allowing trees and forests to do their job in providing oxygen to our atmosphere and absorbing CO2, as well as providing homes to plants and animals.
Promoting a greener lifestyle can also impact marine wildlife by keeping our oceans clean.
6. Supporting eco friendly food systems
Animal agriculture and food production is responsible for up to 18% of all greenhouse gases worldwide so choosing greener options in the food we eat has a huge impact on carbon emissions.
Choosing organic produce with fewer pesticides reduces the number of harmful chemicals entering our bodies and locally grown produce with lower food miles reduces the distance travelled to reach us, known as ‘food miles’.
Reducing your intake of meat and dairy products can also have a major impact on your overall footprint due to the amount of water and energy it takes to generate animal based products. Why not try going meat free for one day a week which could save you up to 100kg of CO2 per year? Or set yourself the challenge of signing up for Veganuary! Switching to a fully vegan diet can reduce one person’s carbon footprint by up to 73%!
7. Saves money
Choosing products with the intention of using them for life means you are not constantly replacing products already in your home. Investing in good quality, more sustainably sourced items will mean they last longer and that you’re supporting eco friendly practices.
The total cost will vary depending on your individual lifestyle but on average, you can expect to save around £200 per year on plastic water bottles, £1,400 in a baby’s first 2.5 years by using reusable nappies, and around £100 per year by using a reusable coffee cup. Many coffee shops like Pret, Greggs and Cafe Nero now offer discounts if you bring your own coffee cup instead of choosing disposable!
8. Better physical and mental health
Eating better and choosing to walk or cycle more will immediately have an impact on your physical health also reducing the number of pollutants emitted into the air. Limiting the amount of plastics and harmful chemicals we are exposed to will also be a benefit as there have been links between cancer and plastic.
We can’t ignore the fact that making these positive changes in our lives will also have a positive impact on the way we think and feel; doing good makes you feel good!
Symptoms of “eco anxiety” can also be alleviated when taking part in eco friendly activities such as gardening, litter picking and campaigning. Friends of the Earth have some great ideas on how to deal with eco-anxiety to help look after our mental health.
9. Encourages compassion for other human beings
Adopting a sustainable lifestyle is not just about saving you money and making our own lives easier; making these changes has a huge impact on the wider world around us. By thinking about how our actions impact other people, we immediately increase our emotional intelligence by growing empathy for others. Going greener means our decision making processes become more thoughtful and awareness shifts from “what’s good for me” to “what’s good for the world”.
10. Making the world a better place for future generations
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” ~ Native American Proverb
The proverb above perfectly describes why we should be looking after our world now to make it a better place for our children. Taking accountability for our actions and making conscious changes will ultimately help to create a more sustainable world for generations to come.