Become more sustainable A to Z

A to Z of free things you can do right now to become more sustainable (and may even save you money)

Sorry for the long absence chaps. Summer joy and Brexit malaise all got in the way. However we are back and hope to get posting regularly again.

This week we’re doing a different sort of post focusing on what you can do right now to live a more sustainable life. We’ve had quite a few comments along the lines that living a more sustainable life is more expensive. Whilst we agree this is sadly sometimes the case, we have come up with a list of things you can do that either won’t cost you any more than you’re currently spending on stuff, are free or could even save you money, so you’ve really got no excuse not to become mroe sustainable. And to flex our brains, we decided to do it as an A to Z.

Avoid standby. You’d save electricity and money (on average £80 a year) if you switch things off at the wall instead of leaving them on standby. We are total nerds about this and have wifi switches that turn off automatically, but you can of course just use your finger to turn the switches off.

Buy and sell secondhand clothes / books / toys. Buying secondhand will of course save you money and selling your unwanted goods will of course make you money. But the best thing about the secondhand market is that it’s a great way to ensure clothes, books, toys and anything else you can think of is used as much as possible before it’s discarded.

Carbon footprint. We have found it both helpful and horrifying to understand our carbon footprint. We’re constantly bombarded with the phrase in the media, but it’s interesting to know what contributes to your carbon footprint. Understand yours at https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/#/ and then have a think if there’s anything you can do to reduce it.

Digital. Whilst paperless bank statement and utility bills are the norm for most people (we think), what we’re trying to do is think about each piece of post we get delivered to see if we can get it digitally. Do you really need a paper catalogue when you can access it digitally on a company’s website? Whenever we get some unnecessary papers through the post, we email the company immediately to ask them to stop sending it to us.

Ethical Consumer. What a great website! It allows you to evaluate everything from which supermarket to use (basically none of them) to what banks have ethical issues (not surprisingly, a fair few). Whilst you get the deep insight with a subscription, you still get the summary for free and since this is a list about things that won’t cost you anything, we’d still recommend you check it out.

Freecycle. In the sprit of reuse, Freecycle is a great resource to either give away your old stuff or reuse other’s old stuff for free. We use the Trash Nothing app on our phones (iOS / Android), which allows you to add crap stuff to Freecycle as and when you see it. So simple and it’s amazing what people will take off your hands. Far more sustainable and better than it going to landfill.

Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycle an infinite number of times without losing its quality. So when you see a plastic ketchup bottle next to a glass one, opt for the glass one. And then either reuse or recycle it afterwards of course. (Apparently only 67% of glass is recycled in the UK – WTF? Are people really putting glass in their general waste?).

Hang out the washing. According to The Guardian, in a normal wash & dry cycle, nearly 75% of the carbon footprint comes from the dryer phase. So, along with reducing the temperature of your wash, hang the laundry out on the line when you can. Obviously, if you live in the UK like us, this unfortunately won’t be that often.

Investments, banking & pensions. We all have power when it comes to our money. You can change your bank to a more ethical option and it should cost you nothing. The same goes for your pension, and if you’re lucky enough to have further investments. There is no need for your money to be invested in companies who aren’t green or sustainable. If you get your pension through work, ask your HR department if it’s an ethical pension.

Just say no. A good habit to get into is to refuse as much as possible. This goes for bags, receipts, samples from stores, hotel mini bathroom supplies, business cards, catalogues etc. Once you get it in your head that EVERYTHING we use takes resources to manufacture, it becomes pretty easy to say no to the free newspaper that you’re going to read for one stop on the train.

Kettle. It is thought that you could make a 3% saving on your annual electricity bill just by only boiling as much water is required to make your required hot drink. Your electricity bill is a direct contributor to your carbon footprint, so this is a way to reduce your carbon footprint while saving money. (Simon – this one is especially for you!)

Lawn. Doing less work is always great, eh? Monty Don has now officially given us permissions to cut our lawn less to increase biodiversity. We’re totally on board and while we’ve always been pretty rubbish at mowing the lawn, we can now say it’s our way of saving the world.

Meat. We all now know that eating less meat is one of the best ways to reduce your environmental impact. Veganism is the best option, but until we can find a vegan cheese that taste of something…anything, we can’t quite bring ourselves to take that final step…yet. Even if you love meat, cutting down on your consumption and buying as local as possible is super positive.

Noise. As Brits we don’t like making noise. We’d rather grumble under our breath. But if we want change, that’s the first change that needs to happen. Make some noise by emailing, writing and campaigning about the environmental and sustainable issues that matter to you. For example, if your council doesn’t recycle plastic, email them to ask why the hell they don’t.

Office. If you work in an office, look at the consumables you’re using. If they’re not environmentally friendly (eg virgin paper stock, plastic pencils etc), ask your procurement manager to change it. Companies buy far more office consumables than people do at home, so if they all change their habits to become more sustainable, it would have a massive impact.

Paper. All the paper in your house, from toilet roll to printer paper, from baking parchment to wrapping paper should be 100% recycled. Supermarkets are starting to stock recycled products, but if not, it’s readily available online.

Quit using products you don’t really need. Do you actually need kitchen towels, or could you replace them with washable cloths? Do you need baby wipes, or could you use a damp tissue or cloth? Do you need cotton pads, or could you use a flannel? You get the drift…

Recycle as much as possible. We’ve already written about this in great detail, so just check out that post and the follow up post for more details.

Seasonal. Eating seasonal fruit & vegetables reduces food miles and they’re cheaper to buy. This was one of the very first swaps we did on our journey. Ask yourselves – do you really need fresh strawberries in December?

Takeaways. Admittedly, since moving to the country it’s been pretty easy to reduce the takeaways we consume. However, if you’re still living the takeaway lifestyle, just take a look at the packaging you’re using. Quitting or reducing takeaways will be good for your health and the plant.

Utilities. We no longer live on a world where green utilities are more expensive. We’d recommend changing to a green supplier – when we switched it actually saved us money. And if you click on our link for Bulb we both save even more money!

Veg – grow your own. Even if you’ve not got a garden, there are loads of veg that can be grown in containers or hanging baskets. You can even grow some vegetables indoors. Growing your own food not only saves money but taste way better too.

Waste bins. We’ve replaced nearly all of our landfill bins with recycling / compost bins around the house. We’ve put a little note next to them to explain to guests. Well this may sound a little bit anal, it means that everybody understands the rules our guests may learn a little along the way.

X marks the spot. Make sure you use your voting power and vote for a politician with a green plan. We’re not saying you should only vote for the Green Party, but you should at least not be voting for climate deniers. We recommend checking out TheyWorkForYou if you live in the UK to check your local MP’s voting record.

Yoga. Ok, we couldn’t think of something for Y, but it is the kind of hippy thing that eco warriors should be doing. It certainly helps with the extinction anxiety & the Brexit tension.

Zoom.us. Technology has changed our world mainly for the better. We really don’t need to be driving or flying all over the place for meetings. Until using the train is actually affordable in the UK, we say use video conferencing instead of flying / driving to see clients. Kate’s recommendation is zoom.us, which is has the best free plan she can find.

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2 thoughts on “A to Z of free things you can do right now to become more sustainable (and may even save you money)”

  1. Hi.
    Excellent blog. Thank you. Much food for thought, and not complicated.
    We have changed our gas and electricity supplier to Pure Planet and are very pleased.
    We’ve certainly cut down on meat, and we recycle as much as we can.
    You don’t mention open fires and wood burners! What are your thoughts?
    Thanks again for all your research and hard work.

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