However, that doesn’t mean we have to give up entirely, particularly if our resolutions involve sustainability. Rather than trying to make a huge change for a short period, we recommend gradual baby steps in the right direction. Aim for progress, not perfection.
We’ve previously written blogs on how to create a more sustainable wardrobe, and how to have a merry sustainable Christmas. While fast fashion and Christmas are some of the biggest culprits of overflowing landfills and global warming, there are lots of small changes we can all implement to collectively make an impact.
We all know the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra but, after the excesses of Christmas and New Year, now is the perfect time to put it into action.
So, if you want to live slightly more sustainably, you’re in luck. We’ve compiled this quick guide for steps in the sustainable living direction.
Disclaimer - we aren’t experts in sustainability by any stretch of the imagination. We’re still finding our way. We just thought we could do so together.
Slow Fashion & Conscious Shopping
We’re very conscious that we are part of the fashion industry, one of the industries most responsible for the climate crisis we now face. However, we strive to reduce our carbon footprint by using natural materials and ethical manufacturing. Brands such as LUXTRA take this a step further, creating beautiful vegan bags from a waste product (AppleSkin™).
We are far from alone. There are many sustainable brands and products out there. The first step in your resolution to shop more ethically is the three Rs - Reduce what you buy, Reuse what you have, and Recycle what you can’t.
The next step is to learn which brands walk the walk and talk the talk. Look at the parent companies of brands to find out what their overall ethos is. You can then decide whether to contribute to their business.
Take Care with Your Skincare & Make-up
Start by looking at what you have. The shelf life of make-up is probably a lot shorter than you think. If chucking your entire collection of make-up seems extreme, consider the skin and eye issues that can result from using contaminated products.
Photo by Kimia Zarifi
Previously, that could have meant a lot of toxic waste going into the bin. However, Maybelline is leading the way in recycling not just theirs, but all brands of make-up. Working with Terracycle, the brand is trying to reduce plastic waste via old make-up drop-off stations. You can find these make-up recycling stations at branches of Superdrug, Boots, Tesco, and Sainsbury's around the UK.
That may mean that you need to replace your favourite products. Look for cruelty-free brands and vegan companies that are committed to plastic-free packaging, and ethical production.
For example, Revolution offers a huge range of cruelty-free and often vegan makeup, skincare, and accessories. The palettes come mostly in cardboard, and any plastic used is recyclable and often recycled.
Look into bamboo toothbrushes, toothpaste tablets, shampoo bars and other products. There are hundreds of small businesses creating many such fantastic ethical products. You may need to do some trial and error to find the right ones for you. Some brands offer sample sizes or free trials to help you make the switch.
Reduce Your Meat Consumption
We aren’t saying everyone should become vegan, that is a big lifestyle change and an individual choice. However, reducing your meat consumption is widely acknowledged to be one of the fastest and most significant ways to reduce your negative impact on the world.
Photo by Adam Bartoszewicz
After all the rich food of the festive season, it can actually be lovely to get back to fresh, raw ingredients. Seasonal veg is plentiful in the UK, particularly following a mild winter, and fruit is a perfect antidote to all that chocolate!
There are, of course, lots of meat-free and dairy-free alternatives. However, always make sure you are eating lots of fresh fruit and veg as well as grains, pulses, lentils etc. It’s entirely possible to follow a deeply unhealthy vegan diet these days, with many vegan desserts, crisps, sweets, and ready meals readily available. So it’s important to eat well, not just meat and dairy-free.
Grow Your Own?
Growing your own fruit and veg may seem impossible if you live in a flat, for example. However, it doesn’t have to be potatoes or turnips. Growing your own tomatoes, cress, or herbs like basil and mint will cut down your carbon footprint. As a bonus, you’ll know that nothing has been modified before it made it to your plate.
Use Plastic Alternatives
Otherwise, shop small and local, where you can, to reduce the carbon footprint of deliveries. Grocers, bakers, and butchers also tend to use far less plastic in their packaging than supermarkets.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez
One of our biggest bugbears is food packaging that says ‘not currently recyclable’ as if it’s just an unfortunate fact and not a choice the brand has made. It’s absolutely the latter.
Eco-conscious companies are consistently proving that most plastic packaging is unnecessary. Given the scale of the climate issues we are facing, it’s arguable that plastic that can’t be recycled shouldn’t still be in production.
Always remember, companies using non-recyclable materials are doing so for their convenience and profits. If it starts to cost them money, they are likely to have a change of heart. Look for more eco-friendly alternatives. You can also sign petitions asking big chains and supermarkets to rethink their plastic use and waste.
On the plus side, some supermarkets have started recycling items, such as frozen food bags and sweet wrappers, that can’t go in the usual household recycling. Save them up as you do paper and glass, and take them to a participating supermarket when you next visit.
Sustainable living also comes from reducing the amount of food waste we produce. Items such as bread, which is regularly binned, can be frozen and used as needed, rather than thrown away after it has gone stale or mouldy within a few days. Likewise many vegetables.
Create a menu in your head (or on a chalkboard) for the week ahead and try to only purchase ingredients that you need, alongside using up cupboard staples.
Besides freezing food when you buy it, switching to reusable wax or plastic food seals will negate the need for clingfilm and other single-use plastics. If you do get clingfilm on a product - such as mushrooms or cucumber, you can wash and reuse it.
We love our ‘bags for life’ but we all forget them from time to time. Some supermarkets have switched to compostable bags, use these if you don’t have yours handy, and line your compost or food recycling bin with them at home.
Swapping plastic sponges for compostable sponges or ‘silicone hygiene heroes’ is an easy switch to make and one that is unlikely to disrupt your routine.
Also, be mindful of what your cleaning products contain and whether or not you are paying for, essentially, litres of water.
There are several brands now offering sheets of concentrated washing liquid that come in a cardboard sleeve. They clean just as well, if not better, than the large plastic bottles, which are often heavily diluted by water.
The same goes for cleaning sprays. Refills are becoming more readily available, so you don’t have to make a huge effort to track them down. Some companies also plant trees to offset their shipping and production.
You can also find lots of hacks for using ‘cupboard items’ such as lemon and vinegar to clean practically anything.
If you can realistically walk or cycle to your destination you should try to do so. During a short journey (under five miles) cars release more pollutants as the catalytic converters do not work effectively on short distances. You will, of course, also save on petrol, and your car’s battery should last longer. Not to mention the obvious health benefits from upping your daily steps.
The key is to start small with a few changes that don’t cause too much inconvenience and work from there. You are much more likely to continue a new habit if it fits into your existing routine with no negative associations.
For example, one woman may love reusable sanitary products while another feels uncomfortable. Remember, it’s not about perfection, it’s about reducing your personal impact on the planet. You’re not a hypocrite if you give up meat but eat cheese and chocolate. Making one swap to a more sustainable alternative is a step in the right direction.
You may find it’s easier than you think.
P.S. If you have any feedback or sustainability tips to share, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.