Since lockdown began, there has been a 4,550% increase in Google searches related to “How to live a sustainable lifestyle”, showing how making changes to live a greener lifestyle can feel overwhelming. But with rising urgency to protect our future, now is the perfect time to begin, or strengthen your existing efforts.
Consultant Fiona Hamilton of Earth Kind Consulting has worked with Worcester Bosch to reveal some of the biggest changes to help you lead a more sustainable life – and they are incredibly simple to action.
The Golden Checks
The journey to living a more sustainable life can feel complicated. With so many issues, it can be difficult to know where to begin, and how much time and money you can invest to make it happen. Fiona has three golden checks to get started.
1) Check your bank: Did you know that many major banks put millions of pounds into financing fossil fuels? Although changing banks to a more sustainable one isn’t the most exciting of tasks, it makes a huge difference no matter how little money you have in your bank. Fiona’s suggestions include Halifax and Nationwide because as “these banks cannot invest in large industries; they cannot invest in fossil fuels” making these two high street choices popular and sustainable. Triodos is a great online option.
2) Check your pension: Make sure your pension is being invested consciously. Many don’t see where their pension money is being invested. It could be going anywhere, including financing fossil fuels. Have a conversation with your employer about where your pension is going to ensure it is environmentally focused.
3) Check your energy provider: More energy companies than you may expect invest into fossil fuel extraction while investing less than 10% in renewables. While greenwashing can make it hard to know who to trust, you can use websites such as TheSwitch or the Big Clean Switch to do all the hard work for you; they compare the best green energy companies, all you have to do is fill out your details.
Fiona adds: “If you can do these three things, you will feel immediately better, and feel motivated to start making those other small changes in your lifestyle”.
In the Home
There is a common misconception surrounding minimalist and sustainable living. Many people believe that eco-friendly lifestyles are expensive and time-consuming. Although there is a grain of truth to this, Fiona explains that you can actually save time and money.
“One way to do so is by shopping with companies such as Buy Me Once. Inspired by the strength and durability of the Le Creuset products, products from these retailers are designed to last forever. Opt for products that are high-quality and have made-to-last guarantees.
“Exercise this eco-friendly mindset when shopping too, and take a stance against single-use plastic. Instead, buy zero waste boxes, or for the more rebellious consumer you can take this a step further and hand the plastic packaging back at the till. Throwing plastic away has become second nature but is hugely destructive to the planet.
“From Mrs Hinch to teens on TikTok, cleaning has become a major trend, but did you know that it can also be sustainable? Many cleaning products end up in landfill, especially hard plastics and cloths that can’t be decomposed. Opt for eco-friendly cleaning products, or if you’re feeling inventive look up how to safely make your own. My best tip is using bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, or percarbonate of soda which brightens like a dream but doesn’t bleach!”
“At the core of the fashion world is the drive for sustainability, with many high-end and high street brands promising to go greener. With sustainable fashion in the spotlight and the drive to end fast fashion, many people are becoming clued up to the ugly side of fashion. Sites like Depop and Vinted allow you to buy and sell almost anything second-hand. It’s like a charity shop in your pocket.
“I also recommend hosting regular clothing swaps. Bring around your friends and family, open a bottle of wine, put on your favourite movie, and swap your unwanted clothes. Your best friend might love those shoes that pinch a little too much, and you could find your dream shirt! We constantly have updated wardrobes because we’re always swapping what we have! And I’ve even taken my own clothes back several years later.”
“Sustainability doesn’t just have to end with clothes, there’s even products for feminine hygiene. Menstrual products are essential but contain plastics that are rarely disposed of properly, ending up in landfills or in oceans. Natracare found that a pack of conventional pads contains up to five plastic bags worth of plastic and that almost the entirety of a tampon is wasteful and can take hundreds of years to decompose. There are great alternatives out there with the aim to make what’s natural, sustainable. Other options include reusable pads, period pants, menstrual cups, and bamboo disposable ones.”
“Like you checking your bank or energy provider, is your company checking their supply chain? In the UK half of our emissions are created overseas to satisfy our consumption, with a lot coming from businesses.”
“You can even be eco-friendly at your desk, by something as small as using a sustainable web provider such as Ocean Hero or Ecosia who plant a tree with every search, or getting the workplace bins signed up to a firm such as TerraCycle. Raising over £33.6M, their aim is to recycle the non-recyclable and prevent millions of pounds of waste from going into landfills. You simply send your waste to them, and they recycle it properly. They even have programmes and incentives as a feel-good bonus that everyone can be involved with.
“There are other energy-saving suggestions that may be less exciting, but just as good for the planet. Just like you can do with your home, you could change to LED light bulbs, install PIR sensors, use water-saving bags in toilet cisterns, and conduct a sustainability SWAT analysis. Put pressure on your employer to analyse their own strengths and weaknesses. Then create a priority list of what they can address as a business and how they will action it. This gives cause to think introspectively about what a company stands for and how we can be better.”
“For installers, the reputation of many companies includes their sustainability efforts. Not only is being green good for you, but it’s great for the world, and there are a few easy ways to achieve this.
“The first is to look into ways you can use public transport, walk, or ride a bike. For larger companies who need to use vans should look at swapping to electric, whether that’s a business you directly manage or by broaching the subject to your employer. Electric vans are better for the environment, usually cheaper to run, and sometimes they can become even cheaper through grants. Buy in fleets to get the best deals. By showing consumers and clients that you’re actively taking steps towards sustainability, you’re building your reputation and helping the environment by minimising carbon output.
“There is also more to be done regarding tools and materials. My husband, an engineer, regularly re-uses materials. Instead of starting fresh, he’ll use what he already has which could create significant change if every installer in a company participated. Reuse where possible, and tool sharing is also a simple but effective way to prevent excess waste.
“Furthermore, installers could put the responsibility back on their suppliers to handle plastic packaging waste appropriately, this could even be used as a negotiation term towards promising them exclusivity rights on your company’s supplies. Ensure your supplier is taking responsibility for plastic packaging, rather than passing it onto you, the installer.”
Find out more at Worcester Bosch’s Green Heroes webpage, here: https://www.worcester-bosch.co.uk/green-heroes
Find out more about Fiona’s Earth Kind Consulting here: https://www.earthkindconsulting.co.uk/