How Sustainable is Your Lifestyle? 8 Simple Changes for a Greener You

Everything we do in our daily lives has an impact on the planet, from what we eat to the way we travel. We all want to protect the Earth for future generations, and living a more sustainable lifestyle can help.

Air pollution, deforestation, and plastic pollution are some of the ways humans are damaging the environment. And overpopulation is also a real concern. During the 20th century alone, the global population has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion. And there are now roughly twice as many people on our planet, compared to 1970. This increase in population has placed great demands on land and resources, leading to widespread environmental issues. And this will only become worse unless we act now. After all, it’s often the little steps we take that have the most significant impact. And recycling, walking more, and using less resources (like gas and water) are just a few of the ways we can each do our bit to lessen our environmental impact.

So, what does it mean to be sustainable? And what adjustments can you make to your daily routine to make it more environmentally-friendly? 

What is sustainable living?

Sustainable living helps protect the environment and reduce wastefulness. There are lots of things you can do to help protect our planet, but ultimately, it’s about having as little of an impact on the planet as possible, while also trying to replace any resources you do use.

"Only leave your footprints" sign on a beach in Dorset

Why is it important to live sustainably?

We humans are using energy and resources faster than we are producing them. And we’re creating waste at an alarming rate. This leads to environmental issues, such as pollution and climate change, which is unsustainable. It causes harm to wildlife, humans and the environment in many ways. But making some small changes to your lifestyle can help reduce your carbon footprint to help tackle these issues.

How can I live a more sustainable lifestyle?

If you want to be a little ‘greener’ but don’t know how, here are 8 simple changes you could make to live a more sustainable life:

1 Recycle and reuse: Make sure you’re recycling used packaging by putting it in the correct bin, rather than throwing it away. Glass jars, cans, and cardboard boxes can all be recycled, and even some plastics too. And did you know, a staggering 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill each year? You can recycle old clothes, towels and bedding at textile banks, through collection bags, or via the many high street retailers who will give you money-off vouchers in exchange for your unwanted textiles. And remember, if you don’t use/wear an item any more, you can always give it to a charity shop so someone else can enjoy it.

2 Save energy: Using less energy can help reduce your carbon emissions. And there are lots of things you can do at home to save energy. Try switching off appliances when you’re not using them, only turn the heating on when you really need to, and turn off lights when you leave the room. Sweeping the floor instead of vacuuming, hanging your clothes out to dry rather than using a tumble dryer, and washing dishes by hand can all help save energy too. And if possible, consider powering your home using renewable energy. Installing solar panels can help reduce the amount of carbon emissions you produce.

3 Go plastic-free: Plastic never goes away. Much of our plastic waste ends up in landfill, but it’s estimated between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean each year, which poses a huge threat to marine life. Large pieces of plastic degrade over time to become microplastics, but they never fully disappear. To reduce your plastic waste, try using reusable bags when you shop. You can also make a difference by ditching single-use plastic bottles and straws and finding alternatives like biodegradable products such as a mobile phone case from Wave Case, a stylish yet biodegradable phone case made from wheat straw – which is a unique solution to tackling the millions of plastic phone cases that are disposed of every year.

Two people clearing up plastic waste from a beach

Credit: OCG Saving The Ocean

4 Save water: 71% of the Earth is covered in water and it’s important to conserve it. 97% of all the water is salt water, which means only 3% of water on Earth is fresh water, and only 0.5% is available for drinking. You can save water in and around your home by fitting a water efficient shower head, and turning the tap off when brushing your teeth, washing or shaving. It also helps to wait for a full load before starting your washing machine or dishwasher. And why not collect rainwater to water the plants in your garden rather than using a hosepipe or sprinkler? (which can use up to 540 litres of water an hour).

5 Drive less: Changing your driving habits can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint. Walking, riding a bike, or using public transport whenever possible is better for the environment, and your health. And if you need to drive, combining errands to make fewer trips will cause less pollution. It’s also important to keep your car in good shape with regular tune-ups and servicing. And replacing your petrol or diesel-fuelled car with an electric one would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

6 Wear sustainable clothing: The fashion and textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, and its carbon footprint accounts for around 10% of global greenhouse emissions. This is due to the energy used during its production, and the transportation of the millions of garments bought each year. You could buy more of your clothes from charity shops to lessen the impact this industry has on the planet, or invest in quality pieces from sustainable or ethical fashion brands. And try to avoid cheaply made clothing from “fast fashion” retailers which is intended for short-term use, and often discarded after a few wears.

7 Eat less meat: The production of meat is one of the biggest polluters of our environment. This is because raising livestock—cows, pigs and chickens—generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars on the planet combined. And eating a diet heavy in meat is bad for our health too, increasing the risk of obesity, cancer and heart disease. So by eating less of it, you can improve both your health, and the planet.

8 Grow your own produce: By growing your own fruit and vegetables at home, you can ensure it’s free from pesticides and other chemicals that contribute to water and air pollution. And it’s cheaper and healthier for you too! Gardening is also a fun, family-friendly activity that allows kids to get their hands dirty and learn where their food comes from. If you can’t grow your own, buying local will help reduce the amount of fossil fuels used to transport produce to supermarkets. You’ll also be buying more unwrapped produce – less plastic packaging which can harm wildlife and the environment.

Green vegetables growing in a garden

Credit: Sigmund

We only have one Earth and we rely on it for survival. Our planet has a limited number of resources, and it can only withstand a small amount of greenhouse gas emissions in order to stay healthy. But we are in danger of causing an ecological imbalance and irreversible damage to our planet if we continue to consume energy and produce waste at our current rate. However, if we each play our part and work towards living a more sustainable lifestyle, we can help protect our planet so it can be enjoyed by generations to come.