Everywhere we look at the moment, there are initiatives encouraging us to change the way we think about, and the way we use, plastic and other wasteful resources.
There are beach cleans springing up across the country, coffee companies providing incentives to bring in reusable cups, and bars boasting about their paper straws.
I myself felt a burst of pride when, despite forgetting my travel cup, I took a mug up to our staff cafe at work and asked them to pour a latte in that rather than accepting a plastic cup.
Then another burst of pride, when my boyfriend’s Mum told me she’d had a McDonalds but refused a straw for her soft drink and just took the cup with no lid instead.
These little actions might seem minuscule in the grand scheme of things, but we should be proud of ourselves for making small changes. If everyone did it, we’d be living in a much cleaner, less wasteful world.
After all, little ripples can create big waves…
It’s estimated that there are around 7.6 billion people living in the world today. Imagine if every single one of them decided to stop using non-recyclable coffee cups, or decided to make a conscious effort to use less plastic.
Or (because plastic isn’t the only thing we should be concerned about) decided to use the stairs more instead of a lift, or started turning electrical items off at the wall each night?
I’ve raved about it on the blog before but the 5p carrier bag charge is a brilliant example of how one small change, made by a lot of people, can make a huge difference.
Since the introduction of the carrier bag charge in late 2015, figures show that the use of plastic bags has reduced by just over 80%. Defra stated that single use carrier bag usage had dropped from seven billion to just over half a billion within six months.
And once the charge had been in place a while, more statistics came out. Between April 2016 and April 2017, the number of bags sold was equivalent to each person in the population using around 25 bags, compared with 140 (!) before the charge was introduced.
It’s sad that it took a monetary incentive to make us change our habits, but it’s been successful in reducing consumption and our thought process here in the UK.
So next time you doubt how effective your actions as an individual can be, don’t.
Making small changes is how we can start changing this world for the better.
Wondering where to get started? Here are some top tips to make small changes to help save the planet:
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – make this your mantra and be more conscious of your buying decisions. Be aware of everything you’re buying – do you need it? Go for loose veg rather than pre-packaged to cut down on unnecessary plastic – most fruit and vegetable has a natural protective layer so you really don’t need to pick up a man-made one. Recycle everything you can. Check your local council’s website for details on what can and can’t be recycled in your area. Up until recently, I didn’t realise that tin foil (once cleaned) can be recycled – it’s always worth checking!
- Say no to plastic straws. They’re one of the top ten items found during beach clean ups by the Marine Conservation Society and it’s estimated that in the UK alone, we use around 8.5 billion of them a year. Unless you’re under the age of ten, or have just had a painful mouth or dental experience, the chances are you probably don’t need a straw anyway. But if you do, opt for a paper version (contrary to popular belief, the well made ones don’t get soggy) or even better, have a stainless steel one. They look cooler and they’re saving the planet. Does your favourite bar still offer plastic straws? Encourage them to rethink and refuse a straw until they change their ways.
- Choose energy efficient light bulbs.This not only means you’ll use less power but you’ll also cut your energy bill. LED bulbs can also be a great option.
- Reduce your consumption of meat. If you can, go vegetarian, but if not, aim for one meat free day a week. Meat production is a leading cause of climate change, water depletion, soil erosion and most other environmental problems, according to United Nations scientists. Not to mention the amount of methane produced by farm animals and agriculture. There’s health benefits too so you won’t regret it.
- Consider buying used or local. Due to international trade and supply chains, a lot of the everyday things we purchase have high energy costs. One single garment in the fashion industry is often created with the involvement of at least three different countries – think about the carbon emissions in transporting that around the world. Buying second-hand often involves giving money to charity, and can mean you save a few pennies too. Plus it reduces waste. I recently bought a small hardback book from a charity shop for £1.25 when I’d been considering buying it new from a retailer for almost £10 a month before! My guilt at buying yet another book (my book case is full) completely disappeared when I stopped to think that, yes, I did really want it, and that my money was going to a good cause while reusing something that may otherwise have been thrown away.
The same thought process should apply to food shopping too. Try to buy local if you can. Look for produce grown in the UK, or even better, in your local area. Farmers markets and good old fashioned greengrocers are great for this, but if you’re heading to the supermarket, just check where things have been grown and try to make conscious decisions where you can.
Little things can make a difference so never think your actions won’t help. Small actions can bring about big change.