[Written By: Hannah Lane]
[Illustration: Julia Rosner]
In a world slowly being torn apart by environmental destruction, and with people consistently adopting a ‘disposable’ attitude towards everyday life, a personal effort to live more sustainably can often feel futile. We’re constantly aware of the impact our every move has on the environment, yet it can be difficult to distance ourselves from our plastic-infused bubbles and properly examine what exactly our everyday actions, habits and lifestyles do to the world we live in. Nevertheless, it seems that more and more of us are becoming aware of the benefits of sustainable living and making a conscious effort, big or small, to live more mindfully and be more environmentally aware. Recently, I’ve come to realise that we can make an effort to live more sustainably in so many areas – from our food and drink habits and everyday commutes, to our fashion and beauty addictions.
For me, the first step into sustainable living came in the form of vegetarianism. Although I may not have been making a conscious effort to live sustainably in general, throughout my teenage years I was always mindful of the food I ate; particularly where it had come from, what exactly was in it, and how it was packaged. My family would buy Fairtrade products whenever possible; we grew our own vegetables; we had eggs from our own chickens, and we would always take reusable shopping bags when going to the supermarket. Eating fewer animal products can be a significant step in attempting to be more environmentally conscious – according to The Guardian, the UN estimated in 2006 that the ‘combined climate change emissions of animals bred for their meat were 18% of the global total’, revealing the shocking extent to which our penchant for meat-based foods contributes to environmental degeneration. However, there are less lifestyle-altering ways to live more sustainably that don’t involve adopting a completely plant-based diet; we can easily undertake smaller efforts, such as eating vegan a couple of days a week, buying environmentally-sourced food stuffs, and even simply not buying or using plastic straws.
Recently, there have been many other small yet significant changes I have been implementing to help combat environmental waste. Taking a reusable coffee cup to a coffee shop instead of using a disposable cup every time is such a small change, but can make a vast difference – especially if you’re like me and have a shameless caffeine addiction. This habit can also be beneficial financially – Pret will deduct 50p from your coffee bill if you bring your own cup, making filter coffee only 49p. As a woman, the impact of having to buy sanitary products on a monthly basis is something I’ve always been conscious of; the majority of sanitary pads are 90% plastic, and even just the packaging of sanitary products are not biodegradable. Switching to an environmentally friendly option such as a Mooncup helps to reduce such waste – a recent surge in the use of menstrual cups has already meant that 1.7 billion fewer tampons and pads have ended up in the ocean or in landfill sites. Again, this option is a financially beneficial one, since Mooncups are reusable and don’t have to be replaced for several years.
There are numerous other simple yet effective ways we can combat environmental degeneration in our everyday lives. Instead of turning on the heating immediately when we feel cold, we can perhaps first see how we fare in a jumper and an extra pair of socks. We can make a more conscious effort to use public transport instead of using a car for a small or unnecessary journey. We can try to avoid buying plastic-wrapped items, and instead use a paper bag or a reusable bag when buying grocery items. Going paperless is so much easier and more efficient than printing off numerous unnecessary documents. Finding good quality yet environmentally friendly makeup and skincare products may be challenging at first, but more and more companies are making such products available. These changes can be so easy to incorporate into our everyday lives, yet they can make such a meaningful and long-term difference to our environmental footprints.
My overall philosophy regarding an effort to live more sustainably is that any effort, however futile it may seem, is worthwhile, and a small effort towards living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle is better than choosing ignorance. Collectively, our simple efforts can make a real difference, and can change our entire perception of the impact our actions have on ourselves, on those around us, and on the world we live in.