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How to Make Small Changes for a Big Impact

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

Nicole Nadler explores how small, affordable changes in our lifestyle can have a big positive impact.

Photo by Alleksana

Google searches for "how to reduce your carbon footprint" soared during the COVID-19 lockdown. Now more than ever, people are tuning in on how their day-to-day life can have a drastically damaging impact on the planet – and what they can do to change that.

A 2016 Huffington Post study in America found that the biggest reason people don’t recycle is because it is inaccessible or inconvenient. According to The Independent, many Britons would like to be more environmentally conscious but find it financially impossible. The article states:

"The poll of 2,000 adults found 59 per cent did not feel they could make any eco-friendly changes to their current lifestyle, because their bank balance would not allow it. The average person had just £159 disposable income per month, but seven in 10 wished they had more to allow them to live a greener lifestyle."

However, there are countless ways that we can make small changes in our lives for a big impact in the health of the planet that fit in seamlessly with our lifestyle and budget. With that in mind, here are three ways that you can start 2021 on a more eco-friendly note without even having to change up your daily routine.

Investing in Reusables

Single use plastics have been continually been more and more reduced and banned in the UK with the Government proposing an “ambition” of zero avoidable waste by 2050. Many people have opted to carry their own bags and use their own travel mugs for some time now, but now reusable straws and cutlery are also becoming more popular and available-especially in the age of COVID-19 upping single-use plastics.

There are many options for lightweight and easy to carry sets that can easily sit in your car or bag so you never have to reach for the single-use options again. Many shops such as John Lewis and Morrison’s carry reusable cutlery sets as well as a wide variety available online, especially on Etsy- all for under £15.

Buying Local & Home-Grown Food

It would have been almost inconceivable even a few generations ago that pineapples, bananas and watermelons would be a common sight in British supermarkets – but this probably isn't a good thing. Buying fresh food from around the world requires quick and (economically) efficient transportation methods, though it’s easy to forget just how much energy is used in the process. One estimate suggests that for every 10 kcal of fossil fuel energy put into the US food system (agriculture, preservation and transportation), only 1 kcal of energy is received in consumption. The environmental burden of our consumption habits will only increase as the world’s population continues to grow.

While a number of initiatives such as the Slow Food and Local Food Britain aim to support a shift in food production systems towards more sustainable and region-specific practises, there will always be an endless supply of flavourless exotic fruit and questionably cheap fast-food as long as there is enough consumer demand.

Many people will not have access to a garden large enough to create an allotment, not least depend on one, but most of us will have a spare shelf or windowsill to supplement our meals with home-grown produce: whether that’s a tomato or two, a courgette, some lettuce, or even parsley and mint. When you do need to go to the shops, see if you can find somewhere you can walk to – and always be on the lookout for local brands and fair-trade labels.

Reducing Food Waste and Footprint

According to food share app Olio, globally speaking 33-50% of all food (worth over $1 trillion) produced is never eaten. In the UK, the average family throws away 22% of their weekly shop, worth £730 per year. In contrast, over 1 million people accessed a food bank in 2019 in the UK.

Apps like Olio, TooGoodToGo, Karma (London only) are all apps that are free to download and use that connect the user to food that would otherwise go to waste. Olio users will be connected to their neighbours and local restaurants to get surplus food (or other household items), which TooGoodToGo and Karma are strictly for restaurants to offer heavily discounted food that needs to be sold before the day is over. While a packed lunch may be the most affordable and eco-friendly option, using one of these apps to find last-minute meals (often under £5) is affordable for most budgets and keeps the bins empty.

Concluding Reflections

So there you have it: 'Going green' doesn’t always have to be a drastic change. There is no shortage of articles discussing how if we all make conscious, albeit small changes to our everyday life, the ripple of change will soon take hold. Consider what you can do in the new year to give back to the earth that has given us so much.


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