What It Means to Be Environmentally Friendly
Being eco friendly means living in a way that is not harmful to the environment. This way of life is becoming increasingly important, as we need to protect our planet from man-made damage. There are various ways that an individual can make sustainable changes in order to lessen the negative effect that our daily lives usually contribute to.
It is possible to be eco friendly in different areas of our lives.
It can be from a small change, like using a recyclable water bottle in your daily life, to a bigger investment, such as installing solar panels to make the switch to renewable energy for your home. Fortunately, in the UK there are a number of solar panel grants to make these switches easier and more affordable.
Most people struggle to make a meaningful change because they simply don’t know where to begin. This comprehensive guide covers five main aspects of your life to help you make a contribution to reducing climate change effects and being more eco friendly in your daily life:
- Making Your House More Environmentally Friendly
- How to be More Eco Friendly in Your Everyday Life
- How to be More Eco-Conscious at Work
- How to Travel Sustainably
- How to Make the School Experience More Green
While homes may not pollute as much as corporations do, there are many things you as a homeowner can do to make your home a more eco friendly house. It is important to make a change wherever possible, and your home is something you have control over - so why not make the change? Here is a list of things you can do, from home improvements that require significant up-front capital to small, easy changes that can have a big impact.
Invest in Renewable Energy for Electricity
A way that households can be more eco friendly is to invest in a renewable energy source for electricity. Most households are on a grid that provides energy from a non-sustainable source, like oil or gas.
Solar panels are an example of a renewable energy technology that uses the sun as an energy source. This photovoltaic system utilises the sun’s energy and transforms it into electricity. The process is a much more environmentally clean option than using energy derived from the burning of fossil fuels.
Did you know?
4kW solar panels are the most common for a household in the UK. If you live in the UK, you should consider investing in a product like this.
Switch Heating Source
Another way to be more eco friendly is to opt for a renewable method for heating your home. Boilers are an example of a heating source that can be more eco friendly. As boilers can be fuelled generally by four different fuels, homeowners can decide what would be best for their house. The possibilities range from gas boilers, oil, electric boilers, and biomass boilers.
Another option is to try heat pumps as they also provide heating options for the home. Heat pumps are not only more environmentally friendly due to their low energy consumption, but they also eliminate the need for gas pipes and oil tanks.
Solar thermal is another way of switching over to a more environmentally friendly energy source. Instead of using gas or oil, a solar thermal panel utilises the heat from the sun to boil water, providing energy without any combustion, thereby making it a much cleaner alternative.
Depending on what type of heating source you switch from, you will be able to save a decent amount of money. If you switch to solar thermals, you could save at least £50 on energy bills.
Use Eco-Cleaning Products to Clean the House
A lot of mainstream cleaning products contain various ingredients that are harmful to the environment. In fact, a lot of chemicals used to clean our clothes, dishes, and house end up causing damage to our planet and its biodiversity.
Chemicals such as detergents, preservatives, or foaming agents are the ones that cause the most harm to nature. Switching to products that contain sustainably grown or raised ingredients that do not deplete the ecosystem, nor harm it when expelled back out.
People should ideally opt for products that contain no synthetic ingredients if they want to go for eco friendly household products.
Use Eco Friendly Toilet Paper
A lot of trees are cut down in order to make toilet paper rolls. It requires at least 17 trees and 90,921 litres of water for a tonne of paper rolls. As the average person uses 100 rolls in a year, using regular toilet paper is not a sustainable habit. Consumers could use eco friendly toilet paper made out of bamboo. As bamboo grows 39 inches within a 24 hour period, toilet paper made out of bamboo are a much more sustainable option compared to regular toilet paper.
As a lot of activities are done subconsciously as part of our everyday routine, there is a great chance that some, if not most, of the activities aren’t always the most environmentally-friendly option available.
It only takes a few adjustments in order to change your habits to more eco friendly options. It's better to make sure that the changes are sustainable throughout a longer period of time, so that the change can become habitual.
Use a Recyclable Eco Friendly Water Bottle
Purchasing water bottles is a common practice - particularly in warm weather. However, a lot of water bottles end up in the ocean as a lot of people fail to recycle them properly. This results in a high rate of pollution in our oceans and the overall environment, as one plastic bottle will break down into 10,000 microplastic pieces over time - and this microplastic pollution is incredibly hard to clean up.
A solution to this problem is to invest in a water bottle that is not only reusable but also the right size, so you can take it with you whenever you travel.
Re-using a water bottle also saves money in the long run, as fewer plastic bottles will need to be purchased.
Use Environmentally Friendly Shampoo
Just like ingredients in cleaning products, regular shampoo, and conditioner also contain various ingredients that are washed down the drain and end up in the ocean again. The chemicals in those ingredients are often toxic in nature and should not be used. Wherever they end up, they may hurt the biodiversity.
Opt for non-synthetic ingredients when shopping for shampoo. As the shampoo bottles will ultimately be treated the same as other plastic objects, consumers can opt for soap bars that are suitable for hair. It's a great alternative, as these soap bars are often made from natural, biodegradable ingredients.
Use Recyclable Paper for Gifts
As a lot of trees go into the production of paper - whether it’s toilet paper, regular paper to write with, or wrapping paper, it’s important to be mindful and invest in recyclable paper. Back in 2017, there were approximately 419.69 million metric tonnes and cardboard being produced in the world. Based on this data, we are on a bad trajectory in terms of paper and cardboard pollution if production does not halt.
Replace Diesel and Petrol Cars with Environmentally Friendly Cars
Cars are a major cause of global warming, mainly due to the amount of pollution that they emit. Diesel and petrol cars are the main culprits of CO2 emissions.
In order to combat this, electric and hybrid cars are rising in popularity as they reduce overall emissions. This is mainly due to the fact that electric cars run on batteries, rather than a combusting fuel source. Hybrid cars on the other hand use both as a fuel source but switch sources as their fuel capacity gets low.
Buy Recyclable Clothes from Respectable Brands
The damaging effects that producing clothes has on the environment are pretty significant. Fast Fashion is mostly to blame, as clothes that fall into this category are produced in massive quantities. These quantities are produced only to be disposed off in billions, which can take up to 200 years to decompose for certain synthetic fibres (such as polyester).
These types of fibres also threaten our biodiversity. When washing these garments, microplastic fibres end up in oceans, which are ultimately ingested by animals. Consumers could be mindful of the type of clothes that they buy, which textiles they are made of, and look for companies that have promised to reduce their emissions and water pollution from producing garments.
Stop Using Single-Use Plastic Straws
The UK has confirmed a ban on single-use plastic straws as a part of the 25 Year Environment Plan. As plastic waste is one of the biggest environmental challenges the UK and the world face, banning straws will make a huge difference.
There are over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic in the world, and the vast majority do not enter the recycling process. Straws can take up to 200 years to decompose, hurting the lives of animals and also the environment during this long process.
Invest in a metal or bamboo straw that is reusable. It’s not only healthier for the environment, but it's also a cost-effective solution. When at a bar or restaurant, tell the server you would rather forego the straw in your drink.
Negative Environmental ImpactStraws are sharper than they look. Millions of sea animals, such as turtles and seabirds eat them, thinking it's food. This ultimately ends up hurting them, and oftentimes choking them to death.
Buy Products That Are Biodegradable
All things come to an end. While you cannot control whether or not the products that you dispose of will end up at a location where they will be recycled and reused, you can however purchase products that are made of non-synthetic ingredients and are biodegradable.
Biodegradable products dissolve due to contact with bacteria and fungi. Meaning that if they get in contact with nature, they won’t cause any environmental harm, as they disappear due to natural processes.
Eat Less Meat
Meat and dairy are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the agriculture industry. Emissions occur from the stage of production, to processing, packaging, and to finally being served. Farming releases two powerful greenhouse gases: Methane from livestock during digestion due to enteric fermentation, and Nitrous Oxide as an indirect product of organic and mineral nitrogen fertilisers.
As the majority of emissions are a result of production and preparation of meat and dairy, consuming less meat would be a positive contribution in reducing GHG emissions. While some opt to drastically change their diets to a vegan one, simply reducing your intake of meat can already have a big impact.
Being conscious of the environment does not have to be limited to the home. There are many different things that employees can do in order to minimise environmental damage and make activities at their workplace more sustainable.
Be Mindful of Printing Paper
A lot of paper is printed in an office space. It’s unavoidable that paper will be printed, whether it’s for a meeting or to sign a contract. However, printing out a document may not be entirely necessary.
The best thing you could do is to think if it is absolutely required to have a document in hard copy. If not, you could consider to send it in an email. In order to minimise their carbon footprint, contracts can be sent and signed digitally.
Encourage Public Transportation for Employees
Depending on the distance from the employee’s home to the workplace, there are different ways to commute to work. While using a car may seem like the easiest and fastest option, taking the train or bus would pollute less. Depending on your city’s biking infrastructure, you could even opt to ride a bicycle to work.
Use Electricity Wisely
Offices naturally require electricity to power their equipment, amenities, facilities. However, it’s important to be aware of the energy consumption and be conscious of what is required.
One way companies could contribute to a greener office is by ensuring to plug off electric devices when not in use. It's good to stay aware of the energy consumption and to make changes when the usage is predicted to go above the limit set for the month.
Moreover, an increasing number of large tech corporations are using green energy to meet their electricity needs.
Encourage the Mantra ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’
These three well-known principles of waste management will make your office more eco friendly. Offices should set up different containers for different types of products. Use recycling bins for paper, plastic, and soft drink cans, rather than throwing everything out in one bin.
Use Recyclable Food Containers to Minimise Waste
When serving food at the office cafeteria, offer employees recyclable food containers so that they can take any leftover food home. This will greatly reduce food waste, which is a big issue in the UK.
As airplane tickets are becoming cheaper, more and more people are travelling. Travelling to foreign countries as a backpacker is also becoming increasingly easy. However, there are negative aspects associated with frequent travels, such as pollution and damage to local cultures. Therefore, there has been an increasing trend in promoting sustainable travel and more eco friendly holidays.
Unplug Before Travelling
Even if electronic devices are shut off or in sleep mode, they are still using energy. Being away for too long wastes a lot of energy that could otherwise have been plugged off. So, before going on vacation, make sure to unplug your devices from the wall sockets, in order to save electricity.
Each UK household spends around £50 – £86 a year to power appliances left in standby mode or not in use.
Give Away Perishable Food Items before Travelling
Before leaving for vacation, make sure to check if any food item in the fridge is about to expire. If possible, consume it before the expiry date, otherwise donate it to people in need and avoid food wastage.
Hold Off with Housekeeping
Housekeeping usually involves using unhealthy chemicals to clean the rooms and towels, so avoid requesting the service unless necessary. Re-use the towels that are offered at the beginning of the vacation, and place food trays from room-service outside your room for collection.
Think About the Best Way to Travel
When it comes to being environmentally conscious, the method of transportation has a major effect on the environment. There is a huge difference in how much CO2 a car and an airplane emits. In fact, a single flight from New York City to Los Angeles produces 20% of the CO2 emissions that a car emits in a year.
Depending on the destination, it may be better to drive rather than to fly. In Europe, in particular, most big cities are very well-connected by train, which makes flying less and less necessary.
Cruise holidays have become increasingly popular, however these big ships contribute massively to GHG emissions. In fact, Carnival Corporation's fleet of 47 cruise ships emit 10 times more sulphur oxides (SOx) than 100 million cars do.
It is important to be aware of your holiday's footprint on the environment, and opt for more sustainable holidays when possible.
Flying to foreign destinations will emit emissions no matter what. However, if flying is the only option, then travellers can try to pack light in order to be able to still minimise the amount of pollution. The more luggage a plane carries with them on their travels, the more fuel the airplane needs to fly.
Green Key Certified Accommodation
When looking for accommodation abroad, it’s important to look for places that are most sustainable in the activities that they do. Selecting Green Key certified accommodation is one way to do that.
In order to be Green Key certified, there are 13 criteria that need to be fulfilled. Being Green Key certified means that the accommodation respects local cultures and their traditions, takes care of the environment, treats its employees fair and equally, and more.
Use Environmentally Friendly Travel Products
There are different ways to be more eco friendly with products when travelling. Just like the tip associated with reusing water bottles at home, you could also do the same with travel products. Instead of disposing travel-sized bottles such as shampoo and conditioner, you could reuse the bottles for the next trip.
Be Mindful of Polluting Activities While Abroad
Participating in fun and social activities while abroad is a common thing, but there is a risk of inflicting damage to the environment. This includes littering at the beach, or hiking in areas where one might cause damage to the local area. Being mindful about the consequences of one’s action can make a big difference for the local communities.
Spend in Local Shops
As big businesses are expanding to popular holiday destinations, there is, unfortunately, a problem with local communities struggling to get by. One of the reasons is that bigger corporations are receiving the majority of the money invested in the travel industry for that country. Spending your money in locally-owned shops and restaurants can help communities to overcome financial adversities.
There are a lot of things that parents can do to ensure that their kids are more environmentally friendly at school. Whether it’s walking your kid to school, or ensuring that they use environmentally friendly school supplies to minimise the damage done to nature. Inspiring kids to contribute to a greener environment and world is something we could and should do.
As children grow older, their school uniforms will undoubtedly have to be changed. Instead of throwing the clothes out, parents should consider donating the clothes back to the school or to other parents who are in need.
Use Containers, Not Paper Bags
When making lunch for children to bring to school, parents should invest in lunch boxes that are reusable, instead of giving them food in paper bags that are to be thrown out. If a food item truly needs to be wrapped, avoid using cling wrap and opt for more environmentally friendly wrapping materials like beeswax.
Invest in Electronic Devices Instead of Paper
As technology is adapting different scenarios in our life, there are a lot of different products that can be used to take notes with. Although investing in a laptop or a tablet may be expensive, your child could not only save time in taking notes but can also help reduce paper waste at school.
Make Green Choices to Go to School
As driving emits pollution, parents should consider alternative ways of getting their children to school. Whether that is walking them to school or making them use public transportation. Using the car less can make a huge difference to the environment in the long run. In some cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, parents use cargo bikes to ride their children to school, which is a great eco friendly solution to using a car.