6 no-brainers to shoot down your environmental impact
Updated: Sep 21
Do you care for the environment but don't know how to cut down your impact? Are you passionate about sustainability but think you've got no time or chance to live a greener life? You don't need to isolate yourself in the wilderness like Viggo Mortensen in "Captain Fantastic" (by the way, fantastic movie!). I've got nothing against that, but would require a bit of a drastic change to your life.
This post highlights a few environmentally friendly actions you can implement starting from tomorrow.
Big impact, low effort.
Sounds good? Keep reading then!
I deliberately chose to publish this post today as it’s the 2020 Earth Overshoot Day.
It’s the day we run out of the Earth’s yearly ecological resources. As shown in the figure below, this date has been occurring earlier and earlier over the last 50 years.
What? Already in August? I hope you're screaming.
You might wonder, what about the remaining four months of the year?
Simple, we borrow resources from those available for the years ahead; it’s called ecological deficit. Just to avoid misunderstanding, this is bloody unsustainable!
What’s the solution to this?
Reduce our environmental impact to move this date as further along the year as possible.
How do we do that?
I’ve collated a few tips for you below.
1) Save power for the human race
Renewables are good but probably not good enough (be on the lookout for my next post if you want to find out more about this).
Energy saving should be everyone's primary goal as it's more efficient, cheaper and easier to implement on an individual scale than using renewable energy sources.
If you can afford buying an electrical vehicle (EV), that's great. If you own a mansion to install solar panels on your roof or to plant wind turbines in your royal garden, please go ahead! Yet, if you're short of money/space, you can still work on reducing the amount of energy you use. Think of yourself as a runner during a marathon. You want this (human) race to last as many years as possible, so you should use your glycogen reserve sparingly if you want to reach the finish line. If the all 7.8 billion athletes don’t switch to a “running economy” mode, the Earth will soon “hit the wall”!
As said by the founder of the Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, “the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.” This is definitely true for the game of our life.
Here you can find some advices for making your home lighting greener. Besides, unplug your appliances (TV, laptop/phone chargers, modems, printers, etc.) when you're not home or if you just don’t use them. Heat is obviously part of the solution to the power saving equation. When you rent or buy a property, check its Energy performance certificates (EPC). It is worth investing some money and get a better rated (more energetically efficient) house. Also, make sure to have a programmable heating system (and use it rather than leaving radiators on nonstop!). 2) Give your taps a break!
One of the dreadful climate change’s effects are prolonged and more intense draught periods. According to WWF, this may lead to the two-thirds of the Earth’s population experiencing scarcity in water by 2025. That’s why we must treat each water drop like a Cullinan diamond.
I encourage you to watch this video to reflect on how we handle water at home. Also, I’ve compiled a checklist which will help you save inestimable H2O droplets (as well as money!):
Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth, shaving, washing your face.
Make it shorter (ideally no more than 4-5 minutes).
Turn off the tap while soaping.
Install a low flow showerhead.
Fill the kettle to the amount you actually need.
Use washing machine and dishwasher to full capacity.
Use a "hippo" device to limit the water wastage when flushing your toilets.
Fix (or let someone fix) leaks (you can use this tool to have an idea of the massive amount of water a dripping tap could waste).
3) Go on a green diet Hippocrates was undoubtedly right when saying we are what we eat. However, if the Greek physician were still alive, he would've certainly added what we eat affects the environment we live in. It is fundamental to deplete the energy spent throughout the food path from producers to consumers. In this regard, The New York Times provided an exhaustive summary of what each one of us can do, but I summarised the most impactful actions below.
Eat locally and seasonally.
Don’t waste food (plan your meals, buy as needed).
Minimise or eliminate the consumption of high impact food (beef most of all).
"Oh boy. Another vegan fellow." I hear some of you moan. Well, going vegan would allow you dropping your carbon footprint by 50%! Though, if you can't completely give up on meat, you could opt for a flexitarian diet as I did, still achieving a 30% reduction of your food-related CO2 emissions.
What the cow does “flexitarian” mean? Just eating meat occasionally (perhaps once a week), switching from beef to chicken and replacing meat and dairy with plant-based food as much as you manage.
4) Eradicate plastic from your life Let’s be clear. It comes to one of two things. Either we get rid of plastic or plastic will get rid of us.
"Isn’t recycling enough?" someone might ask. Sorry, but it’s really not. Guess what's the global % of plastic actually recycled? You say 50%? I wish it was! 25% then?
Keep going down… “What? Seriously?” I hear you cry. As stated in this study, as of 2015, out of all plastic waste generated worldwide only ca. 9% of it was recycled. Most of the plastic produced was landfilled or dumped into the environment.
On top of that, the so-called “advanced” or “chemical” recycling implies fossil fuel burning, as explained in this article.
An awful lot of the plastic we dispersed throughout the planet ended up in the sea, where it has been slowly degrading and turning into something even worse, i.e. microplastic. Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic which are easily ingested by fish. Apparently, we do get our helping too, the equivalent of a credit card each week on average to be precise.
Did you know that most of your clothes contain plastic?
Check the label on some of your clothing and you will see a lot of funny names coming up, such as acrylic, polyester, etc.
Guess what happens when you put those clothes in your washing machine?
Yes, they release plastic fibres (i.e. microplastics) which flow away into the drain.
And where do you think these end up to? Exactly, in the sea!
Be aware of it next time you shop in a fast fashion store to fill up your bag!
To find out more about the enormous environmental impact of fast fashion and how to boycott it, check my post "Fast fashion: a cheap luxury we can no longer afford".
So, you would hopefully agree the only way forward is to REDUCE the plastic we produce as much as possible. Below are a few suggestions on how to do that:
Carry a metal flask with you all the time to refill with tap water. You can download the Refill app to find the nearest refilling station. Also, if you’re a business, you can become a traceable refill station by signing up here.
Buy a water filter jug to use at home (please stop buying water in plastic bottles, it’s no sense!).
Get your fruits and vegs in a market or in small local shops which don’t use any packaging (just look for them as they do exist!) and stuff them in a fabric reusable bag.
Purchase toiletries, pulses, pasta, rice and many other things in plastic-free stores.
Put your washing up in a bag like this which retain microplastics.
I think it would be beneficial if government introduced a tax on throwaway plastic. If you agree with me, please take action and sign this petition (and share it!).
5) Take up e-gardening One can do literally anything online nowadays, right? So why not plunging into e-gardening as a new hobby?
You can physically planting trees the old way of course. Though, if you haven’t got a garden or not even a green thumb, don't despair! Not only your thumb but all your other fingers will magically become green when typing up on Ecosia.
Ecosia is a search engine, just like Google. Every time you use a search engine advertisements links appear along with your search results. The search engine will then earn money each time you click on one of those links. What makes Ecosia searches greener is that some of its profits are destined to plant trees!
If research is not your cup of (green) tea, there are some websites where you can plant trees just with a click:
6) Be ashamed of flying I admit this requires more effort than the abovementioned points. I live in UK and my family is back in Italy. Since last year I've virtually joined the Flygskam or 'flight-shaming' movement. My aim is to get no more than a return flight a year. Although COVID-19 got in the way, I’m trying to stick with it.
“Oh man, Greta Thunberg’s brainwashing again. Why should I listen to a 16-year old girl?” Some of you might argue.
Well, she knows much more about environmental sustainability than the president of the most powerful country on the planet. "Ah, that's dead easy!" someone else would shout. Anyway, if you don't trust her just because she's a teenager, there are a host of more experienced people, including scientists, all over the world joining a no-fly pledge. Here you can read their inspiring stories and find out a bit more on why we should fly less.
If you really need to fly, check out Skyscanner as it gives you not only the cheapest flights but also the greenest ones! And, surprise, surprise… guess which is the most eco-friendly airline in Europe? Yep, Ryanair!
As argued in this article, giving up flights (especially the short-haul/domestic ones) is the most impactful measure you can implement on an individual level to reduce your carbon footprint. Plus, flight-free travelling can be much more fun and rewarding as I wrote here.
“So, how am I supposed to travel then if not by plane?” someone would reasonably ask.
By train, whenever possible.
Why is train better than flying?
Simply because it’s much more eco-friendly. As calculated by the Energy Saving Trust, each person can attain an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions travelling by train between London and Edinburgh rather than taking a fight.
Also, if you love travelling but wanted to do it sustainably, you should learn more about eco-tourism.
We should all strive to approach the asymptotic zero impact level.
As showed in the must watch movie No Impact Man, albeit not being impossible, this can be overwhelming if you try to achieve it all at once. Hopefully, this post will help you to get closer to that ideal target little by little.
Act now as time is ticking out!
Treat time and feedback As promised in my previous post, I’ve now uploaded the prompt for my new story “Black Money Matters” here. It’s a cli-fi tale dedicated to George Floyd. If you like it and would like to see the full story, please subscribe at the bottom of this page or just send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll send it to you for free. Finally, as always, I'd appreciate if you could feed me back. Comment below, use the feedback form at the bottom of my services page, or even drop me an email (see above). Any (constructive) suggestions on this blog or on anything else would be more than welcome!