Small steps for a lifestyle with lower impact

Source: Unsplash

Source: Unsplash

We can’t all live in a countryside and eat plant-based freshly harvested produce, use rain water or walk and bike everywhere we go. Most of us live in cities where sustainable living with no carbon footprint is ever hard to achieve. But in order to put our conscience (and hopefully our planet) at ease, especially those of us who enjoy a rather comfortable and privileged living conditions, there are some little steps we can take in order to limit our use of precious energy and resources.

Saving water. Easy step, not always obvious. (Source: Unsplash)

Saving water. Easy step, not always obvious. (Source: Unsplash)

SAVE WATER… Any way you can

It’s as easy as switching off the tap when you brush your teeth, apply shampoo or soap, maybe switching this shower handle off when you sing at it. Water is such a crucial resource, yet so scarce! Do you imagine going full Cape Town someday and switching on the tap in the morning only to find there is no more water there for you to use? We personally get mortified every time there is a plumbing accident and we suddenly don’t have water in taps and toilets for half a day… “Did it begin? Is this it? Well we had a good run anyways…” and the eco-anxiety kicks in full speed. That’s why we all need to try preventing our unavoidable water shortage by simply using it reasonably. While designing your new bathroom, why not investing in taps and toilet flushes that allow for low water speed so that you can easily regulate how much water they release? Why not washing your dishes in a bowl with water and liquid without the water running non-stop? Nothing more to say here really - just save that water!

Lights off

Another extremely simple thing to do, but not as obvious as it may sound. We once knew a person who kept all their lights at home, and the AC unit, on when they went out for shopping. Do you also know someone like this? Maybe it so happens that you do it too? No judgement, but it seems like it’s a good time to stop doing that, or call out this one friend on it. It happens to all of us to leave a light in the bathroom on accidentally once in a while, but we can all try to be as conscious as possible about it - to make it a habit to switch it off, rather than to leave it on. And we tend to be wasteful about light on a very global scale! Just read this:

In an average year in the U.S. alone, outdoor lighting uses about 120 terawatt-hours of energy, mostly to illuminate streets and parking lots. That’s enough energy to meet New York City’s total electricity needs for two years!

Responsible light management and usage really depends on design. Unless we emphasise the importance of natural over artificial light on the planning and project phase of construction, we cannot expect to start treating this resource reasonably. But we can all contribute with little steps taken in our households, in order to do our part. Our house does not need to be illuminated all the time and everywhere. Limit the artificial light use to when you really need it and switch it off when you are not in the room.

Go easy on the appliances

Turn off your devices when you are not using it. Never leave the devices switched on and plugged in when you go away for a trip, or even when you leave the house if that’s possible. Why does it matter? It gets easy when you just imagine where energy comes from - most usually it is generated by incinerating fossil fuels and coal. That is the most conventional and widespread way to generate our energy worldwide, all the while being most pollutant. The levels of carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere while such process are incredibly high, and quite naturally the more electricity we use, the more of material needs to be burnt. This makes us all personally responsible for the amounts of burnt resources - and their waste if we use energy in an irresponsible way. “If you keep devices plugged in and running when they're not in use, the result is an increase in electrical use and, consequently, a bump in the amount of greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere.” Click for the whole article on the outcomes of overusing energy.

War on waste

This is stressed so much by us and all the other media out there, that frankly it should go without saying. The trash and waste we generate will surely come back to us, in some form or another. According to the online portal Waste Dive: “Currently, about 2.01 billion metric tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) are produced annually worldwide”. Of that, no more than 14% gets recycled and a little over 5% gets composted. Since clearly the trash processing is not in place yet, and does not seem to be anytime soon, the main responsibility of our trash is ours, so those who buy products and discard them and their packaging. The trash we keep does not only lie down somewhere in a remote location and decompose slowly. It oozes harmful chemicals to water systems and emits completely useless gasses to the atmosphere - to put it mildly. We are not saying one must right away rush into the next zero-waste store and stock up with reusable straws and cups. However, some products of everyday use can really be bought without packaging and some plastic-packaged goods are available without plastic at all. First step though is just not to buy what we really don’t need. That is why the first rule of the zero-waste movement is not recycle but refuse. Don’t buy just for the sake of having it, don’t overbuy just to throw it away, don’t buy impulsively. It’s that simple - but it’s not easy.

What about cosmetics?

There are many low-waste options for cosmetics and home-care products. Most of the in-house cleaning can be solved with some vinegar, lemon juice and maybe a dash of essential oil. We really don’t need hard-chemicals and artificial, caustic liquids for keeping our homes clean and fresh. Alternatively, a lot of brands offer more natural care products like soaps, washing detergents and cleaning liquids. A simple Google search in your area should help you find options that are close to you. For skin and hair care, try to look for more waste-less options. A lot of cosmetics brands limits the amounts of plastic (like Unii, Lush with their recycling programme, and many more). We nowadays have access to loads of zero-waste inspirations. For example check our what Going Zero Waste blog has to say about make-up! The options are there, it’s enough to reach for them.

Transform your transport

Last but not least, how we travel and use transport is a crucial aspect of our day-to-day impact. We know it’s easier said than done, but we commit a sort of blind crime against the planet every time we do a one-person car trip, not to mention plane trips that could easily be done via train. When it comes to airlines, more and more of them choose to offset their carbon (click here for WOMB’s article on offsetting carbon), so it is always a good idea to check if your flight belongs to one of these. If you live in the city, educate yourself on the best options of getting around, but especially if you are a visitor on trip to another city - value public transport over Ubers, try to explore on foot too. They are small things that maybe will take a little bit more time, but if all of us do just a little bit, it could go as far as to relieving the planet. Our future depends on it, so the stakes are quite high!

and All that food

Who would we be if we did not even mention diet? We recently published an article on why it makes sense to go plant-based, at least sometimes and looked at the current state of food industry through the prism of processed foods and especially phosphates. Now, diet choices is something that we could fit in a couple of separate articles, and we have been through a lot of its aspects already in previous posts, but here let us just signal it - meat and dairy production is one one of the most harmful sectors on the planet, be that because of the carbon dioxide and methane released from cattle farms, amount of food waste it generates, or contamination of chemicals and antibiotics that are commonly used to grow cattle and poultry. It has become risky and highly unhealthy, by all definitions and beyond any reasonable doubt, to eat meat and we need to face it as species. We are not a predator on the top of the natural chain, we are just used to our technology that brings us more than we can chew. Questioning and improving, but also enriching, dietary choices is one of the most important first steps that we need to take - not only for the health of the planet but our own.