We’ve all seen the shocking stats around how much plastic is in our oceans; the amount of energy we use as a planet and just how little time we have left to save irreversible damage to our environment.
However, In this case, every little does in fact help – Fiona Harvey, the Guardian’s environment correspondent wrote, “Environmentalism is arguably the most successful citizens’ mass movement there has been. The ozone hole has shrunk. Whales, if not saved, at least enjoy a moratorium on hunting. Acid rain is no longer the scourge of forests and lakes. Rivers thick with pollution in the 1960s teem with fish.”
In addition, Jonathan Shopley from Future Forests estimates that half the UK’s personal emissions come from household energy usage and the other half from travel. The average person in the UK produces five tonnes of CO2 every year, which would require five trees for there to be no net effect on the environment.
“If every one of us switched to renewable power then we would reduce the size of our individual carbon footprints by a third,” says Shopley. “We could reduce it by another 10 per cent if we all used energy-saving lightbulbs.”
We have all read the media surrounding the impact that the pandemic and national lockdowns have had on the world. Flights halved, road traffic in the UK fell by more than 70%. Industrial emissions in China, the world’s biggest source of carbon, were down about 18% between early February and mid-March last year – a cut of 250m tonnes. In addition, car use in the United States declined by 40%.
But what can we all do ongoing to help contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable planet? A lot of the chemicals used in plastics, such as BPA’s are also dangerous to humans, so supporting the cause is two-fold.
Swap out your beauty essentials
Products we use in our beauty and grooming regimes such as cotton wool, cotton pads and cotton buds, require heavy pesticides to be used when growing the cotton which causes health problems for cotton workers and pollutes wildlife and rivers.
There are many reusable cotton products on the market that are made from sustainable cotton and can be washed again and again. The problem with cotton buds is the stem is usually made from plastic too which ends up in our oceans and on our beaches, harming wildlife and releasing toxins into the environment. Simply switch to paper stemmed cotton buds – they’re biodegradable and much friendlier to the planet.
Use a reusable water bottle
As previously mentioned, plastics contain a dangerous chemical called BPA, which stands for bisphenol A, and can seep into the water we drink through the bottle. BPA chemicals can be a danger to human health, but it’s the plastic material itself that poses a threat to the environment.
Plastic bottles are one of the least recycled plastic products – just one plastic bottle takes 450 years to completely biodegrade and globally more than a million bottles are sold a second.
Purchasing a refillable bottle made from BPA free material, is a great choice. There are many types on the market, from glass, to recycled plastic, to bottles clearly marked with hours of the day to encourage you to get your water intake.
Walk rather than drive
With most of the country working from home right now, it might not seem like a huge problem but when the world is back up and running, so will the engines of our cars. According to the RAC, 32.7 million people hold a driving licence in the UK which is a huge number of cars on the road. So how can this help reduce your environmental impact? Well taking public transport or better, walking everywhere you’re able to can massively reduce your carbon footprint. So rather than taking the car when you next pop to the shops, try walking – great for your health, even better on the planet.
Use re-usable carrier bags, cotton if possible
It’s so easy to buy a new plastic carrier bag every time you go shopping, and even though some versions are much better on the environment than they used to be, it still is much better to use a cotton bag. Materials bags are much more durable and therefore can be used again and again – which is much more sustainable than a plastic or paper bag. Keep a couple of cotton tote bags next to your keys or coat next time you pop to the shops.
Buy a re-usable face covering
The latest items to cause environmental waste, hazard to wildlife and often seen littering the streets is the disposable single-use face mask. Not only does it provide minimal protection to the wearer if worn again and again, it is dangerous to animals if digested and it is estimated Brits are sending over 1.6 billion non-biodegradable face masks to landfill every month. Switch to a reusable face covering like the Virustatic Shield – which is proven to protect yourself, others and the planet.
In a world that is so digital – why do so many of us still use so much paper in 2021? Well, it’s actually very simple, paper is reliable. It can’t be hacked. It can’t corrupt. It’s what most people grew up using and they trust it. We can’t take that away from people, but we can shine a light on just how much we use and the impact it has. Did you know that the average office worker prints up to 10,000 sheets of paper in the workplace each year? That’s one whole 45ft tall tree worth of paper! And, taking into account domestic paper use, statistics suggest that most people in the UK are using up to 4.5 trees worth of paper each in a single year. So, it’s time for us all to think long and hard before we click ‘print’ as also most of the paper we use ends up in the waste stream, around 75% to be precise.
Switch to energy efficient lightbulbs
LED lightbulbs can help you save money on your household bills, whilst helping the plant. LED’s have a longer lifespan than traditional bulbs, meaning less need to be produced, thus cutting down on production and transportation. In addition, LED’s have less wastage than fluorescent bulbs for example, LED lights convert 95% of their energy into light with only 5% being wasted as heat. These kinds of bulbs do not contain any hazardous materials either so are much friendly on the environment when disposed of.
Last but not least – using less water means less diversion from our rivers, bays and estuaries, meaning better conditions for wildlife. It also means less energy needs to go into treating and pumping the water. There are many ways to cut back on your water usage, from using the water you wash the vegetables in to water your houseplants or turning the tap off when you brush your teeth. Just like lightbulbs, you’ll find this helps cut own your household costs too.
Investing in reusable products is a sure-fire way to reduce your carbon footprint and in-turn your environmental impact – start small with the Virustatic Shield, then who knows what you’ll conquer next!