For many of us, the Covid-19 pandemic has presented an opportunity to slow down, re-charge, re-connect and reflect. If this crisis has taught us anything it is that everyone of us is connected. We are all in this world together, a sentiment that further drives home the importance of environmental progression for a positive future. Small lifestyle changes rolled out at scale can make a significant impact to society. We compiled a few such changes that are easily implemented, but with enough momentum will have a positive effect on our lives and the world around us.
Read up on SDGs
Some of you may have heard of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, but if not, now is a perfect time to immerse yourself in them. SDGs are a blueprint set out by the UN for achieving a more sustainable future for the whole of humankind. There are 17 of them altogether, from sweeping goals such as ending poverty and conserving the oceans to more localised efforts to ensure sustainable consumption and production. Take some time to read and understand these and see how you can support them through your personal and work-life.
We are what we eat
Key to personal health is what we put into our bodies, so try to increase your intake of organic food. It’s better for you, your family and the planet. It may cost more, but it’s a wise investment, even if you only part-integrate it into your weekly shop. You can get a weekly or fortnightly organic fruit and veg box from £13 here in the UK. There are plenty of company’s out there providing these, but we suggest Riverford Organic. Not only do they provide quality organic food but their whole company is directed by environmental progression. It might be hard to sign up now as these companies are working at capacity through the crisis but you can still buy from organic stores or set yourself up for a subscription post-crisis. Focusing on limiting high carbon foods such as meat and dairy first will help make large initial reductions to your environmental footprint.
It’s not just what you eat, it’s how you eat it
One of humanity’s biggest environmental crimes is not how much we consume, it’s how much we waste. It’s estimated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that globally, 30% of food produced is wasted. And by wasted we mean: perfectly edible food, needlessly thrown away or left to spoil. We commonly hear rhetoric about global food shortages and the challenges we will face feeding the 2050 predicted global population of 10 billion people but, the reality is that we already produce enough food for 10 billion people. This misleading narrative often encourages a mind-set that we must produce as much as possible, over-working farmland and creating more food than we need. Supermarkets and restaurants have a big part to play in this equation but so do households. Seven million of the 50 million tons of food annually wasted in the UK is thrown away by households. This costs the UK around £12.5 billion, creates 20 million tons of CO2 and uses 5400 million cubic meters of water (2.5 times the annual water discharge from the Thames).
Evidently things need to change. Take time to consider your part in this. How much food do you throw away? Do you recycle and use food waste disposal? Or do you just put everything into your usual bin? Try and create a plan of how you can waste less through reduced purchasing and disposal that allows things to be re-used. As we mentioned earlier, the higher price required for better quality food can actually help you attribute more value on your food and therefore help you reduce waste.
Fly less, talk more
With the digitisation of communication becoming a necessity throughout this period, we have never been better equipped with using conference calling to minimise the need to travel. Why not keep this going? Fly less and encourage your employer to do the same, or if you’re a business owner, instill this idea into your culture.
On a personal level, why not commit to a similar philosophy with your own flying habits? If flying regularly is unavoidable, you can make a commitment to store the carbon released from your flight. A trip for one from London to Rome will produce roughly half a ton of carbon, which can be offset with an £8 investment in a carbon reduction project with the Gold Standard. Minimise your trips, calculate your footprint, and invest accordingly.
Find your voice
Spend time researching brands’ environmental and social policies and use this information to inform how you spend. If there’s a company you really like which you feel isn’t doing enough, email them and let them know your thoughts! The fashion industry is improving but we've got a long way to go. It's still one of the most polluting industries in the world, so consumer pressure is critical for instigating change.
There is a lot of information out there when it comes to ‘sustainability’ and getting your head around all of it is not an easy task. However, this is such an important part of the puzzle for an improved future! Plenty of companies will hide behind sweeping slogans or ambiguous manifestos, so don’t take things at face value. Ask questions. If a brand is going out of their way to improve the environmental and social sustainability of their business, trust us when we say they’ll be very happy to tell you about it!
Three easy fixes to achieve right now
Last but not least, we will repeat three messages that you’ve probably already heard in the wider conversation on environmental sustainability, but that bear repeating.
- Firstly, eat less meat and choose quality (organic where possible) non-industrialised (small scale, field farming) options.
- Secondly, switch to a renewable energy supplier. It is incredibly easy to do (just give them a call) and it will cost you no extra money. In fact, you’ll probably save money!
- Finally, buy less, but buy better, and make it last.
We hope that these tips give you something to work with to improve your own overall footprint. If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.
Head of Sustainability at Oliver Spencer.