While there’s a lot of long term policy work needed to secure a greener future (changes in the way we use energy, how we grow food and the ways we travel), it’s clear that our rapid-fire decisions – buying a bottle of coke, using a wipe to take our make-up off – add up.
To get some ideas on the things we can change today, we asked Carolyn Newton, a plastic pollution campaigner and founder of environmental organisation The Whale Company, for her everyday switches.
Re-connect to nature
For Newton, key to living a more eco life is appreciating the natural world. “As soon as you connect with nature and start to appreciate it, you overwhelmingly want to protect it,” she says. “There’s an innate response that happens.”
The key to this is easy: get outside, get lost and wander about your nearest National Trust park, catch the stars without light pollution and breathe in pine tree-scented air.
Decrease plastic waste
Day-to-day, Newton advises bamboo straws, stainless steel water bottles, and a reuseable coffee cup. If you’re travelling, a kit is the way to go. “I make up a bag of reuseable cutlery, rather than using plastic, a Lush shampoo bar, rather than buying little bottles,” as well as the items mentioned above.
To avoid the plastics that are often used to bind the cotton in face wipes, use a flannel that you wash in hot water a couple of times a week along with some liquid remover, instead.
Go on a fast fashion diet
After supplying her reusable bags to Brighton Sustainable Fashion Week, Newton discovered a lot about the fast fashion industry. “It broke my heart,” she says.
Easy ways around this are vintage and charity shopping, getting old clothes mended, rather than replaced, buying quality in the first instance and recycling clothes properly. Try the newly launched reGAIN app, for the latter.
What’s on your plate?
Working to cut meat and fish consumption down is an impactful way to reduce your carbon footprint, as well as helping to save our seas from overfishing.
Newton says to decrease what you eat little by little – ensuring that any animal products you do buy are preferably local and organic. Take a reusebale bag when you go food shopping and check the label to get fruit and veg that are UK-grown or at least European, to avoid racking up non-essential air miles.
For Newton, grounding yourself in the present is a way to become a better environmentalist. “Meditation and the peace you get from living in the moment and an appreciation of what is around you leads to appreciating your surroundings,” she says.
As such, it’s a way to remember to make the eco choice even when it’s a little less convenient. “Stop, take a breath and appreciate that flower or plant, rather than whizzing by,” she says.
Doing this makes you remember why you’re trying to look after the planet – and encourages you to stick with it.