9 ways to be more sustainable (and save money)

    Published: 26 August 2021. Written by: Tom Ward and Amelia Jean Herhsman-Jones. 


    From ditching single-use plastic to putting your funds to work, this is how you can help safeguard the planet one small change at a time. With everything from coral bleaching, deadly heatwaves and rampaging forest fires linked to global warming – not to mention flash floods in London and unseasonably disappointing summer weather – it’s only natural that we all want to do our part to protect the planet, making conscious sustainable decisions.  

    As Covid-19 has provided a time to reflect, more of us have decided to start doing our bit. According to a 2020 global survey by consultancy firm Accenture, 60% of consumers made more environmentally friendly purchases since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, a study by research group Kantar found that sustainability is now more of a concern for consumers than ever. 

    And it’s a global issue: a 2019 study of American and Australian consumers found that 93% of those surveyed indicated a general concern for the environment, while 77% of them wanted to learn how to live more sustainably. 

    The problem is that while we all know we could be doing more for the planet, making the switch to more sustainable options is often the more expensive choice. While non-dairy milks, energy-saving light bulbs and sustainable clothing are great for the environment, they often come with a hefty price tag.

    We asked a range of leading eco-conscious experts about the small changes you can implement today that aren’t going to break the bank. 


    1. Send fewer emails

    We often don’t realise that there is an energy cost involved in sending emails but our 24/7 always-on culture is taking a toll on the environment. ‘Research by OVO Energy found that Brits send over 64 million superfluous emails every day, equating to 23,500 tonnes of carbon per year,’ explains Abigail Ireland, a peak performance strategist. The researchers calculated that if each of us sent just one less email per day we’d save 16,400 tonnes of carbon a year – the equivalent of over 81,000 UK to Madrid flights.

    Ease factor: 3/5


    2. Ditch single-use plastic bottles

    It’s important to stay hydrated, but with 80% of plastic bottles ending up in landfills, a better option is to invest in a good-quality reusable bottle. Then download the free app Refill, which directs you to over 190,000 locations globally where you can refill for free. ‘The app connects you to public fountains as well as shops and cafés on high streets, stations and airports where you can get a free top up of your bottle,’ explains Natalie Fée, founder of the charity City to Sea and author of How to Save the World for Free

    Ease factor: 4/5


    3. Invest in a sustainable wardrobe

    ‘Research by WRAP shows that the amount of new clothes the UK buys each month has the equivalent carbon footprint of flying a plane around the world 900 times,’ explains Achille Gazagnes, co-founder of sustainable sneaker brand MoEa. ‘A £5 t-shirt might be cheap for my wallet, but it will always be at the expense of the environment and other people’s working conditions,’ he says. ‘There are some great circular businesses that are closing the loop on their production methods so that textiles can be reused or repaired. I definitely get more joy out of choosing a product that will last me a lifetime.’ 

    Ease factor: 2/5


    4. Be water aware


    According to the Energy Saving Trust, three-quarters of British households are overfilling their kettle when boiling water, wasting £68 million a year in energy bills. The solution (as well as filling it up to just the level you need), according to Fée, is to keep a bowl in your sink to catch excess water when washing your hands and use this to water your plants. And, when you forget and do overfill the kettle, you can use the hot water to make a flask of tea for later in the day.

    Ease factor: 5/5 


    5. Get your pets to go green (really!)

    ‘How we clean up after our pets is having a big impact on our planet,’ says George Bramble, co-founder of sustainable pet brand Beco. As anyone with a dog knows, no matter their size they produce a lot of waste. It’s time to start disposing of this responsibly. ‘If you have a home compost system, you can pick up compostable poop bags that are perfect for non-edible plants. Made from cornstarch, these bags have a low carbon footprint,’ Bramble advises. 

    Ease factor: 4/5


    6. Go organic

    Going organic is a change that often implies a hefty price tag, but the long-term savings will far outweigh any initial outlay. ‘Getting organic veg delivered is the best solution for your health and food waste because you are buying locally, reducing your carbon footprint and, as a bonus, reducing the pesticides that you, the planet and the bees are exposed to,’ explains Sian Young, a bestselling author and founder of Sustainable Success Coach. Oddbox and Farmdrop are both good places to start.

    Ease factor: 4/5


    7. Opt for sustainable periods

    ‘In the UK alone, an estimated 264 million beauty brushes are thrown away every year, while dental floss finds its way into the ocean,’ explains Young. They aren’t the biggest problem, though. ‘Tampons, pads and panty liners produce more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year in the UK, which can take centuries to biodegrade,’ she explains. There are more planet-friendly alternatives such as Mooncup and period pants from brands like Thinx and Modibodi as well as organic cotton solutions for pads and tampons, depending on what’s right for you.

    Ease factor: 3/5


    8. Shower mindfully

    According to the Environment Agency, a five-minute shower uses just a third of water compared to having a bath. Meanwhile, WaterWise suggests that the average shower head uses 12 litres of water per minute, while power showers can waste more than 15 litres per minute. ‘Reducing shower time by just a few minutes can save an incredible amount of water each day,’ explains Ireland. ‘On top of that, think of the energy consumption. WaterWise predicts that the UK would collectively save £215 million on energy bills if everyone shaved just one minute off their shower each day.’

    Ease factor: 5/5


    9. Search Smarter

    Donating regularly to environmental causes requires disposable income that you may not always have. Looking for a cost-free way to donate? The search is over: Ecosia is a search engine with a difference. The extension for Chrome uses the profits (from adverts) that it makes from your searches to plant trees where they are needed the most. During 2020’s Australian wildfires, it directed all its search profits to plant 26,000 trees in a single day. Not convinced? It also publishes monthly accountability financial reports and won’t sell your data to advertisers or use third-party trackers. Download to your laptop, tablet or phone and make a difference for free.

    Ease factor: 5/5


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