At a time when we’re becoming increasingly aware of the impact our lives have on the environment, many of us admit to feeling conflicted and confused. Keen to make the right choices, but often overwhelmed by the mixed messages we receive.
While we want to build a more sustainable economy, reduce the greenhouse effect and improve our planet, often we think the climate crisis is so big, individual efforts will never bear fruit.
But looking at households alone, the impact we’re having on the environment is phenomenal. In Ireland alone there’s over one million tonnes of food waste disposed of each year. Around 1/3 of this comes from households.
An average household in Ireland is responsible for 117 kg of food waste costing between €400 and €1000 per year. We consume twice the average amount of plastic packaging as the EU average (61kg v’s 30kg each year).
Over a quarter of waste is landfilled and less than half is recycled or composted.
Environmental scientist Dr Tara Shine has written a practical and eye-opening book called How to Save Your Planet One Object at a Time published by Simon & Schuster. If the book is hard to access check out her podcast: https://www.tarashine.com/save-your-planet-from-home-new-podcast/
While often there’s a tension between individual action and the need for transformation, she believes that every action is a catalyst for more action. Her advice - start with the easy bits in your home, and form habits. Harder choices can follow. And yes, less stuff is good.
Start small & build habits
In her book she’s come up with almost 100 everyday objects that can easily be replaced with more environmentally friendly alternatives, from teabags and batteries, to cotton buds and cosmetics. Interspersed throughout her book are mini guides on bigger issues such as sustainable food, waste, energy and fast fashion.
This is a great guide for anyone looking to be more environmentally aware without taking drastic action:
So how can each one of us play our part and what small measures can we take at home?
- Bottled water: It takes 3 litres of water to make 1 litre of bottled water even though tap water is every bit as good. And that’s before we talk about packaging. Ditch the plastic bottles for the tap.
- Aluminum foil: Find alternative food covers to aluminum. Grease proof paper, bees wax covers, or a simple plate on top of a bowl is a great way to keep food fresh. If you do have to use it avoid single use by washing it and reusing it again.
- Cling film – is another no no. Made using soft plastic it’s not recyclable and takes a long time to decompose. Get into the habit of using lunch boxes or containers to keep food fresh.
- Don’t ditch the dishwasher – music to my ears! Dishwashers don’t use as much water as washing by hand. Always use an eco-friendly dishwasher tablet.
- Washing machine – wash less. Check clothes are dirty and wash at cold temperatures, 30 degrees or less.
- Cleaning products – tend to be laden with chemicals – bad for you and bad for the environment. There are loads of dedicated websites which offer recipes for cleaning fluids i.e. lemons to remove limescale from kettles, vinegar and water to wash windows and bread soda and vinegar to clean almost anything!
- Batteries – On average you’ll find110 batteries in most Irish homes. Single-use batteries contain a cocktail of chemicals and heavy metals causing pollution. Avoid single-use, opt for rechargeable ones.
- Light bulbs- LED use less energy, last significantly longer and save money. As filament bulbs blow, switch to LED.
These are small steps and very practical. By changing behaviours in our homes, and creating good habits, we know that small steps eventually can lead to giant strides.
As part of our Move to Zero, our HQ operation is now carbon neutral. And our Clarehall forecourt is generating energy back to the grid through solar panels, LED and reduced electricity volumes. The nature of our unmanned operation means we use less energy – one of a series of measures we’re taking to reduce our emissions.
If you’ve recommendations we’d love to hear from you. Mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Safe journeying – enjoy the ride.