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Top 10 steps to going green

Updated on May 22, 2012

10 quick and easy ways to becoming more ecologically aware and moving towards a sustainable lifestyle. In short – going “green”.

1. Buy in bulk (reduces packaging)

According to some studies, we throw away between 30% and 99%(!) of what we buy. Admittedly this isn’t all packaging, but a big chunk of the food we buy comes in needless packaging. (Think crisp packets, cereal packets, multi-packs of anything.)

There is a growing trend of small “unpackaged” style shops springing up in cities (www.beunpackaged.com) , whose main aim is to reduce packaging by getting customers to bring their own reusable containers. If you know of one of these local to you, by all means support it. If you don’t, join your local Costco or cash-and-carry outlet. Better still, contact local wholesalers to see if they can do a deal on stuff you regularly use.

There are a range of quality reusable bottles which means less plastic being used and less waste
There are a range of quality reusable bottles which means less plastic being used and less waste | Source

2. Use containers & steel bottles (re-usable packaging)

Related to 1, above, if you get the opportunity to buy from an unpackaged outlet, use your own containers. Also, rather than buy countless plastic bottles with water in them, buy a decent re-usable stainless steel bottle and use this. You’ll save cash and help save the planet.


A farmer's market is an ideal place to buy your fresh, local fruit and vegetables
A farmer's market is an ideal place to buy your fresh, local fruit and vegetables | Source

3. Buy local

Buying local has a big impact on the environment. Instead of buying fruit or vegetables that have travelled thousands of miles and therefore have a massive carbon footprint, buy local. Local means the produce has travelled just a few miles; and it tends to be fresher. It’s less likely to have been picked unripe or frozen then thawed – which again impacts the amount of energy that’s gone into the process. Best of all – it actually tastes like it should. Compare an apple you’ve picked in an orchard with one you’ve bought in a large supermarket. Or a carrot pulled from the soil and washed versus one industrially cleaned and packaged in Safeway. They are very different.

4. Support your local farmer’s market – or start one

Whether you live in a city, town or village, there will be people around you who produce stuff on a small scale (i.e. in their back gardens; window boxes; etc.) or larger scale (i.e. farmers, local co-operatives, etc.). This isn’t just food – it might be clothing, accessories, apparel, jewellery, art, pottery, in fact anything that can be created. Buying from these producers helps the local economy, reduces packaging and reduces the carbon footprint of the stuff you buy. If you don’t know of a local farmer’s market, why not ask around; put notices up; and get one started – there is a definite upward trend in this type of commerce.


5. Walk / cycle / use public transport

We all know how easy it is to get in our little (or big) car and drive. It’s convenient; it’s quick; but it does impact on the environment big time. For this to work, it’s best to transition slowly. Say one day a week every week for a month, take an alternative form of transport to your trusted saloon / hatchback / coupe. It’s liberating and it feels great. To know you are helping the environment and either getting that much needed exercise or meeting new people you wouldn’t otherwise encounter.


6. Recycle / reuse

Think about what you throw away and look at ways to recycle or reuse. (See below for composting.)

Just thinking about water: We waste thousands of litres of water per year flushing toilets; loosing rainwater; and letting washing machine or dishwasher water drain away. If you can reduce this wastage, you will be saving yourself money and helping to save the environment.


Recycling: some way to go
Recycling: some way to go | Source

7. Compost

Linked to recycling is the idea of composting. Apparently a third of perishable produce that we buy is thrown away. So instead of throwing that limp lettuce (although see Top 10 chef’s tips), mouldy mango or brown bananas into the trash can, put it in your composter. You can buy a composter for £20 or build your own. Put all your throw away produce, as well as egg shells, lint (from your drying machine), torn up cardboard boxes and ashes into your composter to eventually give you rich, organic compost for your garden.


Solar pv - a planet-friendly electricity generator
Solar pv - a planet-friendly electricity generator | Source

8. Generate your own power (electricity)

OK – a rather grand, glib statement, but this can pay you back and create the sustainable economy that is so often talked about today. Most people have some sunshine where they live together with wind. Solar panels are still quite expensive, however the technology is improving which means they last longer (and therefore offer a better payback) than they used to. Check with your local government about grants or subsidies available. Check also with your local council about any planning permission needed.

If you are a talented DIYer, you could even build your own solar panels or wind turbine.

9. Grow your own

If you cannot find any local farmers’ markets and there are no local green grocers, grow your own fruit and vegetables. Even if you don’t have enough space for a vegetable garden (kitchen garden), growing vegetables or herbs in containers and tubs is a great start to tasting your own super-fresh produce.


10. Support/start the local transition movement

The transition movement and transition towns was popularised by Rob Hopkins in his Transition Handbook. It’s a fantastic way of really exploring and planning for a different world. It explores the sustainable way of living in a world where oil is no longer the key component of the economy or our lives, and where we can live together more cohesively.


Summary

Action
Why?
1. Buy in bulk
Less packaging
2. Use containers & steel bottles
Less packaging
3. Buy local
Lower carbon footprint
4. Support your local farmer’s market
Community spirit; lower carbon footprint
5. Walk / cycle / use public transport
Less use of scarce energy resources
6. Recycle / reuse
Less use of scarce resources
7. Compost
Less use of scarce resources
8. Generate your own power
Cheap, clean energy
9. Grow your own
Fresh; lower carbon footprint
10. Support/start the local transition movement
All of the above!

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