Low carbon households
Scientists say that the key priority is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon and methane. These cause heat to be trapped in the atmosphere, raising the global temperature and therefore impacting plants and wildlife across the planet.
Households can make a huge difference. Changing everything at once might seem like too big a task. Instead, why not start with just one area where you can make a big impact quickly and without too much effort? For example, swap a car journey for walking or cycling or taking public transport a few times per week.
After that, you could try making one new change each month. You’ll be surprised how much it reduces your carbon footprint over time. Here are a few big environmental impacts to think about.
We’re big fans of energy switching here at Starling. Why? Because it’s one of the quickest and easiest ways to considerably lower your carbon footprint and can literally save you hundreds of pounds in the process, especially if your fixed tariff has ended and you’ve been moved to the “standard rate” by your supplier.
Look out for the new companies like Bulb, Octopus and Ovo who are looking to shake things up and give the energy industry a little more, ahem, energy - much like we’re doing with banking and finance. These companies offer greener energy with electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power, and gas which is carbon-offset or frack-free.
Changing your energy provider can be done entirely from the device you’re reading this blog from and if they’re part of the Energy Switch Guarantee they’ll take care of the legwork for you within 21 days. Some will even cover the exit fees from your current supplier too.
Go green for groceries
After fossil fuels and deforestation our diets have the largest impact on the planet - especially meat and dairy. According to one report, if cows formed their own nation they would rank third after China and the US in terms of their greenhouse gas emissions. You don’t have to cut out meat or dairy completely though. You could start with meat-free Mondays.
Your food shouldn’t need a passport. If you’re able to, buy seasonal and local produce - it’s far better for the environment than food which has travelled from another country. It also helps your local economy and tastes fresher too - that’s a triple win in our book.
Most fruit and veg shouldn’t need a plastic cover either as their skin provides natural and totally biodegradable protection. Aim for fresh food without plastic packaging and reuse your own bags and containers.
There’s a growing variety of ways to get your groceries to your fridge without going beyond the doorstep thanks to online delivery from supermarkets, all of which are greener than driving yourself to the supermarket. Sainsbury’s even recommends “green” delivery slots when a delivery driver will already be in the area, reducing fuel consumption even further. Placing online orders could also help you plan your meals in advance which reduces food waste and saves money too.
Cleaner, greener household products
You’ve probably already heard that plastic, especially non-recycled “virgin plastic”, is bad news for the environment because it can take thousands of years to decompose, or in some cases won’t decompose at all. Look for products that come in a container made from recycled plastic, metal or paper instead.
There's a range of retailers online and on the high street that offer soaps, shampoos, deodorants, dental and shaving products, as well as household cleaning essentials with recycled or low-waste packaging, such as Holland & Barret, Lush or your local supermarket.
Despite the name, cleaning products tend to be full of chemicals, making them not-so-clean for wildlife and oceans. Ecover and Method, both available in major supermarkets, are brands of household cleaning essentials looking to change that. They make their products out of mostly plant-based materials. Ecover even lets you refill your washing up, laundry and all-purpose cleaner liquids at refill stations across the UK.
There are refillery shops and stalls popping up for all sorts of products - simply bring your own container and pay for the product.
Dress to impress (the planet)
The production of clothing is highly energy and water intensive and emits millions of tonnes of CO2 in the process. On top of that, the Waste and Resources Action Programme estimates that £140 million worth of clothing ends up in landfill every year.
A good solution? Avoid fast fashion. If you can, treat yourself to a more expensive pair of jeans if it means that they’ll last much longer. It will likely mean you spend less on clothing in the long run too, as you won’t need to buy new clothes as frequently.
Alternatively, get the best of both worlds by seeking out a bargain on high-quality, second-hand clothing online through eBay or Depop, or on the high street in vintage and charity shops.
Bear in mind that when washing clothes made from materials such as polyester millions of plastic microfibers are released into rivers and oceans, which harms wildlife. If you’re buying new clothes, be sure to look out for the materials that your clothes are made from. Sustainable, natural or recycled materials tend to be better for the environment.
You also may be washing your clothes a little too frequently. Take a leaf out of Stella McCartney’s book and avoid the washing machine until you absolutely have to clean something - it might even make your garments last that extra bit longer. As for stains, try spot washing them instead.
Eco-economies of scale
Not only will making small changes in all of these areas quickly reduce your carbon footprint and have a big impact over time, it’s also likely to inspire your colleagues, neighbours, friends and family to change too.
Be an environmental trendsetter. It might just convince enough people to force retailers and brands towards planet-positive products and services, which in turn can make them cheaper and the world a little greener for generations to come.
Less branches, more trees
Finally, consider moving your money to a branchless, digital and largely paperless bank such as Starling. With an efficient mobile app, you may never need to travel to a bank branch again.
A Starling account also integrates with services such as Flux and Yoyo Wallet, so that you can collect loyalty rewards digitally and avoid physical receipts (which may not be biodegradable or recyclable).
Better still, our offices in London and Southampton are run on 100% renewable energy from SmartestEnergy and SSE, with Cardiff on its way.
To learn more about your carbon footprint, check out WWF’s Footprint Calculator, or learn about starting an environmentally-conscious enterprise on our blog.