A 12-months challenge | Small steps to save the planet

At the beginning of the year, I set myself a challenge. It’s always been a goal of mine to lead a more sustainable and environmentally conscious life and as great as that sounds, I never quite knew where to start. Going vegan about two years ago definitely changed my outlook on the importance of protecting our planet and it has led me towards a more minimalistic life and made me put more thought into my lifestyle choices. But even though it laid the basis for a more environmentally conscious life, I didn’t know where to go from there. Climate change is an urgent problem and even though most of us are aware that action has to be taken, it can feel quite overwhelming. As an individual, can we truly make a change? (spoiler alert: the answer is yes). When we come together and all contribute a little bit towards the protection of our planet, we can make a huge impact and fight climate change together. So this year I decided that it was time to do more and hence set myself a 12-months challenge: every month this year I would make a small change towards a more sustainable life.

So far, it’s been going great. In January I decided to swap tampons for a menstrual cup and ordered a Ruby Cup – the great thing about them is that the company donates one to a girl in need for everyone that you buy. In February I started buying vegan toothpaste. I had always used the toothpaste my parents were using (wow, that makes me sound very independent!) and only recently realised it wasn’t cruelty-free. In March two changes happened – my flatmate got me a reusable water bottle for my birthday (pro tip: find yourself an environmentally conscious flatmate with a great taste in birthday presents) and I finally swapped my plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one. More about sustainable toothbrushes below. I don’t have a goal for April yet but I’m thinking of looking into more sustainable makeup removal products. This 12-months challenge might be my favourite one so far and apart from turning my life more environmentally friendly, it has also been a lot of fun and it has really opened my eyes to consumption, waste and other issues. So at this point, I can only encourage you to hop on the bandwagon and continue this challenge with me – it doesn’t have to be any big changes, every little bit counts and the planet will thank you for it! Without further ado, here are some little ways to lead a more sustainable/environmentally-conscious life. xx

Ditch plastic bags and packaging

Slowly but surely, stores are ditching plastic bags or are making people pay extra for them. Using paper/ jute tote bags instead of plastic bags is a great way of reducing plastic waste. What I like to do is either go shopping with my backpack or if I think I’ll buy more I’ll bring my own bag. In line with that, try to avoid plastic food packaging. If possible, buy loose food or food in more sustainable packaging. The most sustainable option is to buy at bulk stores and even though I find it hard to implement as a student, the goal is to get there one day!

Choose the veggie option

Animal food production is one of the leading causes of climate change and studies estimate that raising livestock might be the biggest human impact upon the planet. Farms generate a huge amount of raw waste and raising livestock is a major cause of soil erosion. These are amongst the reasons why a plant-based lifestyle is the most sustainable. I know that this can seem like a huge step but why not start small? Have a meat-free day a week or even if it’s just one plant-based meal a week, you’re making a difference! I definitely didn’t go vegan overnight, I think the first thing I did was swap dairy milk for almond/oat milk etc and that’s something we could all try.

Get a reusable water bottle/ coffee cup

Not only will this reduce waste and lead to you doing the environment a big favour, it will also help you save money. Did you know that Starbucks and Costa charge you 25p less if you bring your own tumbler? It doesn’t seem like much but it really adds up! (Also, say hey to your drink staying hot for a longer time!)

Switch to a plastic-free toothbrush

Billions of plastic toothbrushes are produced each year and a lot of this plastic ends up in landfills and our oceans. So instead of buying a plastic toothbrush, why not switch to a more sustainable option? Bamboo toothbrushes are more sustainable – bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth and it is naturally antibacterial eliminating the need for toxins etc. I got my ‘Humble Brush‘ for 4 quid from Holland and Barrett and I’m loving it.

Use a menstrual cup

I have to admit that this idea slightly freaked me out at first but I’m so happy I made the switch. Not only are menstrual cups are lot more sustainable than tampons (one lasts you for about 10 years!), they also don’t cause dryness and irritation and need a lot less changing than tampons. After a day of getting used to it, I didn’t find it hard to use at all and I would not go back now. There are many different menstrual cups out there but I got the Ruby Cup – it is slightly more expensive for every cup that you buy they donate one to a girl in need which is an amazing concept in my opinion.

Walk

Possibly the easiest thing to implement on this list. Instead of taking the car or public transport, consider walking more often. Not only is a better for the environment and for reducing your carbon footprint, I also find walks very relaxing and great for my mental health. And physical health of course.

Waste less food

So much food is thrown away, it actually breaks my heart a little bit. Try to be conscious of what you’re buying and whether you’ll actually it and try to always use up leftovers. My tips for wasting less food would be buying articles that last a long time (beans, pasta etc) and if you share a flat, maybe share articles you can’t use up alone with your flatmates. If you have a leftover you don’t want to eat that day freeze it. Speaking of, a life hack I can recommend is freezing toast. I usually buy bread but it’s great to have toast in the freezer if I don’t make it to the bakery.

Switch from Google to Ecosia

Last but not at least, switch your search engine to Ecosia. Ecosia is a search engine that works just like Google but it also helps the planet at the same time – Ecosia uses the money it gets from search ads to plant trees. Through that, Ecosia is aiming to contribute towards soil protection, biodiversity and cleaner air. Switching to Ecosia is incredibly simple and yet has a huge impact. If you want to know how it works, go to their page!

Which of these things will you be trying? Do you have any other ideas? xx