Five Small Ways to Help Protect the Planet

15/01/18

5 Ways to Help the Planet

If you're looking to make a change
The weight of the state of the world gets on top of me sometimes. We all have our own sh*t going on – our own arguments, health issues, family dramas, leaky pipes. Everyone has something going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about – which is why you should be nice to everyone and anyone. And thus its often hard to look outside of your bubble and to see the bigger picture. But, as well as your own problems, the world has A LOT of problems of its own, as I’m sure you know. Every day recently I’ve been thinking more and more about what I can do to be a better person, for the planet. And I have a feeling that a few of you may be feeling similarly, so I wanted to voice some ideas and ways in which I intend to change my habits this year for the good of the planet. They’re all doable and extremely easy, so I hope they inspire you to try.

Recycle as Much as You Can!

Okay, recycling. It’s a beast, a bit of a burden and it worries me a little – as I don’t know everything I feel I should know. If you don’t already, please look into buying a second bin for your recycling, if your council pick up recycling separately. I bought a set of two small bins from John lewis that work perfectly, something like this that is colour coded for ease. I think most places now have two pick ups, one for rubbish and one for recycling, and it’s the least you can do to save the environment. 1 billion tons of plastic have been discarded since the 1950s – and it’s just floating in the ocean, creating mass landfills and excreting harmful chemicals into the environment. It’s not a joke, and it’s not something that ‘someone else can do’ because you can’t be bothered. If you have a way to recycle, please just start. And if not, speak to your council about what they are doing for waste collection in your area. At this point, with the state of the environment, there is absolutely no excuse.

I know you will have questions and I had many, so I looked it up, and here are the facts of what you need to do to recycle properly without contaminating a whole batch of recycling.

What to recycle? For any newbies, you can recycle most plastics, metal and glass (apart from heat resistant glass such as Pyrex or mirrored glass). Check for the recycle symbol on the back of plastics and glass first, because one or two can not be recycled, but the majority you should be fine with. I’m sure you will have seen it, but the three arrows in a triangular shape is the recycling symbol, or the ‘Mobius Loop,’ which states that the item ‘could’ be recycled. In the majority of cases, it should be fine to recycle it. Just check online if you’re unsure.

Most plastics are thermoplastic and can be heated and reformed, including Polyethylene (PE), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Polypropylene (PP) – peanut butter containers, milk cartons, laundry detergent containers, plastic bags, straws, yoghurt containers etc. Thermoset plastics cannot be remelted and are often parts of electronics. The ‘Green Dot’ symbol, where the two green arrows are in a full circle in light and dark green, that is NOT a recycling symbol. It is a symbol to state that the company has donated money towards recycling of packaging somewhere in the world, and can be found on packaging that cannot be recycled. So don’t be fooled, I didn’t know this until now either! You can find this on Alpro cartons for soya and almond milk etc, but luckily this packaging can also be recycled.

Cleaning. Yes, your recycling must be clean and dry. No chucking tuna cans into the bin with tuna flakes in them, throwing half drank bottles of water into the recycle bin or throwing oil covered plastics into the recycling thinking someone else will deal with it. They won’t and you’ll waste every other item you’ve broken down, squished or thrown into the recycling. If you’re going to do it, don’t waste your own time by doing it wrong. Just rinse it out with a bit of washing up water so its clean enough – don’t put it into the dishwasher and waster more resources. As long as it’s clean, non-oily and dry, you’re good to go. No one is going to be eating out of it – so it doesn’t need to be super hygienically clean.

Soiled or wet paper. Yea it can’t be recycled. Throw that in the bin. But say if you have a whole pizza box and only one bit is super greasy and ruined, rip that section off and throw it in the bin, and place the dry and clean part of the cardboard into the recycling.

Lids. Take lids off of your plastic bottles. They are made of a different polymer and melt at a different point, meaning that they can contaminate the load. So throw the bottle into the recycling bin, and your lids into the rubbish bin.

Labels. You can leave most labels on your recycling, as they are often burned and washed off in the recycling process at the plants. So no need to waste your time on this. Great if you want to – but most people don’t want to spend extra time on this, let’s be honest.

Tape and staples. Remove them if you can. Excessive amounts won’t be tolerated by the recycling process – so pull off the tape from cardboard. Leaving a tiny bit on is fine – more if you have reels of tape it’s best to remove. Take off staples from paper and also remove the plastic window in envelopes as it isn’t paper. I’m pretty sure Amazon have started using paper style tape now which is amazing! But the brown parcel tape is best to remove – also helping you to flatten your boxes.

Flatten. Not only for the process but for the sake of your neighbours. Flatten your boxes down – filling the ENTIRE recycling dumpster with your huge box that you’re too lazy to stand on and flatten is just obnoxious. I often like to keep one box in tact and then fill it with all the cardboard I have, flattened and stacked on top of each other. I know my mum keeps a Kelloggs box for hers and then fills it with all the scraps and paper she finds. Squishing your plastic bottles and expelling a lot of the air can also help with efficiency at the plants.

Stop buying so much plastic

We’re using too much plastic. If we didn’t use so much, we wouldn’t have to recycle the horrible stuff. It’s unnecessary to use the amount of plastic that we are all guilty of using, and I’m making huge changes with this this year! Being in Iceland really hit home with me on this point, as they barely sell any bottled water. They encourage people to carry reusable bottles with them which establishments are happy to top up with tap water.

Let’s all make changes. Stop buying bottled water. After going through batches of Fiji water recently, which don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love. It’s my favourite bottled water type, but having it in the house really built on my conscious and I felt awful for the number of bottles we were throwing into the recycling bin. There are so so so many brands now who make gorgeous glass or metal water bottle containers, with the point of encouraging you to fill up your water at home, from your tap of clean water. Such as Bkr with their silicone glass covered bottles. Or the gorgeous variations of S’well bottles!

Don’t like the taste of London water? Throw a lime and lemon in there. Buy a Brita filter and stick it into the fridge. Create delicious waters in your fridge with cucumbers or orange pieces maybe and then use those every day to top up your glass water bottle. There is so much you can do. You will save your money buying bottled water everyday and do so so much for the environment.

The government brought in the bag tax for a reason – they’re trying to deter you from using so many plastic bags. They end up in landfill in the billions, often with animals trapped inside them or floating in our now not-so-beautiful oceans. It’s heartbreaking. You can buy reusable ‘Bag for life’ bags now or just take your backpack every time you go to Tesco. You can also ask for your online food shop to be brought to your house without bags – do it! Why not! Just try to cut down on using plastic bags as much as you can.

Try Vegetarianism or Veganism

Before you look away here – I am not preaching or telling you to change your diet. Just giving you food for thought, never mind the pun.

I cut out meat two years ago and it was the best thing I did. I truly wish that more people would give it a try because it’s a lot easier than you think. The alternatives for meat and dairy are incredible now. In the UK, 2.6 million cattle, 10 million pigs, 14.5 million sheep and lambs and 950 million birds were killed for humans to eat. 950 MILLION birds. That’s all I’m going to say on that one – I’m not here to preach and I’m in no position to tell you you need to cut out meat for the sake of animals or your health, but it’s something to think about potentially. I haven’t looked back and I do not miss it whatsoever. If you want to go vegetarian and you just haven’t had the push yet – I watched Vegucated on Netflix and the part where the farmer shoots the pigs in the head with a grin on his face was the part that drastically turned me. I cried myself to sleep hysterically with the biggest weight of guilt that night.

Please do research the benefits of cutting out meat for your health, animal welfare and also the environment, as the rearing of cattle is one of the biggest contributors to methane greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. If you’re thinking of making changes for the environment, this is a pretty good place to start and trust me, so so much easier than you think. Vegetarian and plant based meals are so so delicious as soon as you get a little repertoire together.

Reduce your Water Usage

I use too much water and I’m very aware of it. Standing in the shower for too long contemplating life and enjoying the heat in a cold bathroom – washing up the dishes with the tap on to make sure everything is super clean and often wasting glasses of water for no reason other than to get a fresher one. We’re so privileged to have drinkable running water in the UK and just because its ‘on tap’ for us, doesn’t mean we should take advantage of it. Because people are using more water, it means a greater demand on water supplies and the rivers, lakes and aquifers we get our water from; meaning that many places are being drained of water causing danger to wildlife and the environment. So I’m going to start making some changes to my habits, just to practice more mindfulness I suppose. I’m going to buy a washing up bowl to use far less water for washing up, stop spending so much time stood procrastinating in the shower and any left over water in glasses will go straight onto the house plants, rather than using more to feed them. Just small changes but they could make a difference, if not to our water bill!

Turn off Your Lights

Probably one of the very easiest ways to lower your own bills and also save the environment. Turn off your lights and sockets. If you’re nipping out, don’t leave your lights on until you’re back, or leave your XBox on in the background until you go back onto it later. Every little adds up. If you’re not in the room, turn off the lights. It’s so easy to think of electricity as this somewhat free thing that we just have. But the generation and transmission of electricity massively affects the environment. Electricity is made in electric power plants, burning fossil fuels and materials to create our energy. And some geothermal power plants are the source of 40% of total energy related CO2 in the U.S. It’s all adding up to global warming. My biggest bug bear is walking past office blocks with every single light still on at 11pm, or past estate agents or shops who have left the lights on for you to look at as you walk past. It’s unnecessary and so awful for the environment. It doesn’t need to happen.

I truly hope this helped, even to spark an idea for how you could change your habits too. I’m making a lot of changes this year, and hopefully you’ll join me. I’d love to hear if you have any other ideas of ways you’re going to be changing habits too – as there are lots I haven’t touched on here.

Photos taken in Iceland by Alexandra Utzmann for Dior Makeup for the launch of the new Dior Lip Glow shades.

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