by Sophie Bell
How does sustainability affect me - a wildlife worker?
As a conservationist myself, I never really thought about sustainability as a subject related to my field, or something I needed to worry about. I could focus on conserving the species and others could focus on sustainability. However, recently I have come to the realisation that practising sustainability is actually an important part of conservation which I can implement into my daily life (it can also be relatively easy). Looking at the bigger picture, in order to conserve the biodiversity of our planet, we need to conserve the environment it resides in. This is where sustainability comes in. As an individual, you have the power to make a difference with minimal effort. Of course, there are more extreme ways to reduce your carbon footprint and waste, but I wanted to share a few minimum effort ways that you can do this which I have found impactful (and fun!).
Shop with small, local & ethical brands
I have personally found this to be one of the most rewarding environmentally friendly swaps. Searching Instagram for small brands that strive to make a difference has become a hobby of mine, and I have made some amazing like-minded friends in the individuals that own them. Shopping small tends to result in more unique gifts as well as distinctive clothing or household items for yourself, that nobody else around you is likely to own as well. A lot of these brands tend to donate profits to environmental efforts as well as being sustainable - which I always look out for - because if I am going to buy these items anyway, why not buy them from somewhere where I can donate too? Vintage shops are also great to look out for when out shopping, I find it much more rewarding finding an amazing deal on pre-loved and repurposed clothes!
Follow my Instagram page for suggestions of these brands- I post a lot about them!
Try non-dairy milk in your coffee
A lot of coffee shops have a large range to choose from, such as oat, soya, coconut, almond, nut blends, hemp and even pea milk! It’s fun to try a different flavour every now and again, and better for the environment. I ended up preferring the taste of non-dairy milk in my coffee, and have now made the step to completely cut out dairy milk everywhere else in my life. One small step can lead to bigger ones!
Try eating a couple of meals a week with no meat
If the thought of being completely vegetarian or vegan is too daunting, try and incorporate ‘meat-free days’ into your diet. Or when it is safe to eat out again, opt for a vegetarian or vegan dish (the photos below are just a couple of delicious vegan dishes I have tried!). Until then, there are plenty of tasty vegan and vegetarian recipes online so why not switch up your usual meals and try something new? You might find that some of these meals become family favourites, and it will no longer seem like a chore to eat meat free! Being imperfect and cutting down on meat is better than not at all.
Say NO to single use plastic
Did you know that 40% of plastic produced is packaging, only used once and then thrown away?(1) Alarmingly, only 9% of plastic produced is actually recycled (2). Therefore avoiding produce wrapped, or contained in plastic in the first place could make a huge difference to the environment.
Out & About
Nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold around the world every minute (1). Buying a reusable water bottle and coffee cup could mean you never have to buy a plastic cup again. I started off by bringing my own straw to the coffee shop, and now carry a cup as well just in case!
Buying fruit and veg from a local market and taking your own reusable bag means you save waste and support local produce and farmers.
You could also make swaps in the bathroom as well. Try out natural shampoo bars, or purchase one long life shampoo bottle and refill it at a local low-waste store rather than purchasing new ones. There are plenty of no-plastic shower options, and natural shampoo and soaps are better for your health too!
Keeping spices, flour, pasta etc. in glass containers, and refilling them at your local low- waste store not only makes a huge difference to the amount of waste you produce, but also to how your cupboards look. Not only does it look better when everything matches, but it is also much easier to find what you are looking for when they are organised and labelled. Cleaning products can also be refilled into glass bottles, and look a lot more aesthetically pleasing.
Reduce your waste
Start off by thinking of one thing you throw away a lot and make just one swap for a reusable version. Usually, it is pretty easy to find this online. For example I recently became aware of how many single use cotton pads I was throwing away every day after taking off my makeup- therefore I swapped to reusable cotton pads (and probably dramatically reduced my waste in the long run for a pretty easy swap). Or maybe it isn’t as simple as a quick swap - for example maybe you throw away a lot of food. Ways of decreasing this waste could be meal planning, making shopping lists (that you stick to) and not shopping whilst hungry. This could save you money as well as food waste!
Reuse and Repurpose
Over lockdown I started a drawer especially for keeping packaging from any online orders. This way the next time I need to send a package myself (like selling unused items) I can go into that drawer and reuse the materials, rather than just throwing away immediately then having to re-buy. I have also used cardboard letter packaging for making Christmas cards, and wrapped up old cardboard boxes to use as gift boxes! Try and make throwing away the very last option.
Be more thoughtful about what you buy
This step is not only kind to the environment but kind to your wallet! After a wardrobe clear out, I came to the conclusion that I don’t actually like, and have never worn a lot of the clothes that I have bought on impulse. I have started going shopping with the intention of buying items that I actually need, rather than random items I will hardly wear. Taking a few days to think about an item can also be helpful - if you see something you like, try to go home and think it over properly - once you are out of the situation it is easier to separate whether you actually need (or even want) that item, or if it was just a bargain you felt you needed to buy.
One of the most overlooked but impactful swaps...
Think about switching to a sustainable bank, as unfortunately a lot of popular banks contribute to oil, fossil fuel and other industries detrimental to the environment. Aligning your money with your values can have a large individual impact, as you can ensure you aren’t indirectly financing things like plastic packaging and pesticides. This swap is definitely something worth researching and considering, as once you switch, you don’t really have to do anything but you’re still making a difference! Another low effort swap - change your search engine to Ecosia and plant trees as you go.
If you take away just one thing from this blog post, let it be that the smallest changes can make a difference! You do not have to be perfect and live a completely ‘waste free’ life for it to be worth it. Try and avoid creating waste to begin with, but when it is unavoidable, either fix it, reuse, recycle, donate, gift to a friend or sell to make some extra money.