If there’s one resolution we should all keep this year, it’s doing more to help save our planet. Tackling the climate crisis could not be more urgent, considering that the atmosphere’s CO2 levels still rose in 2020 despite lockdowns around the world as a result of COVID-19.
Of course, world leaders and corporations need to take drastic action to address the major challenges we’re facing, but there are also things we can do collectively in our daily lives to make a difference. From shopping more responsibly to switching to renewable energy, here are 35 easy ways you can help save the planet in 2021.
How to shop sustainable fashion
1. Buy responsibly
Given that more than 100bn garments are now produced every year, it’s more crucial than ever that we adopt the mantra ‘buy less, and buy better’. Ask yourself why you’re buying something before you purchase it and how many wears you’re actually going to get out of it.
2. Shop secondhand
There’s no better time to buy secondhand, whether that’s a 1980s Princess Diana-esque jumper or a vintage Jean Paul Gaultier look inspired by Bella Hadid. Not only will you reduce waste by purchasing pre-loved garments, you can also ensure the items in your wardrobe are unique.
3. Try renting
2020 may have seen countless weddings and parties sadly postponed or cancelled, but with several vaccines on the way, it looks as though our social calendars will start filling up again soon. Instead of buying a new dress for any events you might have coming up and only wearing it once or twice, why not try renting instead?
4. Opt for organic cotton
Buying organic cotton is a simple switch we can all make for the good of the planet. It uses up to 91 percent less ‘blue’ water (water from freshwater sources) compared to conventional cotton, doesn’t involve harmful pesticides, and has a lower carbon footprint.
5. Shop for eco-friendly denim
Your jeans are likely one of the most water-intensive items in your wardrobe, with one pair using up to 10,000 litres of water. Instead, look for brands that use low-water finishing techniques, or even better, buy a vintage pair instead.
6. Look for sustainable viscose
Nearly 50 percent of viscose is still not sustainably sourced, and instead comes from the world’s ancient and endangered forests. Luckily, nonprofit Canopy has a handy list of brands it has partnered with in its mission to make the supply chain more sustainable.
7. Eliminate microplastics
Did you know that washing your clothes can lead to millions of harmful microplastics entering our oceans? You can help eliminate them from your wash by getting a microplastics filter, such as a Guppyfriend or Cora Ball.
8. Avoid greenwashing
With sustainability becoming a growing trend, consumers can help hold brands accountable by ensuring they are actually shifting to more sustainable practices rather than just using the latest buzzwords. Look for actual commitments that support their claims to ensure it’s not greenwashing.
9. Ask who made your clothes
Garment workers around the world have suffered as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, so it’s more important than ever to ask brands who made your clothes, find out more about their working conditions and whether they’re being paid fairly.
10. Take care of your garments properly
To ensure your clothes last for as long as possible, don’t overwash them. It’ll reduce your emissions, with campaign group Fashion Revolution estimating that 25 percent of a gament’s carbon footprint comes from the way we care for it. Repairing your clothes instead of throwing them away will also extend their life in your wardrobe.
11. Clear out your closet consciously
With an estimated 85 percent of textiles ending up in landfill, it’s essential that you consider what happens to your clothes when you’re finished with them. Sell your items to ensure they go to a new home, and look for charities that are in need of preloved clothes.
How to build an eco beauty and wellness regime
12. Cut down on packaging
We should all work to reduce the amount of beauty packaging we get through , considering a staggering 151bn pieces are produced every year, according to Euromonitor. Opt for solid shampoo bars and soap to avoid plastic packaging altogether and refillables to reduce waste. For other products, look for brands that use recycled packaging (such as REN), and offer take-back schemes (such as Kiehl’s and MAC Cosmetics).
13. Opt for cruelty-free beauty
Ensure your beauty products aren’t harmful to animals by always reading the labels and questioning brands on the ingredients. Shark-derived squalene, for example, was found in 89 percent of products that claimed to be cruelty-free or vegan in an investigation by All Earthlings.
14. Look for blue-beauty products
Although microbeads—which are dangerous to marine life—are now banned in countries including the US, UK and France, many sunscreens still contain chemicals that are harmful to coral reefs. Avoid chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, and opt for mineral sunscreens instead.
15. Try waterless beauty
Water is often used as a filler in products, so opting for waterless beauty is clearly more sustainable. Not only will it lower your H20 footprint, but it will also reduce waste—products that contain water as filler aren’t as effective, which leads you to consume more of it.
16. Go for an eco-friendly deodorant
While most of us couldn’t go without deodorant altogether, ditching traditional aerosols—which contain gas propellants—is a more eco-friendly option. Opting for a fragrance-free deodorant will also reduce the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to our air pollution problem.
17. Consider a plastic-free period
Tampons and sanitary towels are mainly made of plastic, but luckily there are now more sustainable options on the market. Lotus.Eco’s tampons are made from 100 per cent organic cotton, while menstrual discs, cups and pants are other eco-friendly alternatives.
18. Make your sex life more sustainable
You may not have considered it, but your sex life is another area where you can be more eco-friendly—whether that’s with biodegradable condoms or solar-powered vibrators. You can also opt for more sustainable lingerie in the bedroom via brands such as Underprotection.
How to have a more sustainable lifestyle
19. Avoid single-use plastic
By now, most of us know the importance of reusable water bottles and coffee cups, as well as avoiding plastic straws. But there are also countless other everyday items that you might not even realise contain plastic, from sheet masks to crisp packets—always check the label.
20. Eat less meat and dairy
Switching to a plant-based diet can reduce food emissions by an incredible 73 percent, showing how eating less meat and dairy is one of the most effective ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.
21. Support regenerative agriculture
The way that our food is grown can also have a dramatic impact on the environment, considering how damaging agriculture can be. Supporting farmers who use regenerative practices that give back to the planet can have a big effect, particularly as healthy soil can also absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.
22. Reduce waste
Household waste contributes an average of 313kg of CO2 emissions a year, so it’s important to avoid sending rubbish to landfill where possible. Food waste is the biggest contributor to waste emissions, so make sure you compost any leftovers.
23. Use less hot water
Cutting back on the amount of hot water we use can also reduce our carbon footprint as it’s responsible for an average of 875kg of CO2 per household a year. Easy changes you can make include having quicker showers, washing clothes at 30 degrees Celsius, and only using your washing machine and dishwasher at full capacity.
24. Fly less
Not many of us have been flying during the pandemic, but cutting back on air travel is an obvious way we can reduce our carbon footprint. Opt to travel by train instead where possible or enjoy more staycations—taking a leaf out of 2020’s book.
25. Use public transport
Considering that cars are a major cause of global warming, using public transport is far more eco-friendly. Car shares are also another option if you’re not able to travel by bus or train.
26. Go electric
If you’re not quite ready to give up your car yet, investing in an electric one will drastically reduce your carbon footprint. One study found that the lifetime emissions of an electric car are 70 percent less than those given off by petrol engines.
27. Switch to renewable energy
Moving away from fossil fuels is key to cutting carbon emissions, which is why switching to renewable energy is important. Look for companies that offer green energy tariffs; it might also be worth investigating whether solar panels could work for you.
28. Change your bank account
Your finances are another area where you can make a difference by ensuring your bank isn’t investing in fossil-fuel companies. Do your research and switch to a greener option where possible.
How to be a climate activist
29. Educate yourself
You can also play your part by being educated on the climate crisis, whether that’s via the news, books, or documentaries. That’ll help you make informed decisions and raise awareness among your own community about what’s going on.
30. Join a local campaign group
We’ve seen the power that activists can have in raising awareness of the climate emergency, thanks to the likes of Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate. You can join your local campaign group to get involved or set up your own if it doesn’t exist.
31. Write to your politicians
We can, of course, make our personal contributions, but those in power are able to make more sweeping changes. Get in touch with your elected politicians and let them know the changes you’d like to see.
32. Vote for green policies
The ballot box is another place where you can make your voice heard, by voting for parties that are committed to urgent action on the climate emergency.
34. Plant trees
Trees have a crucial role to play in removing CO2 from the atmosphere—so planting more of them on a mass scale can also help us reduce our emissions. Treedom and One Tree Planted allow you to contribute, while the search engine Ecosia plants trees while you look things up on the web.
35. Stand up for climate justice
Climate change is directly impacting millions around the world, particularly in countries that have contributed least to greenhouse-gas emissions and communities of colour. That’s why it’s so important that we speak up about climate justice, both within our own communities and the wider climate movement.