10 ways to be more sustainable
Updated: Mar 9
By Clodagh Meaney
You may have heard this already, but the plant is in a spot of trouble. The United Nations have said that within the next decade we will have to limit climate change, or face the consequences.
There will poverty, water shortages, a war for resources, and that's all whilst we're stuck trying to breathe toxic air. It's ominous, but if we don't make some significant changes it's going to be a reality.
There are a number of things our government need to do to take hold on the issue. For example, one of the biggest causes of climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels for energy. There is only so much we as regular people can do to completely control that. We need our government to impose laws on big businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. We also need them to further fund solar and wind energy.
When it comes to plastic though, we can be a bit more hands-on. Ireland produces 300 million tonnes of plastic every year. Half of this, are single-use plastics. Single use plastics are plastics that are used once and disposed of. These are things like plastic bags, tampon applicators and food wrapping.
What does plastic have to do with global warming? As plastic breaks down it releases methane gas. A dangerous gas which makes up about 20% of all Greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases cause the earth to heat. Not only that, but plastic is a major contributor to ocean pollution.
So how can you empower yourself to help the crisis? We've got some tips to get you started.
1. Get a reusable coffee cup, straw and water bottle
According to a report by Recycling List Ireland, Ireland disposes of 2 million disposable cups per year. That's 366 per minute. If you buy coffee on the go, a reusable, or collapsible cup is a must-have. You can bring it with you anywhere as it will take up minimal space in a handbag or backpack. Most places offer a small discount for bringing in your own reusable cup too.
Similarly, if you like to get your daily water intake in, a reusable water bottle is a no brainer. You can fill it up yourself before you leave the house, and refill it during the day at work or school.
Most food and drink outlets are on the cardboard straw buzz, and for the most part they're alright. But if you miss the sturdiness of a plastic straw, opt for a metal reusable straw. You can bring it everywhere, nights out and all. Nothing is sexier than sustainability.
2. Shop second-hand.
Yep, you may get out of Penneys now if you want to help take action against climate change.
Many fabrics are not bio-degradable, so be it on Depop, eBay or at your local Oxfam, buying second hand will save clothes from landfill. It will also help you to get creative, and you'll give a second life to something pre-loved. It goes without saying that when you do decide to clear out your own wardrobe, you should opt to donate, or sell onwards.
If you're new to second hand buying, the wonderful folk at Sustainable Fashion Dublin organise swap shops, and charity shop crawls. You can go with some seasoned shoppers to the best spots in Dublin for some sustainable shopping.
3. Walk or take the bus
As mentioned, carbon emissions are the number one cause of climate change. By walking and using public transport not only are you saving yourself money, but you're also doing your bit for the environment.
4. Reduce your meat and dairy intake
Farming is another huge factor of global warming. You don't have to go vegan. I mean, do if you'd like, but something I've done recently is make small food swaps. I primarily use oat milk, and instead of buying sausages (versatile for breakfast, lunch and dinner) I opt for vegan alternatives. I'm not a huge meat-eater as it is, I always go for veggie sandwich and pizza toppings. I was a vegetarian for a couple of years, and I tried vegan living before, and it wasn't for me. So if it's not exactly for you either, there is the option to cut down, or make small swaps.
5. Bring reusable bags everywhere
See that plastic bag you were about to put your loose apples in at Lidl? Yeah, just leave it there. Nothing annoys me more than people putting loose fruit and veg into single-use plastic bags at the supermarket. Every time I go shopping I bring some of my 900 reusable shopping bags. Even if you're heading clothes shopping, bring your own bags to reduce your rubbish.
6. Swap to a bamboo toothbrush
Dentists recommend that you change your toothbrush every 3 months, or as soon as the bristles become damaged. On average that's four new toothbrushes per year.
Bamboo toothbrushes however are made from natural and or nylon fibers, and are just as sturdy as a plastic toothbrush. They do only last as long as a regular toothbrush, so you will find yourself replacing it as often as you would usually replace your plastic one.
A bamboo toothbrush will decompose naturally if recycled correctly.
As it is just as cheap, and as readily available as a plastic toothbrush, you'd be mad not to make this small change.
7. Use sustainable period products
A menstrual cup isn't the only option for this one. If you're a tampon user who is not able or adventurous enough to try a silicone cup, try applicator free tampons. They are made by a brand called Lil-Lets that you can buy in most pharmacies.
Non-applicator tampons use 97% less plastic than regular ones. Each month I feel a huge guilt about the amount of plastic waste on my period products. I would use on average four tampons a day, over five days, that's twenty tampons, twenty pieces of single use plastic gone to landfill. Disgusting.
Make use of old jars, cans, tins and bottles by up-cycling them into candle holders, pen holders, food storage and vases. You can get creative and keep them for your house and bedroom, or you can give them as sustainable, handmade gifts to friends and family.
You can also re-use any clothes that aren't fit to repair or resell as cleaning cloths.
9. Turn it off
When you're not using your appliances you should unplug them, or turn them off at the switch. This tiny measure saves on energy, and over the course of a year, you'll also save a few bob on your bill.
10. Rethink how you dispose of dog poo
When you pick up after your furry friend with a plastic bag you think you're doing the community a solid favour, right? Well, what you're actually doing is preserving the poo, helping it to live in a plastic bag for hundreds of years, and preventing it from breaking down and decomposing naturally.
Instead, the best thing you can do is switch to biodegradable refuse sacks. It is a legal requirement to pick up your dog's litter from a public place, so while leaving it there is the most environmentally friendly thing to do, it is illegal, and unfair to the poor soul who steps in it (I've been there).