Steps Towards A More Sustainable Lifestyle (I Failed Plastic Free July)

For the second year running, I am attempting plastic free July.

Plastic Free July is a global yearly campaign which promotes the refusal of single-use plastic during the month of July. Last year, I think I did a pretty good job. This year, I failed miserably. I’ve chewed gum daily, I’ve purchased food wrapped in plastic, I’ve forgotten my reusable coffee cup, I’ve smothered glitter on my face and 80% of my tea consumption has not come from loose leaf tea. These are just a few obvious examples; undoubtedly, I have also consumed single-use plastic unknowingly.

Rather than making excuses or stating that there’s ‘no such thing as failure’ (there is – I’ve failed plastic free July due to my own lack of planning), I thought this would be a good opportunity to focus on the positive changes I have made in reducing my carbon footprint since completing plastic free July last year.

  1. Eating more sustainably

I have drastically cut back on my meat consumption over the past year, and I reduced my dairy consumption about five years ago. We all know that eating a more plant-based diet is one of the best ways of supporting the planet; if we all made some minor adjustments to our diet (and they really are minor!), we could make a huge difference.

I also buy staple foods in bulk (e.g. pasta and oats) which wastes less packaging and requires less transportation.  

Whilst ideally I would purchase local food and support local businesses (I most definitely do not want to be supporting huge companies that already make millions of £££), the truth of the matter is that I don’t currently have the budget to consistently shop at my local farm shop, or to always buy organic and sustainable foods.

2. Consuming less

I simply buy a lot less STUFF. I rarely buy new clothes, and when I do, it is with the intention that it will last me at least a decade. This is not an exaggeration – my favourite coat is one which I purchased when I was seven years old.

Without trying to come across as a pretentious moron, I generally purchase from mid-tier brands (i.e. I buy fewer things of higher quality), charity or vintage shops.

Being an ethical consumer simply comes down to wants vs. needs. It’s about making informed decisions every time we purchase something. It’s about treasuring and valuing our possessions. Marie Kondo sums this up perfectly; “I believe that owning only what we love and what we need is the most natural condition”.

3. Washing less

I know this sounds a little gross. However, there is simply no need to wash multiple times per day. In fact, if I didn’t run so frequently, I would probably view daily showering as being unnecessary.

Unless it’s hair wash day (which takes approximately 86 hours), I spend no longer than two minutes in the shower, usually less. An average shower uses about five gallons of water per minute; therefore, two minutes is more than enough!

4. Creating a sustainable home

As a first-time buyer, I still have a lot to learn about sustainability in the home. There are some elements that I have very little control over with it being a new build – for example, I may have opted for better quality doors, and I most definitely would have installed underfloor heating.

A few simple things that I have implemented are:

  • Limiting water waste and using cold water in the washing machine
  • Having the curtains open until the moment I go to bed. Sunlight is free!
  • Monitoring my electricity consumption (I am the Queen of this)
  • Using microfibre clothes instead of paper towels

5. Educating myself

This one is self-explanatory.

A couple of ethical and sustainable living podcasts that I would recommend are The Minimalists Podcast and Sustainababble. I would also recommend reading ‘On Eating Meat’ by Matthew Evans (although I wouldn’t bother with this one if you follow a vegan diet!)

Any other recommendations do let me know!

So, whilst I am fully aware that this year’s attempt at plastic free July was poor, overall, I’m happy with the positive changes that I have implemented over the past year. It is impossible not to end this post with a cliché, so I might as well just go for it; if we all make small changes, it will make a big difference. Don’t be lazy, don’t be complacent!

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