The start of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past year, set goals for the coming year and generally take stock of how things are going in your life. This doesn’t have to take the form of New Year's Resolutions, which are often overdone and forgotten about quickly, it can be as simple as a deliberate shift in mindset as the new year begins.
2018 was a big year in terms of environmentalism. We saw a mass increase in public awareness around ocean plastic, as well as the issues surrounding palm oil, and had a very long and unusually hot summer in Europe. We saw the release of several important reports which stated we are at a pivotal point in terms of tackling climate change, and that individual action is vital to reducing global warming. It is clear that we need to act now in order to save the planet, know that each and every one of us can be part of the solution to climate change through small changes.
So, as the year is wrapping up we thought we would sum up some of the single best daily habits to adopt to become more sustainable in 2019:
Audit your consumption habits
Reduce, reduce, reduce
Consuming less is the single best method of becoming more sustainable. We generally buy far more ‘stuff’ than we actually need and have use for. UK shoppers own £10bn worth of clothes they do not wear. Instead of purchasing new goods, start to value the things you own more and only buy what you really need to. Try waiting 30 days before deciding to purchase an item, and check if you can borrow it from someone, swap or buy it second hand instead.
Buy ethical and sustainable
Of course, sometimes it is necessary to buy new things. When the need for a new item is identified, always try to consume goods that have had minimal impact on people, planet and animals, in other words, consume ethically and sustainably.
Ethical consumption - It is tempting to buy fashion, electronic and makeup items at low prices, but these low prices are only made possible by companies taking shortcuts that are usually not visible to the consumer. That being; unfair work conditions in the developing world or animal testing. It can be hard to really know whether a brand is ethical or not. Luckily, apps such as Good On You, have made it their mission to increase the transparency of brands and make this information accessible for the consumer.
Sustainable consumption - Every single new product produced requires new resources to be extracted from the earth, such as raw materials, energy or water. That means every product has a carbon footprint, some larger than others. If everyone on earth lived and consumed like the average European, we would need 2.3 earths to support us. One of the biggest switches you can make in 2019 is to buy more second hand. This is a win win: it reduces waste by diverting clothes and products from landfill and incurs no carbon footprint because these items already exist.
And now it is time for a little self-promotion. At mimycri we have incorporated both of the above. Our products are sustainable: they are upcycled from old rubber boats plus they are ethical: made in Germany by refugees who now live and work in Berlin.
Plants on your plate... and nothing in the bin.
Food. So much of our lives and daily routine revolves around eating. There are so many things to consider when looking at your food consumption. Firstly, is your diet made up of mainly plants or animals? Choosing to go meat and dairy free even just a few days of the week is single most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. And what about food waste? 18 million tonnes of food is wasted each year in Germany and 40% of this is from private households. Below is a list of small but simple tips to decrease food waste:
Plan meals and only buy the ingredients you need
Leftovers do sometimes taste better the day after cooking - bring them to work.
Soon-to-expire veggies and produce in your fridge can be made into vegetable stock or why not invite some friends for a mid-week cookup?.
Ditch the expiry date when trying to figure out if a food item is all good to eat. Instead, smell it and look at its colour and consistency.
Reduce your use of single-use items and packaging
Reusable water bottles and KeepCups are both sustainable consumption 101. Here in Berlin, mimycri’s hometown, tap water is a big issue. Have you ever been to a German bar or restaurant and asked for ‘’Leitungswasser’’ and received a very strange look from the wait staff or, even got refused? This experience is widely shared amongst expats in Berlin and does not make much sense at all. Do not be embarrassed to ask for tap water, and if you currently drink bottled water at home, really take a moment to consider if this is necessary. Much of the world has no access to clean water, and tap water is of a very high quality.
Then there’s packaging. Think for moment before you buy anything packaged. Single packaged fruit and veggies are still common in the bigger grocery chains. Choose the loose veggies at the supermarket if you can and avoid the free plastic bags - fruits and vegetables have their own protective skin! If you are feeling really committed, try other options such as zero waste stores (here’s a guide for Berlin) for dry groceries and find out where your local markets are in your area for fruit and veggies.
A final word on recycling
A word of caution about recycling: Just because you can recycle a package or item does not mean that your impact by buying and recycle this item is ‘zero sum’. The production of the good, the collection process and the actual recycling of the material itself requires a lot of energy, man hours and money. Furthermore, plastic can only be recycled a few times as it loses its quality over time. Always try to consume less packaging or avoid it all together. This is a no brainer but worth mentioning again: Recycle and compost if it’s available in your city.