How small environmental changes can make a big difference

We’re all starting to become more aware of our environmental impact, with recycling schemes promoted and constant reminders on tv (who’s seen the tear-jerking pieces at the end of David Attenborough documentaries?). We’re all responsible for what we leave our children.

Marine Litter in Scotland. Surfers against Sewage campaign to clean our beaches

Marine Litter in Scotland. Surfers against Sewage campaign to clean our beaches

Here are a few small ways you can reduce your environmental impact and feel a little better about your legacy

 

1/. Carry a refillable bottle.

How insane is it that we buy bottled water? Water is (almost) free, and we know that single-use plastics are bad for the environment. We know why we all do it, it’s convenient and means you can chuck it in a bin when you’re done, easy done.

 

Carrying your own refillable bottle when you leave the house saves you money in the long term and reduces the amount of waste going to landfill. Although a lot of us recycle, bottles that we buy when we’re out often get chucked in general waste before going to incineration or landfill.

Recycling is fabulous, everything we put in that bin is going to a better place but, when we think about the energy costs of collecting and processing, it would be much better to not generate that waste in the first place.

 

Water fountains are starting to be found in more places, including airports, and cafes will normally happily fill an empty bottle for you. Investment in a bottle will save you money in the long term and reduce your waste by just a little bit.

Cleaning up plastic from the remote Isle of Rum

The Isle of Rum only has a population of 22 people so it just doesn’t deserve to be covered in plastic bottles.

2/. Dispose of the Disposable coffee cup

Coffee is a massive industry, not just in the UK but all across the world. We love a cup of coffee and our busy lifestyles mean we normally get one on the go. Every year in the UK we throw away 2.5 billion of them! That is insane!. And did you know they aren’t recyclable?

 

Because they are made of cardboard it seems like they should be recyclable but, the cardboard needs to be coated to stop the cardboard becoming saturated and drenching you in hot liquid. It’s coated with polyethylene which can’t be separated out again (well, it can by super-specialised recycling centres but it’s not) so 7 million cups a day go to landfill.

 

Simple solution, buy a reusable cup. You can get very cool ones these days, ones that keep your coffee warm for hours, ones that you can’t knock over, ones made of bamboo. Not only will you be saving hundreds of cups a year from going to landfill, you’ll also save a little bit of money. A lot of companies now offer a discount if you bring in a reusable cup (Costa give 25p off) including local coffee shops with an eco-conscious mind.

Disposable not decompose-able.

A River Cottage campaign to highlight coffee cup usage covered a bus in disposable cups.

3/. Say no to balloon releases and Chinese lanterns

Most people would never consider littering, it’s unsightly and we know it’s terrible, it’ll also get you a fine. A quirk in UK law means that if you drop a balloon on the ground, that is littering but if you release it, for the plastic to fall down at random, that isn’t littering.

 

Unfortunately, sea birds and other animals don’t know what’s good for them and have a tendency to swallow or get tangled up in discarded latex and attached string. The latex can take years to break down and can do untold damage in the meantime.

 

Thankfully balloon releases are becoming less popular and a lot of local authorities have banned them. If you’d like more info, check out the MCS.

Balloon releases

Even if a balloon is made of ‘biodegradable’ latex – it can still do significant harm before it disappears

4/. Cut out the micro-plastics

Shocking news – the US has implemented an environmental law before the UK! The US implemented a law forcing the cosmetics industry to remove microplastics from its products. The UK should be following suit by the end of the year but, we can get ahead of the game and cut it out now.

Microplastics are the kind of thing you wouldn’t think about, often used as exfoliants in face washes and toothpastes, these tiny balls of plastic get flushed into the water system where they are eaten by fish, birds and mammals, eventually ending up in our food chain again.

microplastis https://www.mcsuk.org/clean-seas/microplastics

Tiny plastics look so harmless but there are billions in our oceans and that adds up to trouble.

There are so many things we can do to reduce our impact on the earth, these are just tiny things that, if we all did, would make a big impact on the future. If you have any suggestions on things people can do let us know.

 

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