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Powerful individual actions to help the planet

Healthy planet with forests
Image by Andrew Coelho on Unsplash

Making a stand on sustainability can sometimes feel disheartening. It’s easy to feel tiny and insignificant when decisions by big corporations and governments fly in the face of your individual efforts.

But you are not alone. Every sustainability movement - from zero waste to veganism has seen a surge of support in recent years, and the trend doesn’t look set to stop.

Last year, research by YouGov revealed that 82% of UK consumers are actively trying to reduce the amount of plastic they discard, and almost half (46%) of those surveyed would be willing to pay more to avoid plastic packaging. Each person who makes a meaningful and positive change in their life is contributing to real change. Governments and big business are starting to sit up and take notice.

In the last UK elections, green issues took an unprecedented priority in the manifestos of all the main parties, and big multinational companies are stepping up their environmental commitments. Though there’s still a way to go, it’s a promising shift and a sign of greater things to come.

They’re paying attention because we’re taking action. Go us! So what are some of the things we can do to limit our impact on the planet?

1. Buy plastic-free!

The problem

Did you know that the average person in the UK throws away 150 plastic bottles a year? Cumulatively, that’s a whopping 7.7 billion bottles every single year.

Despite what many believe, plastic never biodegrades. It takes plastic anywhere between 500-1000 years to break up into microscopic pieces to be consumed by marine life and consequently humans.

What can we do?

Going zero-waste cold turkey is a challenge, so a good tip is to just start by noticing the things you regularly buy. Ask yourself:

  • Are they made of or packaged in plastic?
  • If so, is there an alternative I can easily substitute? For example, switch in plastic bottles of hand wash and shower gel for bars of soap packaged in cardboard.
  • Is the product really necessary? You probably don’t need

Once you’ve taken this step, you can start to make changes:

  • Find out if there’s a zero-waste store for groceries near you, or easily accessible on your way from work.
  • If trekking across town to your nearest zero waste shop is inconvenient for you, buy in bulk, A huge 10kg bag of rice will use less packaging than 10 x 1kg bags of rice.
  • When buying online, choose an online store with a commitment to cutting back on plastic packaging. There are eco-friendly alternatives that can deliver your order to you in one piece.
  • When filling out your delivery details, look to see if there’s a text field where you can give more details. Specify that you’d like your products packaged together with minimal or recycled packaging. Most small and independent online stores will be happy to oblige.

Other things to consider

Did you know that 45% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of discarded and lost fishing nets? Many of us think of quitting plastic straws when it comes to saving turtles, but “ghost fishing”, as it’s known, is a far greater threat.

When it comes to microplastic pollution in our oceans, synthetic fibers from our clothes are the main contributor. When buying new clothing, opt for natural fibres like cotton, (denim, linen) flax, and hemp.

Plastic free food storage

2. Choose quality over quantity.

The problem

The term “retail therapy” is a bit misleading. Therapy is healing, it’s positive, it’s long-term. The dopamine hit we get from recklessly buying things we don’t need is more akin to taking a drug: the production line is corrupt, the benefits are short-term, and it’s a nightmare for the environment.

It’s surprising to find out that the fast-fashion industry has greater carbon emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined. So clearly, buying cheap and fast is a habit we’ve got to kick.

What can we do?

  • Consider each purchase as an investment. Choose quality and timelessness over cheap and trendy.
  • Avoid “bargain shopping” including sales. If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is - someone, somewhere probably paid the price. When you’re buying less, you’ll be able to afford to pay more for a good quality, sustainable item that you really need.
  • Avoid buying multipacks. There are some strange offers online. “Buy 1 pair of scissors for £2.50, or a multipack of 5 for £3!” Stop your brain before it starts doing any calculations. You need one pair of scissors, don’t let them trick you with their marketing wizardry!

Couple shopping sustainably

3. Support sustainable brands

The problem:

“Greenwashing” is when a company tricks you into thinking that they are more environmentally committed than they actually are. Businesses know that consumers like us are making purchasing decisions based on how sustainable they are. They’re onto us, and in general, that’s a positive thing. But, some sneaky businesses are making claims of sustainability that are unfounded and unethical.

What can we do?

  • Find brands whose core commitment is to be sustainable. There are many like-minded entrepreneurs that have founded companies because they genuinely want to make a positive impact on the planet.
  • Take a look at a brand’s social media sites and blogs. Are they sending consistent messages about their commitment to sustainability? Or have they just cynically added a few posts about how they care to try and attract green consumers?
  • Read the fine print. When buying a product from a company, pretty packaging with a picture of a forest on it means squat. Get down to the crux and read product information. Where was it made? Is it certified with official labels like FairTrade?

And of course, the Beagle Button is here to help you make these changes in your life. We’ve scoured the internet to find the most sustainable products and brands for you, and when you become a user we’ll notify you whenever we’ve found a more sustainable version of a product you’re looking at. We’re building up to a launch soon, and you can become one of the first users by signing up on our homepage.

We hope that this post empowers you to make informed decisions about your purchases. As with anything, changing up your habits requires a little effort at first, but it soon becomes second nature. Cumulatively, our purchasing power will help shape the future for the better, and we’re ready for that future!