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21 Sustainable Habits You Should Adopt in 2021

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21 Sustainable Habits You Should Adopt in 2021

We often hear the word “sustainable” being chucked around all the time in the media, but what does it actually mean to be sustainable? Being sustainable means living in a way that does not exhaust the planet’s natural resources. We are currently facing a mass extinction of species and the destruction of entire ecosystems at the hands of human kind. And while the foundations of the issue lie deeper than a couple of single use plastic straws, these smaller steps we can take now are still quintessential in helping us each do our part to be more sustainable. Here are 21 one habits you should adopt in 2021 to become more sustainable. Even if you just choose one habit off this list, you are still making changes and taking the steps necessary for a more sustainable lifestyle.

Before reading how you can improve your sustainability, access how environmentally friendly you already are by calculating your carbon footprint (link opens in a new tab):



1. Shop locally and seasonally

By shopping locally and consuming produce that is in season you are helping reduce your carbon footprint as the food you consume is not imported in from across the globe. Produce sold at your local farmers market have lower production volumes and are often farmed using practices that are less damaging to the earth than large scale farming. Additionally, buying your fresh produce from your local farmers market helps support the local economy.

2. Reduce your consumption of dairy

Dairy cows contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions, leading to climate change. Poor management of farm waste, such as manure and fertilisers, can destroy local freshwater systems causing eutrophication, which leads to the water becoming anoxic and uninhabitable for species that depend of these water systems, such as amphibians. You can help minimalize these impacts by either switching to plant-based milks or reducing your consumption of dairy products. The best plant-based milk for the environment is oak milk as it requires 80% less land to grow than dairy. 

3. Reduce meat consumption

The meat industry is the largest contributor to the mass deforestation of rainforests. 70% of the amazon rainforest has been deforested for livestock and feed crops. Mass deforestation not only causes habitat loss and species decline, it also has large impacts on climate change and global warming. Trees are vital carbon stores, converting carbon dioxide into the oxygen we breathe. When trees are cut down this carbon store is released back into the atmosphere, contributing to the build-up of greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming. Additionally, Cattle produce high amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas. Just by cutting out red meat, such as beef and lamb, you can reduce your carbon footprint by 25% and being vegetarian can reduce your carbon footprint by 50%!

4. Reduce fish consumption 

Poor fisheries management and overfishing to meet high consumer demands are causing fish stocks to collapse and are the largest drivers in the decline in marine species. Fish are being harvested at an unstainable rate. Not only are the populations of commercially caught fish decreasing, the populations of other marine species, such as sharks, dolphins, and sea turtles, caught as by-catch are also decreasing. Loss of apex predators, such as sharks and tuna, can result in the entire ecosystem collapsing. The fishing industry is also responsible for the large masses of plastic pollution in the ocean. The largest source of plastic in our oceans is from purposefully or accidently discarded fishing equipment, which then traps and kills marine species, and consequently causing a 30% decline in fish populations. Fishing nets make up 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch- a 79,000-tonne floating mass of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean. By reducing you fish consumption you are helping reduce the demand and pressure put on our oceans and fish stocks. If you do consume fish, buy fish that have been labelled as MSC. MSC is a certification that ensures that the fish has been harvested sustainably. Additionally, look out for fish labelled as ASC, which certifies that the fish has been farmed sustainably! When purchasing tuna, purchase tuna that has been caught using a pole and line, as this is the most sustainable way to catch tuna and prevents other marine species being caught as by catch.

5. Consume products with sustainable palm oil 

Palm oil is found in almost half of the goods on the supermarket shelf; however, the production of palm oil is causing mass deforestation and biodiversity loss in Asia. In 2018, an area the size of Belgium was deforested for palm oil plantations. These forests are vital habitats for species, such as the Orangutan and the Sumatran tiger. Both of these species are listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Endangered species, and their populations are expected to further decline with the expansion of palm oil plantations. However, boycotting palm oil is not a sustainable solution to the problem, as it would only displace biodiversity loss rather than halt it, and consequently cause an increase in alternative oil crops that require more land. Instead, you can help by purchasing products containing sustainable palm oil. Look for the RSPO logo on the package next time you do your groceries!

6. Cut down your food consumption

We mentioned previously cutting down your consumption of meat, fish, and dairy, however cutting down how much food your purchase in general is also an excellent way to be more sustainable. The UK produces 4.5 million tonnes of food waste each year, which is then sent to landfill where it will release harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as it decomposes anaerobically, contributing to climate change. 20 – 40 % of food is discarded before it even reaches supermarket shelves. One third of the food that is produced globally goes to waste- that’s 1.3 billion tonnes of food. Fresh produce, like fruits and vegetables, contribute to 50% of the food waste produced by an average household in the EU. Here are some ways you can reduce your food waste: creating a shopping list; only buying what you need; check best before dates before purchasing; plan your meals; freezing food to make it last longer; donate unwanted food to foodbanks; follow the portion recommendations on the packet; store leftovers for another meal; and compost any food scraps!


7. Compost your food waste

When organic waste, like vegetable scraps, are sent to landfill they decompose without the presence of oxygen (anaerobic decomposition), which releases methane and nitrogenous oxide, contributing to the greenhouse effect and climate change. Instead, start a compost heap to dispose of your organic food waste, or dispose of it separately in a food waste bin so it can be collected by your local council. Starting your own compost heap is a great way to become more sustainable by reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. Composting also saves you money, and the compost you create can be used to fertilise your garden without the need for harsh garden chemicals that kill biodiversity and pollute waterways.

8. Avoid purchasing from fast-fashion retailers

Fast fashion retailers, such as Zara, H&M, Boohoo, Misguided etc., may make trendy and affordable clothing, but this comes at a high price for the planet. Clothing production contributes to 10% of the total global carbon emission. Large quantities of water are needed to produce clothing, with 700 gallons needed to create just one cotton T-Shirt and 2000 gallons needed to create a pair of jeans. Low prices and easy return policies encourages mindless purchasing, with 84% of returned clothing going into landfill each year. This is a considerable figure, especially when 40% of shoppers purposely purchase duplicate items with the intent of returning ill-fitting items. The fashion industry also contributes to water pollution. Synthetic materials release 500,000 tonnes of microplastics into the ocean each year, which is equivalent to 500 billion plastic bottles. Shopping slow fashion, such as second-hand clothing, supporting sustainable retailers, and practicing mindful consumerism (such as only buying what you need), is an excellent way to reduce your carbon emissions and reduce the amount of clothing sent to landfill. 

9. Donate items you no longer want or need 

Globally, 92 million tonnes of clothing are sent to landfill each year, 95% of which could have been recycled. This figure is expected to rise to 134 million tonnes by 2030. On average, an item of clothing is only worn seven times. The average American discards 37kg of clothes each year. If you have clothing you no longer want or need, donate them to charity, give them to a family member or friend, or consider selling them online. This way you are reducing the amount of waste that is sent to landfills or incinerated. 

10. Take shorter showers

The average Brit will take an 8-minute shower, which uses around 26.5L of water. Changing how long your shower for is an easy and affordable way you can be more sustainable. Taking shorter showers, and turning off the water whilst you shampoo and condition your hair, are excellent ways to save water. 

11. Turn off appliances when not in use

Turning of household appliances when you’re not using them, such as radiators and lights, can save up to 530kWh per year, which is enough energy to power 25 light bulbs for a year. Make an effort to switching off appliances at the socket when you’re not using them to save energy. Another way to save energy around the house is by washing your clothes at a lower temperature. 90% of the energy used by a washing machine is used for heating the water. Washing clothes at 30°C uses 40% less energy.


Health & Beauty

12. Use reusable menstrual products

If you are someone who menstruates, consider switching to reusable menstrual products, such as a menstrual cup, period underwear, or cloth pads. Menstrual products are frequently made with plastic, and are the 5th most common waste found washed up on beaches. Conventual sanitary pads are made up of 90% plastic and the plastic applicators used for tampons can last up to 500 years! Not only are these products made from plastic, they are also treated with harmful chemicals, such as bleaching agents and acetone, that are damaging to your body. By switching to sustainable and reusable alternatives you prevent up to 500 menstrual products each year polluting the planet and 16,000 in your lifetime. 

13. Switch to sustainable self-care products

There are many ways in which you can make your self-care routine more sustainable. For example, switching from using plastic Q-tips to paper Q-tips. Plastic Q-tips account for 13.7% of the plastic waste washed up on European beaches. Switching to reusable cotton rounds and makeup pads are great ways to clean your face without damaging the planet. Disposable makeup wipes do not break down naturally and cannot be recycled, contributing to pollution- not to mention, they’re not even good for your skin!  Sun cream is vital to keeping your skin protected from harmful UVA and UVB rays, however many sun creams available on the market contain chemical compounds, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, that cause coral bleaching. Instead opt for sun cream labelled as “reef safe” or a mineral based sun cream. If you are a lover of glitter, consider switching to biodegradable glitter. As fantastic as glitter is, it is essentially shiny bits of microplastic that will eventually enter our waterways and cause microplastic pollution. 70% of deep-sea fish have consumed microplastics and 55% of the fish we eat have microplastics in the gastrointestinal track.


14. Switch to eco-friendly cleaning products

The chemicals from our cleaning products get washed into streams and rivers, polluting freshwater systems. This has critical implications on freshwater species, such as amphibians, invertebrates, and aquatic flora. Amphibians are particularly vulnerable to water pollution because of their sensitive permeable skin. Additionally, cleaning products are often packaged in non-recyclable materials, often ending up in landfills. You can purchase eco-friendly cleaning products at your local supermarket or easily make your own! Some shops even offer places where you can refill your empty bottles. This is an excellent way to reduce your plastic waste.

15. Keep a reusable coffee cup and travel cutlery in your bag

Do you like to grab a coffee-to-go at your local café on your way to work? Disposable coffee cups cannot be recycled despite being made from cardboard, due to the plastic lining inside the cup. The plastic coffee cup lids also cannot be recycled. If someone was to purchase one coffee a day in a disposable cup, it would create 10.5kg of waste a year. Each disposable coffee cup is responsible for 0.1kg of carbon emissions. 50 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year in the USA alone. There’s an easy solution! Using a reusable coffee cup can reduce your amount of waste you send to landfill, plus in many cafés you will receive a discount on your coffee for bringing your own cup. Alternatively, make the time in your routine to drink your coffee at home or in the café so you don’t need a disposable cup. In the USA, 100 million plastic utensils are used every day. Plastic cutlery takes around 1000 years to decompose and is very difficult to recycle. Additionally, when the plastic is heated it releases harmful chemicals. Instead of contributing to this plastic pollution, make it a habit to carry travel cutlery in your bag so you are always prepared whenever you want to snack!

16. Switch to recycled toilet paper

27,000 trees are cut down every day to make toilet paper. Just one roll requires 37.5 gallons of water for production. Once the toilet roll has been made and is ready for distribution, it is packaged in single use plastic that cannot be recycled. A great sustainable alternative is using recycled toilet paper. If you cannot find recycled toilet paper at your local supermarket, look for toilet roll that is labelled as FSC. The Forestry Sustainability Council (FSC) works towards environmentally, socially, and economically beneficial management of global forest systems.

17. Reduce single-use plastic

Single use plastics are the pinnacle of “throwaway culture”. 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced each year, 50% of which is single use. 91% isn’t recycled, often ending up in landfills and the ocean. 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, and it’s estimated that 50% of that has been produce in the last 15 years. It is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Reducing your use of single use plastics, such as carrier bags, water bottles, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, is an excellent way to reduce the amount of waste you produce, and prevents single used plastics reaching the ocean and landfill. Bring reusable carrier bags with you, and a water bottle with you when you go out so you don’t need to buy any. When doing your groceries, opt for products packaged in glass rather than plastic as it’s easier to recycle. Another way to reduce your dependency on single use plastics is to substitute cling film for beeswax wraps! These are easy to purchase online or make yourself, and can last for many years. Plus they’re biodegradable!

18. Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle

An excellent way to become more sustainable is to follow the 3 R-Rule- reduce, re-use, and recycle. In the previous point we touched on reducing your use of plastics as a way to become more sustainable. Reusing old products instead of buying them new is another way to be more sustainable, as it prevents waste from entering the landfill and saves water and carbon emissions. Recycling reduces pollution and waste sent landfill, and it also reduces the pressure put on the planet’s natural resources. However, it is essential you recycle correctly. When you recycle, make sure you always sort your recycling, separating cans, paper, glass and plastic. Additionally, washing any empty jars or cans before recycling is essential, as items covered in food waste cannot be recycled. This also means your greasy pizza box from your Friday night take-out cannot be recycled!

19. Use rechargeable batteries

Every year in the UK, 20,000 tonnes of batteries get sent to landfill. Batteries contain corrosive chemicals materials and heavy metals that are damaging for the environment. However, batteries can be recycled to make new products, reducing waste in the landfills and conserving the planets natural resources. Supermarkets often have a place where you can recycle your old batteries. Alternatively, you can purchase rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries are better for the planet as they prevent waste entering the landfill, and they can save you money over time.


20. Reduce air travel

Air travel produces carbon emissions from burning large amounts of fuel, contributing to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and climate change. However, there are alternative modes of transport with lower carbon emissions, for example, taking the Eurostar from London to Paris saves 90% of emissions. A flight from London to Paris emits 63.6kg of carbon dioxide, whilst the same trip on the Eurostar emits 4.1kg of carbon dioxide. Reducing you air travel and taking alternative modes of transport, as well as limiting the number of long-haul flights you take, is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint.

21. Reduce car use

25% of car journeys are less than 3km long. When possible consider travelling by bike, by foot, or public transport. This will help to cut down your carbon footprint, traffic, and reduce air and noise pollution. Plus cycling and walking is good for your mental and physical health! If car travel is necessary, make sure your car is regularly serviced. By regularly servicing your car, you increase your fuel efficiency from 4% to up to 40%.  

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