5 small steps to saving the planet

Making little changes in your everyday life could reduce the harmful impact on the environment, says Julia Shaw

Think before you bin it

More than half of the seven million tonnes of food and drink that UK households bin every year could be eaten. Wasting less food could save you £480 a year and also help to slow down global warming and deforestation.

We need to get back to the ‘waste not, want not’ mentality and think creatively about making meals with leftovers, cooking in bulk and freezing, and buying only what we need. Get tips for leftover recipes and more at lovefoodhatewaste.com.

Save water

In the UK, we each use around 150 litres of water a day to wash, cook and clean. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Keep your showers short. Pop a water-saving device in your toilet cistern if you have an old-style, single-flush loo. Install a water meter if you can: customers with one use on average 10% less water.

Cut down on plastic

‘There’s a huge amount of unnecessary plastic used to wrap products such as fresh fruit and vegetables,’ says Julian Kirby of Friends of the Earth. 

Buy loose fruit and veg and use waxed non-plastic biodegradable wrap instead of cling- film. Invest in a reusable water bottle and coffee cup (most takeaway cups have a plastic film on the inside, making them non-recyclable). Use loose- leaf tea for a more environmentally friendly cuppa.  

Ditch the car

Friends of the Earth is calling for a network of effective Clean Air Zones covering 53 areas of Britain. ‘Air pollution contributes to 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK, with children and other vulnerable groups particularly at risk,’ says Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner. ‘Effective Clean Air Zones will lead to fewer cars on our roads, safer streets, more welcoming neighbourhoods and, vitally, healthier lungs for our children.’

Plan car-free days as often as possible. If you’re thinking about buying a new car, consider a hybrid or electric model. 

Eat less meat

Intensive livestock rearing is a major cause of greenhouse gases because of the methane produced by the animals and the slurry pits on large farms. Research led by the Oxford Martin School found that a widespread switch to a vegetarian diet would cut food-related emissions by nearly two-thirds. 

Reduce the amount of meat you eat. Try having a few meat-free days a week. Eating a sustainable diet, with less but better-quality meat, is not only better for the planet, it’s better for your health, too.

Thumbs up to…

…Frozen-food retailer Iceland, which has said it will go plastic-free in the next five years by replacing its own- brand plastic packaging with paper and pulp trays and paper bags.

…Wagamama, Pizza Express and Costa Coffee chains for announcing they are ditching plastic drinking straws.

…The water industry, which has forged a new partnership with the Refill drinking water initiative and will see all water companies in England support the massive expansion of the scheme over the next two years and drastically reduce the use of plastic water bottles.