30 Carbon-busting Life Hacks for Green November

30 Carbon-busting Life Hacks for Green November

03 Nov 2020

Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is mission-critical for combatting the climate crisis and building a better world for future generations. It’s a two-pronged approach. First of all, we must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other gases we emit. Then, we have to remove the large amount of GHGs we’ve emitted since the industrial revolution.

Rather than focus on who should take responsibility, we must all take responsibility. Our combined actions are what make a difference and inspire others. As Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Instead of Black Friday or Cyber Monday, this November we’re celebrating Green November by planting extra trees and offering a 15% discount on all products.

Throughout the month, we’re also sharing some daily tips and fun facts on how we can lower our carbon footprints, save money, be healthier, and improve our quality of life. We wanted to make them small and easily achievable with the hope you’ll notice the benefits and pick a few up.

Walk, cycle or use public transport instead of driving

A recent study found that running a fossil-fuel-powered car is the most CO2 emitting thing we can do as individuals. You’ll also be healthier and, in places where cheap public transit is available at least, save money.

Bring your own reusable bag when you shop

Single-use plastic carrier bags have had their day. Not only does it emit a lot of carbon to produce and transport them, but they also hang around in the environment for way too long. Investing in a reusable bag, or reusing carrier bags you already have, is a small change that adds up to make a big difference.

Try a plant-based diet

Not far behind running a car is eating meat. Meat production emits a lot of greenhouse gases, as this chart by Our World In Data highlights. It requires vast swathes of land that could also be used to plant trees. A vegetarian diet produces about half the CO2 emissions of a meat lover’s, and vegan goes even further. But you still need your protein, right? Try beans, peas and nuts as healthy, low carbon alternatives. Another reason to eat your greens!

vegetables in a bowl
Start a small garden, even a herb garden on your windowsill

Plants are great at absorbing CO2 and purifying our air. Peace Lilies are a beautiful option for this. A well-landscaped garden, as well as looking nice, can increase the efficiency of a building by shading in the summer and insulating in the winter. Even a small herb garden will do its bit by absorbing CO2 and will provide fragrant fresh herbs for cooking.

Take a moment to think about whether you really need something before buying it

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that things will make us feel good. We’re all guilty of impulse buying and then either returning the item later or having it sit gathering dust on a shelf or hanging forgotten in a wardrobe. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself occasionally. But, before buying something, ask yourself if you really need it first. By reducing your consumption, you’ll save money and the planet.

Reuse, re-purpose, and then recycle

Everything we consume, from cars to random gadgets like Twitter-feed printers, has a carbon footprint. Our current linear economy system of “make-use-dispose” isn’t sustainable, and it’s partly our responsibility as consumers and partly the responsibility of companies to switch to a circular economy that eliminates waste and incorporates sustainable design and development. Right now it can be difficult to know what to recycle, and we’re still quite inefficient regarding this. So, before putting something in the recycling, first think about whether it can be reused or repurposed as something else. Food containers are a great example of this.

If driving, go easy on the accelerator and breaks

If you do have to drive, drive to make efficient use of fuel:

- Accelerate gently

- Maintain a steady speed

- Avoid high speeds (most vehicles are most efficient between 50-80km/h)

- Coast to decelerate.

By doing so, you’ll save on fuel which = less money and less CO2. Win!

Take shorter, cooler showers

On average, an eight-minute shower uses 180 litres of water. This water has to be collected, conditioned, transported and heated before it gets to you, which emits CO2. Taking shorter showers, say four minutes instead of eight, saves on your water bills, energy bills and emissions. You could also buy a low-flow showerhead and, to save on heating opt for a cooler or even, dare we say it, cold shower. There are actually health benefits to taking cooler showers as well, such as boosting your circulation. Many of us take water for granted, but it’s a precious resource we need to respect.

Allow food to cool before putting it in the fridge

When you put food in the fridge whilst it's still warm, it requires extra work from the fridge to cool it down. The extra humidity is also not good for the food or the fridge. Allowing the food to cool first will save on energy bills and CO2 emissions. It’s recommended to partition food into small containers so they cool right through before placing in the fridge.

food in containers

Take a thermos to your favourite coffee shop

Single-use is bad news for the environment, it means we have to continually make new products which, of course, emits CO2. Recycling helps but, unfortunately, the takeaway cups your coffee comes in cannot be easily recycled as they’re a blend of plastic and cardboard, so to the landfill they go. Taking your own thermos stops this from happening, means your coffee will stay warmer for longer, and some places also pass the savings from the cup onto you, so you save money too!

Compost or regrow your kitchen scraps

It’s surprising how much of your household waste is organic matter, around 50%. If you put it in the regular garbage then it will go to landfill where it decomposed and emits methane, a GHG that’s actually worse than CO2. Of course, all that extra garbage has to be collected as well, also contributing to CO2 emissions. What a waste! Much better to save it up and turn it into delicious compost that can then be used in the garden and for household plants. Your plants will thank you, and the environment. You can also regrow some kitchen scraps like green onions, celery and even pineapples.

Carry a reusable bottle instead of buying bottled water

It’s a common slogan from environmentalists that water companies do not produce water, they produce plastic bottles. It’s true. The water is siphoned off from its source and then bottled in plastic containers, which creates far more CO2 emissions (and plastic waste) than using the municipal water supply. Carrying a reusable water bottle made from recycled steel or similar is a greener, healthier alternative.

man on bike with bottle

Keep cold water in the fridge so you don’t have to wait for the tap

A personal favourite. Who doesn’t like drinking chilled water from the fridge? Use an old milk bottle or whatever and it means that you won’t have to wait for the tap to go cold every time you want a refreshing glass of H2O. As my grandmother used to say, “it makes lions roar.”

Research which ingredients are in season and plan a nice meal

Buying produce that is in season means that it doesn’t have to be shipped halfway around the world to get to your plate. It’s also fresher, tastier and, generally, cheaper. Why do a bit of research into what’s in season in your country and plan a nice, locally sourced meal?

Wash your clothes at 30C

It’s estimated that washing clothes at 30C uses around 40 per cent less energy than at higher temperatures and is better for your clothes in general. There are certain circumstances where higher temperatures are necessary, such as targeted stain removal or for bedding and towels.

Turn down your thermostat

Heating your home requires a large amount of energy = money and CO2. Unless, of course, you switch to renewable sources in which case we’ll let you off! The recommended optimum temperature for heating is between 18-21C for a healthy, comfortable environment that doesn’t strain the planet or your bills.

Research local repair shops top mend your things

Not everything can easily be repaired, but you’ll be surprised at what can be. Clothes are an obvious candidate, but there’s a growing scene for reconditioning old laptops and electrical goods as these generally have complex and carbon-intense supply chains. Recono.me is one of our favourites.

Turn off appliances that are left on standby but don’t need to be

When an appliance is left on standby it is still consuming energy and the older the appliance the worse this is. In fact, it’s thought that 9-16% of the energy used in homes is used to power appliances in standby mode, so not an insignificant amount of your energy bill and carbon emissions.

If driving, check your tyres are properly inflated

A flat tyre is, well, a flat tyre. No-one ever got anywhere fast on a flat and even a little deflation can negatively impact efficiency and performance. Make sure to check your tyres regularly, especially before long drives. Doing so will look after your tyres, decrease your fuels bills, and decrease your CO2 emissions for the journey.

car tyre

Switch to energy-efficient lightbulbs

An oldie but a goodie. The used to be rubbish, but now the technology has caught up. Switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs is one of the simplest, quickest ways to save on your energy bills as lighting account for around 5% of your household energy bills. Options are LEDs, CFLs or Halogen Incandescents. A bright idea for your wallet and planet.

Calculate your carbon footprint, how can it be lower?

That’s the point of this article right?! We haven’t covered everything (flying, for example) and, as everyone’s lifestyle is different, it can be worthwhile to plug in the data and see which area you can make the biggest difference. Going a step further, you might want to offset your missions, which means remove the CO2 from the atmosphere, by donating to a carbon offset programme such as tree planting. Carbon Footprint or Terrapass will let you do both.

Research switching to a renewable energy supplier

The rise of renewable energy is something that puts a big smile on our faces. Over the last few decades, renewable energy has exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations with regards to growth. As such, in many countries, it’s now easy to switch to a green energy supplier for your home and save an average of 1.6 tonnes CO2 per person per year.

Take stock of what you have in the fridge and cupboard, is anything going to waste?

A study in the US found that 31% of food goes to waste at a retail and consumer level. When you run the figures, that’s a lot of dollars wasted and CO2 emitted. Why not have a check through your fridge and cupboards to check what’s about to go off and see what you can whip up?

Unplug your chargers and turn off the socket

Chargers, regardless of whether your device is plugged in or not, still draw a charge. Okay, so the amount per charger is tiny — an Apple iPhone charger uses about 130W of power a month or ~$0.2 — but times that by the millions of chargers worldwide and that’s a lot of energy.

Go easy on yourself

Hey, we're not all perfect, and sometimes you'll forget to take a bag or get a bit lazy with recycling. Don't beat yourself up about it, you'll remember next time. Be the change you wish to see in the world!

Phew! There you go, is there anything we’ve missed? For more carbon saving tips, check out our article on the Top Ten Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint’.

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