With scientists highlighting that there are only eight years left to help save our planet, sustainability and eco-living have become buzzwords talked about in all walks of life. Although it is a hot topic, it is true that many people don’t fully understand what they mean; so allow us to explain.
In as simple means as possible, the philosophy behind sustainability and eco-living is essentially ensuring that we are living in a manner that is protecting our planet so that our future generations can still enjoy the world that we currently live in. This will be incorporated in all aspects of our life whether that be related to how we travel, what we eat and what we wear, just to mention a few!
The climate crisis is not going to be able to solve itself, or with just a few people helping. It will require everyone to make changes to their everyday life; these changes can be big or small but as long as everyone is making some adjustments, the planet will truly thank us.
We understand that changing habits in our everyday lifestyle can be difficult and daunting, so we have put together some tips and tricks to get you started on your eco journey, hopefully we can show you that eco-living can be easy!
Eco-living in your home
On your plate:
Within your home, there are endless opportunities to make eco-friendly swaps and adjustments in order to improve how eco-friendly you are.
Ready-To-Heat Teriyaki Fable
The most effective way that you can make a change is to try and reduce your meat and dairy consumption. After all, if everyone in the US went vegetarian for one day a week, it would save 100 billion gallons of water and prevent 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the environment. Reducing animal intake can help lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce resources needed in terms of land and energy.
With the existence of so many good quality plant-based alternatives, such as the likes of; Impossible Meat, Beyond Meat, Quorn Foods, Tofu, Seitan, Just Egg, and Plant milks, that are all readily available in supermarkets, eating plant-based has never been easier! Not only will this help the planet, but research by Harvard has shown that cutting down on animal products, especially red meat, can reduce your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease – ultimately extending your life.
Try take part in Meatless Monday, and more than that if you can, and have fun exploring using plant-based meat alternatives; they are formulated so well that you won’t even miss real meat and you can feel proud to be making such a positive impact!
For your laundry:
There are a few main factors that make clothes-washing harmful to the environment; energy use, water waste and chemical waste. Luckily, there are ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint associated with this!
- Try to wash your clothes less, but we understand in a climate like Singapore this may be difficult – so when you do have to wash, choose a cold wash setting. This will help you save energy and also keep your costs lower (it’s a win-win!).
- When you need to replace your washing machine, opt for one that is energy efficient and has a good energy rating.
- Swap to an eco-friendly washing detergent that is phosphate free, biodegradable and non-biological to prevent harsh chemicals from entering the environment.
- Invest in a microfibre filter to prevent microplastics from polluting our water systems and oceans.
In your kitchen:
Kitchens are, unfortunately, commonly an environmental nightmare due to the immense amount of single use plastic that is associated with food. Whether it comes to food packaging or food storage, plastic is always the main culprit due to its ease of use for companies and individuals alike.
The dangers of plastic are due to the production requirements using unsustainable fuels and that, once disposed of, plastic does not easily decompose and therefore plastic fragments find their way into the ecosystem. Furthermore, even when they do decompose, toxic chemicals are released into the environment.
Don’t fret though, there are many easy and affordable ways to change this predicament! One way to decrease the amount of plastic is to invest in silicone reusable lids, which can be used as a replacement for cling wrap. You can grab these at most supermarkets for a reasonable price whilst saving yourself future expenses as clingwrap will be obsolete! In line with this, for packed lunches, whether this be for yourself or for your family, you can use beeswax paper to wrap things up instead of using a plastic bag. A last switch that can be made is when buying fresh produce and vegetables to bring your own bags which will prevent you needing to use the single-use plastic in supermarkets.
For your waste:
Ensuring that waste is minimised as much as possible is another sure way of improving your environmental footprint. When food waste is disposed of it will either go to a landfill or to a recycling plant – however in Singapore only about 19% of our food waste is recycled. Therefore, it is so important try and do our part and only cook and buy what we need.
One tip would be to ensure that you have checked the kitchen thoroughly before writing your shopping list, so that you are only buying what you need. Additionally, it is probably best for the environment (and your wallets) to do the food shop when you are not hungry, as we have all done it when we are hungry, and it does not end well…
Another tip would be to buy different bins dedicated to the different types of waste; for example, a bin for plastic, for food waste and for paper waste to aid the recycling process. This can get the whole family involved, to make everyone aware of waste!
However, regardless of trying our hardest to minimise waste it is inevitable that there will be some waste such as vegetable and fruit peels. So to prevent food waste from ending up in landfills, you can start composting at home by following theses 5 simple steps:
- You can reuse a bin you have in your home to save buying a new composting bin
- Line the bottom of the bin with leaves and twigs, egg cartons, newspaper – these are known as your ‘brown’ ingredients.
- The next layer will be your ‘green ingredients’ which comprises your vegetable and fruit scraps and peels, flowers, egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds.
- Continue layering browns then greens depending upon how much you have to compost.
- In Singapore’s climate it will likely only take up to two months for the composting cycle to complete. However, you should rotate the compost every so often to keep the air flow moving.
For your bathroom
Cleaning is always important in a home, especially now with COVID-19 still on the high, however there are ways that we can ensure we are still prioritizing sustainability in the process. Common cleaning products contain many harsh chemicals that pollute the water which can be hard to get rid of, sometimes even entering the food chain!
As scary as that sounds, there are easy swaps we can all make by using products with natural ingredients such as looking out for apple cider vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and essential oils! This in turn will still ensure that your home is disinfected but not at the cost of the environment.
In a similar vein, cleaning ourselves also has an impact on the environment mainly in terms of water consumption. To combat this, you can purchase a low-flow shower head which delivers less amount of water. Or, because everyone loves a bit of competition, why not challenge your partners, family members or friends to see who can have the quickest shower! It is recommended to keep your showers to a maximum of 10 minutes to reduce the amount of water used.
Here are a few more tips that you can use in the bathroom:
- Purchase toilet paper made of recycled materials
- Invest in a bamboo toothbrush to prevent buying plastic
- Remember to turn the tap off when brushing your teeth – you can save up to 13 litres of water every day!
- Swap to shampoo and conditioner bars instead of bottled products
Eco-living out and about
For your travel
Getting around can significantly increase our carbon footprint, and in order to live in a more sustainable way, making changes to our transportation method is another simple way to achieve that. Of course the best way to completely eliminate carbon emissions from our travel would be to walk or use a bicycle. Conveniently, there are bike-sharing services in Singapore, such as SGBike, where you can borrow a bike at a low cost!
However, it is understandable that this is not always practical, especially if there are time constraints or the sweltering heat is just too much, luckily there are other eco-friendly options! The well-established public transport links in Singapore, such as the bus and MRT, are used by over 5 million people every day, proving just how convenient they are and for a fraction of the cost of other transportation methods.
Possibly the least environmentally friendly mode of transport is to travel in a personal vehicle. Nevertheless, thanks to advances in technology, green cars now exist and are the future of personal transportation. Of course investing in a brand-new car may not be feasible, and that is why it is encouraging to see that some taxi services offer transportation in a ‘green’ vehicle. The taxi service ‘Grab’ gives riders the choice to opt for a ‘green’ vehicle – giving you the comfort that you are still doing your bit for the planet.
Perhaps on the weekend you can switch things up by involving your family or friends to do an activity utilising an eco-friendly mode of transport! Not only will this be saving you all some money, it will benefit your body and the planet, whilst combining with a social outing!
Aside from eating inside your house, it is inevitable that you will eat out too; whether that be during a lunchbreak at work or for social occasions with friends. Nevertheless, it is important to always be prepared so that you are not required to use any single-use plastic. Investing in a solid reusable waterbottle will ensure that wherever you eat, you will not need to purchase a single-use water bottle. Furthermore, when purchasing takeaway food it will be extremely beneficial for the environment to bring your own container and cutlery so, again, you won’t need to use the single-use plastic.
Another simple tip to be more sustainable when eating in restaurants would be to choose menu items that contain more vegetables and more plant-based options, if that suits your diet. If you consider yourself a flexitarian and don’t want to eat plant-based all the time, try to opt for fish dishes instead of red meat to reduce your carbon footprint. In addition, make sure that you choose dishes that you will be able to finish, because as we know food waste is detrimental to the environment.
For your shopping
Shopping is inevitably a huge part of our life, however, as ever, there are always ways to improve our habits for the environment. In terms of food shopping trying to buy locally and support local farmers will have a huge positive impact on your footprint, as the footprint for transporting the food is greatly reduced. Whenever you are buying food or other items, it is so important to bring your own bags so that you do not need to use plastic bags from the stores.
Aside from the fact that it will help save a little bit of money, as some stores charge customers to use plastic bags, your own bags are usually sturdier and better to carry things; so you don’t have to worry about bags ripping!
Getting your family involved
Educating your family and friends on the importance of making lifestyle changes towards sustainable living will be undoubtedly impactful for the long-term goal of saving the planet. In particular, educating the youngest family members is key as they will inevitably be the ones to take this mission forwards. Provide educational books to them, take them into nature, get kids involved in composting and planting are just a few ways to get the younger generations engaged with the topic. But most importantly, setting a good example will be key to solidifying and inspiring green behaviour choices.
So, what’s the verdict on going green?
By no means is it expected that everyone is going to be able to be completely eco-friendly in all aspects of their life immediately, but hopefully with our helpful tips we can all progress to being eco-warriors before it is too late. Once everyone starts taking small actions and encouraging their friends and family to do the same, the stigma that going plant-based and being sustainable is difficult will quickly be reversed; to the planets benefit!
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