Even before the world stopped due to the pandemic, sustainable living was a hot topic. The trend of buyers seeking eco-friendly products and materials, including sustainable and conscious supply chains, was already well-established. As a result, many designers and manufacturers were focusing their research and development on improving their product ranges to meet the needs of eco-conscious consumers.
Then along came the pandemic, and with it the necessary restrictions causing more and more people to work from home on a full or part-time basis. This imposed change to working habits allowed many of us to reflect on our impact on the planet, and how we could do things differently going forward.
There have definitely been some easy eco-friendly wins with working from home. These include less pollution due to a reduced commute, and a reduction in international travel. However, many people are now keen on making further changes, in order to decrease their carbon footprint and adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Easy ways to embrace sustainable living
Let’s take a look at some key areas where small changes can make a big difference when it comes to sustainable living.
Reducing meat consumption
The popularity of the flexitarian diet, where people choose to actively increase the number of plant-based meals, and reduce meat consumption, has increased dramatically over recent years. The aim is to reduce meat consumption for both health benefits and a reduction in carbon footprint.
Research published by Mintel last year found that 48% of British consumers see reducing consumption of animal-based products as a way of being more environmentally friendly. The study also found that sales of meat-free foods have increased in Britain by 40% between 2014 and 2019. This is likely to be due to the rising popularity of campaigns such as Meat free Mondays and Veganuary, as well as increased news coverage on the environmental impact of eating meat.
In addition, there has been a significant increase in choice when it comes to plant-based alternative foods. No longer are vegan and vegetarian friendly products limited to health food shops or limited aisles within supermarkets. Many supermarkets have even launched their own branded ranges with great success, including Marks and Spencer, who sold four ‘No Chicken Kiev’s’ per minute in January 2020!
Mintel’s study also discovered that 23% of new food products launched within the UK were labelled as vegan, increasing the visibility of vegan friendly products. Meanwhile the Vegan Society have recently shared that the plant-based consumption trend has resulted in 25% of UK consumer’s evening meals being either vegan or vegetarian.
If you haven’t tried reducing your meat consumption yet, opting for plant-based meals is a simple way to reduce your impact on the planet and move towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
While in lockdown, many people had more time on their hands to try new hobbies, including up-cycling. As well as being a fun project, giving household items a new lease of life can help to reduce landfill waste. If your employment has been affected by the pandemic, up-cycling can also be a path to a new career or business opportunity.
There has been increased news and online coverage during lockdown around up-cycling. With shops closed and many of us choosing not to venture out as much, it’s no surprise that we embraced the idea of recycling items by repurposing them around the home.
If you’d like to have a go at up-cycling, there are lots of easy-to-follow online guides to make it accessible. It’s also well worth investigating your local free sites, these can be a great source of materials. From garden sculptures to junk modelling and wildlife-friendly bug hotels, there are lots of ideas out there to suit all ages and abilities.
Increasing recycling and reducing waste
Lockdown has given people an opportunity to increase their level of recycling. This has taken various forms, from increased sorting of household waste, to an increase in demand for recycled, natural or biodegradable products. And of course, there’s also the up-cycling trend we’ve already covered.
Another trend has been to decrease household waste, both by recycling and also by limiting our purchases. We’ve experienced what it’s like to consume less than usual, and many of us have realised we can happily live more frugally or simply with less ‘stuff’.
Popular options for reducing waste include gardening sustainably by creating a home compost bin, getting involved with local community loan schemes for things like garden tools, and switching to re-usable household items such as face cloths instead of cotton wool pads and beeswax wraps instead of cling film.
Reducing energy consumption
Households have been increasingly seeking ways to reduce energy consumption, as well as monitor the use of energy, in the hope of decreasing their carbon footprint and living costs.
During the pandemic, the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched the Green Homes Grant Scheme. This enables homeowners to install energy efficient improvements to their property for a fraction of the retail price. Once the initial quote-finding exercise has taken place and both the property and owner have proven to be eligible, vouchers are provided covering up to two-thirds of the cost of specific home improvements. The maximum government contribution is £5,000, or £10,000 should the homeowner or someone within the household receive specific benefits.
There are also other ways to monitor and reduce household energy consumption. These include the use of utility Smart Meters, turning down thermostats, installing energy efficient boilers and other household appliances, reducing the temperature when washing clothes, and adding insulation to your home.
In addition to reducing energy, households have also been aiming to reduce their water consumption. Methods include swapping baths for showers, installing low flush toilets or cistern bricks, changing food preparation methods to steaming instead of boiling, and installing water butts to reduce garden hosepipe use.
Making the switch to more sustainable living can feel daunting at first, but there are lots of simple things you can do to make an instant impact. Hopefully the ideas covered here will help you make the most of those new habits started during lockdown and continue to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle.
What’s your top tip for an easy win when it comes to sustainable living?