27 ways to save the planet: from short showers to longer lasting tech


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Help the planet and save money (Picture: Getty)

There’s no time like the present to become more eco-friendly, especially now the Cop27 climate conference is in full swing.

With winter approaching, it’s tempting to crank up the heating, take long hot showers, and splash out on food, gifts, and new outfits for the festive season.

But, with a range of alternatives, you can reduce harm to the environment – without it costing the Earth – and perhaps save a bit of cash in the process.

Bolder moves include DIY home insulation and buying essentials in bulk, while smaller and consistent habits – such as limiting waste, buying local or second-hand, and doing the most with what you already have – can also pack a punch for the planet.

For example, buying a refurbished smartphone can save you up to 70 per cent on retail prices and prevent a handset from going to waste, after the vast majority of its carbon footprint was created during its manufacture.

From food, personal care, home, and tech – here we share 27 ways how you can do your bit for the environment every day.

1. Know how to eat seasonal – and watch out for airfreighting

Eating seasonal foods is not only good for the environment but also your carbon footprint (Picture: Getty Images)

Eat seasonal UK vegetables as much as possible and if you can, choose organic, says Guy Singh-Watson, the founder of Riverford Organic Farmers.

‘Transport accounts for a large part of the carbon footprint of fruit and veg,’ he says. ‘Having seasonal, organic UK veg delivered to your door uses less energy per kilogram of food produced. In the UK we produce about 50 per cent of our food – much less when it comes to fruit – so to live sustainably, we need to drastically increase the amount of food grown in this country. To achieve this, we must eat seasonally and not expect tomatoes, peppers and aubergines to be available all year.’

He adds that when we do import food, we need to consider how ‘airfreighting is 30 to40 times more damaging than by sea’.

For this reason, Riverford produces the majority of its fruit and veg in the UK and never airfreights. A small Riverford seasonal organic veg box starts at £13.95 with free delivery. To know what’s in season now, visit Eat The Seasons.

2. Go vegan

Going vegan is good for your health and also has a greater impact on farming (Picture: Getty Images)

Rachel Stone, PR manager at vegan campaigning charity Viva!, says: ‘Joseph Poore of the University of Oxford, author of the biggest analysis to date of the impact of farming on the environment, says that “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth”.

So, why not ditch meat for tofu, swap milk chocolate for creamy dairy-free alternatives, and try a plant-based cheeseboard? Not only is a vegan diet greener, it’s also kinder to animals and better for your health.’

3. Pick a meat-free favourite

There are great meat-free alternatives available in the UK now (Picture: Getty Images)

Eating less meat is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to make less of an impact on the planet, but by just how much? Plant-based food company This says its products emit around 85 per cent less C02, use 87 per cent less water and 80 per cent less land than their average meat equivalents.This Isn’t products from £2.75, sainsburys.co.uk

4. Know how to store things

Checking how to store your food items will make them last longer (Picture: Getty Images)

Avoid food waste with these tips for storing fruit and veg from Hubbub, environmental action group and pioneers of the community fridge network. Potatoes are best kept in a cool, dry and dark cupboard. Don’t worry if they have started sprouting, just cut off any sprouts before using them.

Bananas should be kept in a cool and dark place (but not the fridge) and should generally keep their distance from other fruit and veg. Sorry bananas!

A mushroom’s ideal home is in the fridge in a paper bag or the original packaging. Once opened, keep fresh by covering with a folded tea towel snugly like a blanket.

Moisture is the mortal enemy of lettuce, salad leaves and spinach. Keep them in the fridge in their original packaging or a container lined with kitchen towel. Peppers last up to two weeks longer in their original packaging in the fridge. Leftover pepper? Leave the stalk and seeds attached, then store in the fridge.

Celery can wilt as it loses water. Revive it in a refreshing bowl of ice water. And don’t forget to use those lovely leaves in a stew, stock or soup.

Avocados are best stored in the fridge or on the counter to ripen them quickly. Only need half? Leave the stone in and sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent the other half from browning, then store in the fridge. Freeze any fruit and veg you can’t use in time.

5. Eat more apples

British apples are great for the environment as they never travel far from the tree (Picture: Getty Images/Image Source)

British apples are a simple cost-effective way to help the environment as they travel minimal food miles. They’re readily available too – the end of September marked the start of British apple season and this year growers have predicted availability all-year around.

Apples last up to two weeks longer in the fridge in their original packaging or a reusable container if purchased loose.

6. Only buy climate-positive gifts

Thinking of what to get a loved one this Christmas? Why not go for a climate-positive gift (Picture: Getty Images)

Treedom is a digital platform allowing people to plant trees remotely and follow the planting project online. It’s on a mission to plant ten million trees in the next three years. Sign up from €12.90 (£11.25).

7. Recycle your electricals

If you don’t use your old mobile phone any more, why not recycle it? (Picture: Getty Images)

Small household devices (remote controls, headphones etc) are creating the world’s fastest-growing waste stream – but anything with a plug, cable or battery can be recycled. To find one of the 5,000-plus recycling points in the UK visit Recycle Your Electricals.

8. Upcycle your do-up

Upcycling can bring a new lease of life to your old furniture in need of some TLC (Picture: Getty Images)

Doing up your home? Use second-hand or upcycled furniture. Upcycling furniture firm Release collects pieces heading to landfill and gives them a new lease of life. Its refreshed furniture is then resold online at affordable prices and anything past its best is recycled in line with a zero landfill policy.

9. Turn it down a degree

Turning your thermostat down one degree will save you cash without making a noticeable difference to the warmth (Picture: Getty Images)

Turn your thermostat down one degree says Andy Kerr, founder of Boxt, a boiler and smart-tech company. ‘Fifty-seven per cent of homeowners have their thermostat set to 19°C – this could be reduced to 18°C without a noticeable difference – reducing your energy consumption, ensuring your home reaches a comfortable temperature and saving you money.’

10. Consider using bars not bottles

Switch from using plastic bottles to bars of soap, shampoo or conditioner (Picture: Getty Images)

Everything from soap, shampoo, conditioner and moisturisers are available as bars now and they not only last longer but are also easier to transport, use less packaging and are often cheaper.

11. Time your shower

Timing your shower will help you use less water and save on your bill (Picture: Getty Images)

Use less water and energy in the shower by investing in a £2.99 shower timer at Smart Green Shop.

12. Mix up your washing

Mixing colours with whites in your wash will reduce the number of loads (Picture: Getty Images)

Feeling bold? Colour Catcher is so confident its laundry sheets (made from 100 per cent naturally derived materials) will prevent colour-run, it says you can mix all your washing in one load instead of separating by colour – reducing the number of loads and therefore saving money, energy and time. Buy 60 for £4.50 from Tesco.

13. Wash clothes at 30 degrees

Next time you add a load, switch to 30 degrees (Picture: Getty Images)

Emily Gauntlett, of sustainable homeware brand Bower Collective, says: ‘According to the Energy Saving Trust, washing at 30 instead of 40 degrees uses approximately 40 per cent less electricity and cleans effectively. Better for your wallet and the environment.’

14. Buy a second-hand kitchen

Kitchens can be expensive so why not go for a second-hand one? (Picture: Getty Images)

The Used Kitchen Company buys and sells used or ex-display kitchens to avoid sending them to landfill. Some come with a ‘kitchen passport’ where owners can see how many previous owners a kitchen has had and where it was made. Customers save money and no kitchens get wasted.

15. Refill your cleaning products

Refilling your cleaning products can earn you cash back through a number of different schemes (Picture: Getty Images)

For household goods, Ecover operates refill stations across the country and operates a refill rewards scheme so you can earn money back.

16. And your bathroom ones

Don’t forget to refill to cut down on plastic (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Same goes for personal care items. The Body Shop and L’Occitane are two brands that refill in many stores. Fragrances are often refillable too, with brands such as Diptyque and Le Labo embracing refillable bottles.

17. Wear out your wardrobe

We all get bored of what’s in the wardrobe, but re-wearing clothes prevents extra landfill (Picture: Getty Images)

Wear clothing a lot or don’t buy it. You can hire everything from maternity wear to occasion outfits and everyday staples at a variety of price points. For example, Hirestreet rents out high-street clothing. Check out For The Creators for maternity wear and My Wardrobe for designer clothing and accessories.

18. Eco your period

Opt for a menstrual cup instead of a pads or tampons (Picture: Getty Images/Science Photo Libra)

Switching to a menstrual cup or reusable period pants instead of pads or tampons saves cash and reduces plastic pollution. Saalt, right, also donates funds and cups to less privileged countries. Its online quiz shows how many single-use period products you could divert from.

19. Reconsider compostable packaging

Think about using compostable packaging instead of plastic bags (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Hugo Lynch, sustainability project manager at organic produce company Abel & Cole, says: ‘We used to think compostable plastic ended up as compost. Evidence shows that’s not always the case – it only breaks down under certain conditions and unless your local authority has access to the right equipment, compostable plastic behaves a lot like regular plastic.’ Refilling is the answer.

20. Know your carbon labelling

Keep a look out for carbon labelling the next time you’re in a supermarket (Picture: Getty Images)

Look out for the increasing amount of carbon labelling on pre-packaged food and menus. Already being used in some outlets, it’s an easy way to make more informed environmental choices.

21. Buy in bulk

Think about bulk-buying some of the things you need (Picture: Getty Images)

Whether that’s shower gel, cleaning products or pasta. Bulk-buying minimises transport and packaging and their associated carbon footprints while also saving you cash. Cetaphil offers1L sizes of its Gentle Skin Cleanser wash which can be used on the face and body, with or without water, and lasts months. Buy it from Boots for £19.99.

22. Recycled loo roll alert

Consider eco-friendly loo roll as it’s made from recycled paper (Picture: Getty Images)

Who Gives A Crap makes a good three-ply recycled loo roll as well as forest-friendly paper towels and tissues. Buy in bulk to your door for less money than the leading brands and no plastic packaging. Profits go to building toilets in communities around the world.

23. Switch to LED

Switching to LED lighting and bulbs cuts down on energy (Picture: Getty Images)

Switching to LED lighting could help the average household save up to £295 per year. An LED bulb can last up to 22 years and use up to 90 per cent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs.

24. Shop around for your services

Shopping around for the best deals will save you cash (Picture: Getty Images)

Compare providers’ commitment to the things you care about in the same way you compare tariffs – and don’t give them your cash if they don’t measure up. Take your internet provider. Zen is an eco-friendly provider and has been Which? Recommended for two consecutive years. Already carbon neutral, it aims to be net zero by 2040.

25. Sell your waste food

Sites such as Too Good To Go are great for reducing food waste (Picture: Getty Images/Johner RF)

Food waste accounts for ten per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions (which is more than the aviation industry), but the Too Good To Go app aims to change that by letting consumers buy surplus food. Would-be wasted food is packaged into surprise ‘magic bags’ and sold to customers through the app for roughly a third of its original retail value.

26. Make your technology last

Making tech last longer instead of going for an upgrade is better for the environment (Picture: Getty Images)

Using your smartphone for one year longer before upgrading would save the EU four million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Consider selling any unwanted but working devices on a resale site and buying a reconditioned phone when you need to – it can save you up to 70 per cent on retail prices and minimises your impact on the planet.

27. Insulate your home

Not only does insulation keep the heat in during winter, but also saves on carbon (Picture: Getty Images)

Consumer champion Will Hodson says loft insulation, left, is easy to install yourself and pays itself back quickly. A fully insulated home could save an average household £600 a year and 1.2 tonnes of carbon. Filling gaps in floors, under doors and around windows with draft excluders will help keep the heat inside.

MORE : Charity shop mum spends just £40 on daughter’s Christmas gifts by shopping secondhand

MORE : Martin Lewis unveils 12 money saving tips to help survive the winter

Metro.co.uk’s #Just1Change campaign

During COP26 and beyond, we will be sharing stories, ideas, and advice about one common theme: The climate crisis.

At a time when the weight of environmental issues feels very heavy and overwhelming, our aim is to deliver content that will not only inform and educate but also offer hope and inspiration.

Here are some of our #Just1Change highlights so far:

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