Sometimes guilt about the climate crisis can be overwhelming, but adopting these easy habits will make a difference
Earth Day on 22 April is an opportunity to refocus our personal sustainability efforts and embrace changes that will have a positive impact. This year’s theme is Restore Our Earth, focusing on natural processes and emerging green technologies.
While it’s great to support new eco-friendly innovations and green iniatives (you can read some Irish good news stories for Earth Day here), what we do at home also makes a difference. If you’re eco-friendly habits have slipped a little with the pressures of lockdown, that’s okay, but Earth Day’s a great time to renew your efforts. Here are four simple tactics for a greener life and home.
1. Rewild a part of your garden
Letting native wildflowers thrive in your garden is hugely beneficial to wild bees, our most important pollinators. It’s pretty easy.
- Try taking a break from mowing a piece of the lawn, or set a no mow clover lawn instead.
- Why not plant window boxes and hanging baskets with colourful flowers – bees especially love the purple and blue ones that bees flock to. Here’s a guide to planting your own hanging basket.
- Pick up a free wildflower seed pack from Keelings.
- Make a cosy insect hotel in a sunny part of your garden for solitary bees to nest in
2. Practice considered interior design
Considered interior design means taking steps to conserve energy, reduce waste and pollution to create a home that is better for the planet, the economy and our wellbeing. You’ve heard a lot of this advice before, such as incorporating low energy lighting , but experts such as Brian Woulfe of Designed by Woulfe has lots of tips to share.
Did you know that appliances make up 40% of household electricity consumption? This means that actively monitoring your usage and adapting your behaviours using smart appliances can be significant both for individuals and the environment. Smart tech allows us to monitor energy consumption more efficiently than ever and even learn to adopt habits to ensure that energy consumption remains low. Other small changes you can make include installing aerators in showers and taps. An aerator fills the water with air bubbles so you don’t have to sacrifice water pressure to reduce water flow. An older tap will flow at 15 litres of water per minut, but an aerator can reduce that to six litres.
Author of Gaff Goddess and Décor Galore Laura de Barra has been highlighting how impactful fast interior design can be. We all know fast fashion is bad, but if we’re flippantly buying large pieces for our home that will only get discarded, that is much more detrimental to the environment. Laura recommends resisting the Instagram trend of swipe up links and the impulse to buy based on trends. Instead, do your research, and ask yourself, will this purchase work well in my space? Will it last a long time? Is it of high quality? Where is it made? Something may seem like a good deal, but if you need to replace it quickly, you and the environment would have been better off if you’d invested more time and money into your purchase.
3. Donate preloved clothes
By donating clothes so that they are reused and stay in circulation, we are helping to save 10 billion litres of water that would be used in textile production. If you are ever donating clothes, give them the best chance by ensuring they are clean and well-maintained, and have any damage repaired. Someone in need may not be able to afford to get an item fixed. While you may have to wait until May to donate, you can shop from charity shops like NCBI online at thriftify.ie.
Some clothes and accessories are too special to end up hidden in a charity shop, and can serve a greater purpose by reselling. Charity shops are overwhelmed with donations, and not everything they receive will find a new home. If you have something that is of great quality, it might be a better idea to sell it on Depop, and donate the profits to an initiative like ShareJoy, which sells pre-loved clothes in aid of mental health services.
Shirt (€150) available on ShareJoy’s Depop
4. Make your supermarket shop more sustainable
Cutting food waste starts with your shop, and you can cut down on unnecessary packaging by making smart choices in store. Here are some tips from Aldi Group Buying Director John Curtin:
- Cut down on plastic packaging by buying loose fruit and vegetables instead of multipacks.
- If you have to buy some things that require plastic packaging to stay fresh, look out for recyclable packaging instead where possible. Then make sure you check the label to ensure you recycle properly, and make sure any items are clean before putting in your recycling bin.
- Food miles add up, so buy Irish where you can.
- Being organised really matters. It will save you time in the shop, you will be less tempted to buy unnecessary items in store, and you will know what meals you have planned for the week to avoid food waste.
- Know the difference between best before and use by dates. Best before dates means after the date the food is still good to eat, just not at its best. Use by dates are for food safety reasons, and should not be consumed after that date unless you freeze it.