Why You Don't Have to be Perfect to be More Sustainable

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be well aware of all the talk of climate change at the moment. It seems like the world is starting to stand up and take notice of the emerging climate crisis, thanks in part to the amazing work of Greta Thunberg and her school protests. Extinction Rebellion have been hitting the headlines for all the right reasons, governments are acknowledging climate change and people are beginning to make significant changes in their lives.

All of this is great, and it needs to snowball if we’re going to stand any chance of averting a global crisis - BUT there seems to be a lot of pressure on people to be perfect. Let’s be realistic for a moment. Most people aren’t going to completely change their lives. They won’t wake up one morning, cast aside all single-use plastic, turn vegan and vow never to buy a piece of clothing again. Yes, some people will do all of this and more, but it isn’t a realistic expectation of everyone.

I wrote on my Instagram stories a few weeks ago that we don’t need a handful of people being perfectly sustainable, we need billions of people making small changes and trying their best. You don’t have to be perfect, every little really does help. Whether you completely cut out meat and dairy from your diet, or have a few meat-free days each week. If you decide to shun fast fashion and buy your garments from small brands that care about sustainability, or if you vow only to buy clothes when you need them. If you cut back on the number of flights you take per year, or balance out your travel by making significant changes in other areas of your lives. Don’t be scared to make changes because you’re worried you’re not doing it correctly. Go ahead, make those changes and be proud of yourself for helping to make a difference.

Here are a few small changes that you can make, to help to make a big difference

Eat less meat and dairy

You don’t have to completely change your diet overnight and wake up vegan. You don’t even have to give yourself a label. I’m mainly vegetarian, cut down on dairy as much as possible but sometimes eat fish and have a weakness for cheese. That doesn’t make me a bad person. The main reason I stopped eating meat was because I read up on just how bad it is for the environment, then read up on animal welfare. I fly a lot, and gave up something that I enjoyed to balance out a little bit of my carbon footprint. Even if you just cut down on your intake of meat and dairy, you’re helping to make a difference. Try opting for oat or nut milk, or a vegan spread. Give yourself at least one meat-free day per week, challenging yourself to cook up delicious plant-based meals. Decide to eat vegetarian at home and only eat meat when you dine out. Whatever you decide to do, you’re helping to reduce the amount of meat-based products that we consume as a species, as well as hopefully passing on the message to other people.

Fly less

Only fly if you need to fly. If there’s another option that is easily available, take it. Yes, I could sound like a hypocrite here as I fly abroad several times per year, but I do take measures to reduce my flights. I would never take a domestic flight, even if it worked out faster and cheaper than taking the train. I don’t take further flights when I reach my destination; I prefer to travel by train to get around once I’ve reached the country I’m visiting. I regularly take holidays in the U.K, rather than always opting to head abroad. And I avoid long haul flights, instead opting to travel to destinations closer to home. Of course, you could choose to not fly at all, which is obviously the best option for the planet, but simply deciding to fly less is a step in the right direction.

Walk, cycle or take public transport

I don’t own a car, but that’s mainly because I’m lazy and I’ve never learned to drive. My boyfriend owns a van and we regularly drive to the shop, or to visit family and friends, or for day trips. We live in the countryside, and its not always possible to take the train. But I take the train and the tram when I work in Manchester, and I walk to the supermarket or to the homes of friends who live locally. Once you get out of the mindset that you can drive anywhere so you should drive everywhere, you begin to realise that most places are easily accessible by walking, cycling or taking public transport. If you want to start small, leave the car behind and walk to the shops. Hop on your bike and cycle to your friend’s house. Figure out how you could get to work without your car. Or if you absolutely have to drive each day, consider investing in an electric or hybrid vehicle.

Be more considered with your purchases

A post on Instagram really resonated with me this week. It was a small, independent clothing brand that makes great efforts to be sustainable talking about Extinction Rebellion’s latest campaign. XR are encouraging their followers to join them on a year-long clothing ban, not purchasing any new garments for a whole year. While this sounds good in practice, it’s important to remember that the small businesses will feel the impact of such as strike far more than large corporations. The same people who love what XR are doing in general (myself included) tend to be the people who will already shop with small, sustainable brands rather than high street giants. You don’t need to completely stop buying things, just make changes with what you buy and who from. I completely advocate being more considered with your purchases - choose to buy from sustainable and ethical brands, opt for natural materials, buy from brands who use recyclable packaging and only buy what you need or will use for a long time.

Say no to plastic

This one should be easy now, right? We all shun plastic carrier bags, say no to straws and sort out our waste so our plastic gets recycled. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. Most plastic ends up in landfill and sadly isn’t recycled, even if you feel good about yourself when you fill up your recycling bin. Make a conscious decision to cut down on all the plastic that you use. You don’t have to immediately go plastic free, but pay attention to when and where you use plastic and think about the changes you can make. Use soap and shampoo bars or buy products in glass bottles. Swap to a bamboo toothbrush and metal razor. Always carry a reusable water bottle and tote bag. Buy your fruit and veg loose from a local market or grocery store, rather than coated in plastic from the supermarket.

Educate yourself

Spend some time reading more about the impacts of climate change and what you can do to make a difference. Listen to Greta Thunberg’s speeches, follow what Extinction Rebellion are doing and read up on the science behind it all. Listen to the scientists who tell you it’s almost too late to stop the inevitable. Seek out Instagrammers and bloggers who are helping to get the message across in an accessible way. I love how people like @ginastovall, @helloemilie and @claggie are using their platforms to speak out and talk about the environment and the small changes that everyone can make, offering easy tips to follow.