Here are some ideas of small changes we can all make to be more environmentally friendly. These suggestions, ranging from recycling more to shopping locally, will improve things for us and for the planet.
1. Recycle more
Recycling is a great first step to being more environmentally friendly. Many items used regularly in your home can be recycled – either in your fortnightly recycling collection (blue lid bin), or at the Household Waste Recycling Centre.
Not sure if it goes in the recycling bin or not? Find out how to dispose of all your unwanted items, from aerosols to yoghurt pots.
Why should I recycle?
There are lots of benefits to recycling, including:
When we recycle things, less rubbish is sent to landfill. There are over 1,500 landfill sites in the UK, and in 2001, these sites produced a quarter of the UK's emissions of methane (a greenhouse gas).
Protecting our natural resources
When we recycle, used materials are made into new products. Reusing existing materials means we don't need to use extra natural resources to make something new. Recycling helps to save important raw materials, and protects natural habitats for the future.
Saving energy and protecting the environment
Using recycled materials takes a lot less energy than making new products from raw materials. More energy is needed to extract, refine, transport, and process raw materials for industry, than to use industry-ready materials (from recycling).
Extracting (mining, quarrying, and logging), refining, and processing raw materials all create a lot of air and water pollution, so recycling also helps to stop that happening.
Because recycling saves energy it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which helps to tackle climate change. Current levels of recycling in the UK are estimated to save more than 18 million tonnes of CO2 a year – equivalent to taking 5 million cars off the road.
For more information and advice about recycling, check out the Recycle Now website.
2. Buy less and buy smarter
We can't stop making waste completely, but we can all do our part to reduce the amount we each make. Next time you're shopping, think about whether:
- you really need to buy that?
- you can buy something with less packaging?
- you can buy it second hand?
- you can buy something that lasts, rather than a disposable item?
- you can buy a 'bag for life' or use your own bags, instead of getting a plastic bag?
Buying less, or differently, cuts down on how much you throw out or recycle on bin day. And it means less resources are used up making packaging for products. Plus, it can help to reduce your carbon footprint, and puts less greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.
Reduce your plastic footprint
We all know plastic is useful, but the problem is, it sticks around for a long time after it's thrown out. You might have seen on the news, huge amounts of 'single use' plastic is ending up in our oceans and rivers every year, killing or harming marine life. 'Single use' plastic means something which is used once and then thrown away, like a fizzy drink bottle or a plastic straw. Making plastic also contributes to global warming.
You can do your bit by reducing your plastic waste. Lots of shops sell products made of natural, environmentally-friendly materials. You can also check out ten tips to reduce your plastic footprint.
Refill your plastic water bottles
Thirsty? Save money and be kind to the environment by refilling your plastic water bottles.
Did you know that many shops, restaurants, and public venues across Middlesbrough will refill your water bottle for free?
Visit Refill to find out more, and to get a link to the 'Refill App', which will tell you the nearest place where you can fill your water bottle for free when you’re out and about.
Did you know that there are several eco-friendly and refill stores near Middlesbrough? Plastic-free and zero waste, each store sells a variety of food, drink, beauty and lifestyle items.
For more information go to https://ecoshop.org.uk/find-an-eco-shop/ or https://menvcity.org.uk/project/local-eco-shops/
3. Save energy at home
Being more energy efficient at home is a great way to save money and help the planet. Simple changes can help you to be more eco-friendly, like:
- turning off lights when you leave a room
- unplugging devices when you're done with them
- replacing your light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs
You should also check your heating. Changes like insulating your home properly can help to cut down your carbon emissions (and your energy bills!). Check out the Energy Saving Trust's energy saving quick wins.
To find out more about smart meters and if you’re eligible for energy efficiency support, get in touch with Middlesbrough Environment City (affordable warmth).
4. Buy local, seasonal, and sustainable food
Changing the way you shop and eat is good for your health, and it also boosts the local economy, reduces waste, and gives you tastier, more nutritious food.
It's estimated that around 30% of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture (farming). Add to this the number of miles your food travels (it's often shipped across the world to reach you), and you can start to see the benefits of buying local and growing your own food.
If you want to know more about where your food comes from, the BBC has a tool where you can measure the carbon footprint of your favourite foods.
When you buy locally-grown food you're supporting a diverse food economy, keeping more money in the local economy, as well as supporting jobs in farming and food production. Because there's less time and distance between the grower and you, the food is fresher when you eat it, and has a smaller carbon footprint.
Farmers markets, farm shops, food co-ops, and local bakeries and grocers are great places to find food and drink grown or made in your community. Stewart Park hosts a farmers market on the last Sunday of every month, and there are lots of others across North Yorkshire and Teesside too. Visit the Northern Dales Farmers Markets website for more information.
Locally-produced fruit and vegetables are best, but if the supermarket is your only option, try to plan one big trip rather than going a few times a week. Choose UK-grown seasonal produce, and buy food with as little packaging as possible, or shop at places which let you bring your own bags.
Grow your own
Another great option is growing your own food. You could do this in your garden, or rent one of our allotments, where you can grow fruit, vegetables, and herbs. If you don't have a garden, you can still grow your own herbs - you just need a window sill!
Check out Middlesbrough Environment City for lots of useful information on food projects and events taking place in Middlesbrough.
Throwing out food is not only wasting your money, it's also throwing away a product that has taken, on average, a year to produce! From the farmer planting the wheat seed to the baker producing the loaf of bread, this can be a big waste of energy, money and resources.
If we stopped wasting food, it would have the same carbon impact as taking one in four cars off the road. Not only is there a huge benefit to the environment, the 110kg of food per person per year which is binned is the equivalent of £12.5bn across the UK, or £60 a month per family.
To find out more, visit Love Food Hate Waste.
Composting garden and kitchen waste at home means you'll send less rubbish to landfill. Using a compost bin will help you get rid of thing like fruit and vegetable peelings, grass and hedge clippings, egg shells, and tea bags, plus you'll have free compost to help your garden bloom!
We've teamed up with Get Composting to provide lower prices on home compost bins. To take advantage of the offer, visit the Get Composting website.
5. Make your commute green and top up your fitness
Making less car journeys is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, and it's also good for your health too.
Petrol and diesel cars give out lots of climate-harming emissions - in fact, vehicle emissions are one of the worst offenders when it comes to the causes of climate change! Most car trips in the UK are relatively short - under 5 miles. So next time you head out, think about whether you can leave your car at home and walk, cycle, or get the bus or train instead?
You might be surprised at how often you drive to places which you could easily walk or cycle to instead. Walking or biking are both good for the environment, great exercise, and save you money on petrol.
Connect Tees Valley can help you to plan your journey by bus, train, bike, car, or on foot.
Another way to cut down on your car use is to plan ahead. Why not try doing your weekly food shop all in one go, rather than making lots of little trips to the supermarket? Or plan to go shopping while you're already in the car on the way home from work, or driving the children home from a friend's house or playing football.