I’m not a big one for resolutions and favour tangible goals instead, but 2016 has taught me a lot, and this year I want to do even more positive things, for myself, for others, and for the planet. With that in mind, I’ve rounded up ten things you can do to make a ethically positive impact in your everyday life.
1. Plant trees for free every time you use the internet
I recently wrote about a fab web browser called Ecosia. You can read the article here, but basically, its a free browser and app you can download for your computer and devices, that plants trees on your behalf every time you use it. So far this initiative has planted over 5 MILLION trees in developing and rural communities. It’s completely free for you and works just the same as your current browser. You can find out more and get the links to download the browser for your computer and the app for your phone, from my original article here.
2. Make a direct impact with ‘Lend with Care’
We all have our favourite charities and causes that are close to our heart. There are several charities I support on a monthly basis, Wateraid, Ace Animal Care in Egypt, Stop the War, Redwings, the Soi Dog foundation and the RSPCA . These are small amounts that are paid as standing orders from my bank so the only time I think about making charity donations is the one off ones that crop up from time to time. However, I recently bought a laptop for a refugee who had just been accepted into a French university. I won’t go into the details or his back story, but the whole experience was utterly humbling. It was such a small sacrifice on my part that was helping support this young man move on from the atrocities he had experienced in his home country. It got me thinking that helping directly is so much more rewarding, and during a chat with my mum she mentioned ‘Lend with care’. It is an initiative that allows you to lend whatever amount you choose, (£15 minimum) to small businesses in the world’s poorest communities, directly helping these people out of poverty. It may be that these business owners require money to purchase stock, or land, or to fund a new employee, but you lend the money and eventually the loan is repaid back to you, which you can either withdraw or reinvest into another business. Its a really lovely idea and helps people in a dignified way, there are around 200 worthy causes to explore and support, check out more at Lendwithcare.org
3. Ask your favourite brands, “Who made my clothes?”
Be a part of the Fashion Revolution campaign – not-for-profit company that is campaigning for transparency in the world of fast fashion – to encourage brands to use sustainable methods to protect our planet, and for fair pay and working conditions for all of those involved in the supply chain. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy email, pretty much every brand uses Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so why not drop them a picture of your outfit or the label and ask them “Who made my clothes?” using the hashtags #whomademyclothes and #fashionrevolution
4. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle!
In the Isle of Man where we are currently living, there is no landfill – the glass, plastics, papers and cans are recycled, and the rest goes into an incinerator which turns the waste into energy, which fuels around 20% of the island’s electricity supply. Pretty smart and absolutely one of my favourite things about this peculiar little place. Unfortunately, the UK produces more household waste per head, than most other countries in Europe, and whatever is not recycled, goes into landfill. In 2010, 24 tonnes of household waste was collected, with 9.4 tonnes of this recycled, and although the recycle rate was increasing, in 2014 it was noticed that this figure had stalled, a not-so gentle reminder that we cannot get complacent. Recycling is better for the environment, for our childrens planet, and is a simple thing we can all do.
5. Eat less (or no) meat, and help combat climate change
When I was 6 years old I chose to give up meat. I made my mum (who was then a meat-eater) buy me a jumper made by Redwings Horse Sanctuary who I supported (and still do) that said “If you love animals, why eat them?”. I used to stand in the meat aisles of our local supermarket whilst my mum went off and did the shopping, giving everyone dirty looks as they picked out their chilled meats. It was bold and aggressive and makes for a funny anecdote now, (I am also eternally grateful to my mum for letting me stand up for something I believed in and protest like this!), but I was feisty, and upset, even then I couldn’t understand how people would differentiate between a dog and a cow, both sentient, both trainable, both intelligent gentle creatures, but one was deemed more worthy of life than the other. I’ve come a long way since those days and chosen to vent my passion in more positive ways and I am no longer as confrontational about this topic, I think my friends would agree that I am not a preachy vegan, however, in recent years as the negative environmental aspects of eating meat have emerged, it is just impossible to remain silent. Animal agriculture is the number one cause of climate change. Cows (herbivores!) are the oceans largest predator – huge trawler nets gather everything in their wake to be dried into pellets to feed these cattle. By 2050, we could see fishless oceans. Children are starving, yet crops are grown to feed to animals, over them. Meat is just not necessary in our diet and is decimating the planet. There is so much information out there, ignorance is no longer an option. The movie Cowspiracy is a good place to start, and this inspiring and moving short speech by Phillip Wollen, former VP of Citibank, is incredible, he summarises why things need to change, both for humanity, and the environment.
6. Use reusable shopping bags
Plastic bags are one of the items we use in bulk that take the longest to degrade, meaning they go into landfill – damaging environments and causing harm to wildlife. Since the charge for plastic shopping bags was introduced in 2015, the use of plastic bags is down by an absolutely huge 85% across the UK! That is a mega number, and although sometimes its impossible to avoid the use of a plastic bags, being prepared for the weekly shop and doing what we can, when we can, is making a huge difference, so let’s keep at it!
7. Get involved!
Whether its volunteering, involvement with a local charity or taking a few minutes out of your day to log into Change. org, or Avaaz.org and sign a bunch of petitions that pull at your heart strings, just doing a little something not only makes a huge difference, it will make you feel good too. ‘Slacktivism’ is the term for being a sofa-activist, but the proof is there and you will receive updates on the petitions you have signed, it really does work. Don’t forget to shout about the causes you are passionate about too, sharing information is the number one way to raise awareness.
8. Give the gift of giving
This post-Christmas week, our house is littered with toys and gifts and packaging and…just so much STUFF. Of course it is lovely to feel so spoilt and loved, and for that I am eternally grateful, but its pretty frustrating when lots of that will end up in the rubbish bin. Something I have chosen to do (I know lots of my friends are on board with this too) is to give experiences, instead of stuff. Alex’s Christmas present is still a surprise to him, taking place early January, and his present to me was so sweet and made me cry when I opened the envelope on Christmas day – he purchased 10 hectares of land for the Orangutan Project to continue their work rescuing these beautiful creatures. One of my oldest friends, Jen, for the past two Christmas’s has donated to Crisis homeless shelter instead of giving us physical presents. I can honestly say this makes me so happy, so I guess the message is to be present and spend time with your loved ones, or give the act of giving as your gift, unless they’ve got a heart of stone it really will be appreciated as much as, if not more so, than a physical present.
9. Switch from banks that fund wars
It is not-so widely reported that all of the big banks are involved in the funding of companies that use child labour, test cosmetics and household products on animals and deal in arms amongst others things (incidentally, the UK is the second largest arms dealer in the world, what the F…). Switching to an ethical bank or building society will mean you and your money are no longer part of this. I’ve banked with Smile (part of the Co-op) for the past 12 years and I can sincerely recommend them all round, they are helpful, friendly and offer great rates and services. They are an online only bank, but you can use Co-op branches and the Post Office for paper transactions. You can read about their ethics here.
10. Go green on your energy source, for free
So there are some companies out there that are making big changes in the world of green, renewable energy. Check out Bulb – they offer 100% renewable energy, they pay your exit fees from your current energy supplier AND they save you on average 20% on your energy bills a year, they will also switch everything over for you, making it completely hassle free! Unfortunately they don’t cover the Isle of Man, but for anyone based in the UK this is a no-brainer, saving the planet and saving money – what’s not to like?!
Let me know how you get on with any of these, I would love to hear your stories, or if there is anything that you can think of that I haven’t mentioned here, please drop me a message on here or on Instagram!
This piece was previously published on The Eco Edit.