Wrap up warm and use heating sparingly – the planet will thank you.
With November in full swing, the days are not only darker but colder, too – but turning the heating up not only costs your bank balance, it costs the planet, too. So how can we make eco-friendly choices this winter without freezing our toes off?
There are a number of simple swaps and reductions which can add up to make a real difference – from using less heating to making sustainable clothes choices.
Here are some of the best ways to go green during the chillier months.
Recycle your old winter wardrobe
When winter comes around, many of us are guilty of splashing out on new pieces – be it a winter coat, cosy knitwear or new outfits for Christmas party season. But one of the easiest ways to help the planet is to resist these urges.
The fashion industry – particularly fast fashion – has come under fire over recent years for the efforts that go into making a garment, such as the sourcing of raw materials, manufacturing, production, transport, washing and disposal. Many of these production methods are harmful to the planet.
Senior lecturer and environmental campaigner Dr Christian Dunn tells Metro.co.uk: ‘The simplest way to keep warm, dry and eco-friendly this winter is to use what you’ve got, borrow what you can and buy second-hand anything else.
‘Avoid the urge and modern compulsion to just buy everything you think you need brand new. The easiest way to be eco-friendly is simply not to waste, and this means clothes too.
‘Look again at your old jacket – can it be mended instead of being thrown away? Could you borrow a pair of wellies off your friend for an afternoon?’ Re-styling old pieces, taking part in clothes swaps and borrowing from friends are all simple yet effective ways of doing your bit for the environment.
Think twice about fashion choices
Dr Christian says: ‘Many modern fabrics can release thousands of microplastic fragments. There can even be issues with the environmental impacts of natural materials; like cotton and wool.’ Tights are a staple for most women over the colder months but their disposable nature makes them a problematic piece when it comes to being environmentally-friendly.
Not only that, but they’re also made from nylon yarn – a petrol-based product – which is far from natural. When nylon is produced it releases nitrous oxide into the atmosphere; a greenhouse gas more harmful than CO2. What’s more, the synthetic makeup of tights means they cannot be recycled – so are likely to end up in a landfill.
Sadly, the bad news doesn’t stop there. When you put your tights into the washing machine they release microplastics into the water. Brands such as Heist are working hard to create sustainable products. Their new fishnet tights are made of more than 86% of recycled waste, including a sustainable form of nylon. The production method also uses less water and produces less CO2.
Knitwear is another textile which has caused debate over recent years – primarily due to concerns surrounding the treatment of animals.
Dr Christian adds: ‘There are obviously some great ethical and environmentally-aware companies producing fantastic products, too.’ The best way to help the planet is to stay informed.
Spend some time looking into where different materials come from and process behind them – rather than just buying products in the moment.
Also think about whether you really need a new piece. Sustainability consultancy Eco Age say we should be considering the lifespan of clothes when we purchase them. So much so they’ve launched their own #30wears campaign, which encourages shoppers to think about whether they will wear an item 30 times or more.
Use your heating sparingly
Cutting down on heating will help reduce emissions. According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the average UK home’s carbon footprint has been reduced by 4.7 tonnes of CO2 since 1990. Which is great news.
However, this needs to be reduced a further 3.6 tonnes by 2030, in order for the UK to stay on track to reach the 80% reduction of emissions by 2050 – which is urgently required to reach climate change targets.
The CCC claims 40% of UK emissions come from households and the biggest part of those come from burning gas for heating and hot water.
Dr Christian says: ‘When it comes to heating your house I’ve no idea how it has become the norm to have houses so hot in winter that you could walk around in shorts and t-shirt? ‘It’s winter – it’s cold; what’s wrong with putting another jumper on in the house? It means you can turn the heating down – saving money and crucially any emissions released producing the power you need.
‘Ultimately, we should all think about using less energy where we can and simply put an extra jumper on in winter.’
Turning the heating on isn’t the only way you can be warm in your own home. Layering up is of course an option, alongside investing in some decent thermals and toasty slippers. Alternatively, for extra warmth, pop a hot water bottle into your bed before you get in for the night. That way the heat is kept in one place, rather than wasted on the rest of the room or house. Blankets and throws can also offer warmth.
Make sure your house is reaching its potential
Of course, when bitter Baltic conditions hit the UK, there’s no point catching a chill. Some colder weather conditions require heating – just make sure it’s as eco-friendly as possible.
Dr Christian adds: ‘There are lots of measures we can take to insulate our homes better, move to renewable sources of power – either through switching energy suppliers or microgeneration on our own properties – and if we’re fortunate enough to be able to act on these then we should.’
Green energy is better for the environment than fossil fuels. This is because it’s generated through renewable, natural energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and tidal. The good news is that despite most people thinking renewable energy suppliers are more expensive than their less eco-friendly counterparts – the truth is, they are not.
This may have been the case in the past, but now several companies have brought their prices down to attract customers. If you’re unable to switch suppliers, alternative household checks can make all the difference. Seal any cracks or gaps in your house, where cold air cold could be getting in. Also, adding curtains or blinds to windows will add another layer of insulation, preventing any drafts coming in.
Sometimes we forget that nuts, fruit, berries and plants are all around us. Foraging is a great sustainable way to source food – if it’s carried out responsibly.
Dr Christian says: ‘Once you’ve wrapped yourself-up enough to venture outside, then why not do something eco-friendly like foraging for wild foods?
Even now there are plenty of plants, nuts and fungi you can pick to eat; such as sweet chestnuts, chickweed and oyster mushrooms.
‘Fewer things are more eco-friendly than picking your own food to eat – no pesticides, no artificial fertilisers and no food miles.’
However, it’s worth pointing out that foraging has come under criticism for its limitations. While it’s a sustainable way for an individual for source food, people have been quick to point out that it’s less likely to work on a mass scale in terms of feeding a population.
Reuse and recycle Christmas decorations
Christmas comes but once a year – so there’s no need to buy all-new decorations every December.
Research suggests that 83sq km of wrapping paper and more than 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging are binned every year in the UK, on Christmas Day. A huge amount of waste for just one day of the year.
Recycling Christmas decorations seems like a eco-friendly and sustainable way to help – not to mention the money you’ll save, too. Come January, simply pack them away in a box, ready for next year.
If you must purchase new pieces, try to buy second-hand from charity shops.
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