Beth Howell Date published: 3 August 2022 11 min read Figuring out how to reduce your CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions, waste, and overall impact on the planet can feel daunting. Where do you even start?You might also be questioning whether these changes will even make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Well, let us reassure you – every small change makes a huge difference.Each decision we make as consumers – whether it’s replacing plastic bottles with a reusable one, or using more renewable energy at home – encourages businesses and governments to make more sustainable choices.There are lots of steps we can all take that collectively make a big difference – and we’re here to show you a few of them.1. Cut back on meat consumptionFood production accounts for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – with the meat and dairy sector alone producing around 14.5%.Historically, humans would only eat meat once in a blue moon – after all, we had to physically catch our food. Today, however, is a very different story. A recent survey found that 54% of people eat meat for “almost every meal”.This excessive meat consumption means the combined total of chickens (19 billion), cows (1.5 billion), sheep (1 billion), and pigs (1 billion) is three times higher than the number of people. And this quantity of agricultural stock is drastically increasing emissions.This is why veganism and vegetarianism are gaining popularity around the world.If you don’t like the idea of never eating meat again, but want to reduce your CO2e emissions, why not start by cutting back? Simply swapping meat for vegetables a few times a week can have a huge impact.For example, producing 100 grams of protein from peas emits just 0.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), whereas getting the same amount of protein from beef would be nearly 90 times higher.2. Avoid plastic wasteIf you want to be more eco-friendly, cutting back on plastic is a must.Plastic pollution is one of the biggest problems we face. The sheer volume of it is enough to turn anyone’s stomach – growing from two million tonnes in 1950 to 380 million tonnes in 2015.This material is cheap and strong, which is ideal for businesses to make profit. But once discarded, plastic eventually ends up invading precious habitats – having devastating impacts on marine wildlife, such as albatross, dolphins, and turtles, as they continue to digest the stuff.Producing plastic also means we’re relying on one of the most harmful fossil fuels on the planet: oil. If plastic production continues at this rate, it could account for 20% of oil production by 2050.To avoid contributing to this plastic pandemic, check out some of our tips below on how to reduce plastic waste:Go to refill food shops – Instead of buying products wrapped in plastic, head to a refill store where you can top up empty containers with staple foods, such as pasta or riceUse soap bars – Instead of buying soap, shampoo, and conditioner bottles, try bars. They last longer, don’t come in plastic containers, and are just as effectiveAvoid single-use kitchen items – Instead of using cling film and plastic wallets to store food, use silicone bags and lids, or wax wrapsTry plastic-free period products – To avoid getting through thousands of tampons or pads over the next few decades, try using a reusable menstrual cup, disk, or period pantsAlways be prepared – Always have a reusable bag, bottle, and ‘keep cup’ on you when you’re out and aboutWant to learn about more plastic-saving tips? Head to our page: 17 Plastic Alternatives for Your Home.3. Buy from local independent storesBuying products from local shops can benefit the planet and small independent businesses.Humans have found a way to globalise almost everything – so much so that we don’t even give it a second thought anymore. For example, food is often flown from all corners of the world to reach our dinner plates, which means we no longer need to wait for the seasons to change to have our favourite meals.However, a recent study found that 20% of the carbon impact of our food comes from its transportation.And this isn’t the case for just food – many tech products are produced in countries like China, which means they have to be shipped to the rest of the world, and high-street fashion brands capitalise on poorly paid workers in countries like Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia.So if you want to be more eco-friendly, avoid flying or shipping your products around the world. Get your food from local farmer’s markets, buy your clothes from second-hand shops, and purchase general household items from independent stores.4. Avoid fast fashionThe clothes on our backs have a bigger impact on the planet than many of us realise.Keeping up with the latest fashion trends has led to something called ‘fast fashion’, which is when cheaply produced garments are stocked quickly in stores to maximise on current trends.Why is fast fashion so bad for the environment? It comes down to four main reasons:Increases CO2e emissions – Fast fashion is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions. This mainly comes from the factories that the clothes are made in, which are usually located in countries that rely on fossil fuels, as well as transporting the clothes around the worldPlastic pollution – Many of these clothes are made from plastic, since it’s a cheap but durable material. This means when we wash these items, they release tonnes of microplastics into the oceanWater consumption – Creating these cheap clothes requires a lot of water. In fact, the industry is the second-biggest consumer of water, which is drying up already vulnerable water sourcesWaste – The very nature of fast fashion encourages waste, as it’s based on keeping up with current trends and ditching old ones. This means that 85% of all textiles go to dumps each yearThis constant conveyor belt of clothes shows no signs of slowing down either. According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, CO2e emissions from textile manufacturing alone are projected to skyrocket by 60% in the next decade.But there are a number of ways you can avoid fast fashion:Ditch the main fast fashion giants: Zara, UNIQLO, Forever 21, and H&MBuy clothes from local independent storesSupport charity shops and vintage storesLook into second-hand clothing apps, such as Depop5. Ditch throw-away cultureHumans have picked up a bad habit of throwing away items before considering whether they can be fixed. A key way you can be more eco-friendly is to avoid this ‘throw-away culture’, which is leading to unnecessary waste around the world.This wasteful attitude started back in the 1950s when plastic and chemical industries began rolling out single-use disposable items. It has since seeped into almost every area of our lifestyles, especially when it comes to fashion and furniture.Next time you’re craving a new interior look, try upcycling existing pieces of furniture. Upcycling old furniture can be as easy as sanding it down, giving it a lick of paint, or adding new features to give it a new lease of life.The same goes for clothes. Try saving your damaged clothes with a sewing machine before sending them to landfill. And if you’re bored with your wardrobe, why not have some fun and get crafty? Turn your old dress into a new T-shirt, embroider a cool pattern on your plain shirt, or even paint new features onto your old trainers.6. Change your travel habitsIt’s no secret that the transport sector produces a lot of CO2e emissions – 22% of the world’s CO2 emissions, to be specific. It also generates a lot of noise pollution, which impacts local ecosystems and can even affect reproduction rates in some animals.The most obvious way you can reduce your CO2e emissions is by cutting back the number of flights you take, since aeroplanes consume a lot of fuel. However, cutting out driving – or at least reducing the amount you drive – will have a bigger impact on your carbon footprint.According to Our World in Data, road travel accounts for three-quarters of the carbon emissions produced by global transport, with most of this coming from passenger vehicles (cars and buses), which contribute 45.1%.So next time you go to hop in the car, consider whether it’s a journey that you can do either by public transport, cycling, or walking.7. Use more renewable energyRenewable energy is a key tool for us in the fight against climate change. Instead of relying on fossil fuels to power industries, we can use natural sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower – plus, there’s an endless supply of them. It’s a win-win!If you have the funds, it’s worth investing in a set of solar panels. Not only will this slash your household’s carbon emissions (or pretty much eradicate them, depending on how much energy your solar panels provide you with) but it’ll also help you reduce the cost of your energy bills.If you can’t afford to buy a set of solar panels, you can always look into different renewable energy tariffs. Although the energy market is pretty turbulent at the moment, some of the Big Six suppliers provide renewable energy tariffs, which can significantly cut back on your household emissions.8. Insulate your homeOur homes generate more CO2e emissions than we realise – whether it’s from heating, lighting, or cooking.In fact, 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint comes from household emissions.If your home is poorly insulated, one way you can severely reduce your impact on the environment is to insulate your property. This way, your home will be able to lock in heat, which will mean you won’t have to reach for the thermostat as frequently during the winter.The Climate Change Committee's Core scenario suggests that average household CO2e carbon emissions for heating will have to come down from 2,745 kg of CO2e to 692 kg of CO2e between 2017 and 2050 – so it’s just a matter of time before we all have to do this.9. Reduce energy consumptionWe need to seriously cut back on energy consumption. Over time, we’ve become more and more reliant on electricity to power our lives – from work, to entertainment, even down to managing our finances.Thankfully, there are easy ways you can cut back on energy consumption, including:Turning off the lights when you’re not using themOpting for products that have a good energy efficiency rating (you’ll find this as a colour-coded chart on the product)Deleting your emails (some research has found that storing an individual email can generate anything from 0.03g CO2e to 26g CO2e)Taking shorter showersMaking sure your washing loads are fullWant to learn more? Check out our page on the Top Ways to Reduce Your Energy Bills.10. Help wildlife You don’t need to do a volunteering season across the world to help wildlife deal with environmental changes – you can do this right from your doorstep.If you have a garden or outdoor space, transform it into a wildlife haven by:Letting the grass grow – This increases populations of short-grass plants like daisies and white clover, which will boost nectar productionFeeding the birds – Creating bird boxes and putting out food will help birds thrive, which is important for the local ecosystemBuilding an insect hotel – These will create shelter for all sorts of important insects, such as beetles and spidersCreating a pond – A pond is a real boost for wildlife. It doesn’t have to be huge either – you can even just fill a barrel with water and native water weeds and watch local insects flockComposting – A compost heap provides a habitat for worms, woodlice and many other insects, including frogs and slow wormsTaking a break from weeding – Weeds are essential for a healthy ecosystem. Plants such as nettles, daisies and buttercups are important sources of food for many insects, including butterflies and moths.11. Get involved in volunteeringIf you want to go the extra mile, you can always consider environmentally focused volunteering.There are plenty of volunteering opportunities out there – whether it’s a local tree planting scheme or a full-on conservation course in a country abroad.SummaryThe current state of the world can be enough to make anyone feel deflated. And it can feel like changing your habits won’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things.But the more people change their everyday habits, the better. Businesses adapt their models depending on customer trends – and the more of us that swap for sustainable products, the more companies will become more eco-friendly. Beth Howell Writer @Bethany_Howell_ Beth has a real passion for green living. She’s been absorbed in eco research for over three years, and has become quite the expert. Whether you’re after a new set of solar panels, a home energy improvement, or you want to catch the latest eco news, she’s got your back.