Life stories

Mindful footprints

Recently I started following a facebook page called The Lazy Environmentalists, populated by people like me, who want to be more ecologically conscious but aren’t always successful. I think it’s ok to be imperfect; I want to stop buying any types of plastic but for the life of me, I cannot imagine a world where I can’t spray everything down with Dettol surface cleaner every once in a while.

If you have the slightest inclination towards a more sustainable lifestyle, here are some low hanging fruit that will make you feel less guilty:

Avoid single use material and opt for eco-alternatives

In the past year I realized how much plastic I wasted every time I used a q-tip for my ears after a shower. Did you know you could skip Johnson’s plastic cotton buds and get an alternative product made entirely from paper or bamboo? They’re likely to be cheaper, and even if they don’t get recycled, they are biodegradable. It may seem trivial, but if you use two of them twice a week, you’d still end up using hundreds of tiny plastic sticks, some of which may end up in our oceans and the food chain.

There’s also the obvious products you can get, including textile shopping bags, reusable bottles, coffee mugs, straws, cutlery etc. If you want to go deep, you can try reusable hygiene products like baby diapers or menstruation cups. The world is your oyster.

Take advantage of stores offering ecological options

I love it when I can walk into a coffee shop with my insulated mug and get my coffee with a discount. If you didn’t plan ahead, you can always order your drink in a proper mug or at least a paper cup. There’s also the occasional salad bar which allows you to bring your own container; if you never try, you’ll never know where this is accepted!

Image by ready made on

Don’t be carried away

You only need one water bottle and one coffee mug. They should last for a long long time and scratches on the outside do not affect quality on the inside; if you’re just looking to buy more flashy things, you’re not doing any favors to the environment.

Consider the footprint of delivery from China to your door

Online retailers may have better prices and more options to choose from, but before placing your orders, consider how many ships and airplanes your products are taking to get to you. Try to combine purchases and if the extra cost isn’t considerable, buy local. You’re saving a ton of CO2 and boosting local businesses at a low personal cost.

Image by Tom Fisk on

Avoid wrapping paper

It’s not recyclable! Instead, if you come across a newspaper with nice pictures, a crossword puzzle or a comic strip, wrap your present making sure the nice bits are on top. Yes fam, expect your Christmas gifts in newspaper wrapping from now on.

If a friend is willing, give them the push they need

Are they asking questions about where you got those metal straws? Do they seem ready to change some habits for the better? Gift them the small things, and see where it goes. Tried and tested method.

Image by Maria Orlova on

Move on your own two feet

Walking or cycling when distances allow it are not only good for the environment, but you too. The pandemic has us grounded for prolonged periods of time, but if it wasn’t Covid, it would be something else us forcing us to spend our days sitting. Work maybe? Just saying. Maybe everyone can benefit if you switch one or two of your weekly car rides with a less carbon intensive transportation mode.

Consider limiting your meat consumption

The cost of meat and dairy in terms of carbon emissions is significantly high, and alternative diets have been suggested as more sustainable dietary options. If you’re like me and can’t quite give up on meat, consider limiting how often you eat it; whether it’s in the form of steak, barbecued or cold cuts. Check this site for more information on diet and related emissions.

There’s so much more each one of us can do, but not everything can happen at once; being mindful of the choices we make and acknowledging the impact they have is step one. I’m one person, and you’re another, and the city has 300,000 people and if everyone switched to paper cotton buds, that’s over 62 million plastic sticks saved from going to waste.

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