Dec 27, 2019

New Year's sustainable resolutions

Words by Freya Rose

2019 has been a big year for environmental sustainability. On the 1st May, the UK parliament declared a climate emergency, calling for action towards net-zero emissions and a zero-waste economy. In August, Greta Thunberg sailed the Atlantic to reach a UN climate summit in New York, highlighting the harmful carbon footprint of air travel. October saw Extinction Rebellion protests in over 60 cities around the world.

All the while, atmospheric CO2 has never been higher, and our natural resources continue to be depleted at an alarming rate. It’s no wonder that in our recent survey of 2000 people across the UK, over a quarter said that their new years’ resolution is to be more environmentally friendly. So, what can you do?

First Mile work with over 27,000 businesses to improve sustainability and increase recycling rates in the workplace. Here are our top 6 suggested New Year's sustainable resolutions for a greener 2020:

  • Stop buying bottled water

The average person in the UK uses 150 plastic bottles every year – that’s more than three per week, with over half failing to reach recycling facilities. It’s definitely worth investing in a sustainable, reusable water bottle.

If you’re away from the office, the Refill App lists over 20,000 refill stations nationwide to get drinking water on-the-go. Thames Water and the Mayor of London are currently installing over 200 new water fountains across the capital. If you must buy a plastic bottle, make sure to dispose of it in the correct recycling bin. With First Mile, that’s mixed recycling or our new single-use plastics recycling sack.

  • Go renewable

Switch your workplace to a renewable energy provider. Renewable electricity is generated from the likes of hydro, solar, wave or wind power. Renewable gas comes from ‘anaerobic digestion’ – the breaking down of biodegradable material, including First Mile’s food recycling. These sources do not deplete the Earth’s natural resources, or contribute harmful carbon emissions, as with the extraction and burning of oil, gas and coal.

In the UK this year, renewable energy supply overtook fossil fuels for the first time. 100% renewable tariffs are becoming increasingly popular and more affordable.

  • Caffeinate consciously

Americano, latte, flat white – whatever your hot beverage of choice, make sure you have a reusable cup with you when you refuel. In the UK, approximately 7 million paper coffee cups are used every day. Due to the mixture of paper and plastic in their inner lining, these cups can only be recycled at specialist facilities and otherwise end up in a landfill.

First Mile was the first waste provider in London to offer a coffee cup recycling service, giving single-use coffee cups a new life as shopping bags and notepads. Alternatively, if you have an in-office coffee machine, why not recycle your coffee grounds into biofuels?

  • Watch your foodprint

The likes of meat-free Mondays and Veganuary have been gaining momentum over the past few years, and for good reason. Livestock farming contributes between 20 and 50% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Many research studies report that reducing meat and dairy produce in your diet goes a long way to reducing your environmental impact.

But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing: experiment with cutting down and replacing meat with the likes of other protein sources such as beans, lentils and tofu. When it comes to groceries, try your local farmers’ market for fresh and regional produce. Shopping seasonally also avoids the air miles associated with imported food. If you’re feeling peckish, January is a good month for apples, pears, beetroot and cauliflower.

  • Shop offline

We’re all guilty of internet shopping – any excuse to stay in our pyjamas! One out of every seven purchases around the world is now online. But whether it’s Amazon or ASOS, the transportation involved in delivering millions of parcels across the UK every day has a significant carbon footprint.

If you are shopping online, try to bulk order items rather than ordering multiple single products resulting in separate deliveries. When you have the time, bus, bike or walk to your nearest shops. Buying instore removes unnecessary carbon emissions and packaging.

  • Think outside (or inside!) the box

Recycling can be confusing, with endless ‘what goes in which bin?’ dilemmas. At First Mile, one of our core values is keeping it simple. That’s why we launched the RecycleBox; a post-back scheme for those difficult-to-recycle items.

While you’re packing up the Christmas decorations, have a look around you - does your office have a tonne of toner cartridges; does your shop have a tangle of coat hangers; does your café have a mountain of Tetra Pak? Simply fill a box under 5kg and book a collection via our website – we’ll do the rest! If you have something with no existing solution, send it in and we’ll take it to our super RecycleLab for analysis.

Living sustainably is all about making small changes and conscious choices. If everyone takes small steps to improve their environmental impact, we can drive major change for the better. So, this new year, what will be your sustainable resolutions?

Wishing you all the best for a happy (and green!) 2020.

By Freya Rose

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