28 ways to make 2019 your most sustainable year yet

Megan McGrath, Communications Coordinator, provides ideas for New Year’s Resolutions that make a difference. 

A new year is a chance to start a new hobby or attempt to reach a goal you’ve always wanted to. Here at the Department of Social Responsibility and Sustainability, we’re challenging you to make this your most year sustainable yet!

We’ve come up with 28 simple actions you can take each day which have a positive impact upon our planet. Try keep up as many of them as you can for the month!

  1. Buy your next item of clothing second hand- Have a browse through eBay, the Depop app or your local charity shops for your next staple item at a fraction of the cost and the environmental impact.
  2. Replace your toothbrush with a bamboo one- They’re a fast growing, renewable material source that emit 35% more oxygen whilst growing than the equivalent state of hardwood.
  3. Swap to a safety razor– Forget plastic disposable ones, it’s time to embrace the original razor made of stainless steel. Once the blades dull, recycle and replace them.
  4. Eat more plants- Researchers at the University of Oxford found a vegan diet could reduce an individual’s environmental impact by up to 73%
  5. Say no to plastic straws (unless you need them)– Straws get used for an average of 20 seconds and as they’re made from a material that lasts up to hundreds of years, they’re highly wasteful. Try a bamboo or steel alternative.
  6. Get a reusable coffee cup– With a range of prices and designs available now, there’s no excuse not to get one! The initial investment will soon be balanced out by avoiding the surcharge for disposable cups across campus.
  7. Wash your clothes on 30 degrees and air dry your clothes- This helps you to cut CO2 emissions, save energy (and energy costs) and help your clothes last longer. Plus, air drying your clothes won’t risk your favourite jumper shrinking.
  8. Swap your cow’s milk for oat- With a fifth of the carbon emissions and many health benefits, give it a try in your next brew! (Bonus if you can make your own)
  9. Clear out your cupboards and give things you don’t need to charity– This helps create a circular economy rather than the standard, linear model of buying something new before it ending up in landfill.
  10. Switch your energy company to a renewable one- Not only will you save money, but your bills will help make our world greener.
  11. Make your own food– This not only will likely save you money but will also avoid the unnecessary use of packaging from ready meals and pre-packaged foods. If you are buying food to go, take a lunchbox to a café (and even some cutlery from home) and ask for your food in that.
  12. Use Freecycle/Gumtree freebies These are both platforms people upload items they want to get rid of but are not looking for financial gain. Find everything from sofas, fridges and photo frames.
  13. Take our Be Sustainable training– This will give you practical tasks you can sign up to make change around the University both as a staff member and a student
  14. Grow your own– forget food miles, turn your garden or windowsill space into a mini allotment and have fresh herbs at hand whenever you need them. Check out this guide to get you started.
  15. Active travel- try walking or, if you live further away, cycling to work or University. Not only does this have benefits for your health, but you’ll take cars off the road. Why not read our team member’s blog on trying the University’s e-bikes for the first time?
  16. Swap beef mince for beans- eating a beef burger 1-2 times a week adds 604kg of CO2 to your annual carbon footprint, whilst double the weight of beans 1-2 a week adds a mere 7kg. Skip your steak for plant-based options for more sustainable meals. Find out more here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46459714
  17. Use your local greengrocers– This supports local business, you can far more easily shop plastic-free and they also often supply more local produce.
  18. Shop plastic free- Edinburgh’s newly opened zero waste shop, The Eco Larder, sells a range of dry wholefoods that are completely plastic free. Make a trip with your jars and tubs to reduce your waste!
  19. Use your leftovers- Ensure when you put the half-empty can of beans back into the fridge that you know what you’ll do with it. Regularly checking the contents of your fridge to ensure you’re not duplicating items or buying things you don’t need prevents food waste. Check out Food Sharing Scotland for more.
  20. Say no to plastic bottles– Ask to fill up your reusable water bottle in cafes if you’re out the house and always make sure to leave the house with a full bottle so you won’t get caught out. If you like fizzy drinks, use dispensers from fast food branches to refill your own bottle to avoid the plastic bottle or disposable cup (be warned, some of the colourings can stain). The University has lots of free drinking water points.
  21. Buy expiring, bruised or wonky veg- Look out for reduced fruit and veg to buy for food that day. This is often food that is overlooked, so make a point to choose the imperfect foods that could otherwise end up as food waste. Sometimes they’ll need to be eaten quickly, so make sure you have nothing else in the fridge that needs eating first.
  22. Mend something- Now replacing torn or damaged clothing is as cheap and easy as it is currently, the skills of repairing what we already own are being lost. The Edinburgh Remakery holds workshops on fixing both electronics and clothing and wants to create a repair revolution. 
  23. Pick up any litter you see- This helps keep habitats healthy but also means people are less likely to litter there in the future.
  24. Support an environmental organisation- find an organisation whose work you admire and pledge a donation to them (if you can) or donate your time by becoming a volunteer.
  25. Save food waste from Too Good to Go- download this free app to discover food near you that would have normally been thrown away at the end of the day. For example, a bakery’s pastries that only last a day or restaurant that prepared too much. Get yourself a cheap meal and fight food waste too.
  26. Become an energy detective and look out for energy issues on campus- Have you spotted something around campus you think is an inefficient use of energy, and have an idea on how to improve it? Fill out the form and send us a photo here to be in a chance of winning prizes!
  27. Make your next holiday a local one– If you’re feeling a need to escape Scotland’s cold weather, why not take a train or coach to your destination? A return flight from Edinburgh to Thailand ads almost 3 tonnes of carbon to your footprint.
  28. Get a friend to join you in these habits- collective change is vital. Talk to your friends, colleagues and family and ask if they can make one of their New Year’s resolutions about helping the planet.

Let us know which actions you’ll be taking, what you think you’ll struggle with most and how you get on!

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