Greener Together
Published in

Greener Together

Three Ways to Start Living More Sustainably in 2022

You should really consider these to reduce emissions and live more sustainably.

markpecar on Unsplash

COP26 is now a distant memory, with various countries reaching agreements on things like coal, deforestation, and reducing emissions as key outcomes of the summit. Fast-forward to the present day, I have wondered how these agreements have filtered down from national government representations to the everyday human like you and I. Other than taking up the ‘advice’ we see on television advertisements, government websites or ‘sponsored ads’ on social media, how can we individually contribute towards these goals? There are a lot of obvious answers such as active travel, use of electric vehicles, reuse (circular economy). But is anyone actually taking action, now? My conscience wasn’t clear as COP26 ended. I conducted a little audit of my own to see where I could make sustainable changes to the way I eat, travel, etc, and I have started to take action (call it leading by example if you will, as I seem to be in the minority at the moment).

Here are three ways you too can start to take action to help push things forward, reduce waste and emissions and contribute towards a greener economy. They are: juicing, eating greener/cleaner, and using locally roasted coffee instead of your daily high-calorie caramel-latte from Starbucks/Pret-A-Manger/Costa etc.

Juicing

Until recently, I had been buying a 1.5L bottle of Innocent Orange juice, priced at £2.50, every week for my daily glass of ‘fresh’ orange juice with breakfast. Yes, that’s a 30g plastic bottle which went into the recycle bin on a weekly basis. It gets ground down at the recycling centre to polymer, transported elsewhere and eventually gets moulded into something else. It was one of the larger household plastic items which went into the recycling bin — so I figured that there must be an alternative way to get orange juice, and of course it didn’t take long for me to realise that juicing real fruit could be the way forward.

Colin Sales on Medium — “fruit for juicing”

After a little googling, I worked out that if I juiced 8–10 oranges, maybe even adding a pineapple for added flavour then that gives me just over 1.5L of fresh fruit juice, with no added chemicals, minerals, vitamins or sweeteners. I mean zero factory inputs whatsoever — just pure juice so not pasteurised or even homogenised. This is about as clean as clean-eating goes in my eyes! So straight away, I’m getting some form of health benefit as any bacteria (or microorganisms) present in in the juices will (hopefully!) help to improve the resilience of my immune system. I am also saving 1.5Kg of actual plastic waste/recycling space per year. Over the lifetime of an average person in Scotland, that equates to around 120Kg of actual plastic. That’s huge!! And that’s for ONE bottle which I’m no longer buying every week, so we can count that out of my own individual supply chain. My carbon footprint for that little bottle of juice is no more and it makes me feel quite good as my conscience is a little clearer.

Conversely, there is a price to pay for switching out my daily OJ to the juicing the fresher variety: In today’s society, it seems that time is of the essence. I have other (dare I say more important) things to be doing with my time, so I need to make the juice quickly, therefore I will need a juicer. I want a masticating juicer to keep as many nutrients in the juice as possible, so that’ s a £200 one-off cost. Then there’s the electricity to use it — the juicer’s wattage is 150W so with electricity at an all-time high average of 28p per unit (at time of writing) — at ten minutes running time this works out at 4p per week, this costs me £2.08 per year to run.

Now add in the cost of the fruit… currently £4 for eight large oranges, and 79p for a pineapple, plus maintenance costs to get there (price of my bike, plus bag to carry the shopping in, apportioned out between now and my ‘retirement age’) is around £3.20 per week. Add that to the above electricity costs, that’s now a total of £8.03 per week. £5.53 more than what I was paying before. Apportioning that over my next 30 years of life means that is an extra £9.5k. Enough for a new bike!! (Yikes!). That said, there is now no petrol cost to the supermarket for the orange juice, so this can be deducted. 4 miles per week, circa 56p, means that lifetime total of £9.5k changes to £8627. Still more than enough for a new bike!!

On the flip side of added cost comes added benefit: there are carbon savings. Over the same ‘rest-of-my-life’ period, that works out at 2,778 TONS of Co2 saved — and that’s just the travel to the supermarket and back. Now factor in the carbon footprint of the oranges to their production unit, then the transport of the bottle from it’s production unit to the supermarket… it’s unimaginably huge! That’s a heck of a lot of Co2, and well worth the extra £5 per week in my book. And that’s just me — one person switching out one bottle. Imagine the totals if we all took this action!

Eating greener/cleaner

There are two spans of this: Summer and Winter. Generally this changes when the clocks change. I’ve decided to focus on one meal for the moment: my working lunch but the principles apply to any meal.

In summer, my working lunch consisted of either two slices of Warburtons brown bread, with some cold meat or tuna inside, or when I have more time on the weekend I would buy salmon fillets, boil some wholemeal rice and broccoli, and put them into individual Tupperware for each day, so it just needs a quick ding in the microwave at work. Generally, this costs around £6.25 for the sandwiches, meat and butter, and again 56p for fuel, so I’m rounding this up to £7 per week. For the salmon meal, it’s rounded up to £10 including fuel. Usually I have plenty weekend time and opt for the salmon meal, with only sandwiches being made daily when I know I’m going to be in a rush.

In winter, my lunch has generally consisted of a can of soup, heated up in the microwave in a (very) large mug, plus a buttered brown roll. Price including fuel is rounded up to £10.

Having recently read ‘How To Have a Healthy Brain’ by Kimberley Wilson, I want to ensure that as a minimum during the summer I am getting the right nutrition for my cycling hobby and for my cognitive power, whilst enhancing my cognitive function as much as possible (given that I have a brain injury), but still strike a reasonable balance between the protein and carbohydrates.

By cycling to the local farm and picking up a locally baked sourdough or multigrain loaf, spinach, and fish (mackerel, sardines, or salmon — the farm gets a fish delivery to compliment their retail store), I am again saving additional Co2, supporting local business and spending almost the same amount of money. The extra is negligible (depending on the price of the fish), but on average an extra £1 per week. I won’t bore you with the figures on that one, but it’s around the price of a cheap bike, not an expensive one! The bread get sliced, fish cooked, and spinach washed, then it’s all frozen until the morning I’m going to use it when I let it defrost until lunchtime.

In winter, I get vegetables from the farm, and make soup in my Drew & Cole ‘Soupchef’. This tends to be Carrot & Coriander which is easy to make and I can make around 5 days worth of soup, freeze it and let it defrost overnight before I use it. This is cheaper than I expected, and the SoupChef runs for 20mins only… but it runs at 1000W… which equates to roughly 9p per week…. Or £4.68 per year to run (bear in mind its only for around half the year so that can be halved to £2.34). Occasionally I’ll go for Chickpea and Chorizo (which tastes amazing too) — all ingredients in the below photo. Some way to go to reduce the carbon footprint of some of these though!

Colin Sales on Medium, Chickpea & Chorizo Soup ingredients

Using locally roasted coffee

Where would we be in life without coffee? For some people it’s a social thing — an addiction for others. I don’t need 2–3 cups per day, but it sure helps! I used to get my coffee in a jar of Douwe Egberts or Nescafe (whatever was cheaper!) every couple of months from the supermarket. How can I cut out the middle man, somewhat reduce my carbon footprint, and increase sustainability in this area, I wondered?

A quick google later, and I have two answers — both involve the use of locally-roasted coffee. Two companies are nearby but hold that thought…. I don’t have a coffee machine that uses ground coffee or beans…. Surely they can’t create their own instant-coffee, can they?

The answer, was simply No. So if I wanted to get serious on this, I needed to buy a coffee machine. I found a bean-to-cup machine on eBay for £100, saving space in landfill and significantly reducing the carbon footprint of buying one New. It needed a quick clean and descaling (costing an additional £10 plus carbon footprint!) for the Descaler. But if I think about short term pain for long term gain, that works for me.

My two options were GateHouse Coffee Roasters, Paisley, and OvenBird in Cathcart which was further away. GateHouse can grind coffee down, and supply beans. They are reasonably cheap (£7 for 250g or £26 for 1kg — saving 50p per 250g for buying a larger amount). Meanwhile, at the time of research OvenBird had a promotion on…. If you bought a refillable branded jar, you get your first fill of beans for free. Then all I’d do is bring in the jar and it’d fill up with beans again. No packaging involved but the price is higher at £12.60 for 350g and £36.00 for 1Kg. I took to OverBird quite quickly as it has a wider range of coffees and branded goods including mugs.

Colin Sales on Medium — OvenBird jar with cofee flowing into branded cup.

I came away from OvenBird with a jar full of coffee and a nice branded yellow mug. The 350g lasts me just shy of 4 weeks. So every month I fill my jar at £12.60. This is far higher priced than the standard £5 for 95g of instant coffee every three months. What I will say, is that OvenBirds flavours (Mesa, Dead Poets Society and Coral Coast) positively outweigh the taste from instant coffee. I’ve yet to try GateHouse’s, but it’s something I’ll maybe try on a rainy day when I don’t fancy the 18 mile journey into Cathcart and back on the bike!

So that’s £151 per year just on sustainable coffee, compared to £36 per year on instant carbon-heavy coffee. Quite a difference. But again, by cycling there, by OvenBird cutting out the middle man and getting their coffee direct from farms and roasting it themselves, there’s a significant carbon saving and in terms of quality there is certainly a price worth paying!

Zhaojiankang on Shuttershock

These are just reasonably small changes which you can make. I have some ideas about what’s next, and a spinach shortage in Scotland at the moment has me considering growing my own food. But that’s a different article altogether and one which may very well come along later in the year!

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store