We’re going to let you in on a little secret: micro-actions can equate to macro impact, and the United Nation agrees. Micro-actions are contagious, compounding, and impactful. Small steps that are done repeatedly over time add up — and are what we call #LittleGreenSteps.
Green Is The New Black was built upon the idea of #LittleGreenSteps — small changes to your everyday life that are simple to implement but have a huge impact. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again (and again), change doesn’t happen overnight. Sustainability is a journey, and we believe that every single individual should keep moving forward with greener steps. Instead of ‘the world is ending‘. But the world is full of naysayers who don’t believe that a single person can make a difference, and the resistance is something we struggle with from time to time when using our philosophy to encourage people to take action through our various platforms and channels.
Then, in June of 2019, the United Nations published a study called The Anatomy of Action (AoA), an initiative that set out to research and develop an action map that connects tangible everyday actions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They concluded that the micro-actions taken by individuals do indeed contribute to sustainable macro changes in the economy and society at large. And then we breathed a sigh of relief because we knew we were on the right track.
The AoA came up with a list of everyday lifestyle swaps that can help the average person transition from damaging daily actions to more sustainable ones. These swaps help achieve the SDGs and move the world towards a more circular economy. There are thousands of possibilities for lifestyle swaps, they said, but they break it down into five areas of action: food, stuff, move, money and fun. This is their set of high-impact, easy-to-remember actions that anyone, anywhere can take every day to create positive ripple effects.
The study echoes the #LitteGreenSteps that we practice and preach every day. In light of this, we’ve decided to go back to the basics and sum up some of the easiest good green steps that you can follow in your everyday life. And best of all, they really will save you money. Going green can be the most frugal option. It’s just good economics.
1. Green your travel
Planes, trains and automobiles — the impact is big, but we can’t live without them. We won’t be last people to tell you, transportation produces a significant amount carbon (unless you own a Tesla in which case I’m jealous) and that doesn’t sit well with those of us who are forever trying to reduce our carbon footprint. We take public transport when we can, we try to rideshare when possible, and we’d swim to that weekender in Bali if we could but we can’t. What we can do, however, is offset our carbon, which is a way to essentially tax yourself for the emissions created by your travel while at the same time working towards a greener future.
Countries like Canada are already implementing a nationwide carbon tax on things like gas and imported food, and airlines all over the world are talking about adding a carbon tax to the price of flight tickets. But as individuals, we need to get serious and take a stand in the fight against climate change by being responsible for ourselves. There are more than a few carbon calculators available online to help figure out how much CO2 you emitted during your travel. Based on that, you can then pay a “fee” towards an environmental project like reforestation and protecting coastal ecosystems. You can also choose to invest in renewable energy sources. By doing this, you’re sending a message to the world and making a powerful statement. And whenever possible take public transport.
2. Diet for a changing climate
Be a climatarian and skip that burger. Yes, this is a thing! According to National Geographic, every pound of beef served is equivalent to releasing about nineteen pounds of greenhouse gases. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, that’s more than the combined exhaust from all transportation (which is 13%) shares the Food and Agriculture Organisation of The United Nations. Even hospital and schools around the world are clearing their cafeterias of meat. Consuming less beef lowers your carbon footprint and sparks for interesting conversation at the dinner table.
If you want to shrink your carbon footprint even more, ease up on dairy as well. Notice that we said ease up. No one expects you to quit cold turkey. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but a small step towards change can happen immediately. Wherever you are on your journey, commit yourself to take one step further. Add a vegan day to your diet this week, or even just a vegan meal. If you must eat meat, make sure it’s locally raised, humane, and organic.
This is where/what we’re eating:
3. It’s called SLOW fashion honey, look it up
Fashion is a dirty industry with a dark side. Consider this: it takes 2,720 litres of water to make a single cotton t-shirt — that’s how much the average person drinks over three years (Fashion Revolution). Now consider this: apparel and footwear account for around 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (Quantis) and somewhere around 20% of global water pollution (Future Fashion Foreward). We haven’t even gotten into textile waste, microfibre pollution, and toxic chemical use. How did this happen? We did this! We created this situation by buying into fast fashion for much of the 90s and 2000s when globalization fed our need for cheap, accessible and trendy clothing that we threw out with the seasons.
Sustain your style by rethinking your current buying habits. To start, try swapping clothes with friends. Make a day out of it and throw a clothing swap party with cocktails and impromptu fashion shows. You can also give someone else’s old golds a new lease of life by buying vintage, too. To help yourself make more conscious shopping purchases, ask yourself if you will wear the item more than 30 times.
This is what we’re wearing:
4. Rethink your period
Did you know that the average woman uses roughly 9,000 to 11,000 tampons in her lifetime? And guess where those applicators go — a landfill. Did you also know that it’s possible to go green on your period? It’s time rid your life of hugely polluting tampons and opt for menstrual cups, period pants, cloth panties, and cloth liners. It may take some getting used to, but like you did tampons when you were a teen, you’ll get used these too.
This is what we’re using:
5. Food for thought
Sometimes I feel defeated when I check out at the supermarket with my arsenal of fancy pants reusable bags, but everything going into the bags is wrapped in plastic. Other times I get a little too excited when I see giant bright red strawberries…in December. There is a super simple solution to these problems: shop local.
If you’re a good planner, find time to hit a farmers market once or twice a week and stock up on local, fresh, organic and in-season products. The magic in this organization, you can’t be left needing something in a pinch or else you’ll end up in a grocery store. Dedicate an hour or two out of your weekend and do the rounds at places like Rooftop Republic and Whats’IN in Hong Kong, and Shiok Farm, Quanfa Farm and Eat Fresh in Singapore. This way, you’ll also be keeping money in the local economy. Plan your meals, makes lists, and don’t forget your reusable bags. Also, consider starting your own urban farm at home.
6. Say no to single-use
To say that plastic is “disposable” is one of the biggest deceptions of our time. Every piece of plastic that was ever made is still on our planet today in some form or another. Did you know that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans by weight than fish? Even bottles that claim to biodegrade come with a catch (in how many years exactly?).
Start by saying no to plastic as often as you can. We understand it can be hard at first: you’re out, it’s hot, you’re thirsty…what can you do? Pick yourself up a spiffy reusable water bottle (we love you S’Well) that you love so you’ll be more inclined to carry it around with you. The same applies to bags, straws, and takeaway containers. For every single-use plastic problem, there’s a solution. Today it’s more about integrating those solutions into your everyday life and finding ways to make them a little more convenient, even when they’re not. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and replace! And keep an eye out for these products you probably didn’t know had plastic in them.
This is who were turning to for help:
7. Give back
Other than being conscious of your own lifestyle choices, you can also support the brands that are going all out in trying to do things a little better. Take the initiative to be informed about who you are supporting and what you are buying. You vote with your time and your wallet — use this power wisely.
Donating is another way to give back to the community and win some good karma to keep for a rainy day. Find a cause or a charity whose ethos deeply moves you and ask them how you can help. Short on time and money? Plant a tree.
8. Recycle, and recycle properly
Perhaps the easiest step on the list, but often the one that many people get wrong. Just because you put something in the bin, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be recycled. If your recyclables are contaminated with oil stains or food residue, it will cross-contaminate everything else near it and get sorted as general waste.
Familiarize yourself with the dos and don’ts of recycling in your area. Learn about what happens to your recyclables after they get picked up to help you understand the process. And arm yourself with enough scary facts that you’ll never forget to rinse that annoying bottleneck glass ketchup bottle before tossing it into recycling again (like, did you know that Singaporeans tossed 8,284,000kgs of rubbish every day in 2015 — you could fill up 16 Olympic-sized pools with that).
But recycling isn’t just plastic, cardboard, and glass. The idea extends to household items, too. When we think of pollution, we often think of garbage, plastics and toxic waste, but we don’t often think about furniture. But when you stop and think about it, how long does that $50 LACK table from IKEA really last you?
What can you do? A lot. If you’re on a budget, but you’re in of some new chairs, check out the really awesome community groups online or on Facebook to see what people are selling. Oftentimes, you’ll find brand new or slight used secondhand products for cheap or even free. Craigslist, Carousell or Gumtree are a good bet for shopping second hand, as are garage sales and consignment shops. If you’re crafty, perhaps dumpster diving might yield some treasures that only need some slight renovations. Or best of all, seek out cool brands in your area that are upcycling materials (like marine pollution) and building furniture from them. When you can, invest in high-quality products, long-lasting products.
If you must buy new, spend wisely and consider reclaimed wood or bamboo furniture, both of which have heaps of environmental benefits. You might end up spending a little more now, but you won’t have to replace it as soon.
9. Connect with yourself and mother Earth
Try meditation or yoga, or anything that keeps you grounded and free from unnecessary worries — you’ll have a lot more energy to worry about the things that matter (like climate change). Try a new activity that fulfils you, learn how to surf, challenge yourself to learn a new skill, or participate in a beach clean up — anything which will bring your mind to being 100% in the now of your actions and breath.
This is where we like to unwind:
10. Love, love, spread the love
Talk about climate change to your peers in a positive and actionable tone of voice. Be careful not to offend anyone because there people with passionate political beliefs that are wrapped up in climate change. There are also still people who don’t believe in or deny climate change (how?). And then there are people who think they cannot act on an individual basis. When engaging with people about climate change, remember to ask as many questions as you provide opinions.
But most importantly, come up with your own set of #LittleGreenSteps based on what works for you, your lifestyle, and your environment. Share your tried, tested and true steps to a more sustainable future with those around you, because people are more inclined to “jump on the bandwagon” when they know what they’re doing works.
One final thought…
Finally, while individuals have a role to play, we must also acknowledge that businesses and governments have huge steps to take, too. This is a collective effort that requires us all to work together. And at the end of the day, those companies and governments are made up of individuals, who can apply and amplify their green steps at their workplace as well. Read about the #LittleGreenSteps you can go green at work.