Living a more sustainable lifestyle

Written about
14th January 2019

You've got the basics down, but I'm thinking that sustainability and responsibility for the unsustainable should be a must, not an option.

2018 was the year that everyone seemingly woke up to the fact that we might actually have to face consequences for the mass consumption we've come accustomed to in modern life. Keep Cups replaced disposable coffee cups, tote bags were essentials and plastic straws were banished to Room 101.

Over the next 10 years, plastic has a predicted growth of 40%. Even with the great small changes  we're all adopting, what are the long term plans and how can we better incorporate sustainability and responsibility?

I'll skip the obvious and instead share some easy tips on sustainability:

Recycle exactly what's needed

That means pre-sorting your rubbish, before chucking it away. Whether you're at home or out and about, you can't always recycle everything in or on a packet. For example, coffee cups can be recycled, many lids can't be. Likewise, most food containers can be recycled, food can't be, so make sure your cups are free of liquid and your half eaten food goes into the bin, not the recycling.

Did you also know that black plastic is largely unrecyclable? As so many recycling plants have machines to sort the waste, black plastic against a black conveyor belt can't be picked up, so it doesn't make the cut.

Educate yourself on what can and can't be recycled in your local area and sort accordingly.There's almost always somewhere for relevant rubbish to be recycled, but you may need to seek it out.

Consider how and where you shop 

Going plastic-free when it comes to food packaging is near impossible, particularly when you're shopping in the supermarket. If you can't make it to independent food stores or your local market, consider where you can reduce plastic by choice - put loose vegetables straight into your trolley, or bring your own reusable bags to separate them. Where options are within your price range, consider a different product that's plastic free instead of reaching for the cheapest, usually most heavily plastic wrapped, options.

Should you have the option to shop independently, research sustainable stores that are local to you. The Jar Tree and Ecotopia are both great sustainable shops in Leeds to help you shop consciously, without missing out on your usual products - plus, you get to display your groceries at home in a much more Pinterest-worthy way.

Replace your daily use items

Not all plastic-free alternatives are super exciting to replace your usuals, but some are so inconsequential it's an obvious thing to do. Swap your shampoo bottle for a shampoo bar - Lush and Friendly have good options. Replace your repurchase of your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo option - did you know that every single plastic toothbrush ever made is still out there somewhere? Stash reusable cutlery and straws in your handbag and refuse the offer of disposable options when asked on your lunch break. Switch to loose leaf teas to avoid the plastic teabag you're using (yep, even the greatest Yorkshire Tea leaves are confide to a plastic tea bag), invest in a cute strainer to get you through the change and then experiment with some tasty teas.

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. One million! Remember your water bottles when you're going out and hand them over to stores for refills to get your hydration, something now on offer around Leeds where you see the refill posters from #LeedsbyExample

Spread the word

These are all pretty tiny changes in the grand scheme, but if everyone did them, think of the difference. Spreading the word is the ultimate. Instead of only making the changes to your personal use, ask your friends to do the same. Educate them, offer the alternatives and get the chain reaction moving in the world of plastic use.

Measure your plastic use

Record a one-use diary for a week, at minimum, and see how much unnecessary plastic you're using and better yet, how much you could get rid of. From products been wrapped or bagged at supermarkets, to make-up packaging or plastic films on your food packaging.

Last year, I planned to document a week of plastic on here, holding on to any plastic packaging to document the scale of it. I think I got about three days in before the mound of rubbish in the corner of my room was already too much and that's when it dawned on me how reliant on this super-material we've become.


If you're a regular to Leeds city centre, you'll have (hopefully) spotted the colourful bins that have been introduced around the city. New placements that are specifically for different recyclables; plastic bottles, cans, even coffee cups now have a dedicated place to be recycled, one which you're never more than five minutes away from when you're in the centre.

These new bins are part of a bigger initiative, #LeedsByExample (I have a lot of time for that hashtag). The bins are already out on the streets, with clear instruction on what goes where, stores have joined by offering recycling services for specific items and you can even be rewarded for recycling in certain spots around Leeds. Get involved and find out more on the Hubbub site (including some tips for any of you outside of Leeds, too).

It's not always a smooth ride to going plastic free and there's no point in having a meltdown when you can't get around it, but taking the small steps could lead to a big change. That is, before we can realistically cut plastic off at the source. One step towards that, is the reduction in demand.

Use consciously and find alternatives for your regular one-uses, but significantly? Keep the conversation about disposables going and start the small changes for a bigger difference.