How can I make a difference to sustainability?

Making a real difference to sustainability by changing your behaviour is simple and can make you feel a lot healthier too.

How can I, just one person among billions, help the sustainability of our planet? Surely the problem is far too big for anything I do to help? What can I do to make a difference?

If you are asking yourself these questions then don’t worry. There is a lot that you as an individual can do to make a real difference.

And it isn’t just that you can help our planet through your personal actions. If people see what you are doing to improve our environment, they will be influenced by you. And so the effect of your behaviour, and the difference you make, is multiplied many times.

What are the things you can do? Let’s take a look.

Walk more, get fitter

Transport accounts for 64% of global oil consumption and 27% of global energy use. Of course that’s not just private motoring. But if you walk rather than drive, not only will you get fitter, but you will be making your own contribution to combatting climate change.

Eat smart, eat local

Around a third of all food that is produced gets wasted. And if that food has travelled half way around the world before it is discarded than that isn’t just a waste of food, it’s a waste of energy. Of course it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of food you waste (and to recycle as much as possible of the food you do waste), but if you can also buy food that is produced locally you will end up reducing your carbon footprint.

Turn the temperature down (or up)

Heating your home in winter costs money. And so does cooling it down in summer. But you don’t always have to use technology to keep your living space a comfortable at a comfortable temperature. Why not turn the thermostat down a notch in winter and put a jumper on. Or up a notch in the summer and draw the blinds to keep the sun out.

Bring your own bag

Going to the supermarket? Take your own shopping bags. Not just the big bags you need to carry everything in but also the little bags that you use to put loose items such as tomatoes and chillies in. And wherever possible buy your fruit and veg loose rather than prepacked. That way you get to be more sustainable and at the same time choose the exact produce you want.

Tune out and turn off

Lighting accounts for 15% of global power consumption. But it’s not just lights that should be switched off. Keeping TV, computers, washing machines and other household devices on standby can increase your electricity bills by up to 16%. Wasted money and damaging for our environment.

Recycle, refill and reuse

Of course it’s good to put out empty plastic bottles for recycling. But it’s even better to reuse them. Increasingly retailers are giving consumers the opportunity to reuse containers such as bottles and tubs. Try to avoid single use items like bags and bottles.

It’s not just plastic though. Clothes that get worn only once or twice (or never worn at all – you know who you are!) are very harmful to the planet. So recycle (give them to your friends), refill (wear them more than one) and reuse (take some scissors and threat and turn them into a totally new outfit).

Keep it clean

It’s lovely to take a long bath. But for keeping clean day to day, a 5 minute shower is far more energy efficient and uses less of the most precious resource on the planet – water.

Eat less meat

The meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas that the world’s large oil companies. And alongside that the industry drives deforestation and uses scarce water resources. You don’t have to be a vegan to help the planet. Just taking one or two meat free days each week will make an enormous difference – to the planet and to your health.

Keep informed and show you care

Stay in touch with the UN’s global sustainability goals online or on social media at @GlobalGoalsUN. And show you care about them using the hashtag #globalgoals on social networks.