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How can I be more sustainable in London?
Whether you call London home or you’re just visiting, live more sustainably in the city with these top tips:
- Make the air cleaner: use public transport and walk or cycle where possible. Early morning commuters may not agree, but London’s transport system is actually pretty good. In fact, it was rated as the best in the world in a recent poll by TripAdvisor. Who would have thought?!
- If you’re visiting London for a holiday, travel sustainably by considering how you’re going to get there. Non-stop flights are better for the environment, since most of an aeroplane’s carbon emissions are created during takeoff and landing. Train travel is an even greener way to go long-distances!
- Secondly, when you’re booking your accommodation, think about how seriously it takes sustainability; check a hotel’s website online to see whether they mention anything about running an environmentally-friendly business, or ring them directly to find out about their sustainability policy. Some hotels reduce their energy consumption by not replacing guest towels every day, or cleaning rooms with bio-based oils and natural cleaners. Food preparation and menus are becoming organic or locally-sourced in many hotel restaurants; other hotels have stopped using bottled water as a standard means of hydrating thirsty guests. All in all, the hospitality sector – like many other industries, is making a point of becoming greener.
- Ditch the plastic (or go plastic-free!). Unlike paper or other natural materials that are biodegradable, plastic can take hundreds or even thousands of years to decompose. Most of this ends up in landfills, so you can see the problem. It’s estimated that 50% of the plastic we consume is used just once before it gets thrown away. Plastic pollution in our oceans and rivers pose a huge threat to marine wildlife; every year, an estimated 8 million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans – that’s the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic being dumped into the sea every minute. Limit your plastic use when out and about. Carry a reusable water bottle with you and fill it up with tap water. If you’re out for the day, take a pre-packed lunch (everyone loves a picnic), or enjoy a sit-down meal rather than taking food to go.
- Recycle. You’ll be glad to hear that we’re getting better at recycling. In 1998, household recycling rates in London stood at just 7.6 – nowadays, 32% of London households recycle, though we still come in behind the rest of the country. In total, 43% of the UK population recycles their waste; if we all do our bit, those figures will keep on rising!
- Think before you buy. We live in a consumer society. Every product we purchase has an environmental footprint; manufacturing alone produces huge amounts of carbon emissions. Research has shown that consumerism has a massive impact on our environment, so being more aware of our purchases goes a long way when it comes to living a little more green. Buying second-hand is a great way to shop sustainably, and fortunately London is famous for its second-hand shops. Vintage and antique wares are easy to come by in the city, wherever you are; stand out from the crowd with one-off pieces and feel better with the knowledge that you’re helping the planet too.
- Eat locally. The food you find in major supermarkets has usually travelled thousands of miles to get there, burning plenty of fossil fuels along the way. London is fast becoming a hub for local produce, with residents understanding the benefits of community food growing projects. There are also a host of farmer’s markets dotted around each borough, where you can buy fresh, organic foods direct from local farmers and allotments. After all, who doesn’t love a British strawberry come summer?
By being more conscious of our day-to-day consumption, London will continue to develop sustainably. This will improve the lives of Londoners, and enrich tourist’s visits to the capital too.