22/06/22Do you have “green guilt”? Here are 8 simple ways to make your lifestyle more environmentally friendly

A shopper using a reusable muslin bag to purchase apples.

More people than ever are embracing lifestyle changes to reduce the negative effect they have on the environment. As the effect of our choices becomes more widely known, some feel guilty about the decisions they make.

According to an Aviva survey, 64% of adults in the UK have experienced “green guilt” after carrying out environmentally-unfriendly actions.

If you’ve felt guilty about your lifestyle, there are some simple things you can do to have a more positive effect, including these eight steps.

1. Reduce how much plastic you buy at the supermarket

The effect of plastic pollution on wildlife and ecosystems is huge. So, it’s not surprising that using single-use plastic products is one of the most common things to cause green guilt.

The use of plastic shopping bags has fallen drastically since the charge was introduced in 2015 – 28% of people feel guilty when they buy one today. Choosing products that use less plastic packaging or purchasing reusable muslin produce bags to cut back further can make your weekly shop more environmentally friendly.

2. Choose paperless bills

If you’ve already set up direct debits and manage your accounts online, switching to paperless contact makes sense. Not only does it reduce waste, but the letters don’t need to travel to reach you.

When using paperless billing, make sure your account details are secure, regularly check that the bills are accurate, and download and save any necessary files.

3. Be mindful of your energy use

With utility bills soaring this year, cutting back on how much energy you use might be something that’s already on your mind.

Simple steps like switching gadgets off at the wall, rather than leaving them on standby, choosing energy-efficient light bulbs, and turning down your thermostat really do add up.

If you have a smart meter, you can easily track how the changes you’re making are affecting your energy use.

If you want to invest in your home and reduce bills in the long term, taking steps to improve its energy efficiency can make sense. From insulating your loft to upgrading windows and doors, these steps could dramatically cut how much energy you need to heat your property.

4. Cut back on using your car for short journeys

Hopping in the car when you need to pick up some milk or to drop the children off at school is convenient, but we know that a short journey can unnecessarily harm the environment.

More than a fifth of Brits said they feel guilty after using the car for a short journey. Committing to walking more will boost your eco-credentials, and there are lots of health benefits too.

5. Reduce how much meat and fish you eat

There are more options than ever for vegetarians and vegans, and you don’t have to give up meat entirely to have a positive effect on the planet.

Rearing animals is an intensive process that contributes to climate change in several ways, including deforestation and the release of greenhouse gases.

14% of people said they feel guilty about how much meat or fish they eat. Cutting out animal products just a few days a week can really add up. It’s also a chance to explore new dishes.

6. Choose local produce when you can

More people are choosing to support local businesses when they shop. It’s a step that can improve your community and means that items don’t have to travel as far to get to you. So, shopping at local butchers or greengrocers where possible can reduce your carbon footprint.

7. Add flowers to your garden

One simple way to help nature thrive is to make your garden more wildlife-friendly. Adding flowers can support the local ecosystem, from birds to insects, and brighten up your garden.

Adding plants to your outdoor space doesn’t have to be a lot of hard work. There are low maintenance options, such as wildflower seeds you can scatter. Planters are a good choice if you have limited space.

8. Offset your emissions

If you’re worried about your carbon footprint, offsetting emissions can reduce your impact. You may want to regularly offset your emissions or after one-off events, like going on holiday, as 12% of people said they feel guilty about travelling by aeroplane.

When you offset your emissions, your money will be used to fund projects like reforestation. However, be cautious as some projects may not have the positive effect you hope for, and some scams pose as offsetting projects.

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