It’s not easy being green – but here are some ways to start this Earth Day

By Abbie McGrath

In an age where supermarkets wrap bananas in plastic, being eco-friendly can seem like a difficult task. Even as sustainable options improve, a green lifestyle still requires dedication and effort to keep up – traits not ideal for the busy, lazy or disorganised among us. There are, however, many low-effort ways to make a difference, some you won’t even have to move off the sofa to do.

In an ideal world, green living would be the easiest option for all of us. We would be able to go into a supermarket and browse a plastic-free veg section and know that all the produce is sustainably sourced. We would be able to power our homes with entirely renewable energy and know that our clothes aren’t coming from sweatshops halfway across the world.

But, frustratingly, we aren’t there yet.

This lack of action from the top down has increased pressure on us to make sustainable choices as consumers. Zero-waste, vegan influencers now dominate social media. We long for the aesthetic kitchen shelves stacked with jars of pulses and homemade granola. We all want to be green… but in practice, it’s easier said than done.  

However, try not to be disillusioned by the thought of never reaching eco-warrior status. Life gets in the way sometimes and that’s OK. Instead, remember that collective action has its own power; lots of little changes made by many people can really make a difference.

And so, here are some apps and websites that can help you reduce your carbon footprint, one little change at a time. From funding tree planting, to helping you make smarter consumer decisions, these provide an easy starting point for your personal sustainable journey.

1. Try out carbon-offsetting with Ecologi

Carbon-offsetting involves investing in projects that reduce carbon emissions to compensate for emissions made somewhere else. There are a number of companies that can help you offset your climate footprint, such as Klima and myclimate. However, I’m a big fan of Ecologi thanks to its transparency and fun, virtual forest! Each tree in the virtual forest represents a real tree planted by Ecologi’s many projects – you can see what species it is, how old it is, information about the project it’s part of and the location it was planted on a map. Ecologi also funds projects beyond tree planting, such as providing clean drinking water in Haiti and supporting geothermal power production in Indonesia.

Unlike the other websites and apps listed, however, this involves actually splashing out a bit – costing £4.70/month to offset your personal carbon footprint. If you can afford it though, it’s definitely worth getting.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screenshot-2021-04-08-at-17-19-07.png

2. Plant trees by browsing with Ecosia

Okay, so this is perhaps the easiest way ever to make a difference. Download the Ecosia browser and… that’s it! Trees get planted as you browse. It works by generating revenue from ads, which then funds reforestation projects across the globe. These projects range from working with women-led groups in Sudan to creating green spaces for urban UK hospitals. Check out their blog for the full run-down on their projects.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is facebook.jpg

3. Get motivated with Giki Zero

Giki Zero is a fun, free way to learn about your carbon footprint and find ways to reduce it. It allows you to calculate your footprint by entering information about your lifestyle habits, giving you a Giki score. The higher the score, the better your footprint is. You can improve your score by agreeing to take small steps to help, such as using lids when cooking, trying a plant-based milk for a week or buying only Fairtrade coffee. All in all, this is a useful tool to get motivated and remind yourself that even small changes can amount to a big difference.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Giki-Row-05@3x.jpg

4. …and shop smartly with Giki Badges

Rather than having to read the fine print on product labels, the Giki Badges app allows you to know immediately whether a product is planet friendly. Just scan the barcode and the Giki Badges app will show whether over 280,000 supermarket products have been awarded with up to 15 badges in sustainability, health and fairness. If a product has few or no badges, the app will suggest some greener alternatives for you. Shopping sustainably couldn’t be easier!   

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Untitled-design-16.png

Currently, Giki Zero and its Badges app are only available in the UK, but for our Irish friends there is Evocco, a similar app which allows you to track, improve and offset your shopping’s carbon footprint.

5. Say goodbye to fast fashion

Most of us will know by now the evil that is fast fashion (but if not, check this article out). We of course all want to avoid contributing to this industry, but researching fashion brands can be difficult and convoluted. The simplest way to fight fast fashion is to only buy second-hand from charity and thrift shops. However, if you need to buy something new, try out the Good On You app and website. Good On You have taken the time to rate fashion brands, so that you don’t have to.

Their rating system is dependent on a brands’ impacts on people, planet and animals. A ‘great’ product will be transparent, have strong environmental and animal welfare policies and ensure fair, ethical treatment of workers across the supply chain. Brands they ‘avoid’ will have disclosed no information about their sustainability practices i.e. they’re hiding something, i.e. they’re evil. Looking at you, Missguided.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is GoodOnYou-BannerV2.png

6. Find a new home for your old stuff – or reclaim something

Rather than buying something new, or chucking your weird knick-knacks in landfill (a huge culprit for greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation), why not try out a ‘stuff sharing’ platform? This could be through an official app or website, like Olio – great for sharing or rescuing unwanted food – or Freegle, where I got hold of a free, super comfortable office chair. If you’re lucky, your local area might even have a ‘share’ page on Facebook.

My local page is Edinburgh’s ‘Meadows Share’, where I’ve managed to acquire a toaster, coffee maker, crockery and all sorts of plants for free. When moving out of a flat I posted my entire cupboard contents on the page. Within the day, almost everything had gone, including half-empty jam jars and oregano. What can I say? People love free stuff. In fact, people love free stuff so much that I saw a decade-old, mouldy jar of Ganges water get snapped up.

Added bonus: people will collect from your front door, which means you won’t even have to take it out to the bins. There literally isn’t an easier method to get rid of unwanted stuff. Try it out!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is olio-mockup-edited-holding.jpg

So there we have it – six incredibly simple ways to lead a greener lifestyle. While these of course will never be full blown solutions to the climate crisis, they are a good place for the busy, lazy and disorganised among us to start. And remember, if lots of people make small changes like this, it really can make a difference.

Graphic courtesy of Alice Eaves.