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Your guide to sustainability

Nisha Ravat offers some tips for how to live more sustainably in different areas of life

There is a wealth of advice when it comes to living sustainably. This ranges from easy-to-do activities such as turning off lights when you leave a room and recycling paper, to more challenging changes like ‘Going Zero Waste’ (where you aim to send nothing to landfill) and ‘Plogging’ (picking up rubbish whilst out jogging).

To reduce our carbon footprint, we need to walk, cycle and use public transport instead of driving, as well as reducing long-haul flights; although this has not been difficult to do this past year and a half! We are encouraged to buy locally, eat home-cooked vegetarian meals and upcycle. Whenever we do make a purchase, we need to make sure it’s ‘ethical’ and, when buying clothes, we should ensure they are second-hand or from a sustainable fashion company. When we consider all these necessary factors, is living this way actually sustainable?

Let’s start with the official definition

Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The concept of sustainability is composed of three pillars: economic, environmental and social – also known informally as profits, planet and people.

Essentially, this means considering future generations when we are making decisions now, whilst taking a holistic approach and asking what impact today’s actions are going to have on the economy, the environment and our community.

Every action we take must have these three pillars in mind in order to live sustainably. It’s not essential to make all these changes at once as this will be difficult to maintain. Instead, make one small change at a time and build up to more ambitious ones when you are feeling adventurous. Here are a few examples of what you can do to start to live sustainably in different areas of life, split into ‘easy’, ‘medium’ and more ‘challenging’ categories.

Economic changes

Easy: Buy quality goods that will last longer and reduce the number of times you need to replace them. This may mean paying a little extra initially; however this will be offset by fewer future purchases due to an increased product lifetime – you may even end up saving money!

Medium: Source locally produced items (at least European, if not British) to ensure your goods have not travelled far and by buying British you are supporting our economy. You will also help the economy recover after the pandemic by supporting small, local businesses; they need all the support they can get to stay afloat and flourish. You are also less likely to spend time and money travelling to get your goods, which reduces your carbon footprint, and you’ll probably be using less packaging compared to online shopping.

Challenging: Support businesses that are environmentally friendly; however beware of ‘Greenwashing’ – an attempt by a business to make you believe they are doing more for the environment than they actually are in reality. This may mean reading into claims in more detail – replacing plastic straws with paper ones sounds ideal, but only if the replacement paper ones are fully recyclable. It may also be beneficial to educate yourself on terms and phrases such as ‘offsetting’, where a company excuses one set of bad practices by employing a separate, much more ethical practice, and thus claims a net benefit. The real benefit would be in not committing to this bad practice in the first place!

Environmental changes

Easy: Walking to school and work may not be possible for us all, but we can manage to park a little further away and walk the rest. This will not only impact on your immediate environment, but you’ll also feel better for getting that extra bit of fresh air, exercise and daylight.

Medium: Look at biodegradable packaging on goods such as fresh produce. Refill store-cupboard essentials at a zero waste shop near you and make healthier, home-cooked meals, rather than relying on ready meals. This is less about recycling our plastic waste and more about not producing it in the first place. Think carefully before that next big purchase for your wardrobe or house – consider reusing, buying and selling unwanted goods online and upcycling.

Challenging: Have you ever considered a product’s life cycle? This means thinking about all the production stages of a product, its use and the disposal of waste when we’re done, and the impact each stage has on our environment. This may include the mining of raw materials; transport to and from a factory, warehouse or shop; carbon footprint, whilst the product is in use (for example if it needs fuel or electricity) and, finally, the disposal stage. Can the product be reused, upcycled or recycled? This will reduce the carbon footprint at the disposal stage.

Social changes

Easy: There are many local schemes where you can ‘swap’ or give away quality items for others to reuse. This means supporting local communities and returning to a ‘mend and make do’ ethos. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people in your area, and you’ll find out about ways in which you can support your local community. Local charity shops are full of quality goods, cleared out during lockdown, and are becoming very popular as restrictions are lifted.

Medium: There is a plethora of organisations you can support from the comfort of your sofa. Some examples include and Offer your support to the ones that resonate most with you.

Challenging: Start your own campaign on matters that mean most to you. Write or speak to your local MP and attend your local constituency surgery to find out about what others are doing and events you can attend and support. Why not even start your own petition? Visit

Future generations must be foremost in our minds with every decision we make. There is little doubt we all need to make changes now in order to safeguard a greener planet for a time to come. Taking small steps to sustainable living is a good start; these soon become habit and make way for bigger steps that we can take as a community to fundamentally change the way we do things. It is about embracing a whole new way of life, one small step at a time. Initialising and stabilising a ‘new normal’ is within each of us. Everything we do matters.

Nisha Ravat is a science teacher and founder of Green Tomato, the first environmentally friendly, emission-free greengrocers in Leicester. To find out more, visit

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