As most of us know, our actions not only have direct consequences for our lives but a wider impact on the environment. Be that single-use plastics, our energy consumption, or farming habits. Despite widespread changes we need to step forward and kickstart a circular lifestyle, to impact where we are still falling short, and ensure that climate change can be reversed to an acceptable level.
The United Nations has declared climate change a global emergency that transcends traditional national borders and governments around the world have responded by setting net zero emissions targets. The emissions, waste, and actions of corporations make up a huge percentage of global emissions, a 2017 report discovered that just 100 companies were responsible for 70%.
But, on an individual level we can still change our habits and make our impact smaller, which in turn can change the habits of corporations to follow suit. Embracing a circular lifestyle is just one way we can lower our carbon footprint, and here we will highlight some ways to help you get started.
What is a circular lifestyle?
A circular lifestyle embraces the qualities of the circular economy which is based on three principles: avoid waste and pollution by design, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems.
Circular lifestyles can further help us to reduce consumption by focusing on ‘the four Rs’ which are: reduce, repair, recover, and recycle. By embracing these principles, we can reduce consumption, avoid dumping stuff into landfill and help the planet heal.
1. Environmentally-friendly transport for your circular lifestyle
In the United States, transport is responsible for 27% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and our reliance on cars as a means to get around is a significant hurdle to overcome. However, with the rise of electric cars, we can greatly reduce our CO2 emissions by up to 83% over the lifetime of an EV.
But we don’t have to stop there and for shorter journeys consider if you can walk or cycle. Car trips of under a mile add up to about 10 billion miles per year, With emissions of about 404 grams of CO2 per mile, if we opted to take just half of these trips by bicycle or walking we could save about 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.
It’s not always possible to switch to an electric vehicle, be it the cost of switching cars or a lack of infrastructure in your hometown but you can still lower your impact if you drive a gas-powered vehicle.
Consider traveling at times of lighter traffic if possible, for example, working from home for the first hour of the day and then driving to work when there are fewer cars on the road. If you are running errands, plan your route in the most economical fashion to avoid wasting fuel by going back and forth more than is necessary.
2. Changing the technology mindset – from linear to circular
Unfortunately for many of us, we have been contributing to the overfilling of landfill due to the cheapness of technology. Made quickly and cheaply, a lot of modern appliances have evolved within a linear economy model – build, use, dispose. Gadgets aren’t built to last, and are thrown away instead of repaired.
While this has meant we could fill our home with more stuff, it also means that stuff that isn’t built to last will be tossed aside and something new bought in its place. Consumerism is at the heart of it but to embrace a more circular lifestyle we must find ways to reuse technology.
With 155,000 tonnes of electrical waste going to landfills each year, we must find ways to keep as many of these appliances and gadgets in circulation. Buying used but quality electrical goods can help with a circular lifestyle as the need to replace is reduced, saving items from going into landfill and reducing the need to buy new ones.
3. Fashion circularity – quality over quantity
Beyond technology, it’s important to make buying decisions based on longevity and quality where possible. If your budget allows, spending more on quality items, be it furniture, electricals or clothing ensures they can be used for longer, and again the need to replace them is reduced.
Rather than fast fashion, buying fewer items of clothing for your wardrobe but of higher quality can keep you looking good for longer. The goal of living in a circular fashion is to reduce waste, where possible, and continue to make manageable modifications that help drive change in the long term.
If something has served its purpose, you can give it a new one by upcycling it. Furniture, jewelry, and clothes are just some of the items you can repurpose but if you don’t feel like you have the crafting skills they may be of use to someone else. From selling your stuff online to donating it to a non-profit organization such as Goodwill.
4. The good lifestyle – grow your own
Livestock is a huge contributor to global greenhouse emissions, with researchers estimating the industry’s contribution to be 14.5%. Many people have already turned to vegetarianism or veganism, if not completely then for part of the week.
Switching to these diets full-time still doesn’t reduce emissions to zero as fruit, vegetables, and other meat-free produce must be grown, packaged, and delivered to your store or your door. Food packaging is directly responsible for overflowing landfill and litter pollution but reducing the amount of it you need by growing your own produce.
Growing your own can help reduce your impact as no packaging is required and it further reduces the problem of food waste. Plus, any food waste you may have, such as scraps or inedible vegetable parts can be put into your composter, creating rich soil to help you grow your next set of crops. It doesn’t get much more circular than that.
5. Conscious consumption the circular way
As one of the main principles of a circular lifestyle is to keep products and materials in use, it’s important that we make more conscientious decisions about the things that we buy. It requires us to question whether the item we are purchasing adds value to our lives or not.
The aim is to reduce the amount of clutter in our lives by only buying products or foods that bring us joy or are necessary and functional. That way we can cut down on the superfluous stuff that often ends up in landfill anyway.
Becoming aware of your consumption habits helps to increase your understanding of a zero-waste lifestyle. While much of the way we buy and do things is normalized, consider questioning whether they are the most sustainable way.
For example, do you need to put the dryer on for your clothes or can they dry by hanging up? Are the winter boots from last year still good enough or do you absolutely have to replace them? Slowly changing our habits through conscious decision-making helps highlight more ways we can embrace a circular lifestyle.
A circular lifestyle helps our planet little by little
Living in a more conscientious and considerate way can help reduce emissions and start to reverse the impact we have had on the planet. Small changes made over time will amount to something significant as more and more people embrace a circular lifestyle. Rome wasn’t built in a day but taking small steps over time helps you create achievable goals and significantly reduce your energy consumption and carbon footprint.