How do I know if something is bad for the environment?

Even with the best of intentions, it’s difficult to always behave in an eco-friendly way. We need more clarity – and there are plenty of new initiatives and ideas which make things clearer.

Most of us are pretty conscientious when it comes to the environment. We care enough to make sure that we recycle, we try to eat less meat, we cycle to work. However, how do we know if the items we purchase are bad for the environment? Or more importantly, which is the better choice?

As humans, our approach to climate change is affected by the way that our brains have evolved. To begin with, because we don’t necessarily see climate change happening in front of us every day, it is easy to keep it at a distance in our minds. And, perhaps more importantly, we tend to assume that one green action ‘cancels out’ something which is less green. If we carefully buy paper straws, it doesn’t matter if we also buy all our clothes at Primark. Of course, the reality is that it all contributes, and that’s where you might find yourself asking “how do I know if something is bad for the environment?”

We need more clarity. Just as the traffic light system on food helps us to make more healthy choices, we need an equivalent for all aspects of our lives. Once we are armed with information, it will be much easier to make the right choices for the environment while factoring our preferences and ability to opt for the least harmful product. That’s got to be a step in the right direction! In the meantime it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves, we’ve gone ahead and written a blog focused specifically on this and understanding climate change to help make this easier for you, as well as a post easy ways to live more sustainably!

Eco labelling is coming

If you buy a new household appliance, you will notice that it has an eco-score on the label, somewhere between A and G. This eco label will tell you how many carbon emissions were used to make the appliance, and how much they will ‘cost’ the environment each year, in turn helping you know if something is bad for the environment. What a great idea. This also incentivises companies to make more eco-friendly appliances – and we can rest assured that our lives aren’t doing harm to the planet. 

Airline Flybe trialled a similar scheme of eco-labelling in 2007, in a bid to be more transparent. It was successful… for a while, but it doesn’t seem to exist anymore. The EU is looking to reintroduce this system. And it’s not just planes. New cars in the UK are now required to be sold with an environmental label, which gives details of fuel consumption and carbon emissions. We need to give the same consideration to the items we use daily as we do to the big one-off purchases like flights. 

The UK government want carbon labelling on all products and services by 2025. Special shoutout to L’Oreal, Quorn and Allbirds, who already have these labels in place. They’re one step ahead! 

Food, glorious food 

Food is an area where the choices we make really can make a difference. After all, we all eat. It is just up to us whether we choose to help or harm with what we consume. With so many trendy foods out there, it can make it even more difficult to know if something is bad for the environment…

Again, it’s not always our fault. We might think that by buying almond milk, for example, we are making a much more sustainable choice. It beats dairy, an animal product, right? What we don’t realise is that almond milk can really damage the environment through its high-water use. Foiled again. The Guardian says the best choice is oat milk, but wouldn’t it be great to know that when we are shopping? 

Luckily, food may well soon have an eco-label of its own. Foundation Earth will be trialling Eco Impact labels this Autumn, so keep a look out for the grade on your food at M&S, Sainsburys, and the Co-op. Given the right information, all of us would prefer to make the sustainable choice. 

Food packaging is another area where things are changing rapidly. We love Scottish company CuanTec, who have developed a completely biodegradable packaging material, which is made from waste from fisheries. In time, we hope that more companies will follow suit. At a certain point, single-use plastic just won’t be acceptable anymore. 

And while we’re on food, most people know that cutting down on meat is an eco-friendly way to help the world. Did you also know, however, that eggs and dairy can be just as damaging to the environment? Plants are where it’s at. Fruit, vegetables and lentils, locally sourced, are not only healthier for our bodies, but also for our world. No, you don’t have to become a vegan. But cutting down on animal products does make a difference!

​​Check out our blog on sustainable food brands in the UK to learn more!

Don’t let the tap run!

Did you know that the average 5 person household uses 523 litres of water every day? Even a single person household uses 149 litres per day. Pretty shocking.

Many people don’t consider using lots of water as that big a problem, as they think that the amount of rainfall in the UK provides us with an endless supply of water. However, the issue here is that we use a lot more water than our infrastructure can access. It has even been estimated that in 20 years, the UK will face water shortages as a result of climate change.

There are enormous amounts of people around the globe who don’t have access to clean running water as we do in the UK and poverty is a real issue for millions. Sometimes, the only way to realise how bad things have gotten is to see some eye-opening statistics, so, here you go:

  • 30% of clean drinking water in the home is used for flushing the toilet. For older toilet models, they can use between 20-30 litres of water for just one flush!
  • On average, one shower uses 46 litres per water, whereas one bath uses 80 litres.
  • In England, 3 billion litres of water are being lost every day due to leaky pipes.
  • In 2020, 2.54 billion litres of bottled water were consumed in the UK.
  • It takes approximately 20,000 litres of water to produce one pair of jeans and one t shirt.
  • It has been estimated that 1kg of beef requires 15,400 litres, followed by lamb at 10,400.
  • 300 trillion litres of water goes into producing food that is wasted.
  • 450 million children do not have enough water to meet their essential needs.
  • Every day, over 700 children under 5 die from diarrhoea linked to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
  • As sea levels continue to rise, coastal communities worldwide could lose up to 50% more of their freshwater supplies due to contamination with saltwater.

Is it us you’re looking for?

We are passionate about small, sustainable changes that can make a huge difference. That’s why we created this blog. Our aim is to take the stress out of eco-friendly living. We do the research so that you don’t have to. 

Even more importantly, when you choose to join us here at Y’earn, you are making the sustainable commitment to consume less, as you rent the things that your children need. Renting is definitely good for the environment – and for your wallet too! So if this sounds like something you’re interested in why not check out how you can make money from items your child has outgrown?

climate change planet - makes us wonder how to know if something is bad for the environment?

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If this is your first visit, hello, let us introduce ourselves. We’re Y’earn and we exist to create more love, less landfill. Pretty lofty, right? Well, not really, it’s actually pretty simple. Our aim is to make renting as common as owning so we live more sustainably while helping the community around us.

Y’earn is a parent-to-parent marketplace to rent Baby & Kids items from people in your community or make some cash if you have items you don’t need right now. We’re a sustainable business that plants 🌲, adopts 🐝 and donates to children’s charities.  We’re helping each other and the planet, one rental at a time.

You can read more about how Y’earn works here.

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Y’earn is a parent-to-parent marketplace to rent Baby & Kids items from people and small businesses in your community or make some cash if you have items you don't need right now. We plant 🌲 and adopt 🐝, plus give to children’s charities.

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