What you can do to limit climate change: practical ways to adjust what you eat and wear, and how you exercise and travel

climate change, “environmentally friendly” plant-based diet, oat milk are better choices, they end up in landfills, human-generated electricity, public backlash, camping

The calls to take immediate action against climate change have grown in volume as the coronavirus pandemic has dragged on. A 2020 survey, by management consultancy firm Accenture, found 60 per cent of global consumers have made more “environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical purchases” since the discovery of Covid-19.

However, plenty of us are still not consuming in an environmentally conscious way – think about the polystyrene boxes and plastic takeaway meal bags we have used during the seemingly endless cycle of quarantining, self-isolating and social distancing.

So how do we become smarter, more climate-conscious consumers?

Here are some tips on making responsible, sustainable choices in your day-to-day life, from the food you eat and the clothes you wear to the ways you keep fit and travel.

climate change, “environmentally friendly” plant-based diet, oat milk are better choices, they end up in landfills, human-generated electricity, public backlash, camping

A customer weighs grapes at a supermarket. Bring your own bag when grocery shopping to cut down on your use of plastic bags. Photo: Getty Images

Food

Many people, aware of the massive carbon footprint that the meat and dairy industries produce, will adopt an “environmentally friendly” plant-based diet – but there are a few points to bear in mind when going vegan.

Before you order or shop for a vegan product, ask yourself: “What is its origin? How is it being made?” Many popular ingredients for plant-based dishes can’t be called environmentally friendly because of how they are produced.

climate change, “environmentally friendly” plant-based diet, oat milk are better choices, they end up in landfills, human-generated electricity, public backlash, camping

Huge amounts of water are needed to grow avocados. Photo: Getty Images

Take the avocado, which appears on the menu of many hipster cafes. Huge amounts of water are needed to grow avocados, especially during summer. As many countries do not grow avocados, a large carbon footprint is created when importing them.

Instead, consider consuming nuts or vegetables that also contain healthy fatty acids or vitamin K.

When shopping for non-dairy milk, soy or oat milk are better choices than almond or rice milk, because the latter two crops need comparatively large amounts of water to grow.

Besides adopting a plant-based diet, you can also help save the Earth by cutting down on your plastic use. Bring your own bag when grocery shopping, your own cutlery and straw when dining in fast food restaurants and your own containers for leftovers.

You might also want to cut down on how frequently you order food deliveries, if possible (think about the amount of packaging that normally comes with your meal).

climate change, “environmentally friendly” plant-based diet, oat milk are better choices, they end up in landfills, human-generated electricity, public backlash, camping

Recycle clothes you no longer want or wear – give them to your friends or donate them to charity. Photo: Getty Images

Fashion and beauty

The coronavirus pandemic has increased the amount of time we spend online shopping.

But if you find yourself buying clothes similar to what’s already in your wardrobe (or ordering something you’ll never actually wear), you might want to examine your shopping habits.

Take a look at the clothes you already own. By examining your wardrobe, you can avoid spending money you don’t need to – and get some idea of what will and won’t go with your existing purchases.

Instead of shopping for fast fashion, consider buying clothes that are of a higher quality, even if they cost a little more. Buy fewer pieces that you can wear for a longer period of time.

Recycle clothes you no longer want or wear – give them to your friends or donate them to charity. Some you might even be able to sell to thrift or consignment stores. Many people declutter their wardrobes in the name of minimalism, but throw their wearable threads away and they end up in landfills.

Minimalism can be applied to your skincare and make-up, too. Before you make a purchase, think carefully about if you actually need it and if it’s an essential.

climate change, “environmentally friendly” plant-based diet, oat milk are better choices, they end up in landfills, human-generated electricity, public backlash, camping

Some gyms use equipment that produces human-generated, utility-grade electricity. Photo: Xarefit

Health and wellness

For most of us, making time for a quality workout is hard enough without making it environmentally sustainable as well.

A few “eco-gyms” have taken sustainability a step further by producing human-generated electricity through the use of their cardio machines and other equipment. But taking your exercise outdoors is one of the most efficient ways to go green with your fitness routine.

When you need to get some cardio in, walk, jog or cycle outside rather than wasting electricity on gym treadmills, elliptical machines or stationary bikes. Should you find yourself in need of a treadmill anyway, increase the incline so that it uses less power.

Invest in a reusable water bottle. Around three-quarters of used plastic water bottles are dumped in landfills yearly instead of being recycled. Your investment in a water bottle will save you money on bottled water and help cut down global plastic waste, too.

climate change, “environmentally friendly” plant-based diet, oat milk are better choices, they end up in landfills, human-generated electricity, public backlash, camping

Passengers play a game with crew members on board an HK Express “flight to nowhere”.

Travel and leisure

In November 2020, budget airline HK Express started selling “flights to nowhere” to boost its coronavirus-battered revenues. Although the flights were welcomed by eager travellers, there was a public backlash over the unnecessary environmental damage such trips cause.

Travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus have, so far, thwarted the hopes of many around the world for a summer getaway this year, and many families are opting for staycations. But the services listed in many luxury hotel staycation packages can also be harmful to the environment.

climate change, “environmentally friendly” plant-based diet, oat milk are better choices, they end up in landfills, human-generated electricity, public backlash, camping

A hiker in Lung Fu Shan country park on Hong Kong Island. If you need a cardio workout, go for a walk, job, or bike ride outdoors. Photo: James Wendlinger

Fifteen per cent of a hotel’s energy use goes into laundry, so spare your hotel the unnecessary power and water usage by informing them you don’t need your linens or towels changed every day. Pack your own water bottle, toiletries and, if necessary, tableware to avoid single-use plastic items, despite their convenience.

For a sustainable staycation that is truly refreshing, go offline – resist the urge to use your phone, laptop or other electronic devices. Cutting down your screen time is beneficial for your eyesight and mental health as well as your carbon footprint.

To escape the hustle and bustle of the city, consider exploring your natural surroundings – in Hong Kong, look into the various camping spots the city has to offer.

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