5 simple (and wallet-friendly) ways to reduce your carbon footprint in 2021.

2020 was a shocking year that will live in infamy! However, 2021 is here and, if you haven't already, it's time to set goals and make New Year's resolutions.

The global covid pandemic dominated headlines in 2020 for obvious reasons. Other worrying news stories relating to climate change have taken a backseat but we must not forget that the global climate crisis continues to march on at an unprecedented pace. According to NASA, 2020 was the warmest year on record, leading to rising sea levels, droughts and we even saw a plague of locusts in East Africa!

Against such an onslaught of negative news, we as individual consumers can sometimes feel helpless to make an impact. However, it has never been easier for us to make smart choices to minimise our impact on the environment. There are big changes like switching to electric cars or even switching to cycling. For must of us, those options are either impractical or way out of our budgets to even consider. I recently saw a "special offer" to contract lease an electric car from a Swedish manufacturer for just £799 per month. Ermmm, perhaps not!

This article will introduce 5 easy and wallet-friendly ways to make a big difference to your carbon footprint in 2021.

The first thing I would encourage everyone to do is to calculate your carbon footprint. Head to the WWF website and take their short questionnaire to give you your annual carbon footprint. You don't need that information, but I think it's nice to know and it can give you some immediate pointers on where most of your carbon emissions stem from.

OK, so how do you reduce your carbon footprint?

1. Plant trees for free by downloading Treeapp.

The simplest way to offset your carbon emissions is by planting trees! There are often community initiatives where you can actually go and physically plant trees, which is a really fun activity to do with kids or to encourage your school/university/business to take part in.

A much simpler way of planting trees from the comfort of your own sofa, is to download Treeapp. It's available on the Apple and Android stores and is completely free. You can plant a tree every day in locations across the world as part of the Eden reforestation projects.

Every day is sponsored by an environmentally friendly business. In order to plant a tree for free, you just need to answer 2 or 3 questions related to that brand. In my first few days using the app, I've been asked which colour case I prefer for vegan deodorant (more on that later) and which eco-friendly product I would be most likely to switch to.

You get to discover new brands that you might not otherwise have learned about, and there are also exclusive discounts provided to the app users, in case you like the look of any of the sponsors' products.

You plant a tree regardless of whether you click through to the sponsors website or buy anything from them, so get downloading!! I only need to plant trees 4 days each week to completely offset my carbon footprint. For FREE!!!

2. Try and minimise plastic in your bathroom products.

Plastic is the enemy, particularly in bathroom products. Even if the plastic is HDPE and technically recyclable, individual consumers are still required to go through a number of steps before there's any hope that those plastic bottles could be effectively recycled. The lids are almost certainly not recyclable as well as any plastic sleeves on the outside of the bottle. The bottles also need to be thoroughly rinsed to avoid contamination. I've tried rinsing shampoo bottles a number of different ways, including the use of a bread knife, which didn't work out particularly well!

A far simpler option is to switch to as many plastic-free products as possible! A recent switch of mine was to plastic-free refillable deodorant sticks from WILD. This was actually one of the companies that sponsored the free trees on Treeapp. I was able to get 20% off their products with a discount directly from Treeapp.

I haven't actually tried the deodorants yet, but love the idea of the refillable aluminium case. That way you can switch up scents every now and again. The refills are also plastic-free and are made from bamboo pulp, which is home compostable! Woop! The refills cost £6 each and are only purchasable in multiples of 3 to save on wasted packaging and shipping emissions. You can save 20% from that cost by subscribing to a 12 week delivery plan.

I've read from reviews that the refills can last a couple of months, which is amazing in comparison to the plastic-riddled main brand stick I was using before. Some of the reviews suggest that you end up smelling a bit Wild, which may be interesting, but we'll see!! All scents are aluminium-free and use natural ingredients and oils.

3. Buy second hand or find local freebies!

One positive that came out of this dreaded Covid pandemic in our area was a surge of freebies and giveaways in our local area. We live in a small village, which has its own facebook group.

With more people working from home or perhaps working part-time/furloughed, there was a huge rise in people clearing out storage cupboards, lofts and garages. The vast majority of posts on our local group were giving away unwanted furniture, toys, books, bikes and cooking equipment. We managed to snag a couple of free wooden desks from a local hotel that was clearing out old furniture.

I'm sure that this is the case across the country and there are always bargains to be had on local facebook groups or facebook marketplace. My very clever Aunt has an excellent blog on frugal living called shoestring cottage and has made a pact to only buy second hand throughout 2021. Join the facebook group "My Second Hand Life" for crafty tips on upcycling, reusing and insider tips on how to get the best 2nd hand finds.

Buying 2nd hand is more than just a wallet-friendly tactic. Each time you buy 2nd hand, you're indirectly influencing (over time) the amount of new products manufactured. Less manufacturing might not be great for the economy, but it means less raw materials used, less deforestation, less pollution from manufacturing and shipping, and a lower carbon footprint overall.

4. Replace your cling film with wax wraps

This is a bit of a controversial topic in our house, with cling film being the preferred method of choice of husband #2 for keeping leftover food. We used up the last of the cling film before Christmas and I'm happy to say it hasn't been replaced. I got some vegan wax wraps from Secret Santa, and I'm glad to say that cling film is a thing of the past in our house!

We've managed to amass a decent stash of free tupperware from various Indian and Chinese takeaways over the years. Couple this with our stockpile of jars from chutneys, jams etc, and our new wax wraps there really is no need for cling film.

I would urge people to choose the most environmentally-friendly wraps, which are the vegan wraps. I don't think there is much difference in the two, except that vegan wraps avoid all animal products, which seem quite unnecessary in these products. If I'm 100% honest, the wax wraps aren't anywhere near as pliable as cling film, and they don't really cling in the same way. I mainly use them to wrap fruit, veg or to cover bowls and dishes. In these cases I use a rubber band to give it a bit of extra security.

There are loads of UK-based wax wrap manufacturers. Check out ETSY if you feel like supporting small, home-based businesses who will be so grateful for your support! Most ETSY businesses offer free and speedy delivery with Royal Mail.

5. Switch to vegan chocolate

Vegan chocolate is in the midst of a renaissance. The range of options available at present is headspinning. If you are fortunate enough to live near a Planet Organic, it's so easy to pop in and grab a bar or 2 and it will be quite a while before you've tried them all. Most of us aren't in that position, but there are a lot of options online.

One of the most convenient things about ordering vegan chocolate is that, for the most part, companies send out deliveries in letterbox parcels. Shipping is cheaper and you don't need to be indoors waiting for your order to arrive!

Where vegan chocolate used to be restricted to dark chocolate, there is a now a host of companies creating creamy and "milky" chocolate using non-dairy products. Most of these make use of cacao butter and coconut milk/cream to create a smooth, silky texture and you would have absolutely no idea that this was a deliberately vegan product!

So, what does this have to do with climate change? According to the WWF, there are 270 million dairy cows across the world.

"Dairy cows and their manure produce greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change. Poor handling of manure and fertilizers can degrade local water resources. And unsustainable dairy farming and feed production can lead to the loss of ecologically important areas, such as prairies, wetlands, and forests."

Once you give vegan chocolate a try, you'll realise that there is absolutely no need to have dairy in chocolate. If you're ready to try, head over to our website for a range of dairy-free chocolate letterbox parcels.

That rounds up our 5 top tips to decrease your carbon footprint in 2021! I hope you found it useful and looking forward to hearing how you've all got on!