rethink sustainability

10 tips for a cleaner, greener (and leaner) 2023

10 tips for a cleaner, greener (and leaner) 2023

It's that time of year again. Crunch time for New Year's resolutions. Research from exercise and social network app Strava says that the second Friday in January is the day when most people will give up on their resolutions - this year's "International Quitter's Day" falls on Friday 13th. 

Top of many resolutions lists this year will be the perennial favourites – exercising more often and eating more healthily. With inflation stubbornly high and the climate challenge growing ever more stark, surveys show that a growing number of people are also planning to save on spending and to adopt more environmentally-conscious lifestyles in 2023. 

The good news is that there are some simple ways to combine these goals, with research showing that healthier diets and lifestyles are better for the environment, and can also reduce outgoings. So as the holiday season disappears into the rear-view mirror, and the world returns to work, here are ten tips for a cleaner, greener, leaner new year.

Many major cities are seizing the electrification opportunity to put an end to localised air pollution

1. Four wheels good, two wheels better

A transport revolution is underway. More than 130 years after German Carl Benz created the petrol-powered Patent-Motorwagon, the first ever commercially available automobile, the internal combustion engine is on its way out. Thirty countries are planning to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and many others – including China, home to more motor vehicles than any other nation – have made public commitments to work towards 100% emission-free roads.

In the UK, sales of electric vehicles are growing so fast that they have now overtaken diesel power to become the second most popular new car, while in the Netherlands, which has more EV charging points than any other nation, the government is ahead of schedule to achieve 1 million EVs on the road by 2025. This growth is changing the face of the global car market – according to the International Energy Agency, EVs made up nearly 10% of car sales in 2021, quadrupling their market share from just two years earlier1.

Many major cities are seizing the electrification opportunity to put an end to localised air pollution. In addition to encouraging the switch to EVs, city halls are embracing electric bikes and scooters, both of which have become part of a fast-growing market in smaller, cleaner forms of transport – the e-bike market, for instance, is expected to generate around USD 53.5 billion in revenue by 2027. One recent Norwegian study found that e-bikes are far more than just a novelty – across a 6-month period, people who switched to an electric bike quadrupled their total cycling distance and more than doubled the number of journeys they chose to take by bike2.

In developed countries, 60% of journeys are shorter than five miles, yet of these the large majority are still taken by car, often transporting just one person. As we head into 2023, consider switching those short car journeys to a bike or e-bike, saving on travel costs, exercising on-the-go, and cutting emissions.

Read also: Cycling towards a brighter future

Of all economic sectors, Agriculture, Food and other Land Use is the single biggest transgressor of our planetary boundaries

2. More plants, less meat

Of all economic sectors, Agriculture, Food and other Land Use is the single biggest transgressor of our planetary boundaries – the environmental safe zones we must maintain in order for our ecology to remain stable3. A large portion of the responsibility falls on the meat and dairy industry, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and a leading cause of deforestation.

In 2022, more than 600,000 people signed up to the Veganuary campaign, committing to “go vegan” across the month of January. Veganuary’s phenomenal success – the campaign has grown to an international movement in just 8 years, with sign-ups increasing 60-fold – is tapping into a wider trend, with surveys showing growing interest in cutting meat intake for the sake of both planetary and human health.

Crucially, research from the University of Oxford has shown that these benefits correlate, with healthier foods having a lower environmental impact, and plant-based foods scoring better on both measures than meat and dairy products4.

In 2018, the EAT-Lancet Commission found that if we are to sustainably feed a growing population, consumption of red meat in the West needs to fall by 75%. Their recommendation is for 98 grams of red meat per person per week5, the equivalent of one burger, with the rest to be replaced by a near 100% rise in the consumption of lentils, nuts or beans.

Read also: Cutting out the middleman: the problem with meat

…by increasing the diversity of the food we eat we can turn the tide for both human health and food systems stability…

3. Put diversity on the menu

The growth of large-scale monoculture farming has given the world a near miraculous increase in crop yields and farming productivity. At the same time it has had a devastating impact on biodiversity and soil health, and is now offering up increasingly unhealthy food. Over the last 70 years, the breeding of faster-growing, larger grains and vegetables, and the loss of fungi-complexity below the soil surface, has caused some crops to lose as much as 38% of their nutrient content6.

Industrial farming has also narrowed the spectrum of foods we eat. Out of 30,000 edible plant species, we grow just 170 on a commercial scale, and rely on only three – rice, maize and wheat – for more than 40% of our daily calories7. This narrowing of crop diversity has put our food systems at greater risk from pests, natural disasters and climate change.

Researchers from Kew Gardens found that by increasing the diversity of the food we eat we can turn the tide for both human health and food systems stability8, with non-domesticated crops intrinsically better at coping with unpredictable weather, unaffected by the nutrient loss that has been seen in industrially farmed crops, and offering the potential to increase the resilience of entire ecosystems against pests and disease.

This year look out for akkoub, a plant native to the Mediterranean whose flowers can be eaten as a vegetable; or the pandanus, a pineapple-like fruit that grows in coastal areas from the Pacific islands to the Philippines; or consider adding seaweed to your plate – already widely available in Asian cuisine, demand for this nutrient-dense protein source is now growing in Europe, too9.

Every meal has its own carbon footprint – emissions arise from the production and use of fertilisers and pesticides, the ecosystem degradation that takes place as agriculture swallows up ever more land, and the transportation needed to bring food from farm to fork

4. Support regenerative and low CO2 farming

Every meal has its own carbon footprint – emissions arise from the production and use of fertilisers and pesticides, the ecosystem degradation that takes place as agriculture swallows up ever more land, and the transportation needed to bring food from farm to fork. In order to meet the Paris temperature target the carbon footprint of each meal we eat should be less than 0.5kg of CO2 equivalents, yet in much of the West we exceed this several times over – in Sweden, for instance, the average footprint per meal is 1.7kg CO2eq. Start-up Klimato helps businesses and consumers by providing labels that list the emissions associated with each ingredient and meal.

Until Klimato’s labels are ubiquitous, you can reduce your food-related CO2 emissions by supporting low-carbon food producers. In the UK, for instance, ZeroCarbonFarms’ ground-breaking approach has seen them certified as a Carbon Negative Organisation, meaning they offset more carbon than they emit through growing and transportation.

You can also seek out those producers committed to regenerative farming practices – such as diverse crop growing, cover cropping, zero-till sowing, and agroforestry – that reduce or even eliminate the need for fertilisers and pesticides, return beleaguered soils to health and cut the environmental impact of food production.


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Read also: Soil: food’s forgotten superhero

Every year around one third of all food produced goes to waste

5. Cut food waste

Every year around one third of all food produced goes to waste. This lost food is responsible for an eye-watering 6% of all global greenhouse gas emissions10. It also comes at significant cost to the consumer – in the US, a 2020 study found that each household spends an average USD 1,866 per year on food that goes uneaten11.

Apps such as Phenix and TooGoodToGo have tapped into this enormous potential market by linking consumers with retailers so as to save near-to-expiry food from the wastebin. TooGoodToGo has already saved 19 million so-called “magic bags” of food that would otherwise have been lost, while Phenix has helped more than 100 supermarkets become entirely food-waste-free.

In addition to taking advantage of food recovery apps, these simple tips can help cut food waste:

  • Check the temperature of your refrigerator. In the UK, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that most home fridges are set at least 2 degrees too warm12, leading to faster expiry of produce.
  • A main cause of waste is uncertainty over portion sizes, particularly when preparing staples such as rice or pasta. Use this portion calculator from LoveFoodHateWaste to take away the guesswork.
  • When shopping, look for anti-waste products such as “ugly” fruit, that often have the added benefit of being less expensive.
  • Consider signing up to a peer-to-peer food waste app – such as Olio, in the UK – that will let you share unneeded food with neighbours.
…with the second-hand market projected to outstrip the traditional fashion market for growth over the next decade, buying second-hand in 2023 will help shift consumption patterns and accelerate the transition to a more sustainable fashion industry

6. Stay on-trend with second-hand fashion

Better for both the pocket and the planet, the second-hand fashion industry has exploded in popularity in recent years. Apps such as Vinted, Depop and Vestiaire have brought high-quality fashion within reach of the average consumer, while schemes such as the “second-hand corners” springing up in many major French retail outlets are taking the trend mainstream.

Read also: Major retailers join the second-hand fashion revolution

The fashion industry is responsible for up to 10% of global carbon emissions, and is a major contributor to the flood of micro-plastics that reaches the world’s oceans every year. But with the second-hand market projected to outstrip the traditional fashion market for growth over the next decade13, buying second-hand in 2023 will help shift consumption patterns and accelerate the transition to a more sustainable fashion industry.

Where second-hand fashion has led the way, many other sectors are following, with everything from children’s toys to power tools now easily available outside of traditional retail.

With solutions such as RealReal’s array of high-end second-hand goods; peer-to-peer renting via platforms such as Fat Llama; “share, borrow and give” apps such as Olio; or the thriving market for refurbished electronic goods that has grown so fast that even Amazon is getting in on the act, tech-enabled second-hand and peer-to-peer marketplaces will be a central feature of the rise of a new, sustainable economy.


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Read also: Pioneering circularity: the rise of the sharing economy

This year, seek out the fashion brands spinning new threads from waste, or those making clothes from renewable, regenerative sources

7. Wastewear

The rise of second-hand fashion has been fuelled, in part, by a growing desire among consumers to direct spending towards sustainability. Tapping into this trend, responsible clothing manufacturers are also seeing strong growth. Patagonia, whose fabrics contain a minimum of 68% recycled materials, has seen revenue quadruple in the last ten years14, while Spanish brand Ecoalf has achieved strong growth with a line of high-end clothing made from 100% recycled materials, including their “Ocean Yarn” spun from plastic waste dredged from the seabed.

This year, seek out the fashion brands spinning new threads from waste, or those making clothes from renewable, regenerative sources – such as Spinnova, the Finnish firm making carbon negative clothes from wood, or the major names behind the Regenerative Fashion Manifesto, who are working together to create a sustainable fashion industry that restores, rather than exploits, nature.

Read also: The tree of life: powering the circular bioeconomy

Fortunately for the plastic-conscious consumer, refilling – where re-usable bottles, pots or jars are used to purchase items without the packaging – is going mainstream

8. Refill it – cutting down on single-use plastic

Every year around 380 million tonnes of plastic are produced, roughly equivalent to the weight of every human on the planet combined. Half of this goes as single-use packaging15. Some, like the more than a million plastic bottles that are bought around the world every single minute16, can be recycled. But others, like the films that act as sleeves for vegetables, or covers for shop-bought meals, do not yet have a ready recycling solution, and, after just a short single use, end in landfill, incinerators, or join the more than 8 million tonnes of plastic waste that floods the world’s oceans every year17. Even where plastic can be recycled, the process almost always requires the consumption of fossil fuels in the manufacture of new products.

Fortunately for the plastic-conscious consumer, refilling – where re-usable bottles, pots or jars are used to purchase items without the packaging – is going mainstream. Perhaps the best-established refill option is Loop, the global re-use and refill platform partnering with major retail brands across Europe and North America to bring refill stations to supermarkets and to offer refills by delivery. Then there’s Belgian company Ecover, which offers in-store refills for cleaning products, and a raft of independent refill-only shops that are springing up across the world, offering zero-waste shopping and putting pressure on major retailers to launch their own refill options.

Download the Re-Fill app to find local outlets where you can buy everything from olive oil to peanut butter without the single-use containers.

10% of home electricity use is caused by so-called “vampire devices”, appliances that continue to draw energy when in standby mode, or even when switched off

9. Kill vampires

Research by the International Energy Agency has found that as much as 10% of home electricity use is caused by so-called “vampire devices”18, appliances that continue to draw energy when in standby mode, or even when switched off. In the UK, with energy bills at long-term highs, energy provider British Gas estimates that eliminating the wastage caused by vampire devices could save the average home nearly GBP 150 on their electricity bill each year19.

To reduce this vampire loss, switch off devices at the wall – devices such as toasters, washing machines, tumble dryers, TVs, microwaves and laptop and mobile phone chargers – rather than merely flicking the off switch on the device itself.

For more modern solutions to the problem of wasted energy, consider joining the “smart homes” revolution. Apps such as Hive or Google’s Nest use internet connectivity to offer features including remotely controllable and programmable thermostats that help avoid unnecessary heating, sensors that ensure lights are turned off automatically when rooms are vacated, and plug sockets that can be switched off via app to be certain that devices have not been left drawing power.

And electric vehicle owners will soon be able to take advantage of smart charging systems that charge EVs automatically at cheaper off-peak times, and then, on occasions when the vehicle is not in use, sell power back to the grid at peak times, turning EV owners into producer-consumers, cutting bills and increasing the resilience of the power grid.

By growing your own you can save money, eliminate packaging and transport miles, ensure your produce is chemical-free, guarantee that only the freshest food reaches your plate

10. Grow your own

Lastly, why not try growing some of your own fruit and vegetables. If you don’t have a garden you can start by growing in pots – chilli peppers, herbs, garlic, and even carrots and tomatoes can all be grown indoors20.

By growing your own you can save money, eliminate packaging and transport miles, ensure your produce is chemical-free, guarantee that only the freshest food reaches your plate, and, if growing in the garden, you will contribute to the local ecosystem of insects and pollinators. Research has also shown that gardening reduces stress, can improve heart health, and alleviates conditions such as depression and anxiety.

 

Keep it specific

We’ve been making New Year’s resolutions for more than 2,000 years – the tradition dates back to ancient Rome21. And for just as long, we’ve been breaking them.

Key to successfully keeping New Year’s resolutions is to make them specific and measurable – for instance, “I will cycle to work twice a week” will be easier to stick to than “I will cycle more”.

This year, consider choosing from the above resolutions to make specific, measurable, achievable goals that are good for your health, your pocket and the planet.


 

Global EV Outlook 2022 - Data product - IEA
Do people who buy e-bikes cycle more? - ScienceDirect
Food Systems I Lombard Odier
Estimating the environmental impacts of 57,000 food products | PNAS
EAT-Lancet Commission Brief for Everyone - EAT (eatforum.org)
Fruits and vegetables are less nutritious than they used to be | National Geographic; Why modern food lost its nutrients (bbc.com)
Once neglected, these traditional crops are our new rising stars | FAO Stories | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
State of the World's Plants and Fungi 2020 (kew.org)
The European market potential for seaweed or marine algae | CBI
10 Food waste is responsible for 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions - Our World in Data
11 The Shocking Amount Of Food U.S. Households Waste Every Year (forbes.com)
12 Chill the Fridge Out | WRAP
13 Secondhand clothing market set to be twice the size of fast fashion by 2030 (harpersbazaar.com)
14 Patagonia, an outdoor brand with a mission | Lombard Odier
15 Plastic Pollution Facts | PlasticOceans.org/the-facts
16 A million bottles a minute: world's plastic binge 'as dangerous as climate change' | Plastics | The Guardian
17 New Study Shows Plastic in Oceans Is on the Rise (nationalgeographic.com)
18 ThingsthatgoBlipintheNight.pdf (windows.net)
19 Energy supplier counts cost of devices on standby - BBC News
20 Easy Vegetables to Grow Indoors (thespruce.com)
21 Ancient traditions: Why we make new year resolutions -- ScienceDaily

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This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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