Life in the Slow Lane: Everyday Sustainability

Sometimes it’s daunting to think about our role in the climate crisis – but the smallest things make a difference. I try to weave sustainability into my everyday life – here’s a few things that I do to achieve that. 

Plant Power

I’ve been vegetarian for over three years and have cut out dairy for half of that time (well… apart from cheese – that’s my kryptonite).

But that’s OK, because what matters is the population as a whole adopting a more plant-based diet. I started with a few small steps – introducing a few meat-free days into the week and switching to oat milk.

Meat-free cooking can be daunting, but meat-free alternatives are pretty darn close to the real thing these days. If you’re feeling more adventurous, there are loads of great vegan/vegetarian cookbooks out there to get you started.

My favourite is this Bang Bang Cauliflower – I add vegan mayo to the sauce and put them in a taco (*chef’s kiss*)

Give things a second life

Fast fashion, with its cheap, trendy, low-quality clothes, encourages a throwaway culture. Using apps like Depop and Vinted have made it easier than ever to buy secondhand.

And who can forget charity shops? Who doesn’t love finding a pre-loved gem at a fraction of the original price? They are constantly restocking with new donations, so the trick is to visit regularly to find the best pieces.

And it’s not just clothes – I’ve been finding furniture on Facebook Marketplace. I’ve found a 100-year-old antique French bed to some reclaimed parquet flooring, and everything in between. The metaverse is your oyster. Although this comes with a warning: once you get started, it’s highly addictive!

Iwan stands outside of a red-brick building. Arrows point to pieces of his clothing, which label where he bought them. He is wearing a white t-shirt (Depop) a blue sleeveless cardigan with a diamond design (Vinted), black jeans (charity shop) and black platform Doc Martens (Depop)

Plastic who?

Plastic is EVERYWHERE. Which makes avoiding it one of the biggest challenges for me.

However, refill stores are my solution. They’ve become a common sight in cities and towns across the UK, where you can bring your own containers and refill anything from spices to washing up liquid to your heart’s content.

My local refill store is Ripple Living in Cardiff. Not only are they not-for-profit, but they’ve recently had a shop revamp, so the place is looking pretty swanky.

Ditching the car…

… when I can. for those short, regular car journeys, I try to walk or cycle instead. Although it’s not always achievable for everyone, especially in rural areas where the nearest supermarket is far away, and public transport links aren’t as regular, it all adds up.

The Welsh Government have been championing its Active Travel initiative, investing in improving cycling infrastructure to give people the confidence to dust off their bikes and leave their car keys at home. It feels safer and more achievable than ever to explore the city on two wheels, whether that’s on my daily commute or just for fun.

For those longer journeys, I try to use public transport where possible, and use my railcard for a third off travel costs.

Local is the new abroad

If one positive came from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s that helped me realise the hidden gems dotted across the country that rival any top destination in Europe.

One place that I can’t recommend enough is the Pembrokeshire coastline. Its secluded beaches, dramatic geology, and crystal-clear water will leave you thinking ‘Amalfi Coast who?’. But don’t stop there. The UK has the Lake and Peak Districts, Cornwall, Snowdonia, the Scottish Highlands, and so much more.

An aerial picture of a cove. A small figure in a wetsuit is floating in the green-blue sea.

So life in the ‘slow lane’ doesn’t have to be boring – there’s always something new to try.

Author: Iwan Irranca-Davies