20 changes for 2020: How to build a more sustainable life

By | January 4, 2020

Here our experts give their advice…

Eco expert

Don’t eat red meat

It is one of the biggest, and the most contentious environmental issues, particularly in Ireland where agriculture accounts for over 33pc, and rising, of greenhouse gases, the highest in the EU. The size of the national herd is predicted to increase by 20pc by 2030, making the scale of the problem worse.

But the studies are clear. Red meat uses up 11 times more water and produces five times more emissions than poultry. A recent study from Oxford University found that meat-rich diets cause double the emissions of veggie ones at 7.2kg of CO2 to 3.2kg a day. Vegans clock up just 2.9kg of CO2.

While vegans are flying the flag for meat- and dairy-free diets, there are other options for those of us who can’t resist the weekend fry. In January last year, the Eat-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet Health, a cohort of 37 medical and environmental scientists, published the Planetary Health Diet. If we all adopted it, they say, we would meet the targets set out in the Paris COP aimed at keeping global heating below 2oC. “This is not a deprivation diet,” stresses Prof Walter Willett, one of the US scientists involved in the Commission. “It has to be an aspirational diet. That means good flavours, variety, enjoyable and one can be confident that you will be healthy as well as protecting the planet.”

Based on the Mediterranean diet, it limits red meat to a burger a week, or a big steak a month, though you could have a daily micro burger of the recommended 14g.

It suggests two helpings of fish a week, a daily portion of dairy, and bumped up daily portions of vegetables, legumes and nuts. There are swaps for flexitarians, vegans or pescans. Not only is this a healthy, balanced, flexible way to eat – though some critics say the levels of good fats should be increased – but it is a sustainable one for the planet.

I’d add one more suggestion – when you do buy meat, choose the best quality you can afford (organic, grass-fed and local) – to support a more sustainable form of agriculture, one that regenerates rather than depletes the soil.

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Rethink your car use

It’s a surprising fact that about 68pc of car journeys in this country are shorter than 10km. In other words, they could be done by bike, scooter, on foot, or – if you’re lucky enough to have access to public transport – by bus, LUAS, DART or some combo of any of these.

Taking the bus – rather than the car – is better for the environment

Making this switch alone would have a big impact on carbon emissions. “When your car is starting cold,” says Brian Caulfield, associate professor at the School of Engineering in TCD, “it generates more per km emissions than it would do if you were driving from here to Galway. So if you’re driving five minutes to the shop and back, the emissions are much higher than any other trip. Cutting that out would be a good start.”

As around 20.2pc of all our carbon emissions in 2018 were caused by transport, it’s worth thinking about the difference it would make to our cities and towns to reduce our dependence on four wheels. And the benefits go way beyond emissions to safer streets for kids to cycle, lower air pollution, less traffic and noise pollution.

Of course, it’s something that needs to be led by Government policy with more investment in cycle lanes, better e-car charging infrastructure to encourage the shift to electric cars, and a massive increase into public transport and away from investing in building yet more roads.


Bairbre Power

Fashion editor

Take care of your clothes

Sustainability will invade our fashion headspace – and no harm either. Many of us will become far more responsible about bringing our own wardrobes into line – whether that’s putting our unloved pieces into charity shops or pre-loved stores – to play our part in ‘circular’ fashion equation.

Part of that fashion transition will mean falling back in love with pieces we already own but maybe haven’t worn in years so go find yourself a good alterations person and embark on some streamlining and repairs. Consider a little customisation of clothes – whether it’s changing the buttons, taking out those 80s shoulder pads or putting go-faster stripes down the side of trousers to bring them into 2020.

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In terms of care, that time poor habit of chucking clothes into the washing machine and then chucking the load into the dryer are coming to an end. Do you know how much water that uses and energy it expends? Instead, go out and buy yourself a really good deodorant and change your focus to spot washing stains. If you haven’t got one, go out and buy yourself a clothes horse for drying, and turn into your Granny and watch the weather forecast for windy, dry days that are good for drying.

Wear more colour

Lots of the 2019 trends – utility boilersuits, tartans, belted blazers, slip dresses and bucket hats – will carry over in the new year, so that’s good news from the point of view of sustainability. Colour-wise, we will all be wearing a lot more white as it is having a moment in 2020. Colours you should expect to see coming into the stores are highlighter neon green and ‘marigold’ – not so much bright yellow like the kitchen gloves of the same name but a more goldish hue.

Half a decade after Woodstock where fringing was beloved by hippy boys and girls, you can fully expect to see this playful, textural edging having a retro moment in 2020 along with netting which is like fishnet tights fed on tomato food and stretched.

We’ve had lingerie on the outside in recent years and 2020 will be the year of the bralette. It can be a gleaming satin one to showcase your svelte six-pack or a soothing cashmere one worn under a cardi like the oatmeal Khaite one that Katie Holmes wore in New York last August. Her fashion choice was not a wardrobe malfunction. It was bang on the fashion money and triggered Instagram waves just weeks after her split with long-time boyfriend Jamie Foxx. That’s one way to be fashionable and send a message to your ex!

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Caroline Flannery

Interior designer

Do a simple declutter

This is a good time for a general clear out – take a walk through your home to assess if there are any items which may no longer inspire you. Just because you liked something in the past doesn’t mean you have to hold on to it forever. Try to keep only the things that mean the most to you and give them some space to shine. In your kitchen, get rid of anything which may be out of date and assess what you currently have.

Take a look at your cookbook collection and see where you can perhaps pare this down a little and consider only keeping those with recipes you are likely to try. The same concept could also be applied to your beauty product collection. It’s likely that you may have received Christmas gifts of even more items so decide which ones you will use and commit to not purchasing any more until you have used them all up. With the remaining you can regift or donate to a charity shop.

Invest in lighting

The most uninspiring space can be completely transformed by carefully considered lighting. In some cases just one statement piece can set the entire tone of a room, eliminating the need to invest too heavily in additional furniture items. For investment lighting, as with any investment, my advice is always buy what you love and always, always buy the absolute best quality you can afford, even if it means scouring online for hours or visiting auction houses.

The iconic Arco lamp by The Castigloini Brothers will make a statement and is still as relevant today as it was in the 1960s when it was first designed as is any fitting by Poul Henningsen. The addition of a beautifully crafted Murano glass chandelier or an original fitting from the dazzling 1920s period can add an extra dimension to even the most contemporary design.

Irish Independent

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