Sustainability. Recycled. Green credentials. Reduced carbon footprint. There are dozens of terms applied to lifestyle trends and product make up, all to help safeguard the future of our planet. But how many of them do you truly understand?

The message is simple and impossible to ignore. The steps we take today are vital if we are to protect and conserve our world for tomorrow, but we need to know exactly what we should be doing and understand the advertising slogans, buzzwords and product claims that have become part of everyday conversation.

Easily one of the best-known expressions that we encounter on a daily basis is recycled. I thought I knew exactly what the term encompasses, but found that I had underestimated the range of possibilities when it comes to recycled goods. At the heart, it means to turn a waste product into something that is usable again, or to regenerate a material that can be reused in manufacturing – this is of environmental and financial benefit, of course. But it only scratches the surface of recycling today.

Zero waste initiatives are prevalent now, and you may have seen ‘recycled content’ listed on labels, an indication that producers are reusing materials that weren’t sufficiently top notch for sale, ensuring that they would be returned to the production line to be re-formulated and re-used where possible.

Doing our bit and focusing on not only purchasing recycled goods, but also on recycling ourselves, means that we are all a part of the chain. It is a tough ask to cut any non-recyclable goods from our lives, but we can each make small changes. Keep recycling everything that you can at home, as it really does make a difference.

Glass bottles and jars form new items in a never-ending process, which still results in good quality products; paper and cardboard go on to make newspapers or greetings cards; and household plastics can even become polyester fabric.

To really up your green credentials (more on that later) try to switch over from any single use plastic and find a better alternative. This means less demand, and less items to possibly end up floating in our oceans and destroying the eco-system.

Something which I see as an innovative offshoot of recycling is the recent trend of ‘upcycling’ which means, in basic terms, improving an item which would otherwise be discarded. Upcycling knows no bounds. Sometimes termed ‘creative reuse’, this is a lifestyle for many people who have a flair for the arts and can always see the value in an object.

A great DIY project to take on could be to upcycle a piece of furniture that no longer suits your style into an item that you adore, (check out paints available and techniques at Kit & Caboodle in Almancil, Scarlleta Rose in Paderne-ish, or Algarve Elegance in Vale Formosa). Or how about sprucing up a denim jacket with patches and paints, and a bit of hand embroidery?

If getting your hands dirty isn’t your thing, then just keep an eye out for shops selling salvaged bits, or head to your local flea market for some unique treasures.

Saving things from landfill is a huge bonus, and you can save money this way, too. Don’t overlook pre-loved fashion either, as many charity shops and second hand stores have vintage pieces and designer labels that you won’t find elsewhere.

Mentioning pre-loved fashion brings me nicely to another heavily-used word – ‘sustainable’. I often see descriptions like ‘sustainable cotton’ on clothing labels, and assumed this meant an item was a better choice to buy.

Worth knowing, however, is that in the fashion world, sustainability covers a range of environmentally-focused objectives and is most definitely a positive. To reduce any negative impact on our world, many fashion brands now try to use, where possible, materials that are made using renewable resources (cotton is a prime example) and therefore reducing their carbon footprint.

Creating goods that do not damage the environment when produced (Tencel comes to mind) has been a huge step forward in the battle against fast fashion. Sustainability in fashion is combatting environmental issues, and you may also notice ethical brands becoming more prolific now, focusing on the moral side of production and looking after the people involved.

Reducing the carbon footprint, or going carbon neutral, is another way in which we can all try to take a positive step towards protecting the environment. Many years ago, we were bombarded with the term greenhouse gases, and how they were destroying our atmosphere at an alarming rate. A carbon footprint is actually the amount of these gases that a person or activity creates, and being aware of the dangers can allow people to make changes and reduce the impact.

Many companies are working towards being carbon neutral in the fight against climate change, and this can be achieved in a number of ways. If you find a product for sale that says carbon zero or neutral, then the company almost certainly concentrates on reducing its rate of emission and also, by planting trees to remove excess carbon from the air, improving the natural world. You can reduce your own carbon footprint, too, by increasing your energy efficiency at home and by walking or using public transport instead of your car when possible.

Already mentioned several times, eco-friendly and environmentally-friendly do need a breakdown in terms of meaning and importance. Anything that has minimal or zero harmful impact to the environment is basically eco-friendly, or green!

The internet is filled with tips on how to live a more ‘green’ life, and if you look around at local shops and restaurants, you will see that a lot of the work has already been done for us and it is just a matter of making informed choices.

On a menu, if you see food described as locally sourced, it means that ingredients haven’t had to make a long journey from point of origin and due to this, it would be a low carbon footprint choice. Buying your fruit and veg from a farmers’ market (Try Loulé on Saturdays, Olhão daily, and Quinta Shopping on the first Sunday each month) will have the same positive impact, and these foods are likely to be free from pesticides. Reducing food waste at home means less going to landfill, and home improvements can also make a real difference, ranging from switching to long life LED bulbs to installing solar panels or using eco-safe cleaning products, which are labelled accordingly.

And never be afraid to get others involved. Organise a beach clean-up day and enjoy time with friends and family whilst saving sealife. By making a few small, well informed choices and changes, we can all create a hugely positive impact on our world, and therefore live a more eco-friendly life!

Words: Laura Shea

Share This Story