Being eco anything nowadays can seem like a chore. But that’s not necessarily the case.

COP26, the yearly conference bringing together global leaders to discuss action against climate change, was held in Glasgow this year. It triggered protests from environmental groups across the world, with Extinction Rebellion labelling it a failure. The outcome is that not one of the G20 nations will cut emissions to reduce global warming to 1.5C, despite having the highest GDPs and being the most responsible for the climate crisis.

And so, once again, it’s been left to us to protect the environment through individual action while corporations and governments continue to expand fossil fuel infrastructure. In this age of increasing climate instability, it matters more than ever to do anything we can, however small, to be friendlier towards our planet.

But, I hear you say, practising a sustainable lifestyle in a capitalist society is expensive and impractical — especially if you’re a young person. So, I’ve compiled a list of Five Simple Ways anyone can minimize their carbon footprint without radically upending their routine:

1. Invest in reusable coffee cups

Coffee’s a morning staple for many of us, and it’s hard to resist the temptation to pick up a creamy latte on the way to work or uni. However, most disposable coffee cups can’t be recycled because they’re coated in plastic to prevent leakage. There’s been some effort to target the fact that 2.5 billion coffee cups get thrown away in the UK every year, but this isn’t widespread. The best solution is to buy a reusable coffee cup for as little as £2. Some coffee shops even offer a small discount if you come with your own cup. Because they’re easy to forget, it’s best to get two and keep one in your work bag and the other in your personal bag, so you’ve always got one on you.

2. Slow down with fast fashion

One thing that Gen Z wins at is dressing well on a tight budget, with the likes of Shein, Missguided and Pretty Little Thing being household names for most young people. Whenever a new high-fashion trend emerges, these stores quickly begin reproducing cheap lookalikes. But staying stylish comes at a cost. The industry pumps 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent each year, making fashion and its supply chain the world’s third-biggest polluter.

Moreover, those bargain prices come from mass manufacturing our clothes in developing countries. We barely give the ‘Made in China’ (or Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand …) label a second thought, even though it stands for exploitation and inequality. Those employed to make cheap clothing are overwhelmingly female or underage because they’re thought to be more docile and compliant. Of the three million sweatshop workers in Bangladesh, 80 per cent work 12 to 14-hour shifts a day to be paid a monthly wage of £25. These workers risk experiencing fatal accidents and are often subjected to routine abuse at the hands of their bosses.

Good on You has a directory that allows you to search up brand names and see their sustainability rating. It’ll most likely rule out many affordable options, but you can deal with this by shopping less regularly. Besides, buying from sustainable brands that offer better quality and longer-lasting clothing is an investment. Look for timeless pieces that you genuinely like, rather than following the latest trends which come and go by the time your order arrives. Alternatively, try thrift shopping. I too used to only buy clothes from a charity shop if they were for my grandma, but the process has been virtually replicated by apps like Depop and Vinted, which guarantee superb finds.

3. If you’re going to pollute, at least be biodegradable about it!

Smoking forms a big chunk of youth culture. The smoking area in nightclubs undeniably offers an opportunity for socialising, and it would be unrealistic to assume that young people will quit if reminded of the ecological burden. So, make cigarettes less detrimental by swapping shop-bought filters (or roll-ups) for eco-friendly ones. Conventional filters are made from acetone, a single-use plastic drowning in hundreds of toxic chemicals once smoked. Recognisable brands such as Swan sell biodegradable alternatives which can be easily found online, but not so much on the street. Still, most cost the same as the usual ones, with Greengo selling a pack of 200 for £1.25. Ordering them in bulk also ensures that you won’t run out of filters at the most inconvenient time.

4. Make up your mind about reducing plastic!

Minimise your use of plastic further by taking off your makeup with reusable face wipes. They also work out being more convenient because you never run out of them after a night out at 4 a.m. Some only require being soaked in water to work their magic. Likewise, you can substitute your plastic bottles with shampoo and soap bars. The selection from Lush offers a wide range of eye-catching bath products guaranteed to change your bathing experience!

5. Go vegetarian

As a young adult, you’ve probably left the nest and moved out of your family home for the first time. This gives you the opportunity to embrace a range of ethically promising lifestyle changes. If you cook for yourself, you can prepare several vegetarian recipes for the week ahead and only buy what you need when grocery shopping. Supermarkets and restaurants now have affordable meat substitutes that make it feel effortless to lead a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle (also, the best vegetarian burgers taste indistinguishable from meat ones).

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