10 tips for Sustainable Solo Living
“It is said one-person householders are the biggest consumers of energy, land and household goods. They consume 38% more products, 42% more packaging, 55% more electricity and 61% more gas per person than an individual in a four-person household.” (Charlotte Moore, The Guardian, 2006). But cutting out waste can seem so much more difficult for those of us who live alone. Contrary to popular belief, however, there are plenty of things you can do to be more environmentally friendly as a single occupant. Here are some top tips for sustainable solo-living…
1. Plan your meals.
This doesn’t just mean making a shopping list of all the things you fancy. Try to make sure that you’re cooking meals that use the same ingredients in different ways, particularly things that don’t last as long such as fruit and veg. This will also help make sure you’re only buying what you need!
2. Buy from bulk stores.
This makes planning your meals even easier, especially if you don’t have much storage space! For things like oats, dried fruits, and nuts for snacking, buying from bulk food stores means you aren’t restricted to the quantities provided for you in most supermarkets, so you can stick to what you know you’ll get through.
3. Go frozen!
This is by far the best way to reduce waste, and not just for single occupancy households. If you’re worried that frozen isn’t as healthy as fresh veg, don’t be! Vegetables are usually frozen super early after harvesting, which can actually preserve nutrients, compared to fresh veg that might have had to travel a long distance to reach the shelves.
If your concern is about the plastic packaging used for most frozen veg (rightly so), it’s perfectly possible to freeze your own. Buying local will generally mean the veg is fresher and will have a lower carbon footprint in terms of distance travelled. Most veg will need to be blanched before freezing, but this isn’t complicated - click here to learn how!
You can prevent veg clumping together in the freezer by “open freezing” (chopping and laying out on a baking tray lined with parchment and freezing like this, before bagging).
It’s not just veg that can be frozen to reduce waste - you’d be amazed at the number of things you can freeze to make them last longer. From dairy products like cheese & eggs to meat and herbs. It’s important to make sure you’re freezing things properly, though. Herbs, for example, need a bit more preparation. I find the easiest way is to use the “ice cube” method - just chop herbs as you would when preparing a meal, then place them in equal quantities in an ice cube tray. Fill each cube with either water, extra-virgin olive oil or melted (unsalted) butter, then freeze. Be sure to do your research before freezing different food stuffs!
4. Don’t be afraid to cook in bulk
Most recipes are designed for at least 2-4 people, but don’t let that put you off. As long as the meal is can be frozen, go for it! I often cook a big chilli con carne on a Sunday afternoon and portion it out into several meals for freezing.
5. Invest in eco-friendly storage
If you are freezing food a lot, or portioning out meals, invest in eco-friendly storage solutions. There are some great stainless steel, glass or even bamboo options out there! As a side note, if you’re already using plastic Tupperware, don’t replace it until you have to (better for it to be in your cupboard than in landfill).
6. Keep laundry to a minimum
Doing the laundry uses a lot of water and power, and it’s a shame to use that on anything less than a full load - not easy when you live alone. Clothes that don’t sit directly on our skin usually don’t need washing after each wear, and doing so can damage both the environment and the clothes themselves. I’d recommend making sure you have plenty of single-wear items such as undies and socks, so you have enough to see you through until you build up a full wash-load.
7. Wash by hand
If you’d rather not leave your clothes in the laundry bin, or you REALLY want to wear your favourite shirt again but don’t have a full load to go in the machine yet, why not just wash it by hand? It takes a bit of time but a heck of a lot less water! Click here for some top-tips on hand washing your clothes.
8. Only heat the rooms you use
As a single occupant, do you use all the rooms in your house on a daily basis? I’m sure for many the answer will be yes, but for those of us lucky enough to have spare rooms for visitors, it’ll save a lot of energy (and money) if you switch off the radiators in unused spaces. Just be sure not to switch them off in the room with the thermostat! Another top tip is to close the doors on those rooms to prevent warm air escaping into the colder areas.
9. Team up with your friends and neighbours
If you want to take advantage of the cost-effective nature of buying large quantities in bulk, why not team up with friends and split the cost, as well as the goods? Or if you want to shop online but can’t reach the minimum spend, perhaps you could team up with a neighbour and combine your shopping lists? This could also work with food subscription boxes!
10. Car share
Perhaps best saved for a post-covid world, but this community spirit can also be extended to your travel arrangements (again, this one doesn’t only apply to solo-occupants!). Taking part in a car share scheme could dramatically reduce your environmental impact!
So there you have it. Some small considerations that could make a really big difference. And the great thing is that most, if not all of these measures will help you save some pennies, too! Win win!