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How to start your sustainable journey

In 2021, sustainability became a buzzword in every industry imaginable. Sustainable fabrics, sustainable consumption, sustainable everything.

However, when even one of the worst fast-fashion brand has a dedicated “Sustainability” landing page on their website, one starts to wonder where the effort ends and greenwashing begins. 

In this article, blogger Joanna Adjetey from Planet Bananna, guides you through the basics of getting starting with sustainability.

The truth of the matter is that the word sustainability has been watered down and could mean anything from reducing greenhouse emissions to not rinsing your plates prior to putting them in the dishwasher. So, where does someone start their sustainable journey?

What is sustainability?

Sustainability, noun: ‘Meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

We know that our ‘needs’ have skyrocketed exponentially and what we deem essential would get a weary smile out of anyone living outside of the West (“Really, you need your groceries delivered in under 10 minutes?”). 

Therefore, it’s important to differentiate, to understand one’s own needs - and to have fun with it! 

We don’t all need to be minimalists living in Tiny Houses, growing our own food, and bicycling everywhere (although…goals, right?). By implementing small changes, at our own pace and without FOMO (fear of missing out), we facilitate a long-lasting habit or lifestyle change.

The following areas are meant to inspire and provide you with ideas on where you could start with your sustainable journey. They’re not meant to be a blueprint or a catch-all. If you’re just starting out, it’s also important not to try and do everything all at once, it can be overwhelming. Pick what’s important to you, get it right and then move on to the next thing. 


When I started my sustainable journey, I had no idea that banks have such a huge role to play in climate change. 80% of UK customers are with the same five banks and their subsidiaries, and all of them continue to invest heavily in fossil fuels. Yet, looking at their websites, you’d think they have embraced the green transition. 

While global banks have indeed invested around $130 billion into green projects in the last three years, this number amounts to about 7% of what they invested in coal, oil and gas.

An ethical and sustainable bank should be transparent about its investments and care about all people and the planet, rather than just lining its shareholders’ pockets.

Check out the Ethical Consumer Guide on Ethical Bank Accounts for who to switch to.


Did you know that there is about £2.6 trillion in UK pensions? This money is being invested on our behalf - unfortunately often in carbon-intensive industries that accelerate climate change, and businesses with unsustainable and harmful supply chains, like tobacco, or arms. 

By swapping, or ‘greening’ your pension you’re reducing your carbon footprint 21x more effectively than giving up flying, going vegetarian and switching your energy provider combined, according to Make My Money Matter.

Check out the Ethical Consumer Guide to Ethical Pensions.


Solar panels and wind farm on snowy ground

With energy suppliers, the situation is quite similar to banks. On the surface, most energy suppliers seemed to have jumped on the green bandwagon and are offering ‘renewable tariffs’. 

However, many of these claims don’t actually mean anything. When choosing your energy supplier, one thing to understand is the National Grid. Regardless of your supplier or tariff, your energy comes from the same grid. If you’re on a 100% green tariff, your supplier will add as much green energy as you’re using. Therefore, the more people on green tariffs, the more green energy will be available on the grid.

Have a look at this live status page that displays the energy sources for our varying demands for each day.

When I switched to my current energy provider I got a smart meter, with which I can monitor our daily energy consumption. This has really improved my understanding of how much energy we’re using at peak and low times and has resulted in great energy-saving habits, like unplugging devices when I’m not using them or turning lights and heaters off when I’m not in that particular room. 

Other energy-saving tips include washing your clothes at colder temperatures (that’s better for most fabrics anyway) or switching to energy-efficient devices

Check out the Ethical Consumer Guide to Energy Suppliers.


In this category, the loudest mantra is “The most sustainable clothes are the ones in your closet”. Regardless of whether these clothes are fast fashion, virgin polyester or shipped from across the world, the most sustainable thing is to keep and take care of them.

The fashion system is broken, with most garment workers being paid pittances while they’re ordered to make increasingly more: the amount of clothes we send into landfills has doubled in the last twenty years.

The Remake Fashion Accountability Report 2022 has demonstrated that we need to be on a circular economy and that none of the current goals in sustainable fashion meet the need to curb the industry’s annual growth rate.

Therefore, look after your clothes and prolong their lives by washing less frequently at low temperatures (use a Guppybag if you’re washing synthetic fibres) and by altering or mending your pieces. Check out Sojo App which connects you with your local seamster business (in London currently), and read an interview with founder Josephine Philips.

If you do need something new, try to source it pre-loved, whether through rummaging through your siblings’ or friends’ closets (maybe ask them first if there are things they’re not wearing any longer) or by checking out platforms like Depop, Vinted or eBay.  

If you’re de-cluttering your wardrobe, don’t just donate these clothes to your nearest charity shop. With only 10-20% of donations actually getting resold, it’s most likely that your clothes will end up across the world, driving up local prices and running down quality. Instead, you could use platforms like Swopped to send in your unwanted items and receive credit to swap them for something else.

For one-off events, like weddings or birthday parties, you could use rental platforms like Hurr or By Rotation to glam up your life with a snazzy designer piece. 

And if you do want something entirely new, try and go for a small, sustainable brand. Not only are they generally run by amazing, passionate people who ensure their entire supply chain is ethical, but you will most likely receive a high-quality piece that you can cherish for years to come. Ask these questions if you’re ever unsure whether a brand is actually sustainable or just greenwashing.

Check out the Ethical Consumer guide on Ethical Clothing Brands. And if you don't know where to start with the list of 28 ethical brands, take a look at the Who's Who article to read a bit about each business, their passion and priorities.


Vegetables and dried pasta in kitchen

Food is how the sustainable journey starts for a lot of us. In recent years, numerous documentaries about animal rights, factory farming, the global food system and our own health have led to many people adopting a plant-based diet. 

Although you don’t need to go fully vegan, if that’s not something you see for yourself, I always recommend Challenge 22. It’s a fun, 22-day vegan challenge, happening on Facebook. You learn facts and figures about farm animals and the animal agriculture industry and get to know new recipes and like-minded people.

Some of my favourite vegan chefs with amazing, easy-to-do recipes are Avantgarde VeganRachel Ama or Bosh TV for delicious plant-based recipes.

Reducing meat and dairy on your plate isn’t the only way to make your food more sustainable. Another thing to consider is the amount of food waste you produce. Did you know that if food waste was a country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world? Therefore, it’s important to plan your meals ahead, use up leftovers and, if you can, separate your waste, too. 

Check out this Ethical Consumer article on useful apps to cut food waste.

And lastly, and this goes for any category, shopping locally is the most sustainable way ahead. Support your local farmers' market or order a seasonal fruit and vegetable box delivered to your home.

And finally

I hope you were able to take something from this list. Regardless of how big or small the ‘swap’ initially is, I hope you will enjoy the journey. I once saw a quote online, along the lines of “The most ‘sustainable swap’ is your mindset” and I live by it. 

You don’t need to be perfect (in fact, that’s impossible anyway), all you need to do is understand that most of our systems are not feasible any longer and help drive the change. 


For more inspiration and lots of deep dives into sustainable fashion and other industries, check out Joanna's blog Planet Bananna

You can also read an interview between Ethical Consumer and Joanna Adjetey to find out more about her background and approach to life.