Noticed the down pouring of rain? The forest fires ravaging the world? Or perhaps you’re still waging through a basement flood in your house. Climate change is real and it’s here. If the latest report is anything to go by, we’re all screwed… unless we do something right now. Yes, it’s a code red from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of scientists who really know what they’re talking about.
While the report is pretty devastating and in some areas downright stark, the scientists are hopeful. But that’s only if we can cut global emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by the middle of this century. Only then can we stop and – hopefully – reverse the rise in temperatures.
So how do you reach net zero? It involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions, using clean technology, using carbon capture and storage, and absorbing emissions by planting trees.
That all sounds well and good, but what does that mean for little old me? Aside from rinsing empty containers for the recycling, what else can you do to help reduce temperatures around the planet? Here are a few ideas to get you started – after all a small step in the right direction is much better than no step at all.
1. Write to companies
Brands and companies won’t survive without our interest in their products. So if we make it clear that we’re not happy with their polluting ways and their endless plastics, they’ll start to do something about it.
Write to companies to demand accountability. To make it effective, do your research around what they say they do for the planet, write to the most senior people in the company, use facts from helpful research to back up your points, provide some suggestions on what to action, and give them a deadline. Then splatter it all over social media in the hope that it’ll go viral.
Also there is power in the collective voice, tell family and friends to write in too. Or start a petition online.
There a whole load of petitions to sign at Friends of The Earth: www.friendsoftheearth.uk
2. Write to your MP
I’ve personally only ever done this to save a local pub that was being forced to close down by grumpy residents. And you know what? It worked.
Highlight local green schemes they should support or find national policies that you need them to support in parliament. There are plenty of templates online, but be sure to make it personal, otherwise your MP is likely to disregard it. Oh and get your neighbours in on it too.
Find your local MP: www.members.parliament.uk
I've personally only ever written to my local MP to save a pub. But it worked.
3. Support rewilding
There is much conversation about planting trees at the moment. There is a good argument to be had that plopping a pine into the ground isn’t exactly boosting local nature reserves. So when you’re looking to support some tree-planting charities, make sure to do your research.
In the first instance, look at rewilding initiatives, where the emphasis is not just on trees but on the overall natural habitat of all creatures great and small. This helps to ensure that what you’re planting is actually good for everyone involved and not just a tick-box exercise.
Visit this rewilding charity to learn more: www.rewildingbritain.org.uk
Trees for Life doesn’t just plant trees, but focuses on natural habitats too: www.treesforlife.org.uk
4. Change your energy provider
Ideally, we should all be operating off solar panels and wind turbines, so to make sure you’re doing the best you can in your household, swap your energy providers with some green ones.
There are loads of companies that make the transition easy. But if that all seems too strenuous, at least swap to a smart meter. Then at least you can be more in control of what fuels you’re burning. Plus, you can switch stuff on and off remotely to save energy when you’re not in the house. Most energy providers will help you make the switch.
5. Travel less and for longer
We need to start rethinking our holidays. To be honest, most people haven’t had one in the last two years anyway, but when you’re planning your next one, think about it carefully. One way to help the planet, it to spend more time exploring our own country with staycations and weekends away to cut down on air travel.
But when you do travel, why not stay in the destination for longer? If you work remotely anyway, then just tag on a few weeks of remote working after your holiday. That way you can help to support local communities and reduce the impact your travel has on the environment, instead of flitting to three different countries in 14 days. Also, try to get the train where you can instead of flying or driving. Not only is it better for the planet, it’s also very fun.
There are lots of travel companies who can help you make your travels as sustainable as possible.
Take a look at Intrepid Travel, which claims to have been running carbon-neutral tours since 2010: www.intrepidtravel.com
To be honest, most people haven't had a holiday in the last two years anyway.
6. Buy second-hand clothes
It may be a simple step but it’s an important one. Apparently the fashion industry accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater. So try not to buy every single trend possible. Is that bucket hat even going to look good? Probably not.
Instead hit up your local charity shops. There are some really great ones if you head to the posh areas of London. And if you’re planning on throwing out clothes, make sure to drop them off at recycling clothes points, or give them to charity (but always make sure to check your pockets first!). Or, if you still like something that doesn’t fit, take it to the tailor to tweak and bring some new life into old rags.
Read our round-up of the best vintage stores in London.
7. Buy local
As with everything these days, to reduce your carbon footprint you need to buy locally. That goes for clothes, food and everything in-between. Try to walk to shops instead of ordering online and bring local business back to life where you can.
With food in particular, try to shop from small grocers and bakeries etc. And where you can’t, try to pick fruit and veg with the least air miles. One way to do this, is to try and eat seasonally and support local farmers. Under this bracket, we should probably also mention that cutting down on meat consumption is also a good idea.
8. Waste not want not
Apparently, in the UK, we waste 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, which totals to costs of £10.2 billion. That’s a lot of waste. And a lot of money. Do the little things you can to freeze leftovers, make soup out of old veggies and palm off the food you want to someone else other than the bin.
There are some great apps designed to help you stop the food waste problem, distributing food to neighbours, the homeless and communities much more in need.
Read about the best food waste apps here.
9. Cycle and walk where you can
This is super obvious but are you making enough effort to walk instead of drive? Go by foot or cycle to reduce the fumes in this city, it also reduces your chances of getting a congestion charge fine, and is way quicker than public transport anyway. There are also loads of those annoying electric scooters you can take if the Santander bikes aren’t your vibe.
Failing that, just use public transport. The trusty buses and tubes offer human interaction that you just can’t get in the front seat of your car.
You can follow my cycle journey, to find out how life-changing it is to own a bike (and then have it stolen).
10. Buy less plastic and disposable goods
It’s washing up on the beaches, it’s in the sea, the turtles are dying from it: plastic needs to go. Where you can, buy from companies that don’t sell loads of plastic or single-use items.
Make sure to take your refillable cup to Pret, to purchase a bag for life for all your shopping, and stop buying perfumes that are wrapped in endless packaging. It’s just not necessary.
Here’s a load of eco-friendly deodorant.
And here’s how to make your coffee habit better for the planet.
11. Invest money in the right places
If you have savings (lucky you, I am financially inept), then try to invest them in companies that do some good for the planet. There are lots of start-ups that invest money and pensions into sustainable companies.
It’s a win, win. You can watch your money grow, and know that you’re helping to save the planet.
Cushon offers the world’s first ever net-zero pension: www.cushon.co.uk