60 Simple Steps To Make A Difference
HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO PLANET EARTH in 2018
The first day of a new year and I find myself wide awake editing endless articles I have written and never published. I found this one. To be honest I can’t remember writing it. I hope it isn’t someone else’s that I just liked and saved to remind myself of things to do to make a difference! It looks like I wrote it as an E-Book and never designed or published it. So here you go get off to a cracking start to 2018.
Have we made a mess of Planet Earth? Yes probably, but I’m still optimistic we can fix things. We all want to.
But often when we look at the size of the challenge — how do we feed 7 billion people, how do we solve the energy conundrum, how do we create a more caring, just world — we feel helpless and deflated. It’s tough to keep the faith and feel that what individuals do actually matters. But it does.
It matters for you because it will make you feel better about yourself, and it matters for the Planet.
All it takes is just #OneThing, just one #SimpleSteptoaQuantumLeap. Take your pick of 60 Simple Things. One for every week of the year and a few to spare. And #MakeADifference.
FIXING THE FEEDING FRENZY
- Give up Beef
Yes, I know. You might not want to. You might be worried what will happen to the cows. Always controversial, this one. But here’s the issue.
Beef requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in 5 times more climate-warming emissions. The huge amount of land set aside to produce grain to feed intensively farmed beef is needed for humans.
University of Oxford scientists and found that meat-rich diets — defined as more than 100g per day — resulted in 7.2kg of carbon dioxide emissions. In contrast, both vegetarian and fish-eating diets caused about 3.8kg of CO2 per day, while vegan diets produced only 2.9kg.
And the cows? If we gradually reduce consumption, then intensive farming might also reduce. Fewer cows would produce a calf every year, fewer male calves destroyed, and better quality of life for those left. Here’s hoping…..
2. Resist The Import Urge
Got used to blueberries and raspberries all year round? Love a mango? Me too. But I’ve stopped it because they’re flown half way round the world from places like Peru to get to my mouth mid-Winter. So now I eat local all year round, grow my own and really look forward to Summer when I can get my berry fix. But I will still miss mangoes….
3. Love Loose
Packaged fruit. Perfectly-ripe. So what’s wrong with putting it on the windowsill and waiting? Fruit has its own covering, it doesn’t need the extra plastic, so let’s buy loose.
4. Be Ugly
French supermarket Intermarche has made a great success of selling ‘ugly’ fruit and veg. They don’t look perfect but they taste just as good, they’re often half the price and they haven’t been engineered to look beautiful. Why not get a bunch of mates and write to your local supermarket and ask for an Ugly aisle?
5. Pitch out Plastic Bags
In the UK we used 8.5 billion single-use plastic bags in 2014 before the introduction of the 5p charge. That’s 800,000 tonnes of plastic into landfill sites. That’s the equivalent of burying an oil tanker. On average we have 40 bags at home. I know it’s hard; I forget too. But buy a couple of bags for life and keep them in the car boot. Or better still, buy a granny trolly — it’s not uncool anymore to push suitcases on wheels, so why not at the supermarket too!
6. Grow Your Own
So obvious, but I had to put it in here. Even if all you have is a balcony, lots of veg and fruit grow happily in pots. This year I got a great crop of broad beans, broccoli, peas, raspberries and gooseberries from pots. Put aside just 20% of your garden to grow fruit and veg; once you tasted really fresh food from the ground, you won’t want to go back.
7. Super Seasonal Local Stuff
There are so many chefs that have written seasonal cookbooks, it’s easy to eat what is seasonal and local. Try Tender by Nigel Slater, Nigela Fresh, or In Season by Sarah Raven. If you eat seasonal, you can buy local and support small businesses. Ditch the food miles.
8. The Last Straw
We were created with lips for a reason. Kissing, yes. But also drinking. So let’s try to get our kids and ourselves out of the straw habit. Just a little less plastic…..
9. Throw-Away Throw-Away Culture
We throw away 7 million tonnes of food every year in the UK. When it ends up in landfill it combines with other rubbish to create methane which we don’t need. Buy only what you’re going to eat. Spend a Sunday hour creating menus for the week. Instead of putting food in the recycling bin, try a compost heap instead.
10. Take of Your Tops
Bottles that go into the recycling bin need to be naked. No tops. If they’ve got their tops on, they get sorted straight to landfill.
11. Bye Bye Bottled
This one is hard. I admit to an Evian water addiction in the past. I don’t like the taste of tap water and I worry about fluoride. But hooray, there’s a better idea. Just buy a water filter and keep it filled up.
12. Ditch Disposable
Ditch the plastic cutlery. Don’t buy fast food that comes with a fork. Take your own food on a plane (theirs is expensive and awful anyway). Keep a nice metal knife, fork and spoon in the glove compartment or your handbag. Feel strange?
China throws away around 57–80 billion pairs of chopsticks every year. That’s a lot of forest. But a Greenpeace BYOC (bring your own chopsticks) has started to make it cool to buy reusable chopsticks.
The Starbucks cup. What made coffee-on-the-go cool. But no more. Hipsters today bring their own cup. Insulated travel mugs and reusable glass canning jars are easy and cheap to buy and use. Hell, Starbucks even made a copy of its own paper cup if you still feel the need to go all Devil Wears Prada (soooo Noughties…)!
14. A Lidl Easier
And no, I am not sponsored by Lidl. I just love disruption to existing business models and this one is good. Buying seasonal produce in bulk to decrease cost and transportation, Lidl’s fresh food is every bit as good as Waitrose, even if its not as pretty.
15. Turn Back to Tupperware
Cooking foil and cling film have become kitchen staples. But they’re just adding to landfill. It’s time to fall in love with an old favourite — Tupperware. Or it’s equivalent. I know it’s plastic, but its washable and you can keep it almost forever. It could be the heirloom for future generations!
16. Bagged Bananas
A special addition to the packaged imported food issue. Bagged bananas just aren’t necessary. Of all the imported fruit, if you have to buy bananas, buy free-range! Even Fairtrade need to stop the packaged nonsense.
17. Pesky Palm Oil
Uncontrolled clearing of rainforest land for conventional palm oil production has led to widespread loss of irreplaceable forests. It’s found in pizza dough, instant noodles, ice-cream, margarine, chocolate, biscuits and cookies, and packaged bread. Can you avoid it? The WWF guide to palm oil is really helpful http://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/which-everyday-products-contain-palm-oil
18. Sustainable Seafood
Our fish stocks have been declining for decades. According to the FAO, 52% of global fish stocks are fully exploited, 17% are overexploited and 7% depleted. That means Atlantic cod, bluefin tuna, haddock, whiting, bass and bream are all endangered. There are however some fish you can still eat sustainably. You can learn more at Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s www.fishfight.com and www.fishonline.org.
HAVING THE ENERGY
19. Buy A Hybrid or an Electric Car
If you can’t stop using your car — and it’s difficult we know — how about investing in a Hybrid or an Electric car? They’re getting better all the time, and there are loads to choose from. Yes they’re more expensive to buy but so much cheaper to run and better for the Planet. The government’s committed to electric vehicles so the price is going to come down.
20. Walk When You Can
It’s easy to think we don’t have time to walk so we take the car 5 minutes down the road to buy stamps. I try to think every time I pick up the keys whether walking is an option, and if it is, I try to take it. Buying the granny trolly for shopping helps! Walking just 30 minutes a day could also add years to your life.
21. Energy Meters
These are easily accessible. Get one installed in your home and see what you’re using and how much you could reduce your energy consumption. It’s that easy.
22. Go Solar
The grants are now few and far between in these times of austerity, but solar energy does reduce your footprint straight away and energy bills over time. If you’re into supporting Start-Ups, there are great opportunities in photovoltaics every week on Kickstarter and the like.
23. Turn It Off
Think of the short walk to turn all the switches on as part of your daily exercise!! The TV, computer, chargers don’t have to be on stand-by all night. If you’re not using it, switch it off at the mains. Make it a happy habit.
24. Shorter Showers
We all love a soak in the bath or a steam in the shower. But you can get clean in 3 minutes and save so much energy and water. If you usually do 10 mins, can you reduce it to 5? What other ways could you rejuvenate yourself instead? Wrap up in a blanket, lay on the grass and watch the stars one night.
25. Turn it Down
We are not tropical plants and we don’t need to live in constant heat. I know it sounds corny but there’s really nothing wrong with wearing more layers in the house. Keeping the house heat at 1C less, uses 10% less energy!
26. Drive at Optimum Speed
And I don’t mean as fast as possible from A to B!! What’s the best way to drive your car to use least fuel within the legal speed limits of course? Most new cars are fitting with a mpg consumption meter, and I’ve loved learning from my new car how to drive efficiently.
27. Wash in Cold Water
No, I don’t mean YOU although it does help to get the adrenaline going…… I mean your clothes. Set your washing machine to cold, and use when you’ve got a full load. Your clothes will still smell peachy clean.
28. Dishwashing Heaven
It used to be a luxury, now it’s a planetary necessity. A good Eco-Dishwasher saves so much more water than washing by hand. Dishwasher packing for optimum use is a competition in our house!
29. Check your house footprint
Energy saving light bulbs, loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, condensing boilers and double glazing are all really useful in reducing energy consumption. I’ll leave it to the energy companies to tell you more.
30. Go Bio
Biomass generators are getting better and cheaper. I installed one at my equestrian centre to use up manure and it provided almost half our electricity needs. Worth looking into if you’ve got a nearby equestrian centre or farmer with spare manure!
31. A Tissue!
They’re convenient, there’s no wotty pocket to worry about, but they’re responsible for the destruction of vast forests of trees. Buy a Hanky. One of the hardest for me because I get so grossed out by snot.
32. Get Toilet Trained
Only 7% of our toilet paper is recycled in the UK and it’s on every shelf. Buy recycled; that’s bog roll, tissues if you must, kitchen paper, paper for the printer. Every little helps. Your bum really does not need quilted, perfum-infused bog roll. Check out Ethical Consumer’s Guide to Toilet Tissue http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/buyersguides/householdconsumables/toiletpaper.aspx
33. Friendly Flushing
Ok girls, this one’s for you. In the UK we use 1 billion tampons a year, in the US 20 billion. Those little tampons block up drains, don’t degrade and end up in landfill, rivers and oceans. Buy organic, bag them and sanitary bin them. Wet Wipes and cotton buds have increased 53% in the last year as marine and beach pollution, so please bin them don’t flush.
34. Condom Conundrum
No easy choices here. Condoms are necessary to protect us from sexually transmitted diseases and slow down population growth. But many contain carcinogens and chemicals, they degrade desperately slowly, and they’re made of rubber which has to be produced. A great solution is Sustain Condoms, a company launched by Jeffrey Hollender and his daughter. Check them out.
35. Medicine Sin Bin
Do you always finish your antibiotic course? Are there any leftover medicines in your cabinet? In the 20th century we were taught to flush them to keep children safe. If you flush them down the loo, they end up in the water system. Our increase in antibiotic resistance is rising, partially due to their presence in water. You can take them back to your Doctor for safe disposal.
36. Nappy Rash
Don’t hate me Mums, but it has to go in here. 2 billion disposable nappies a year end up in landfill in the UK where they emit methane. That’s 70,000 double decker buses every year. But I suggested cold washing didn’t I? It’s true, trad nappies require hot washing to be healthy. So are they better? It’s marginal but they are. The Environment Agency report says reusable create 560kg of greenhouse gases, disposable 640kg. Can you go back to pins?
37. Parabens & Personal Hygiene
Parabens have replaced formaldehyde in personal hygiene products as the preserving agent. But there is emerging evidence that links parabens to the growing incidence of some cancers. We don’t know anything exact, but they are worth avoiding if you can. Parabens, which have a weak ability to mimic oestrogen, have been found in breast cancer tumours. Are declining sperm counts and increasing rates of male breast cancer and testicular cancer related to the fact that these chemicals can be absorbed into our skin, potentially disrupting our endocrine systems?
38. Be A Silver Fox
OK, I admit it, I’m failing miserably here. In my defence my hair colour is only organic so doesn’t contain ammonia or recorcinol. But don’t be completely fooled by the label ‘organic’ when it comes to hair colour. Most organic colours still contain an element of PPD which is the colour-fixative. But it’s much less than chemical colourant, and so a ‘better than bad’ alternative. So if you can’t go grey, go organic.
39. Take a Hike or Bike
It’s been said in here before, but walking rather than driving, taking the bus, plane or train is better for you and better for the planet. Wherever you can choose a walk in the country as a weekend activity, a walking holiday, or just walk to work. If you can’t walk all the way to work, maybe get off one stop early to start with. Of course it’s risky to cycle in big cities, but it’s getting safer all the time. We’re beginning to learn from Scandinavia who have got this sussed.
40. Ban Bleachy
Household cleaners are choc-full of chemicals. My Mother used to lob bleach down the toilet like there was a bleach-drought around the corner. There are plenty of environmentally friendly ways to stay clean at home. Ecover, Seventh Generation, are all easily available in major stores and online. True, they all still come in plastic containers, but what’s inside is significantly better and washes just as well.
We all know we need to consume less but how to begin when we’re being sold to every day? For me it’s all about resisting the immediate thought ‘I’ll just get a new one…….”; for you it might be pressure of time. But here are a few ways to buy less stuff.
It’s fashionable and fun. Upcycling things already in existence doesn’t mean your home has to look like something out of Waterworld or that you look like a 60s hippie gone wrong. Learning to restyle your clothes in a group can be fun, remaking curtains into cushions isn’t wasteful. Turning old windows into cool frames is easy. Check out UpCycle That. www.upcyclethat.com.
42. Nearly New
Second hand has become uncool. Even students have almost everything new. With low-price production from the far-East, we’re used to new and discard, particularly in fashion. But vintage is still rocking — so what can you wear that someone else doesn’t want instead of buying new?
43. Buy Sustainable & FairTrade
It only takes a few extra minutes to check out your favourite brands sustainability and purchasing policy. If you have to buy something new to wear, why not from Patagonia, Timberland or Eileen Fisher who have long term commitments to the environment? If you want a bar of chocolate, what about Chocolonely?
44. DIY & PowerTools
Have you bought a new power tool in the last year? A powered lawnmower or a drill? DIY is pretty big business. It’s quicker and faster to put a nail in a wall using a powertool, or mow the lawn with a fancy seated lawnmower. But once we used good old-fashioned muscle power. Could you take a step backwards in time and choose muscle over leccy and petrol power now and then?
45. Become a Resistor
The Latest. The New. How to resist the desire to have the very latest model of everything and anything. Another tricky one because we have become programmed to consume. I have learned to let something go until it crashes no matter what. So I only buy a new car once every 10 years max, or a new laptop when I’ve burned the old one to a crisp, or a new phone when at last the buttons don’t work any more. Is it efficient? Not always, because technology moves so fast, it makes work more challenging sometimes when I don’t have the latest software. The screen on my Macbook Pro’s been cracked for 12 months but it still works fine.
46. Be Resourceful — JFGI
I finally bought a new mattress. My dog laid on it covered in fox-poo a week later. I wanted to buy another new one straight away because I couldn’t get rid of the smell. But what is Google for? Moved it outside on a sunny day, covered it in baking soda, left for an hour and hoovered. No more fox-poo smell!
47. Fight The Good Flight?
We love travel. We are bent on seeing the top 100 to die-for destinations before we expire. We are Generation Easyjet. Are there more eco-friendly ways to travel that put less pressure on the planet? Again, no easy answers. Sometimes we can choose our home country. Sometimes we can choose short haul rather than long haul. Sometimes we can choose a holiday with a purpose, where we’re giving back on the environment, social justice, reforestation, conservation or protection. Let’s at least ask ourselves the question every time our fingers twitch over LastMinute.com.
48. Comfortable in Your Own Skin
Confidence plays a big part in being happy with less. So maybe instead of buying the latest gizmo, why not invest in your own emotional and spiritual development. Get happy with yourself and maybe it won’t be so important to cuddle that new Apple iPhone or hug a bigger house.
49. Mindfulness Matters
A mindful approach to life helps us slow down, stop and think and resist the urge to cram life full of stuff instead of life. Just like yogis, there’s a mindfulness teacher on every corner these days so why not try? www.headspace.com is a great place to start.
50. Let Your Wallet Speak
The power of the purse to turn the tide of consumerism and ethically poor behaviour is one of our greatest strengths. If you don’t buy from companies and brands that don’t meet high standards, they will eventually have to change policies. When you have to buy, support brands who are supporting the planet.
PROTECT & PRESERVE
You don’t need to be a treehugger to get involved in Protecting or Preserving what we have left. That’s protecting people from the exigences of human activity from caring for those who are suffering in warzones to preserving the Amazon rainforest. Everyone has something they care about; what is it for you?
51. Plant Trees & Wildflower Borders
An oldie but a goodie. If you can’t plant a new tree in your garden there are endless tree planting schemes you can support or reforestation projects with the National Trust or Forestry Commission. Turn over 20% of your garden to be a wildflower area or wild grass zone, or create a border all around it for wildlife to flourish.
52. Pick a Cause
Charities need our support more than ever. Pick one you believe in and have researched to whatever standards you want to apply. Even £5 a month can make a difference.
Why not use your holiday time to work on an environment, conservation or regenerative project somewhere in the world? You can book a working holiday with the National Trust http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/working-holidays/, or Visit England https://www.visitengland.com/plan-your-visit/sustainable-travel/working-holidays-england. If you want to venture further afield, Eco Connections http://www.earthconnections.co.uk/eco-courses .
54. Choose an EcoHoliday
Love wildlife? Take an eco-system protective safari instead such as Kenya’s Eselenkei, Discovery Initiatives Galapagos, WDCS and BlueTravel’s whale conservation holidays or try Symbiosis in Asia.
55. Forest Fun
Perhaps the biggest and best gift you can give your children is resilience. Forest schools and outdoor skills courses are not just fashionable, they’re fantastic fun and give your children a chance to reconnect with nature while learning and making new friends.
56. Open Up Your Heart & Home
Taking a child into your home for even a short while who has been the victim of war, nuclear disaster, poverty or any other man-made disaster, can be a wonderful life-changing experience. You don’t have to look far to find organisations like Chernobyl Children www.Chernobyl-children.org.uk.
57. Support the UN SDGs
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a blueprint for a better planet — for people, plants, and animals. For us all. Can you persuade your company, your city, your town, to take a look and map the organisation against the Global Goals? If you need help, give WeActivateTheFuture a call.
58. Be a Neighbour
It’s not all about saving the Amazon. Sometimes we can do great work right on our doorstep. Have a look around your hometown, street or village. What could you do to be a better neighbour in your own environment? To people or nature? Clean a pond? Do chats once a week at an old people’s home? Help at a soup kitchen or food bank?
59. Bee Good
We need bees and they need our help. Check out the Bee Kind garden score to see how bee-friendly you are. http://beekind.bumblebeeconservation.org/ Plant lots of lavender, alium, bell flowers, camellia,s comfrey, chives, cornflowers, del[phiniums and not to forget berry bushes like blackberries and currants. Or learn to keep bees yourself!
60. Dig Up the Drive
Paved driveways have caused a significant loss of habitat and increase the risk of flooding. In London there are 12 square miles of front gardens under paving, equivalent to 22 Hyde Parks! So why not dig up that driveway and plant a wildflower garden instead.
So there you go. 60 Simple Steps to a Quantum Leap. Get 2018 off to a cracking start and make a difference.