FAQ: What should a person do if they are seriously concerned about climate change?
Following several bad news stories over the last few months — e.g the US’s potential withdrawal from the Paris Agreement — I’ve been reflecting on the meaningful, everyday actions that all of us can take to immediately reduce our climate impact. I’m sharing a quick list of my top five, but there are a whole host of small actions that each of us can take, even if we aren’t a politician or CEO.
If you want to dig deeper into these topics and more, check out The Sustainable 2017 Challenge.
(1) Be mindful of your home energy and hot water use — your gas and electricity use & bills can both be trimmed through more conscious use of energy around the home. The Energy Savings Trust offers a great list of home efficiency quick-wins to get you started, including shorter showers and the use of inexpensive energy/water saving devices.
(2) If available in your area, purchase electricity from a renewable power provider. In a country like the UK, the energy market allows household consumers to switch suppliers from a traditional tariff to a 100% renewable power tariff (sometimes called a ‘Green Plan’). Elsewhere — like the US — this is sometimes available, but you will need to contact your local power company to request more information (or do some digging online). If this option is not currently available in your area, contact your local power supplier and request it!
The market structure I referenced looks like this (graphic from the CMA review):
(3) Avoid products containing palm oil. This vegetable oil created from the fruit of palm trees is a noteworthy problem in the climate change fight… by some estimates, up to half of supermarket products contain palm oil under one name or another. And while it’s delicious and great for creating alternative fuels, tropical rainforests and peatlands (crucial carbon sinks) are being cleared/burned to allow for more palm plantations. There is a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, running a certification scheme for palm oil producers.
But the easiest, most effective course of action is to avoid palm-containing versions of these products (including ingredient names like ‘palmate’):
- Peanut butter, Nutella
- Toothpaste, Shampoo, Lip Stick
- Breakfast cereals
- Store cookies, cakes
- Store bread, margarine & butter-alternatives
(4) Reduce your transportation footprint. You can reduce your impact substantially by transitioning from motor vehicle travel to increased use of public transportation or — ideally — more walking or biking. As this isn’t feasible for every personal situation, here are some additional ideas for different types of household:
Check out this article by The AA for more info on fuel-efficient driving practices.
(5) Increase your number of meat-free meals. Meat consumption has a significant climate impact due to (a) tropical deforestation undertaken to increase area available for grazing, (b) the substantial energy required to grow and transport food for cattle (and the subsequent energy required to process and distribute meat products), (c) in the case of beef and lamb, the significant methane emissions from the ‘gas’ being passed by these cattle.
To get started with eating less meat:
For those who haven’t tried this before, focus on:
- Locating a few great-looking recipes that happen to not contain meat
- ‘Crowding’ meat out of your diet by bolstering your meal with a variety of great fruits, vegetables, and protein (e.g. beans, lentils, quinoa, nut butters, or fun substitutes like Quorn)
Here are some sites to get you started:
- Identify some great meatless recipes from Meatless Mondayand the Vegan Society
- Clarify which common products you already use that happen to be vegan
- Check: Guide to reading labels for vegans (even if you’re only going meat-free)
- Reassure yourself by reading Vegan: Your First Three Weeks
As always — your health takes priority! Avoid extreme diet shifts, just focus on eating meat less frequently and in smaller portions.