Large scale change is needed to limit the effects of climate change, and that starts with us.
The recent report from the IPCC on climate change produced a stark warning: we have just 12 years to limit the damage of climate change or, as a species, face utter catastrophe.
And that’s just to limit the effects we’re already seeing occur — drought, floods, extreme heat. We’re in a bad way, we just have to decide how bad it’s going to be for the foreseeable future.
I refuse to believe that this is an insurmountable challenge. It’s overwhelming, for sure, but as I was writing this I saw the following quote on Twitter which rang true:
“The antidote to despair is action”
- Joan Baez
Ultimately, climate change is a global problem that requires large scale change to deal with. As individuals it can be hard to see how we can make any impact at all, and yet there are things we can do every day that can help drive the change needed to sort this mess out.
So what can we do?
I’ve put together a list of things we can all start doing right now, it’s mostly a list of things I’ve done myself in an effort to try and do my bit — it’s not exhaustive by any means, but it’s a start. If you have any suggestions, get in touch via Twitter and let me know.
One thing that made a massive difference in my life, and it sounds ridiculous to say but it’s actually quite simple: think twice about everything — so much of what we do on a daily basis is simply out of habit, it’s only when you stop and think twice about something that you start to realise the impact you have on the world around you.
Ready to save the world? Let’s do this:
This is one of the most powerful things we can do as individuals. As a prime example, in the same week that the IPCC report was published, the UK energy minister said that rules surrounding fracking and earthquakes should be relaxed. Unbelievable really.
Supporting candidates and political parties who place the environment at the heart of policy is absolutely necessary to lead the way and guide the large scale change needed.
No election coming up? Write to your MP with thoughts and ideas about tackling the issue of climate change from a political standpoint. The more people talk about this, the more politicians will take notice.
#2. Vote with your wallet
Whenever we buy anything, we endorse that particular product or service. It’s a vote to say: “I like this, keep on doing it and I’ll buy more” — so before buying anything, take some time to research the environmental impact of it. Better yet, ask yourself if you truly need what you’re about to buy, if not, don’t buy it for the sake of it.
Again it comes down to thinking twice, try applying this mindset to every single thing you spend money on — bills, food, clothes, tech… there are plenty of alternatives out there that not only don’t harm the environment, but actually take steps to help it too, all it takes is a little research.
With this blog I’m hoping to share the alternatives I find, watch this space.
#3. Look at your work life
I’m not about to suggest we all quit our jobs and go off planting trees (although… if you want to do that then absolutely let me know and I’ll come help you) and I know there’s a significant number of people out there who have no choice about who they work for, or the type of work they do, but it’s time more of us started taking a long hard look at our actions across all aspects of our lives — work included.
Personally, this is something that’s come up a few times recently in my freelance work. Potential new clients have enquired about hiring me to work on projects that have been for the fossil fuel industry (or related industries contributing to environmental problems). Being freelance, every new work enquiry has the potential to increase my financial stability, and turning work down is not an easy decision by any stretch, but ultimately: I’m responsible for my actions and the work I put out into the world — as Mike Monteiro writes:
Another thing I’ve chosen to do is to donate 2% of every project to World Land Trust on behalf of my clients — that way each project is helping out in a small way.
I’d like to challenge more companies out there to do better. If I can do it as a one person operation, then there’s definitely scope for bigger companies to do more. Talk to your boss.
This is related to #2, when I started to look at the range of environmental problems out there: climate change, plastic pollution, air quality, deforestation, water use; I realised that pretty much every single one can be alleviated by a reduction in our own habits.
Here’s a few things you can reduce to help make a massive difference:
Reducing your meat intake
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN: “Livestock is the world’s largest user of land resources” which is just an incredible stat when you think about it, and one which affects the planet in multiple ways (this article goes into the issue in more detail if you want to read more about it).
The thing is, even if climate change wasn’t an issue, the current demand for meat is simply unsustainable, we just don’t have the resources to continue.
Here’s a range of things you can do right now to help, I dare you to go for the best option:
Good: Opt-in to meat free Mondays (or another day of the week) to reduce your weekly meat intake.
Better: Only eat meat on Mondays (or another day of the week) to drastically reduce your weekly meat intake. Bonus: opt for locally sourced meat that doesn’t have the extra travel miles, and avoid beef.
Best: Just stop eating meat entirely — it’s really not hard once you put your mind to it, and there’s plenty of recipes online for delicious meat free dishes (it’s a lot cheaper, and pretty damn healthy too).
Watch out — in switching one thing for another, we can sometimes end up with an entirely new set of problems. Almond milk for example is incredibly water intensive to produce.. It’s a bit of a minefield but there are usually lesser evils out there.
Reduce the number of car trips
Most cars are still churning out CO2 every time you turn the key, it’s adding to the problem of climate change and destroying our lungs in the process thanks to air pollution.
Things you can do:
Good: Don’t use the car for trips you could make on foot or by bike, have car free days throughout the week, talk to your boss about working from home to avoid the commute — or if you are a boss then maybe let your employees work from home more. When buying a car, look for the lowest emissions possible, buy a hybrid, or buy an electric car and help create the market for a new type of transport.
Better: Offset the CO2 your car is pumping into the atmosphere — if you’re going to put it in, help take it out. Some insurers actually offer this as an optional extra so it’s worth checking when you renew, alternatively World Land Trust offers the ability to offset your carbon emissions with this handy calculator: https://www.worldlandtrust.org/carbon-calculator/individual/
Best: Get rid of the car completely or buy an electric car.
Reduce your plane trips
This from Wikipedia highlights the issue:
“The IPCC has estimated that aviation is responsible for around 3.5% of anthropogenic climate change… aviation’s contribution could grow to 5% of the total contribution by 2050 if action is not taken to tackle these emissions, though the highest scenario is 15%”
I know you’ve got a serious case of #wanderlust and want to travel to get that perfect shot for your Instagram… but again think twice about the effect this has on the planet, otherwise those beauty spots won’t be around for much longer.
Good: Over estimate the carbon footprint of your flights and offset it. Some operators allow you to do this while buying your ticket, alternatively you can offset them through a third party like World Land Trust.
Better: Reduce and Limit the number of flights you take in a year.
Best: Stay local, and stay on the ground.
If you have to travel for business: speak to your employer about remote working options, and at the very least get them to offset the travel miles of every trip.
Reduce your energy usage at home
This guide from the energy saving trust has a few things you can do to help save energy (and money) in your home.
Just think about how much solar energy should have been harvested in the UK heatwave this summer… we can’t let that go to waste, it’s time to accelerate the shift to renewable energy sources and you have the power to drive that change.
Reduce your wardrobe
A lot of high street stores are centred around fast fashion — a new line every week or so that fuels a constant desire to buy more, and buy new. This is incredibly resource intensive and has far reaching consequences across the globe.
Good: Reduce the number of new clothes you buy. Wear what you have already, repair clothes when they break, recycle clothes once they’re beyond repair.
Better: Seek out more environmentally friendly clothing suppliers (I’ve listed some of my favourites below) they may be more expensive, but the true cost to the environment is much, much, much lower. Buy less with a view to keep them for a long time, that way the cost averages out.
Best: Channel your inner Macklemore and buy second hand where possible, it’s not just eBay and charity shops anymore either, there’s newcomers like Vinted and Depop specifically focused on fashion — plenty of outfits just waiting for a new home out there.
You no longer have to look like a traditional hippy to dress environmentally anymore (although there’s nothing wrong with that) here’s the places I’ve found that offer more sustainable fashion options that actually look great:
Not only will this help tackle emissions and resource use, but it also helps tackle other issues like plastic pollution too.
Speaking of plastic
Single-use plastic is incredibly damaging to the environment, it’s been well documented recently and I’m not going to go into detail here (watch a plastic ocean and blue planet 2 for a good primer).
This is something I’m going to write a lot more on after trying to go plastic free recently, for now I’ll just say that recycling isn’t the answer here — the best option is, you guessed it: reducing what we use. By reducing the amount of single-use packaging we all use, not just plastic but all single use packaging we can help alleviate the waste produced (and the resources used to process that waste)
Good: Reduce the amount of single-use plastic you use on a weekly basis, find plastic-free alternatives
Better: Reduce the amount of all single-use packaging you use on a weekly basis, find packaging free alternatives
Best: Go next level and try for a zero-waste household — it’s definitely possible if you put your mind to it.
Further reading on plastic: https://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/
Plastic free online shop: http://plasticfreepantry.co.uk
I think that’s enough reductions for now — the best advice I can give is again to take a step back and look at what you’re spending money on, pretty much everything you buy impacts the planet in some way.
Offsetting shouldn’t be the first line of defence against climate change, as I’ve mentioned above it’s much better if we all reduce the impact we’re having across the board.
In my view, offsetting should be done as a last resort or as an extra vote of support for the environment. Right now it needs all the help it can get.
Offsetting comes in many guises and you definitely need to research how a company will offset your carbon footprint — some may plant trees and work against deforestation, others may support cleaner energy projects. It’s important to do the research and find out.
I opt for the World Land Trust as I’ve mentioned above. Try using their calculator to find out how much you use and offset your own personal emissions: https://www.worldlandtrust.org/carbon-calculator/individual/
Good: Offset your own individual emissions
Better: If you can afford it, offset the emissions of someone else too
Best: Talk to your boss about offsetting business emissions and eco-friendly alternatives. If you run the business, why not partner up with a charity focused on helping the environment.
5. Educate and spread the word
I always considered myself quite eco-friendly, I’ve grown up being taught to care for nature and the environment. Quite honestly I thought I was doing all I could to help the planet, I always thought that as long as I was recycling things, cycling or going places by public transport, taking showers not baths… that I was doing enough — but now it’s clear we can all go one better, and that starts with educating ourselves.
I don’t usually ask people to share my writing, but if you’ve learned anything from this post I ask that you share it with others. I had no idea about half the topics in this blog post until recently, I’m betting there’s a whole lot of people out there with no clue either.
We’re in dire need of large scale change to solve this problem, and that’s only going to come about if we all start taking responsibility for our actions and the actions of those around us. This blog may not change the world but if it convinces someone to change their behaviour even slightly then that’s half the battle right there, I only hope I can write a follow up post in 12 years with better news.
I’ve rushed this post in trying to get it published so apologies for any mistakes or inaccuracies, if you spot anything or have any suggestions let me know via Twitter