Climate change feels like an overbearing and insurmountable threat, and one that governments around the world are dragging their feet over. But there are things you can do personally to fight it.
Your carbon footprint is the amount of CO2 emissions you are responsible for, formed through the choices you make. It can be reduced massively through minor changes to your lifestyle. We look at eight ways you can bring that carbon footprint down from a stomp to a tiptoe.
1. Beefing down
We commonly think of planes, trains and automobiles being the biggest contributor to climate change, but the livestock industry beats all forms of transport combined. Cows (beef and dairy production) are the biggest culprits: the emissions involved in feeding, raising and transporting them, as well as the emissions cows (ahem) produce themselves account for 15% of global emissions. Reducing meat consumption is therefore essential to tackling climate change.
Even if you don’t want to give up entirely, you could set targets for meat-free days or become a flexitarian. Introducing more fruit and vegetables into your diet won’t just help heal the planet but make you healthier too, with lower rates of heart conditions and cancer among people who eat less meat.
2. Putting the brakes on your wardrobe
Fast fashion, where clothes can be bought cheap and only used once or twice, neglected or thrown away, is a huge contributor to climate change, with the fashion industry estimated to account for 10% of global CO2 emissions.
When out at the shops or online, ask yourself whether you really need more clothes, and try to buy second-hand where you can. In doing so, you will help reduce demand for the relentless production of new clothes, and impact this deeply damaging industry. Acquaint yourself with a needle and thread and fix up or modify your existing wardrobe and learn practical and rewarding skills in the process.
3. Buying tech responsibly
Like the fashion industry, technology companies spend a fortune in convincing consumers they need to ditch their current phone, computer or tablet for the latest device, which promises the most marginal of improvements. The unremitting production of new technology has a huge impact on our planet’s health, and responsible attitudes to consumption and refurbishing products is the solution.
Back Market’s team of experts refurbish electronics and give them a new lease of life, and in doing so fight against tech companies’ planned obsolescence which is toxic to our environment. We’ll even tell you how much e-waste you’ve saved with each purchase.
4. Two wheels good
Transport powered by fossil fuels might not be able to outdo cows, pigs and sheep but it’s still a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, you should be asking yourself whether you really need to make each journey, or whether you can do it car-free. Investing in a bike will save you so much money in petrol, and help keep you and the planet fit.
If where you’re going is further than your legs can carry you, consider using public transport. Europe is blessed with a good network of fast trains, which are a much more environmentally friendly– not to mention much less stressful – alternative to flying. Reducing your annual plane journeys by just one trip saves a whopping 1.68 tonnes of CO2 a year.
5. Switching energy supplier
Switching your energy supplier is perhaps the task that takes the least effort in this list, and one with a potentially a huge impact. Choosing a company that exclusively sources their energy from renewable sources means less coal, oil and gas burned to run your devices and appliances. Run your phone and laptop guilt-free and switch to a supplier providing energy from wind, tidal or solar power. The more people who move to these companies, the more they can invest in new infrastructure for green energy.
6. Shunning plastic
As well as all the problems plastic causes to our environment – and in particular our oceans – it also has its own carbon footprint. Many single-use plastic bags, containers, wrapping, or cups are completely unnecessary with a bit of planning and some good habits. Try to always carry a reusable shopping bag with you so you don’t need to take a disposable one at the till. Take a reusable cup to your local coffee shop. Buy fruit and vegetables loose rather than wrapped in plastic. All these actions seem small but hugely reduce waste and hopefully will drive changes from supermarkets and their suppliers.
7. Laying waste to waste
Cutting down on waste doesn’t have to just be about packaging and plastics. Food waste accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which would be enough to put it on the podium behind the USA and China if it were a country. All food has a carbon footprint, whether through its production process or its transport, so that gone-off pint of milk or moldy lemon is actually a vital front in the fight against climate change.
Spend a bit of time planning out meals and keeping track of what is in your fridge, and try not to overbuy. Be inventive and cook meals that use up odds and ends approaching their use-by date – you never know you might stumble upon a new culinary classic! Any food waste you produce should be composted, either in your garden or through your local council.
8. Going green
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, patch of land, driveway, balcony or even just a windowsill, get out there and populate it with as much greenery as you can. You could plant herbs or fruit and veg you might otherwise buy in the shops, reducing their carbon footprint to zero. With a bigger space you could plant trees that will help store CO2 in the ground. Even planting flowers for bees, butterflies and other insects to pollenate is vitally important for our ecosystem.
Whatever action you decide to take, none of these actions mean anything to the climate as a whole unless more and more people do them too. One of the most important things you can do is spread the word. Get on to your friends and family today about what they can do to save the planet!