Happy Green New Year

Seven things you can do to reduce pollution and tackle climate change

We’re approaching that time of year again, when we all start to think about what the New Year might hold and the resolutions we can make.

It’s also a time for reflection. For many, people are still living with the devastation and anxiety brought about by the pandemic. We also had the world’s largest climate conference in Glasgow, COP26, which made it abundantly clear that time is running out for our planet and immediate action is needed.

So it’s all the more important to convert this energy into something positive for 2022 – joining together to be part of the solution is empowering, lifts your spirits and inspires others to do the same.

Here are some simple ideas that the planet (and your purse) will thank you for:

1. I will only buy second hand or rented clothes

Fashion is one of the most polluting industries out there. It creates up to 10 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Brits are some of the worst culprits – we are the biggest fast fashion addicts in Europe. Every year, we send 300,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill.

Buying new is so last year! There are some brilliant alternatives out there. More and more people are hiring their clothes – even Marks & Spencer is getting in on the act, pairing up with fashion rental website Hirestreet to offer womenswear pieces from its Autograph collection. Other sites worth checking out are Girl Meets Dress and My Wardrobe HQ.

If you’d rather buy than hire, Oxfam has a great range of nearly new outfits which you can search by size, designer and colour.

And when you come to clear out your wardrobe, remember to take the clothes to the charity shop. Even if they aren’t in top condition, most charity shops have a ‘rags’ service meaning clothes they can’t sell will be sent to be recycled into other garments.

2. I will go meat-free for at least two days a week

A study by researchers at the University of Oxford revealed that a vegan diet is the single biggest measure an individual can take to reduce their environmental impact. You don’t have to make the leap in one go. Just reducing your meat and dairy intake is a great first step.

Focus on removing red meat just for a couple of days a week. There are some brilliant meat alternatives on the market now including some delicious protein-based burgers. It’s genuinely difficult to detect that they aren’t the real deal. Go to Meat Free Monday for recipe ideas and the BBC website has a great vegetarian recipe section too. Try swapping dairy milk on your cereal with oat or soya milk. Your tastes will quickly adapt to the different flavour.

3. I will draught proof my doors and windows and insulate my loft to 30cm.

With gas prices on the rise, it’s more important than ever to do some simple and cheap DIY jobs to make your home warmer, save money and reduce carbon emissions. Up to half of the heat in a house can escape through the roof, walls, window and floor if insulation is poor. You’re essentially paying to heat the air around your home.

For doors and windows, you can use foam strips or draft excluder brushes. Copper draught strips are also really effective and don’t spoil the appearance of fittings. For loft insulation, you can install rolls of mineral wool yourself or pay an extra few hundred pounds to have it fitted professionally with boards on top for storage space.

4. I will holiday at home and only fly if essential and, preferably short haul.

The environmental damage wreaked by flying is well known. Aviation is expected to be the single largest contributor to UK greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The pandemic has offered us an opportunity to re-evaluate how and where we take our holidays and many of us have enjoyed exploring the Great British Isles. A survey published in 2020 by European Investment Bank found that 75 per cent of Europeans said they would fly less in 2020 for environmental reasons. Join this growing movement and be a meaningful part of the solution.

5. I will research my pension and ensure my money is supporting sustainable causes rather than fossil fuels.

Pensions and other financial products have an enormous influence on the planet. Most of the time, our money is going into a portfolio of companies that could include tobacco firms, oil and gas majors, mining and airlines. And most of us don’t know it. There are alternatives. A green pension is a fund that earns interest through investment in low carbon companies. Historically, they haven’t performed as well as traditional schemes but this is no longer the case as pension funds recognise the importance of long-term sustainable investment. Good with Money’s Good Guide to Pensions is a great place to start. If you work for an employer, the picture is more complicated. Read more here about what you can do.

6. I will leave my car at home more and replace it with walking, cycling or public transport wherever possible.

We have all become addicted to the convenience and comfort offered by our cars. But let’s challenge ourselves to wean ourselves off them. Every time you go to grab the car keys, ask yourself if there’s another way to do that journey. Even better, plan ahead. Make a commitment to cycle or bus to work a couple of times a week. Work out how to make this happen and allow for the extra time it might take (you might be surprised, if you live in a city, cycling is probably much quicker for short journeys in rush hour). As well as getting fitter, it will save you money too as fuel prices continue to soar.

7. And finally…. I will protect myself from flooding

As we enter the storm season, we need to be more aware of flood risk to our properties. In the UK, one in five homes are at risk. That’s a staggering statistic. It’s not just people living by the coast or rivers. Surface water and ground water flooding is more common as our weather becomes more extreme. Check your local flood risk at https://www.gov.uk/check-long-term-flood-risk. If you are at risk then sign up for free flood alerts via the Environment Agency website. Ensure your contents insurance covers flooding and make a plan for where you and your loved ones can stay should your home be flooded.

Every action counts

Our actions do matter. One plus one plus one plus one eventually equals thousands and millions! That’s why doing everything we can in our own lives to reduce carbon emissions is essential. The more that people act and demand action, the more Government will listen and respond with policy change that is so urgently needed. So for 2022 why not turn over a new leaf and help to protect our One Home.

 

We would love to hear your comments and stories about the issues raised in this article:

 

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