If the climate emergency matters to you, raise your voice and lower your carbon footprint
It’s been over a year since the IPCC published its earth-shattering special report on 1.5C of warming, which made the world finally sit up and take notice of the climate emergency. Eleven years to cut emissions by nearly half yet greenhouse gas emissions went up last year and the year before!
People, quite rightly, are fearful about this irreversible destruction to our ecosystem and what the world will look like in years to come. Therefore, dramatic steps to cut carbon are essential to protect our One Home.
The good news is that climate change has become a topic of great concern for many, now ranking above the economy and in the top five issues that voters care most about and two thirds of people in the UK would take action on climate change, if they knew what to do. And there we have it: people don’t know what to do.
But we have the solutions at our fingertips. The cost of renewable energy has plummeted and is often cheaper than burning fossil fuels (the main cause of global warming). If we add in the tax breaks, cost of air pollution and other impacts of climate change, the economic case for rapid, transformative change is overwhelming.
Action on climate change
Of course, systematic change is crucial. We need strong policies with sustainability at the centre, more investment in clean technologies and a new set of laws that are centred on protecting our world so polluters pay instead of receiving subsidies. But this transition has to be combined with building a movement that brings everybody with us, as decarbonising our economy requires the disruption of business as usual.
Therefore, awareness raising, social justice and knowledge sharing are key. Individuals want and need simple practical actions to take which will help achieve zero emissions. They want to feel part of a wider effort, see the difference they are making and celebrate the co-benefits of change. As citizens demand a better way of doing things, businesses and Government will inevitably respond faster to this crisis.
For example, Government can bring forward their ban on internal combustion engine cars from 2040 to 2030, but consumers and businesses still require transport. Drivers need the confidence that not only do electric vehicles work, but they are superior to petrol and diesel cars. Addressing the knowledge gap regarding range anxiety, charging and cost, as well as the very real environmental benefits is essential to success.
Millions of climate actions soon add up. Our total emissions are the combination of decisions made every day – individual choices on travel, heat and diet, for example. So as well as ‘clean technology fixes’ we need to engage people to ensure we reach net zero emissions asap. So what are the things that can really make a difference to slash our carbon footprint and what will it take to implement?
One Home’s top ten climate action tips:
Raise your voice: Talk to your friends and family, but crucially your politicians
The most important thing is to make your voice heard by those who make decisions that impact our lives. That means your recently elected MP and your local councillors, who help shape policies and legislation. Write to them, visit them in their surgeries, engage on social media or at events. Most MPs have committed to net zero so they will welcome a discussion on this crucial topic. There are some great resources on how to engage politicians and make your voice heard. And remember their voting records give a good indication of where they stand on the climate emergency. It’s all about strength in numbers, so ask friends, family and colleagues to join you.
Part of the challenge is raising awareness among people who are not yet engaged or feel a sense of inertia. British people love talking about the weather but here are some other ideas on how to best connect with people on this topic. Talk about extreme weather events and their link to climate change or share stories on the actions you are taking. If you’ve given up flying, tell people why and help shift the norm from bragging about foreign holidays to pride in taking the train. This amplifies the impact of your choices more than you could ever know.
Switch to a low carbon diet
Buying seasonal and locally-grown food with less meat and dairy is the best route to a low carb(on) diet. Globally, the meat industry generates nearly 20 per cent of man-made greenhouse gases that are accelerating climate change. If going vegetarian or vegan feels like a step too far then try to eat less meat but better. Beef and lamb production, in particular, has a high carbon footprint so when you do buy meat, choose organic and local if possible. Find out more on what diet is best for the planet and for your health.
Transport is the main source of carbon dioxide and toxic air in the UK. To counter this, many people are walking more to reduce their impact on the environment. It is also a great way to stay active and reduce air pollution, as is cycling. Using public transport for longer journeys is also a beneficial option and helps to free up our cities and reduce congestion. If you need to drive then consider joining an electric car club or start lift sharing with friends and colleagues.
Electric cars have about half the carbon footprint of a 'traditional' car. They are extremely popular as people can plug in at home or the 10,000 public charging locations in the UK, (more than the number of petrol stations) so in future we will all “plug not pump”. They are also cheaper. An average British motorist spends over £56,000 on petrol, so if you’re considering buying a new car, go for an all-electric plug-in vehicle. Electric cars save money as electricity is far cheaper than fossil fuels, there are no tail-pipe emissions and they have lower maintenance costs because of fewer moving parts.
Make your home warmer
Insulation has the biggest impact on energy conservation in the home. Top up your loft insulation to 27cm and fill cavity walls to keep warm air in your house. Simple DIY tasks can make a big difference to cutting your energy bills and saving carbon. Some easy wins include draft-proofing windows and doors, secondary film glazing, smart thermostats set at 19C and using thermal lining on curtains and black out blinds at night. Even if you rent, you can ask your landlord to tackle cold homes. With energy bills rising each year, energy efficiency at home is great for your home, your bank balance and tackling climate change.
Choose green electricity
Switch to a green energy tariff to power your home as you’ll be enabling investment into renewable energy such as wind, hydro and solar technologies. Go to Which to research the best green tariff for you. The switch costs you nothing, only takes about 20 minutes and may well save you money. You will not be disconnected and an engineer does not need to visit your home so there is no down side to this climate action.
Options for installing renewable energy at home include installing solar panels, which are a brilliant way to harness the power of the sun. Solar power provides green electricity during the day and costs around £6,000 to install. This figure is significantly less if your council is part of a solar street scheme, which enables panels to be installed in bulk and at reduced cost.
Ground-source and air-source heat pumps are two options for low-carbon heating at home. These work especially well if you live off the gas grid or are renovating your home. Whilst ground-source heat pumps are more expensive to install, they are far more efficient due to the stable temperatures underground.
Consume less, waste less
Everything we buy has a carbon footprint as it has to be made, transported and disposed of. Simply buying less and avoiding waste is a great way to conserve natural resources as Sir David Attenborough regularly reminds us. Being more mindful of what we really need and that everything we buy has to go through a process, which uses energy and pollutes the environment. Interrogate whether you really need that item, or can it be sourced in a less damaging way, for example, using natural fibres, pre loved, second hand goods or even rented products. If you must buy new, go to trusted retailers who have made strong commitments to sustainability and natural materials with a lower carbon footprint. Some well-known stores are IKEA, B&Q, H&M and M&S but the list grows daily.
Holiday close to home
Flying is one of the most carbon-intensive activities in the world and frequent flyers are responsible for 75% of all flights in the UK. There are plenty of amazing holiday experiences in the UK that enjoy all the benefits of flight-free trips – no queues, germs or jetlag. If you wish to travel beyond Great Britain, consider ferry routes to Europe or the Eurostar and let the train take the strain. The art of slow travel is increasing in popularity and new staycation experiences are booming. If travel is essential, there are lots of carbon offset schemes about that support environmental initiatives but they do not eradicate the pollution produced in the sky.
Join an environmental group
Joining a local group is a great way to energise, motivate and inspire action and help tackle eco anxiety. Do your research and get in touch to find out what feels right for you and your interests. Some examples are Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion, flood action groups and transition towns but this is by no means an exhaustive list with climate action groups springing up all the time.
Plant some trees
Trees are an important natural solution to climate change as they remove carbon emissions as they grow. Support local tree planting schemes, or donate to organisations that are committed to increasing tree cover. Woodland Trust has a scheme for free trees in schools and communities and the Forestry Commission has useful resources for tree planting advice such as their Urban Tree Manual and grants for landowners. Even if a tree isn’t possible, then planting wild flowers or growing veg in window boxes all help nature to thrive.
Check your investments
Is your money propping up industries that are causing environmental damage? This includes your bank but also your investments and pension. Even schemes branded ‘ethical’ are often invested in polluting industries. Think about how you want your money to be used and research your options. There are several ethical banks and a number of impact investment apps now available that allow you to back businesses that are committed to making positive change. Community energy schemes also provide a way to invest directly in local renewable energy projects through social enterprises and they are a great example of people power in our communities.
Reducing your carbon footprint
There are soo many ways we can make a difference to the climate emergency and the good news is most of these top ten climate actions will not only save you money but will benefit you in other ways such as a healthier, happier commute. If you want to work out your carbon footprint then the WWF carbon calculator is a great place to start. Finally, did we say make your voice heard? Yes, we did! Having conversations with decision makers and the people you live and work with is probably the most important thing you can do; hence it has a double mention.
What we decide to do today and every day counts in the fight against climate change. Make changes to protect our One Home, shout about them, encourage others to join you and know that it all makes a difference. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
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