The World Meteorological Organisation has said there is “no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline” in greenhouse gases. This is the reason I set up climate action website One Home – to accelerate the transition to net zero emissions.
As we enter a new year and a new decade, this is a perfect time to reflect and make a commitment to take steps that will lighten our impact on the world and help combat climate change.
Our total emissions are the combination of millions of decisions made every day – individual choices on how we travel, heat our homes and the food we eat, for example. These choices don’t have to cost the earth, in fact low carbon lifestyles cost less and improve our health and wellbeing.
As a new government is formed, we need strong policies that support this necessary change that have sustainability at their core, more investment in clean technologies and a new set of laws that are centred on protecting our future world.
We can speed up this change if we make our voices heard. Once citizens are demanding a different way of doing things, industry and government will inevitably respond faster to this crisis.
So, what are the things that can really make a difference to slash our carbon footprint?
Raise your voice
The most important thing is to make your voice heard by those who make decisions that impact our lives. That means your MP and your local councillors, who help shape policies and legislation. Write to them, visit them in their surgeries, engage on social media and at events. It’s all about strength in numbers, so ask friends, family and colleagues to join you.
Sick of low carb diets in January? Try the low carbon diet!
Buying seasonal and locally-grown food with less but better quality meat and dairy is the best route to a low carbon 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 go meat-free for a few meals a week. It’s about careful choice and doing your best to understand the provenance of the food we eat.
Leave the car at home
Transport is the main source of carbon dioxide and toxic air in the UK, so walking and cycling more are really important. Use public transport for longer journeys and help free up our cities. If you need to drive, then join an electric car club and start lift sharing with friends and colleagues.
Electric cars are very popular as people can plug them in at home or at one of the 10,000 public charging locations in the UK. An average British motorist spends more than £56,000 on petrol over their lifetime so, if you’re considering buying a new car, go for an all-electric plug-in vehicle to save money and they produce about half the emissions of a comparable petrol or diesel car.
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 19 degrees and using thermal lining on curtains and black out blinds. Even if you rent, you can ask your landlord to tackle cold homes.
Make the green tariff switch
Switch to a green energy tariff or supplier to power your home as you’ll be enabling investment into renewable energy such as wind, hydro and solar power technologies. Go to Which to research the best green tariff for you.
If you want to take the next step, consider putting in renewable technology into your home. Solar panels provide green electricity during the day and costs around £6,000 to install. 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.
Turn your back on more ‘stuff’
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. Interrogate whether you really need that new item, or can it be sourced in a less damaging way, using natural fibres and pre-loved, second-hand goods or even rented. If you must buy new, go to trusted retailers who have made strong commitments to sustainability.
Discover Great Britain
Flying is one of the most carbon-intensive activities in the world. 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 there are lots of carbon offset schemes as well if air travel is essential.
Unleash the activist in you!
Joining a local group is a great way to energise, motivate and inspire action. Do your research to find out what feels right for you. Some examples are Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion, flood action groups and transition towns but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Friends of the Earth is running a Take Climate Action campaign which includes a database of local groups across the country.
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 its Urban Tree Manual and grants. If a tree isn’t possible, then planting wild flowers or growing veg in window boxes all help nature to thrive.
Money makes the world go around
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.
What we decide to do today and every day counts in the fight against climate change. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Angela Terry is the founder of www.onehome.org.uk. Follow @ouronehome on Twitter and Facebook.