Cut your carbon and raise your voice

It’s time to reflect and then act as we enter a new decade with these steps to a greener world, says environmental scientist Angela Terry.

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.

Anna Pelzer plant-based diets
What food you eat and how it is produced has a hugely varied impact on the planet. Image Anna Pelzer.

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.

Cycle for low carbon emissions
Cycling has zero carbon emissions. Image Clem Onojeghuo.

Cosy homes

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.

Shanna Camilleri second hand clothes
Everything you buy has to be made, transported and disposed of. Image Shanna Camilleri.

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.

Get planting

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.

Tree canopy sustainability green lifestyle
Trees are a vital tool in the fight to reduce carbon emissions. Image Vanessa Bucceri.

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 Follow @ouronehome on Twitter and Facebook.


Leave a Reply

  1. We are in our 80 s. We were vegetarian for 20 years, realising at the same time we really should give up cheese etc as well. We kept 6 chickens . They were very happy chickens with full run of our garden and seemed very intelligent. I really don’t think veganism is the answer. Can British vegans imagine a land with no grazing animals? There are many parts of Britain which will only grow grass and scrub.. I believe mixed farming is a better idea. Mostly eat veg, a little meat occasionally, no need for using animals as if they were just protein producing machines wth no feelings. I notice avocado pears on your food plate illustration. Is that really saving the planet? Add soya, palm oil, coconut oil, quinoa- where will it all be grown? And what will be used as fertiliser? You can’t keep taking the goodness out of the soil and putting none back. Neither of us will be around for much longer, I don’t suppose, but we worry about our children and grandchildren. Finally, as one scientist put it- the planet will take care of itself- it’s we who need saving!

  2. Quite agree Val. I get a lot of appreciation when I talk to strangers and use the lovely Riverford supplier example of lambs that graze under the solar panels, where it wouldn’t be practical to grow anything else but small grazing animals. I haven’t had an avocado since realising how damaging they are. There is some UK quinoa now and I try to avoid soya products altogether now unless marked organic. Have just read the winter Soil Association magazine, very inspiring especially about the Godminster cheddar where the farm tries to work by putting back as much as possible.

  3. We would like to heartily endorse both the above comments. After being vegetarian for many years, we thought that being vegan was the next logical step. After 10 years, suffering health problems and researching just how and where so many vegan staples are produced, we no longer see veganism as healthy, sustainable or the best environmental choice.

    In addition to lots of local and organic vegetables, one of us now eats some locally-grown meat and we both eat local free-range eggs and (mostly) locally-produced cheese. Godminster Farm does seem to be a good example of sustainable mixed farming. Also, living in the High Peak brings it home to us that in some places, sheep and chickens really can be the best use of land. Solar farming hasn’t caught on round here, for some reason. . .

    Miriam and Alan

  4. i heartily endorse all 3 above comments.

    i would not touch soy, as it interferes with hormonal balance.
    i eat local organic food.
    no Avocados, bananas… because right now if i walk in nature, i would not find any 🙂

    i eat quite a bit of fish, oysters, eggs, lamb, some porc. i use fatty meat as it is better
    for my health.
    i have cut sugar, i do not eat much green veg in winter as there is not much on offer
    i have cut on potatoes etc as it is like eating a bowl of sugar. would not do any good to my health
    if it was often.

    a few green veg contain oxolate which is very inflammatory.
    i have to look after my health , and i do.

    eating grains? they have to be prepared properly.

    we have a circadian rythm that regulates when we look at sunrise (even without sun )
    that is when we create melatonin for sleep
    all our organs regulate their own circadian rythm from the master in the eyes.
    This is why it is not wise to eat fruits and vegs grown at different latitudes.

  5. So, I bought my first meat box this week from Riverford. Everything came wrapped in plastic!
    Not a very good example. I won’t buy again until this trend has changed , I’m going back to my local butcher, when I do buy meat. They still use some plastic but not to this degree! I know it takes time to make changes, when when we get articles like this from Riverford, come on, we expect to see some explanation or effort for change. A leaflet in the box saying where we can recycle is not good enough any more, especially as the film has to go to landfill.

    1. Meat hygiene regulations mean packaging has to be impermeable during transportation to keep it safe. If you have specific questions then please do contact Riverford customer services (01803 227227 or and they will be happy to help.

  6. I love the photo in the ‘leave your car at home’ section. A couple if comments on it:
    – yes more travel by bike and walking is crucial, BUT we really need government to take a lead on making our roads less car dominated before anything much will change. Currently we have a road building boom which just makes car driving even easier.
    – electric vehicles, whilst better than petrol/diesel vehicles really are not the answer to transport emissions problems. We need fewer cars, not just replace one type of car with another.


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