In nature, autumn is the end of the year’s harvest – we collect, focus, take stock, and replenish our stores. As the nights draw in, the start of the academic year is also a time when we are naturally drawn to learn, cultivate new habits and ideas, or find new beginnings.
With COP26 taking place recently, the tension around whether world leaders will take the action needed to combat climate change, and the potential legacy we leave if not, weighs heavy indeed.
A report from 2019 called 1.5 Degree Lifestyles concluded that: "While generally overlooked in our pursuit of technological solutions to climate change, failing to shift the lifestyles of nearly eight billion human beings means we can never effectively reduce GHG emissions or successfully address our global climate crisis.”
The good news is this is within our reach. We can reduce what we buy and use, adopt a more plant-based diet, or decrease carbon emissions, for example by switching to energy-efficient appliances, better home insulation, or public transport.
Debate often rages about whether personal or governmental actions will create the most change, but lifestyle shift means all of us – including our leaders, who need to step up and fulfil their duty of care to people and planet. Whether we write to our MP, protest, sign online petitions, or join an action group that focuses on something we care deeply about, it all adds up.
And while climate change isn’t something any of us can solve singlehandedly, a shift to climate-friendly living is something we can all join in with. Start from where you are. Find hope and purpose in simple changes, and make it pleasurable. Connect with a community of like-minded folks online, try a new zero waste recipe, go along to a local environmental group, plant a tree, share your skills, learn to garden organically and watch wildlife thrive in your garden, find a low impact leisure activity and read or walk rather than watch TV, or swap shopping with friends for a crafting afternoon together.
It is also important to take care of our physical selves – eating nourishing food, getting enough sleep, water, movement, and time connecting with nature in any way you can. As the saying goes, ‘you cannot drink from an empty cup’; whatever environmental action we wish to take, feeling grounded and nurturing ourselves is a good place to begin.
Five ways to reduce your impact:
1. Around 10 per cent of emissions come from food waste, and a third of all food produced is wasted, decomposing in landfills to produce the greenhouse gas methane. Plan ahead, write a shopping list, plan in takeaways so they don’t replace food in the fridge, and try batch cooking.
2. Fashion accounts for up to eight per cent of global emissions, often relying on fibres of plastic origin, made from the fossil fuel industry. You can buy secondhand clothes, consider renting for a special occasion, repair what you can, avoid textiles made of plastic (nylon or polyester), and look out for organic and Fairtrade clothing.
3. Aim for one flight a year max, or cut it out altogether and explore alternatives closer to home. Ask your employer to support incentives for low carbon travel such as an extra day’s holiday.
4. The only way to buy 100 per cent green energy is if your supplier buys or generates renewable energy to match what you use. Energy efficiency measures like double glazing and wall insulation in your home reduce your fuel use while saving money.
5. Moving your money has 25 times more impact than giving up flying or becoming a vegetarian, according to campaign group Make My Money Matter. Ask where your pension money goes and lobby your workplace or private pension provider to find one that better aligns with your values.
Top three recipes for the ultimate autumn comfort food:
Shift your eating patterns to align with the seasons, and combine warming meals with flashes of healthy greens.
Apple, pear, and peanut butter crumble
Featuring seasonal UK fruit, this vegan recipe by Rebel Recipes is an extra special crumble with sticky dates, spices, and a nutty peanut butter topping. Cosy and delicious – serve it warm with coconut yogurt or cardamom custard. Read the full recipe here.
Macaroni cauliflower cheese with mustard and braised chard
Have the best of both worlds with this mac’n’cauli cheese. It is an unabashedly comforting dish for a winter’s night, redeemed by some dark wilted chard. Explore the full recipe here.
Sweet potato and lentil bake
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, magnesium, and potassium. Paired with a harissa and cumin lentil filling, this is a warming, hearty bake packed with plant-based goodness. Find the full recipe here.
This article was originally published in the autumn-winter print edition of Wicked Leeks. You can read the full magazine for free on Issuu.