Updated: Aug 11, 2021
As more and more apocalyptic scenes were witnessed last year - think wildfires, locust plagues, flooding, ice melting, coral bleaching and COVID-19, concerns about our effect on the planet are growing. But instead of worrying, try and turn your anxiety into action. If we all made small changes to our daily lives we would have a big impact on our carbon emissions in 2021, so here are 21 things you can do right now help.
Solving climate change may seem like a big task, and of course huge changes need to come from big business, but actually it's the daily decisions you make as an individual that will influence the planet for decades. These decisions like driving and flying less, or changing what you eat and buy can influence others to make changes too. And if we all act together we will make a difference.
1. Try a staycation
Everyone loves a holiday, but flying or going on a cruise are carbon intensive. A typical transatlantic flight releases around 1.6 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere (1), while cruise ships also drop a billion tonnes of sewage into the sea per annum. (2) That's why taking a staycation here and there is recommended.
If you still prefer to go abroad, choosing short flights or travelling by train can be more climate-friendly. And you can always offset your footprint with tree planting projects like ours.
2. Move more
Travelling by car accounts for 15% of global carbon emissions, (2) so it goes without saying that you can help by walking, cycling or taking local transport. If driving is unavoidable, check the emissions of your car. If you can, upgrade to an electric or hybrid alternative, or maybe work from home a few days a week (when that’s a novelty again). If we all do it then it will have a big impact on our air quality and the planet.
With time running out, fighting for climate action is ever more important. The actions you take can influence others, and this is particularly true for your kids. Positive actions like tree planting or community litter picking can inspire them to make their own climate-positive decisions long into their future.
4. Eat eco
Livestock have a huge carbon footprint (if cattle were their own nation, they’d be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US (1)), so try to reduce your meat and dairy consumption as much as possible. Cutting it in half will not only improve your health, but reduce your diet's carbon footprint by more than 40%. (1) A great time to start is January (aka Veganuary), but if you'd like a softer approach try becoming 'flexitarian' or giving Meat Free Mondays a try.
5. Plant plenty
Every single tree or plant you put in the ground will help absorb carbon from the air, and help our struggling wildlife. Get in touch with us soon if you’d like to do some tree planting in Farnham, or would like to hear about future planting projects.
6. Pick no packaging
Everyone knows plastic production is energy intensive and damages the environment. Plus a great majority is discarded after a single use and/or is non-recyclable. Farmers' markets are a great way to grab items that are light on packaging, and supermarkets are increasingly selling package-free produce. It goes without saying, reuse as much as possible.
Changes at home
Modernisation here can depend on government support, but if you have the cash you can install your own insulation and solar panels to make big savings. Nonetheless, with just a few tweaks here and there you can still reduce your carbon emissions.
7. Go green
Renewables like wind and solar are becoming more cost effective than fossil fuels in the UK, and by 2025 will be the cheapest source of electricity generation. (1) Switching to a green energy tariff means you'll be supporting renewable energy investment, so get on it when you're due your renewal.
8. Keep your kW
Switching off electrical items around the home, instead of leaving them on standby, stops them drawing energy. ‘Vampire power’ can account for as much as 20% of your monthly energy bill, (3) so remember to turn things off.
9. Buy better bulbs
LEDs lightbulbs are a little more expensive than halogen, but use 85% less energy and typically last 15 years; halogens tend to fail after two. (2)
10. Clean colder
We all know that washing clothes at 30°C saves energy, but it can also be one third cheaper than washing at 40°C. (2) For lightly soiled clothes a 20°C wash works, and of course make sure your machine's full.
To keep your home warm in winter, and reduce the energy required to heat it, draught-proof doors and windows, and top up your loft insulation.
12. Reduce radiator temperature
Turn down radiators in rooms you’re not using, but don’t turn them off - you don't want to see mould growing.
13. Keep curtains clear...
...of radiators. This will help warm air circulate. Thick curtains, or ones with a thermal lining, will help keep you toasty.
14. Be water wise
I only found this out recently - water companies are offering free gadgets (such as low flow shower heads) to help you use less water. Get in touch with yours.
15. Get green cleaning
Fortunately many eco brands in supermarkets, Method and Ecover for example, are often cheaper than competitors. But, even cheaper again are white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, which make great cleaning products. Check out our green cleaning tips here.
16. Try your own toiletries
As with green cleaning, it's easy to make your own cosmetics. Try a handmade soap or cleanser. They cost pennies to make, and will help you play your part in reducing carbon emissions associated with the production and transport of mass-produced products. Plus you'll be putting fewer chemicals on your skin. Make sure you check out our blog where we'll be including some easy make-you-own product recipes in the near future. In the meantime, you can get great recipes here.
17. Draft dry
Air drying laundry is much better than tumble drying, which is one of the top energy-consuming appliances in the home. A typical drying cycle is equivalent to turning on 225 light bulbs for an hour. (2)
18. Grow your own
A good way to reduce your food miles, save money and reduce plastic packaging, is to grow your own veg. Obviously a garden is great but if you don’t have the space, salad leaves, chilli and herbs can be grown in containers. (2)
19. Cook creatively
Covering your pans while cooking will save energy and reduce cooking times. Likewise, only boil as much water as you need in the kettle (overfilling it is a huge waste of electricity). Lastly, try to avoid buying too much food only to end up throwing it away.
Production and international transport have a huge an impact on global emissions, but together we consumers can change this...
20. Consume consciously
Everything we own has gone through a process which generates carbon emissions from the way it was produced and/or transported, so ask yourself if you need it.
The clothing sector represents around 3% of the world’s carbon emissions, (3) so try renting an outfit for a special occasion, or visiting pre-loved shops in person or online (see Vinted.co.uk and Oxfam). If, like me, you prefer to buy new, look for sustainable clothing - I particularly like H&M.
Groceries shipped from other countries obviously have a higher footprint than local produce. But some countries grow out-of-season crops in energy-intensive greenhouses that generate a lot of carbon. That's why it's always best to eat locally-grown food that’s in season. (1)
21. Manage money
Believe it or not a lot of banks are investing in polluting industries, but there are ethical ones (and building societies) out there. See the best of what's available in the UK here and invest wisely.
Most importantly, don’t feel powerless. It’s a mistake to think we can’t change the future because we can.