The news on pollution and climate change makes for some pretty depressing reading, with ice caps melting left right and centre, bus-sized fatbergs clogging up our sewer system and the sure fact that, as we speak, you have microplastics living in your organs (if you don’t believe me then read this). Most recently, the Guardian reported that the earth has lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice in less than 30 years.
The Observer has also reminded us recently that it has been 30 years since the world was given an official rap over the knuckles and warning of the huge threat that we faced from climate change. In the report released in 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that coal, gas and oil would be the principal contributors to global warming. “Three decades later, it is clear that we have recklessly ignored that warning,” they wrote. Ay yai yai.
In many ways it can be very easy to feel pretty insignificant as one person when we are talking about things on such a colossal scale as 28 trillion tonnes of ice. What can I do about it? I’m just one person. It is true that change has to come from the top; governments have to take a long-term view to helping the environment, rather than the short-term view of what will get them re-elected. But we also hold responsibility in our own hands and there are 5 simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint, which I explore in this blog post.
1. Food sourcing
Changing where you source your food from can be a huge part of cutting your carbon emissions. Sourcing produce from your local areas or farmers markets is a great way of improving the impact on the environment from your food bill. Even better, if you have a spare corner of a garden or patio, why not grow your own vegetables?
That way you’ll get rid of unnecessary waste packaging, reduce the chemicals and pesticides used and remove the need for long-distance transportation of produce, which relies greatly on high-carbon fossil fuels.
In my house we buy our eggs from the local farm shop and our bread and fruit and vegetables from our local weekly market – making sure we bring our own bags, so we do not take any plastic bags.
2. Switch it off
Reports in 2014 stated that Britons are wasting £2 billion a year in appliances on standby — a bad habit that many of us have. The majority of us are unaware of the negative effects both environmentally and financially.
It is more eco-friendly to turn off your appliances and phone chargers than leaving them draining unnecessary energy. All you have to do is flick the switch off.
A charger plugged into a charged phone consumes two watts (1.8p per month), whereas when a phone is charging uses three watts (2.7p per month) — not a huge difference between using electricity and it being wasted. Although this is a small sum, totalling all of your electric and appliances plugged in over many years wastes a lot of electricity, and around £30 a month for you.
3. Think about going Off Grid
Don’t worry, I am not talking about selling your home and moving to Middle-earth to live in a yurt. Around four million households are off the gas grid and rely on alternatives like LPG bulk tanks to heat their homes. LPG (liquified petroleum gas) is better for the environment than traditional fossil fuels such as coal and oil. You could also try installing solar panels, which means you can generate your own renewable energy from sunlight.
4. Get grounded
Taking less flights can help reduce your carbon footprint significantly — a flight from the UK to New York can equal almost a quarter of a person’s annual emissions. If you’re planning on taking a trip, consider getting a train or maybe cutting down on how many holidays you’re having a year. Train expert, ‘The Man in Seat 61’, worked out that taking the Eurostar from London to Paris instead of flying reduced carbon emissions by a staggering 91 per cent.
Similarly, reduce your annual mileage. Cutting down from 15,000 to 10,000 a year per vehicle can save over a tonne of CO2, which equates to roughly 15% of an average person’s carbon footprint. Take public transport, or walk where you can. Even small changes can make a huge difference in the long run, like not asking for someone to pick you up from the train station when it’s only a 20-minute walk. You could even invest in a bicycle for short trips if you don’t like walking – it’s free, fast and gives you exercise!
5. The 5 Rs
Refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle.
Instead of buying, buying, and buying some more, refuse purchasing things that you don’t need. Everything that is manufactured has some form of impact on the planet, and often consumes more energy than actually using it. Apple claimed that 80% of their carbon footprint of one of their laptops comes from producing and distributing it, not using it at home.
Just say no kids. If not, at least reduce your consumption to some degree. Slow down on those impulse purchases you love so much. I certainly had an epiphany during lockdown, that I don’t need half of the crap that I buy.
Reuse what you buy, because the next place it is heading is the landfill or our oceans. Earlier generations did it, so we can too. And if you want to get rid of something, then put it on eBay, as chances are, someone would rather buy it used than buy a brand-new expensive product.
Repurpose what you own instead of throwing it out or buying something else to replace it. Want some shorts but have about a hundred pairs of jeans? Do it yourself!
When you’ve exhausted all options, recycle where you can. Metal, some plastics, wood, cardboard, paper, and electronic waste can all be recycled. Research what you can and can’t.
Taking small steps is a positive start to reduce your carbon footprint. You don’t have to completely change your life but be more mindful of your consumption and waste.