It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to facts about climate change. We’re told left right and centre about the inevitable demise of the natural world, and let’s face it, sometimes it makes you just want to throw your hands up in despair and just assume that nothing you do could make the slightest bit of difference. However, the facts say otherwise. Small changes done everyday (especially by the ‘worst offenders’ when it comes to carbon footprint i.e. the people who probably won’t be reading this post) are enough to make small changes. Back in 2003, the Environment Agency reported that small efforts made by a sufficiently large number of people can make a big difference. For example, if every driver took one fewer car journey a week, average nine miles, it would cut carbon dioxide emissions from traffic by 13%.
Barbara Young, the agency’s chief executive, said: “Some aspects of the UK’s environment are improving. Air and water quality is better now than it has been for decades.
“The 20th century’s peasouper smogs and toxic rivers are gone for good. But in some areas progress is slower. And some things are getting worse. If we all resolve to do something where we live for a healthier environment, then together we can make a difference.”
Of course, it is important for governments and policy makers to take action, rather than allowing environmental issues to be marginalised in favour of unsustainable economic policies. However, we don’t need to wait for the law to catch up with what we already know – here are five simple ways youcan reduce your environmental impact every single day!
Eat less meat
It’s now widely acceptedthat the agricultural industry has some of the biggest negative impacts on our climate today. Feeding over 7 billion people who have an increasing hunger for meat is hard, and it’s taking its toll on our planet and our health.
Reducing your meat and dairy consumption could be the best way to reduce your impact on the environment. New research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world.
The impact of meat on the environment goes far beyond the greenhouse gas emissions too: loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife, and animal husbandry worldwide leads to environmental degradation through over-grazing, eutrophication, excess water usage and deforestation.
Luckily, in the west we are incredibly lucky to have alternative options to meat and dairy. Substitutes such as tofu and quorn are far less damaging than meat, and are being created to satisfy even the most avid meat lover. Giving up all meat and dairy is the ideal, but even without giving it up entirely it is possible to make a difference. Red meat is the worst culprit, so should be the first to go, followed by lamb and crustaceans (things like crab, prawn, shrimp etc.). It’s easy to make a difference when you make small changes everyday, like choosing vegetarian meals and only having white meat twice a week. The world will thank you and so will your body.
An interesting graphic to show the impact (in terms of greenhouse gases) our food has
Use less plastic
An obvious but important one. In 2018 the European Parliament voted for a complete banon a range of single-use plastics, such as straws, plastic bags and cotton buds. The move was aimed at reducing our impact on our oceans, and targeted plastic products that have either reusable of non-plastic alternatives.
An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans annually. Since they don’t break down, this is becoming a huge issue in our oceans globally. 8 million tonnes is hard to imagine, so picture this: there is expected to be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. Wow.
So what can you do? Read this post on how to reduce your plastic consumption, including alternatives for some of the worst offenders.
Examples include always keeping a coffee cup in your bag instead of using takeaway cups, and paying attention to the makeup products you use, since many made overseas (outside the UK) contain microplastics. Giving up fish could also have a knock-on effect on your plastic consumption, since 27% of all plastics found on beaches are washed up fishing gear. Less fish consumption = less fish caught = happier oceans with less plastic in. It’s all about awareness, so being away of the impact of your actions is the first step. The next step is doing something about it!
The depressing reality of the impact of plastic
Pay attention to your clothes
The fashion industry contributes to 8% of global gas emissions yearly. It’s a huge industry that we allbuy into. However, rather than viewing this as a negative, it also means that we can all make a difference every single day with our purchases and decisions. Today we are buying 4x the amount of clothes we were 10 years ago, and wearing them for half the time. This means that fashion is becoming increasingly unsustainable and with the rise of fast fashion it’s incredibly popular to have a constantly new wardrobe, rather that respecting and re-wearing our clothes as we did when they cost a lot more.
In addition, washing our clothes as much as we do releases microplastics into the ocean – the fashion industry is the second largest contributor of plastic to our oceans. This is subsequently consumed by fish, which ironically, a lot of us still eat. So technically, we are eating the remnants of our clothes, which is fun.
The good news is that there are other ways of living and stil wearing fashionable clothes. Buying from sustainable fashion labels can reduce the impact you have on the environment when you buy new clothes. However, purchasing new clothes still will always have an impact, so alternatives are still useful. Buying second-hand or borrowing clothes (e.g. via Wear the Walk, where you can rent your dream wardrobe for a fraction of the price of buying even one piece) for special occasions are two great options to reduce your impact. When you are finished with clothes, donate them to charity shops or swap with friends. Fresh new wardrobe, no waste. Win win! To clean your clothes (and make them last longer), try freezing them. The cold disinfects the clothes without washing out microplastics. Washing should be reserved for stains that you can’t remove by hand and done at the coldest temperature possible. These steps will also allow your beautiful, sustainable clothes to last longer too!
Companies such as Wear The Walk allow you to have an almost endlessly rotating wardrobe without the climate impact of buying everything. Other companies are popping up left right and centre too!
If you’d like to hear more about the simple everyday changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint and impact on the environment, listen to the BBC’s new radio series on everyday solutions to the climate crisis. Well worth a listen with many inspirational speakers!