What can one person really do to solve the climate crisis? You’re not famous, you’re not a celebrity and you don’t spend time advising corporate leaders or senior politicians? Well, fear not. Almost 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions are produced by individuals, so even the smallest changes can make a huge difference if we all act collectively. Here’s a few small things you can do to make a big difference…
Nobody is an island, and we all rely on each other. Working together is more effective and it’s more fun too! The movement for climate and social justice is by far the biggest movement on the planet (we haven’t recognised this yet, or fully realised our power).
- Join climate campaign groups
- Join local groups
- Get informed about what’s happening (I rely on United Nations IPCC, Twitter and The Guardian).
- Follow the best climate activists, innovators and scientists on Twitter
- The most important thing you can do about climate change is to talk about it (in a language that your mates, colleagues and family understand)
- Then spread the word to family, friends and networks
- If your community is also a business one, think about how you can respectfully influence change from the top down (in the boardroom) not just from the bottom up (inspiring a social movement with your colleagues).
- Share great TED talks on climate change
- Be inspired with a great book on the climate crisis
- Watch a powerful documentary with your friends or family
- www.350.org – Globally stopping fossil fuels
- www.missionlifeforce.org – Ecocide is the missing international
- www.greenpeace.org.uk – Greenpeace
- www.wwf.org.uk – World Wildlife Fund
- friendsoftheearth.uk – Friends of the Earth
- rebellion.earth – Extinction Rebellion group
- transitionnetwork.org – Transition Towns
- www.positive.news – Journalism that inspires people
- www.yesmagazine.org – Journalism for people creating a better world
- www.permaculture.co.uk – Earth care, people care, future care
- https://www.itsfreezinginla.co.uk/ – It’s Freezing in LA – UK based Climate Change magazine
Engaging politically – through both voting and campaigning – can be a powerful tool for change. Success has led to both government and business taking action on environmental matters, such as the recent commitments from both government and business to reduce disposable plastics. Now the same needs to be done on climate change.
- Voting at local and national elections to support policies that will tackle environmental problems.
- Holding politicians to account at both the national and the local level.
- Engaging with campaigns for action on climate change.
- www.theyworkforyou.com – Find your MP and keep track of their voting and speaking activities at Westminster
- www.gov.uk/find-local-council – Find your local council and councillors
- petition.parliament.uk – Existing petitions and information on setting up your own
- www.facebook.com/ExtinctionRebellion – Campaign group Extinction Rebellion
- www.greenpeace.org.uk/what-we-do/climate – Campaign group Greenpeace
- https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2019/oct/11/guardian-climate-score-how-did-your-mp-do – Find out how your MP voted on climate issues
Flying is often the most damage we do to the climate as individuals. Aviation represents one of the fastest growing source of carbon emissions. Take the train instead and travel slower with less stress.
Around town, cycling and walking are the best options both in terms of the planet and your health. This also means less harmful air pollution. Buses and trams where available make much more sense than using a car. If you have to drive, then try car-sharing.
- Take no UK internal flights (I’ve saved around 10 tons of CO2 per year by working smarter and limiting the amount of flights I take).
- Limit international travel, using rail where a rail link is served, and offsetting flights when they are taken.
- Walk, cycle, and use public transport over car and taxi use.
- Plan travel in advance and explore local public transport options
- www.ecopassenger.org – Compare Co2 emissions for travel
- https://theconversation.com/its-time-to-wake-up-to-the-devastating-impact-flying-has-on-the-environment-70953 – ‘It’s time to wake up to the devastating impact flying has on the environment’
- www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/18/climate-change-airport-expansion-heathrow – Climate Change means no airport expansion’
- https://www.eta.co.uk/environmental-info/air-travels-impact-on-climate-change/ – ‘Air Travel’s Impact on Climate Change’, ETA
- * If making an unavoidable flight, search online for carbon offsets to support carbon reduction and charity projects
Say no to these disposable plastics: coffee cups, bottles, straws, takeaway boxes, bags, and cutlery. Most disposable plastics are not recycled, ending up in landfill or the environment. Of the 3 billion disposable coffee cups thrown away in the UK each year, less than 1 % is recycled. The UK also uses 38 billion plastic water bottles each year.
Millions of tonnes of plastic enters the oceans each year, causing harm to our marine environment, human health, and the livelihoods of communities around the world. In the UK, one in three fish caught contains plastic.
Make use of reusable plastic alternatives, for example reusable: coffee cups, water bottles, lunch boxes and straws are all widely available and relatively cheap.
- https://lessplastic.co.uk/9-tips-living-less-plastic – 9 Tips for Living with Less Plastic
- www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org – The Plastic Pollution Coalition
- www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42703561 – Plastic recycling: Your questions answered
- www.ethicogoods.co.uk – EthiCo Goods, Southampton student-led enterprise selling reusable product
- www.sas.org.uk – Surfers Against Sewage, the marine conservation society fighting plastic pollution (Instagram @surfersagainstsewage)
Changing parts of your diet, particularly by reducing how much meat you eat, could cut your carbon footprint by as much as half, and bring other benefits such as to your health and animal wellbeing.
You can start to make a positive difference just by moving away from red meats, or by reducing your total meat consumption. Cutting down on meat and dairy also reduces pressure on land such as deforestation.
- Reduce your meat content in your meals.
- Become a vegan or vegetarian.
- Read (or watch) Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals“.
- https://veganuary.com – Veganuary
- www.vegansociety.com – The Vegan Society
- www.cowspiracy.com – The brilliant – Cowspiracy documentary film
- www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth – ‘Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth’
- http://theconversation.com/five-ways-the-meat-on-your-plate-is-killing-the-planet-76128 – Five ways the meat on your plate is killing the planet’
- Future 50 Foods Report
Heating our homes and cooking with gas or using electricity that comes from coal or gas fired power stations produces climate altering carbon dioxide. Using less energy saves money and reduces your impacts on the climate.
Sourcing your energy from a supplier that uses renewable generation not only avoids carbon emissions, but increase the financial incentives for other energy suppliers to switch out coal and gas.
- Switch to a renewable energy provider such as Good Energy, Ecotricity, and Green Energy UK and even the big energy providers offer green tariffs.
- Refrain from leaving appliances on standby and install a smart meter to track your energy use.
- Make your home cosy with loft and wall insulation and track down gaps in door and windows to stop drafts.
- Choose energy-efficient products. When replacing boilers or kitchen appliances, a more efficient model could even pay for itself due to lower energy consumption.
- If everyone in the UK changed their light bulbs to LED it could have the same impact as taking 165,000 cars of British roads.
- www.uswitch.com/gas-electricity/guides/green-energy-plans – Green energy tariffs
- www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/smart-meters – Smart meters
- www.goldstandard.org/get-involved/make-an-impact – ‘Gold Standard’ carbon offsetting
Companies which perform better on environmental, social and governance matters also perform better financially. Investments in fossil fuels have been labelled ‘stranded assets’ because they are exposed to the collapse of the fossil fuel industry. What is good for your pocket is therefore also good for the planet.
Each year £87bn is invested in pensions in the UK. We as individuals have the power to channel this money to fund renewable energies and environmental schemes. New York City is ‘divesting’ $5 billion of its pension fund away from fossil fuels for this reason.
- If you have a pension managed by your employer ask them for details on where your pension is invested, you will be able to choose to move your pension investments into funds of your choosing.
- Looking to invest? You can see the performance of companies through their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ratings. These ratings can be useful in identifying what companies are doing on environmental issues.
- The internet can be a powerful tool for researching into what companies and banks are doing on the environment and climate change, and whether you are happy investing in them.
- shareaction.org/ranking-european-banks – Charity supporting ethical investment, provide a ranking on banks responses for climate change.
- www.christianaid.org.uk/big-shift-moment-briefing.pdf – The Big Shift Campaign by Christian Aid.
- shareaction.org/MissionPensionPower.pdf – Charity supporting ethical investment, provide an easy to use pension guide.
- www.ethicalconsumer.org/ethicalpensions.aspx – Research and data provider MCSI on ethical pensions.
- shareaction.org/about-us – ShareAction.
- www.msci.com/esg-investing – About ESG Investing.