There has been an increase in public awareness and a step-up in government focus on climate change in the past year, thanks largely to Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg and others. But we are still not seeing the big changes that are needed to curb catastrophic rises in global temperatures.
Fighting for national and international governmental action on climate of course has to be everyone’s top priority. But there are practical actions we can also each take, bearing in mind we need to cut our personal emissions by 10-20% a year from now on if we’re to have any hope of keeping within the critical 1.5 degree rise in global temperatures. Here are eight things we can do now that will make that kind of difference:
1. Take the no-fly pledge
Many estimates put aviation’s share of global CO2 emissions at just above 2%. But carbon is only half the story. Other aviation emissions such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), water vapor, particulates, contrails and cirrus changes have additional warming effects which could bring flying’s contribution to global warming closer to 5%.
Flight Free UK is asking people not to fly in 2020 – something that COVID-19 has certainly expedited. For travelling both nationally and internationally by train and other means, check out The Man in Seat Sixty-One, or for local travel, Travel Log Lewes. Think about all those lovely places you’ve not seen that are closer to home.
2. Change to a renewable energy supplier
Ecotricity and Good Energy are still ranked by Which? (see its report here) as the best for renewable electricity, and they also supply gas, partly renewable. Your Energy Sussex are recommended by Lewes District Council as offering renewable energy at competitive prices. YES uses any profits from tariffs to fund a fuel poverty voucher administered by Citizens Advice. You can also use Big Clean Switch for personalised price comparisons. Check their criteria here
Lots more on energy efficiency below.
3. Eat less meat
Reducing your meat intake, even if it’s just for two or three days a week, can have quite a significant impact on reducing your carbon footprint, while going vegetarian or vegan could cut it in half. However, it does depend on where your food comes from and how it was produced – whether meat or not. Eating local, seasonal food, while also cutting down on meat and dairy, is seen as the least carbon-intensive way to feed ourselves.
4. Cut down on food waste
Food production accounts for around a quarter – 26% – of global greenhouse emissions. So it’s hard to stomach that around a third of the food the world produces is wasted. The key for us as shoppers is never buying more than we need and composting anything that’s left. All types of food waste can go in a Green Johanna if you have space for one or use Lewes District Council’s weekly food waste collection service.
5. Shop local at markets and independent shops
This is essential to support and grow local food supply chains and keep money within the local economy. From clothes to food, the closer to home products are made and bought, the less carbon is created with their transportation. If you haven’t already, check out Lewes Friday Food Market and Lewes Farmers’ Market.
6. Repair and buy second-hand
Do you really need a new chunk of metal and plastic? Think about buying less, buying second hand and seeing if it’s possible to repair items before replacing with brand new ones. Lewes Repair Cafe mends a range of household items from clothes to electronics (it’s currently suspended because of coronavirus but hopes to resume its monthly events soon and still welcomes enquiries and will pass them on to repairers). If you need an item or have something you no longer use, you can ask friends and neighbours, or use sites like freegle and freecycle. Charity shops and Furniture Now! will collect large items.
7. Be aware where your savings are invested
8. Be energy efficient
With buildings emitting around a third of total CO2 emissions, reducing the amount of energy we directly use in our homes could have a massive impact on our carbon footprint. Here are actions that can help:
Turn it off – Energy conservation is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Leaving your electricals on standby needlessly uses up energy.
Install cheap and effective magnetic-strip secondary glazing – see Jill Goulder’s brilliant guide and video
Consider installing a heat pump – This can reduce home carbon emissions at almost no net cost. For everything you need to know from a local expert who has one see Why don’t we all switch to Heat Pumps? For a few remaining months there is a government payment that can make this very cost-effective.
Get full support from Warmer Sussex – For £75 Warmer Sussex will carry out a remote survey of your home so you can see what can be done. Or you can opt for a detailed whole house plan for £200. When you are ready to start work, Warmer Sussex will get quotes and help you decide how to proceed. They’ll oversee the work and ensure it is completed to the required standard. A free online tool enabling self-assessment is to be launched soon. It is possible to get safe loans for this work, e.g. from mortgage providers, if it is carried out by a TrustMark certified company like Warmer Sussex. For people on a low income, free help with home heat is available from East Sussex County Council’s Warm Home Check Service which can provide improved insulation as well as advice on related issues.
Check out the Green Homes Grant – There is now a government ‘Green Homes Grant’ starting in September – see Warmer Sussex’s article for details. Work must be carried out by a Trustmark accredited trader. Grants can be up to £5,000, with some for low-income households up to £10,000. As ever, beware of scammers claiming to offer these grants.
The cost of cutting carbon
If you are on a low income you almost undoubtedly have much lower emissions than wealthier people. So if some of these actions seem out of reach remember that you probably have a relatively low carbon footprint: for example, most flights are taken by richer frequent flyers.
It’s not our fault that it is not always easy or cheap to these make changes but it is a way of helping to create the change we want and need to see.