It’s easy to feel helpless when faced with worrying statistics about rising temperatures, sea levels and carbon emissions. Why, you might wonder, should you make an effort to reduce, reuse and recycle while global corporations continue to burn fossil fuels in vast quantities?
“After years of warnings from climate experts, we are now in a full-scale climate emergency,” says Sasha Stashwick, senior advocate at non-profit NRDC and campaigner with Cut Carbon Not Forests. “And every single action matters.”
That’s why it’s so important to consider how we use our voices, what we spend our money on, and the choices we make on a day-to-day basis. Collectively, we can help make a difference.
To mark Earth Day (April 22), here are eight ways you can help protect the planet through small lifestyle changes…
1. Eat fruit and veg in season
If you don’t usually check to see where the fruit and vegetables you buy in supermarkets are grown, you might be shocked to see how many are flown in from far-flung destinations. Eating more local produce that’s in season is a much more eco-friendly option.
“By eating seasonally, you are reducing the food miles that each item has travelled to reach your plate, limiting harmful greenhouse gas emissions,” says Holly Congdon, head of events at Lettice Events. “It also reduces the need for pesticides, herbicides and preservatives to allow for long shelf life and transit times.”
2. Reduce food waste
“Food waste causes more global greenhouse gas emissions annually than the aviation industry, and so it’s a really vital part of protecting our planet,” says Jamie Crummie, co-founder of surplus food app Too Good To Go.
“One of the easiest ways to cut down on food waste is simply to buy what you need and eat what you buy. The best way to do this is to carry out a weekly fridge and cupboard audit to see what needs eating up, and then making a set shopping list before you go out.”
3. Cook at home
They may be convenient, but food delivery apps add more miles to your meals. “Cook at home more, versus ordering in, as that creates less emissions from delivery riders on motorbikes,” says actor, director and conservation specialist Peter Meyer.
4. Get involved with activism
“The majority of the decisions fuelling climate change sit within Governments and require policy change,” says Stashwick. “The general population can ensure their concerns are heard by getting involved with local activism, signing petitions and emailing their MPs.”
Not sure where to start? Maisie Kemp, marketing and communications assistant at Subak, says: “Find an area of climate activism that you feel passionate about – perhaps it is biodiversity and conservation, ending use of single-use plastics, or accelerating the switch to renewable energy. Whatever that thing may be, find the groups in your community or online who care about it too. There is so much potential for change when we work together.”
5. Spread the word
Social media can be another powerful tool for highlighting important issues.
“Something as simple as sharing a post or acknowledging another will build a larger voice globally,” says Meyer. “In today’s world, where people have struggled in many different ways, it’s hard to volunteer, but spreading your voice can be just as important.”
6. Carry a reusable water bottle
Now that many of us are commuting to work again, a water bottle is a daily essential. And with so many stylish, collapsible and foldable options on the market, there’s a convenient option for everyone.
“Switching from a [single use] plastic bottle to a reusable one can ensure you’re not contributing to the approximately 700,00 plastic bottles littered every day in the UK,” says Fin Cope, founder of ethical marketplace and lifestyle app, GoEthical.
7. Go green in the garden
Lucky enough to have a garden or allotment? Dobbies horticulture director Marcus Eyles says: “Peat-free compost is a great starting point when shopping sustainably and has brilliant environmental benefits” – because peat can release greenhouse gases when used in gardens.
Insecticides are another no-no, according to Jacqueline Watson, managing director at Citrefine International: “Repeated application of insecticides can lead to insect resistance, the accumulation of harmful chemicals in the ecosystem, and even the death of harmless insects, such as bees. Using a repellent product in your garden… is one small and easy change people can make, which will help to protect the environment.”
8. Optimise air travel
As travel opportunities continue to open up, how can you alleviate your eco-guilt when booking flights?
“If you can’t avoid flying, optimise it,” says David Lais, co-founder and CPO at Ecolytiq. “Opt for direct, non-stop flights in economy (layovers require more CO2 and economy means a smaller footprint for you); avoid the red-eye (flying at night causes more global warming as vapor trails trap more heat at night); and packing light can cut down on CO2 emissions by saving jet fuel.”