In Britain we get through 2.5 billion single use coffee cups each year. Each cup – typically made of paper with a thin plastic layer – has a carbon footprint of 60.9g and that is before it leaves the cafe. Only 1 in 400 will be recycled with the remainder ending up in landfill, further adding to their carbon foot print. Each year single use coffee cups produce 152,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent to the output of 33,300 cars.
Action 10:. Swop oat milk for dairy milk. Dairy milk produces a carbon footprint of 3kg/ litre compared with 0.9kg/litre for oat milk (BBC carbon footprint calculator). Oats grow well in a temperate climate such as ours in Britain. Oatso, Made By Land and and Pure Oaty are all UK produced oat milks. Some oat milks are fortified with vitamins and minerals to mimic those in dairy milk but you can obtain these from other sources too. Using oat milk in coffee, on cereal, in cooking and baking is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint!
You might try the equally delicious oat yogurts, fromage frais and creams that are available.
Action 9: Write to your local supermarket and ask what are their plans for reducing their carbon emissions. What targets do they have and how will they measure their progress?
Morrisons have been proactive on this front. In 2019/20, they reduced operational carbon emissions by 28% (2017 baseline) and plan further reductions of 33% by 2025, 53% by 2030 and net zero by 2040 (2017 baseline).
Action 8: The climate crisis is affecting the whole world. Sometimes in the UK it can seem as if the effects of the crisis are minimal – although recent flash floods and heat waves are changing this -so why not choose a country somewhere else in the world -eg in the Pacific or the Arctic – and find out how life there is being changed.
Action 7: Growing your own food. One way of reducing the carbon footprint of what we eat is to grow our own food. A daily salad of 50g of lettuce eaten over the course of a year will create 10kg of carbon dioxide if UK grown, or 20kg if imported from Europe. Salads like cress, rocket and mustard are easy to grow at home on a window sill or in the garden. For extra colour grow nasturtiums – both leave and flowers are edible as are the seeds which can be pickled like capers.
Action 5: 22% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from domestic use (Energy Savings Trust, 2021). Change your energy supplier to one who specialises in producing and supplying green – ie renewable – energy and make a significant dent in your domestic carbon emissions. Leading green energy suppliers include Ecotricity, Good Energy Group, Green Energy, Bulb and Octopus.
Action 4: Being self-informed, being curious about what is happening, where and why, helps us to have a better understanding of climate change. This week cut out any articles you find in the newspaper (cut and past if you read on line) about climate change and make a display with them. Looking at the overall picture may give you new insights. Why not share them?
Action: One of the key ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint is by eating more plant based foods and less meat and dairy products. Swopping plant based milk and butter in baking is one easy way to make the change without even noticing. I am always surprised that even though most cafes offer plant based milk, very few offer a selection of – or even just one – vegan cakes!
So here I a recipe for vegan rock buns.
250g raising flour ( I use wholemeal flour plus baking powder)
75g vegan butter (unlike margarine this has the hard texture of butter)
1tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp egg replacement powder (eg Free and Easy)
75g dried fruit – eg raisins
Cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour.
Add remaining dry ingredients and mix.
Add just enough milk to bind the whole into a stiff mix. (If it is too soft, the buns will look more like cookies than rocky buns).
Place in rough spoonfuls onto a greased baking tray. It will make about 10 or 12.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 175C for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly brown.
Action 2: Have a talk with your best friend about the climate and your concerns. The more we talk with each other, the greater the awareness will be of the problems and the solutions and the more prominent the climate will be as a national issue. And that will prompt politicians and business leaders to take notice.
Last year we were counting down to COP26 which was being held at Glasgow with the United Kingdom as host. I posed the following questions:- Are the nations, the leaders, the civil servants, the interested parties, ready? Are they equipped with ideas and proposals? Are they ready to negotiate and encourage and take bold steps to reach an agreement that will see carbon emissions reduced to net zero by 2050? Will they be sufficiently pragmatic to be generous in funding support to enable poorer countries to be part of the movement to net zero? Will they be clear sighted, seeing the bigger global issues rather than being blinkered or distracted by individual agendas? Are they going to be supported by overwhelming popular support for those policies and actions that safeguard our shared future?
The outcome was perhaps better than might have been feared, but certainly not as proactive as it might have been. One of the outcomes was that, in recognition of the severity of the crisis we face, all parties should meet again a year later to review progress and restate targets to keep the process of net zero on track. Thus it is that in 100 days from now, on 6th November, all the parties will be convening in Sharm El-Sheikh for COP27. This time the hosts will be Egypt.
Last year I also posed some questions for ourselves and I propose to repeat/ review these this year.
Can we be part of that popular support? Can we also take action regarding our own lifestyle to contribute to the net zero emissions target? Are there 100 actions we can take between now and the Conference?
Action 1: Write to your MP and let them know why you think this Conference is important and why you hope it will be a turning point in addressing the global climate crisis.
NB What does ‘net zero’ mean? Net zero refers to achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. There are two different routes to achieving net zero, which work in tandem: reducing existing emissions and actively removing greenhouse gases.
A gross-zero target would mean reducing all emissions to zero. This is not realistic, so instead the net-zero target recognises that there will be some emissions but that these need to be fully offset, predominantly through natural carbon sinks such as oceans and forests. (In the future, it may be possible to use artificial carbon sinks to increase carbon removal, research into these technologies is ongoing.)