Consuming less is one clear way of reducing our carbon footprint. Consuming less is not about being parsimonious nor being a kill joy.
Consuming less can involve buying second or hand – pre-loved items. It is equally about ‘loving’ what we do have. Why not look through your wardrobe or your cupboard and pick out a favourite item that you have had for a long while, and appreciate its personal history.
Action 20: Take a photo of the youngest person in your family – this is my 4 month old grand nephew. How old will that person be in 2030? By then we hope the world will have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% below 1990. This should keep the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C. Try and imagine what their world then will be like? Will summers be even hotter and even wetter than now? Will there be more and stronger storms and floods? Will houses be better insulated? Will they have been adapted to cope with heat waves? Will transport system be all electric? Will they have been adapted to cope with floods and landslides? Will there still be the same diversity of wild plants and animals that we see now or will some have been pushed out of their niche in the ecosystem by climate change? Will schools be solar powered? Will school leavers be finding jobs in a burgeoning green sector?
What kind of future are we creating for the next generation?
Action 18: Swop dairy products for plant based ones. Many people opt for oat milk flat whites when they go to a cafe. Why not opt for oat milk at home – on your cereal, in your coffee, and when making cakes, sauces and custards?
Most margarine is entirely plant based but did you know you can get plant based butter? It looks and tastes like butter and has the same consistency as butter making it ideal for making pastry, cakes and crumbles.
Swop to plant based yogurts – including extra thick Greek style yogurt – cream and ice creams. With the same mouthfeel and consistency of their dairy opposites, they taste really good, and with the options of different plant based ingredients such as coconut milk, almond milk or soya milk they offer a variety of taste experiences. I particularly like coconut based vanilla ice cream.
Action 17: Join an environmental group – one that campaigns on climate issues, or sets out to protect the local environment, or conserves wildlife or plant life, or which supports vulnerable people who might otherwise be overwhelmed by the climate crisis. Do a bit of research and find one that appeals to you – either because of the opportunities it gives you to be involved, or because it safeguards something you hold dear, or is something that affects you. As individuals we can sometimes feel that our voice is not heard, our concerns not recognised or our efforts insignificant – but as part of a collection of voices, concerns and efforts, we can make a difference.
Action 16: Go out for a vegan picnic. Sandwiches are the basis of a picnic and most bread is vegan. Vegan options for spreads include plant based butter/ pesto/ mayonnaise/ tapenade/mustard. Add fillings such as vegan cheese (nut-based cheeses are good for protein), hummus, mushroom pate. Add slices of vegetable such as red pepper, radishes, grilled aubergine or courgette, nasturtium leaves, cress or rocket or add chutney/relish. Or try a banana hot dog roll? Pack sandwiches in greaseproof paper or fabric wraps. Pack fruit and pieces of vegetables that can be eaten with fingers and again see if you can avoid plastic packaging. Fill flasks with either hot or cold drinks. Pack some vegan cakes – rock buns, muffins etc – or a bar of chocolate to finish.
Food waste is a drain on finite resources. It unnecessarily uses water and other agricultural inputs. It creates unnecessary excess amounts of greenhouse gases – about 25 million tonnes a year just from the UK.
7.2% of all food harvested in the UK goes to waste or exists as a food surplus that is fed to animals, redistributed via food charities or is repurposed as bio-based materials. (WRAP 2019). Horticulture – the growing of fruit and vegetables – is the largest contributor. To ensure supermarkets are always fully stocked, farmers grow more than may be needed. Consumer demand is fickle: changes in the weather, recipes made popular by celebrity chefs etc can lead to sharp swings in demand for specific fruits and vegetables. In addition a proportion of the fruit and vegetables will be rejected on grounds of size and appearance.
2.9% of the UK’s food waste takes place in the retail sector. Most of this waste is of products that have reached their best before or sell by date. Increasingly the latter food stuffs are redirected to food banks and other local food charities. Supermarkets often stock more than they need to ensure that what the consumer wants is always available on the shelf.
70% of all food waste in the UK comes from what is thrown away by us, the householders. We most frequently throw away potatoes, bread, milk, tomatoes, bananas and slices of ham.
Action 14: Write to your local council: Have they declared a ‘climate emergency’ and if so have their prepared an action plan? What targets have they set for reducing their carbon footprint and are they on track for meeting these? What plans do they have to enable your local area to adapt to the already ongoing changing climate? Can local infrastructure cope with heat waves, cold snaps, torrential rainfall and flooding? In particular have they plans to support those most vulnerable in the community, such as the elderly, those with disabilities and those with low incomes?
Action 13: Become active with ‘active travel’. Active travel is using personal physical exertion. It includes walking, cycling, and wheeling ( propelling a wheelchair) and can equally include scootering, roller skating, skate boarding and I guess even riding a horse. It is about getting from A to B – to the shops, school, railway station, gym etc – rather than a leisure activity such as going for a walk.
Active travel is good for the environment as it reduces car journeys and hence carbon emissions and emissions of poisonous gases and small particulates that cause airs pollution.
Active travel is good for health, keeping us fit and active. It is estimated that 42% women and 34% men do not achieve recommended levels of physical activity. The resulting poor health costs the NHS £1 billion a year.
Active travel reduces road congestion on both main roads and local streets.
See how many journeys you can make this week using active travel.
Action 12: The COP26 climate conference will also be addressing the issues declining biodiversity. Those of us with gardens can be part of the solution. Bee numbers have fallen by an average of 7% in the last ten years, part of an ongoing decline. Europe wide 1 in 10 wild bee species are facing extinction. Grow bee friendly plants. Ensure accessible fresh water. Provide places where bee can overwinter or shelter – varying from areas of long grass to purpose made bee hotels. The following web site is useful: https://beefriendlytrust.org/creating-a-bee-friendly-space/