Be Greener: Secret of being a true friend of the Earth

There are now so many ways to green your life that you've no excuse not to, says Donnachadh McCarthy
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The Independent Online

Your first New Year resolution should be to make all your holidays greener. If you really have to fly, try to offset your carbon. At www.carboncare.org you can calculate how much CO 2 your journey will cost, and offset the amount by paying for energy-efficient light bulbs or restoring rainforests. Of course, if you can go by train instead, that is better. And you should try not to use a car when you get there.

At the same time you should switch to a green electricity supplier. Some offer a Green Power Supply, where the electricity company ensures that for every unit of electricity you use, the same amount of green electricity is generated. Others operate a Green Fund, where the electricity company takes the extra that you pay on your bill and invests the money into new renewable energy projects. You can look on the internet to find green energy suppliers in your area. The website at www.greenelectricity.org, for example, will give you a list and you can usually switch over on the web.

Something people constantly put off doing is basic: insulating your property. You can lose up to 40 per cent of your heat through the walls and roof, and getting a property insulated can cost as little as £50 - or nothing for people on benefits. Grants are available: check the Energy Saving Trust ( www.est.org.uk) website.

Another easy way to be greener this year is to shop locally and organically. Organic food reduces the use of pesticides that pollute our environment and damage birds. We spend £50m a year taking pesticides back out of the water supply, which means that cheap food is being subsidised by our water bills.

The Organic Directory, compiled and edited by Clive Litchfield in association with the Soil Association, costs £7.95. It suggests organic suppliers including box schemes and home delivery services. Alternatively, www.organics-4u.co.uk (08000 93 22 49) is certified by the Soil Association and sells vegetable boxes all year round. You can find your nearest farmers' market at www.farmersmarkets.net or by sending a stamped addressed envelope to National Association of Farmers' Markets, Envolve, South Vaults, Green Park Station, Bath, BA1 1JB.

When the Rio Summit met in 1992, an environment pledge was drafted. It involved a promise not to leave heating and lighting on in rooms that are not being used. I want people to have comfortable lifestyles, and I think the planet can sustain this. But it can't provide six times the amount of energy needed for that. You can slash your heating and lighting bill by 75 per cent without spending any money. And nobody can be in more than one room at a time.

Another easy one is saving water. A third to a half of household water is used to flush the loo. At www.naturalcollection.com you can buy a dual-use handle. It only costs about a tenner and it's really easy to install. Even I can fit one. Alternatively, a stone, brick or plastic bottle inside your cistern will reduce water use. Just make sure it doesn't interfere with the mechanism inside your cistern. The rest is obvious: shower instead of having a bath, don't leave the tap on while you're washing vegetables or brushing your teeth, and get a water butt.

At the same time, you can try to compost some of your waste. The food that comes out of our kitchens emits methane, one of the major global warming gases, when it is sent to a landfill site. And it has to be transported there by a lorry. We could cut our waste by a third by composting. And you can use it in your garden.

One of the most important things you can do, though, is to think about how you travel locally. Of course, even I accept that some people have to use a car for work or family reasons. But the good news is that you don't have to go down a car size to help the environment. Fuel use can vary up to 40 per cent within a class; check the DVLA website at www.dvla.gov.uk to find out which cars are greener.

Having said that, half of our car journeys are less than three miles long. And yet the British Medical Association estimates that a person who cycles regularly has the heart of someone 10 years younger. It's an obvious New Year resolution: cycling is good for your health, your pocket and your environment. If you really want a greener, fitter and more prosperous 2006, buy a bicycle this year - and use it.

Donnachadh McCarthy is an eco-coach and the author of 'Save the Planet Without Costing the Earth'. He provides environmental audits to companies and individuals and can be contacted through www.cix.co.uk/~dmccarthy/

Alison Lapper, ARTIST

It's been an absolutely exhausting but exciting year. Twelve months ago, I would never have imagined how my year would turn out. Marc Quinn's sculpture elevated me to a greater extent. There were people who reacted badly, but the positive reactions have been amazing. People know who I am and stop me to tell me they love the sculpture, they love my book. It is great to be treated with respect rather than contempt. This coming year I want to take it day by day and just go with the flow. The only area that I'm really focusing on changing is my work. I'd like more recognition in my own right as an artist. I don't make resolutions. I don't drink and I don't smoke, but I do know that I have to pace myself because I'm in a phenomenal amount of pain with my back. I tend to take on everything that comes my way as I don't yet feel I'm in a position to be picky. I like not knowing what is around the corner. I have no control over what's going to happen in 2006, and I find that very exciting.

Dizzee Rascal, MUSICIAN

I just want to make world-beating music. I'm going to be working super-hard this year because I've got a new album coming out, Nothing English. This is going to be a real step-up from last year's Showtime. I'm going to be working on the details of the production, I'm also going to be working on collaborating with various people from Miss Beats to a pirate radio collective called the Newham Generals. It's all about putting in the graft, isn't it? Let's hope I can also stay off the smokes. It's been 10 months now and I'm not planning to start again next year.

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