A year to change the world

You've lowered the heat and fitted low-energy bulbs.What else can you do for the planet in 2008? Esther Walker has a month-by-month guide



Gyms across the land must be laughing all the way to the bank throughout January as people sign up to them and then only go once, while their monthly subscription continues to drip out of their bank accounts. Instead of wasting your money, get involved in a Green Gym, in which a local group will meet once a week for a free four-hour session carrying out gardening and conservation work. To find a Green Gym near you, go to www2.btcv.org.uk/display/greengym.


She said yes: congratulations! Now it's time for the ring... Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but mining them harms wildlife and the dust from mining contributes to respiratory diseases in miners and locals; and for years, diamond sales funded armed conflict in Sierra Leone. www.conflictfreediamonds.org has information about how to buy an ethical diamond; alternatively, you can buy an antique ring, which hasn't had to be newly-mined.


Around 10 million pairs of useable spectacles in Europe and North America are thrown away each year; at the same time, millions of people in developing countries can't afford the specs that would let them see clearly and get on with their lives. Donate your unused spectacles and they will go to someone who really needs them. Go to Vision Aid's website: www.vao.org.uk and find out the nearest collection point to you, or send your specs to Vision Aid Overseas, Crawley, West Sussex RH10 2FZ.


As well as cod, you should probably add shrimp to the list of things not to eat out of the sea; 75 per cent of shrimp are caught by dragging nets along the seabed, which wrecks it and drags up and kills everything else in the trawler's path. About 10kg of dead fish and turtles are discarded for every kg of shrimp caught. Almost 25 per cent of all mangrove forests in the world have been destroyed over the past 20 years by shrimp farms, according to environmental groups.


Junk mail is a pain in the neck; not only do you have to do something with it when it arrives, but also there's nothing worse than thinking you've got post and it's just some mail-out masquerading as a love letter. So instead of recycling your junk mail, why not go one step further and stop it at the source? Lighten the load on your postman and on the planet. Go to www.mpsonline.org.uk and unlist yourself from the junk mail companies' books. Your name will be taken off all lists for five years.


More than 50 per cent of the world's wildlife is made up of insects and their numbers and the ups and downs in their life cycles are a good indication of the general health of the environment. The easiest insects to spot and count are butterflies, which are out and about between April and September. The Butterfly Monitoring Scheme recruits volunteers who scout along a 2-4 kilometre route and monitor the number and type of butterflies. They then report back their findings to the scheme. Go to www.ukbms.org to register and to www.butterfly-conservation.org for more information.


There are 1,500 zoos in the world and they're not always as well-managed as they could be; there are few more depressing sights than a sad animal in a dirty cage. While on your travels this summer, if you should you come across bad practice in a zoo, either in the UK or abroad, rather than looking the other way or just feeling sad about it, blow the whistle. Take photos or film it and send them to Zoo Check, part of the Born Free foundation and they will investigate. Go to www.bornfree.org.uk.


Swimming in the UK's rivers and lakes costs nothing and has no environmental impact, whereas swimming pools gobble up energy for heating and lighting and pollute the world with disinfectants. Yet the Health and Safety Executive makes it hard to people to take a dip outdoors by insisting that there can be no swimming without a lifeguard. The fightback against this started in 2005, when outdoor swimmers in London's Hampstead Heath ponds won the right to swim without having to have lifeguards present. Join the rebels at www.river swimming.co.uk.


There are about 46,000 pieces of plastic litter for every square mile of ocean; they kill about one million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine animals a year. The International Coastal clean-up takes place in mid-September each year and over one weekend, 300,000 volunteers worldwide help clean up more than 11,000 miles of coastline. Log on to www.coastalcleanup.org and take part in the next event.


Are you a hedge-fund manager but would rather be a landscape gardener? Or perhaps you're an estate agent who'd rather be building wells in Africa. Whatever you'd rather be doing, The Escape Club can help you reach your goals. Set up to help people who wanted to swap spiritually unfulfilling jobs for something more meaningful, the website has links to courses, connections to people who can help and inspirational, real-life stories. Go to >www.escape-club.org and break free.


It's November, it's cold and rainy and thoughts tend to turn to a nice cosy pub. If you do choose to while away the winter by nursing a pint glass, reduce your "beer miles" by drinking a local brew thus cutting the distance that the beer has travelled to get to the pub. Choose natural cork stoppers over plastic ones as not only does cork decompose but it will also help to maintain cork woodlands in Portugal and Spain, which support a huge ecosystem.


Add someone else to your Christmas list and send a present-filled shoebox to Operation Christmas Child, the campaign run by Samaritan's Purse, which send the goodies to needy children. You can specify whether the box is for a boy or a girl and there are guidelines as to what to include in your box at www.samaritanspurse.org.

365 Ways To Change The World by Michael Norton (Myriad Editions, 9.99) gives world-changing ideas for every day of the year

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power