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

A A A


January

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.

February

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.

March

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.

April

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.

May

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.

June

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.

July

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.

August

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.

September

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.

October

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.

November

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.

December

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

Sport
Lionel Messi pictured after reaching the final
world cup 2014
Sport
Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller have shone brightest for Argentina and Germany respectively on their way to the World Cup final
Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?