Seven easy ways to live a more environmentally friendly life, from veganism to LED bulbs

A new UN report claims greenhouse gas emissions must be cut almost in half by 2030 to avoid catastrophe

We’re well aware that climate change poses a serious threat to the planet, but a new UN report has highlighted the severity of the problem and claims we’re just 12 years away from a global environmental catastrophe.

According to the study, conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we could soon see the loss of every coral reef, the destruction of entire islands and the disappearance of Arctic ice as a result of greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking to The Independent, Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, describes the report as a “wake-up call” and stresses that now more than ever is the time for individuals to take measures to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Time is running out to change our way of life to support our children’s low-carbon future,” she said.

“We must limit global temperature rises to keep hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, save the world’s coral reefs from destruction, and protect communities from floods, fires and heatwaves.”

So what can we do?

From insulating your home to planning holidays that don't require hours of air travel, see our list of seven things you can do to live a more environmentally friendly life.

1. Wash your clothes at 30 degrees

Heating water to do your laundry is one of the most unsustainable things you can do at home and accounts for almost 90 per cent of the energy consumed by a washing machine, claims US-based energy efficiency group Energy Star.

Switching to a colder temperature can help save huge amounts of energy, eliminating roughly 725kg of CO2 emissions each year, according to environmental magazine The Sierra Club.

Carlsberg announce new technologies to reduce plastic waste to become more sustainable

Invest in a cold-water specific detergent to ensure the quality of cleaning is not compromised by the lower temperature.

2. Leave your car at home for journeys of less than two miles

According to government figures released in February, transport accounts for 26 per cent of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions, with petrol and diesel cars being the main sources.

Creagh suggests walking or cycling where possible and avoiding getting the car for short journeys.

3. Reduce drafts and insulate your home

Homes that are well-insulated require less energy to heat up, meaning that less greenhouse gases will be released as a result of reducing your central heating usage.

A US study from 2012 found that increasing insulation in the home so that it meets the standards set by the International Energy Conservation Code could decrease CO2 emissions by 80 million tons per year.

Do your bit by ensuring your home is insulated properly.

4. Replace bulbs with LEDs or low energy alternatives

Making the switch from conventional bulbs to more efficient alternatives could save you heaps of energy.

According to Energy Star, using light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs in the home could use up 75 per cent less energy than incandescent lighting.

5. Support clean energy where you can

‘Green electricity’ is on the rise, with most energy suppliers in the UK now offering ‘green’ tariffs which seek to support renewable energy.

This means all of your energy will be coming from renewable sources, such as wind farms and hydroelectric power stations, as opposed to burning fossil fuels, which contributes to a significant amount of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

While signing up to a green tariff is no match for reducing your overall energy use, it can certainly help and many suppliers now offer competitive rates.

6. Go on holiday closer to home

Reducing your air travel could do wonders for your environmental conscience.

Aviation is predominantly a fossil fuel industry, burning huge amounts of carbon that can be seriously detrimental to the environment.

For example, a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change revealed that tourism accounts for roughly eight per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, with air travel being the main culprit.

Flying less often and to closer places could make a real difference.

7. Reduce your meat and/or dairy intake

Earlier this year, a report published in the journal Science claimed that eating a vegan diet could be the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental impact on the planet.

Researchers at the University of Oxford found that excluding meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce someone's carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent.

For those who can’t quite go the whole vegan hog, so to speak, even just going vegetarian could make an enormous difference.

Livestock farming is responsible for nearly 20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions from human-related activities, claims the Vegetarian Society, so even a day or two without meat could make your diet more eco-friendly.

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