World leaders are taking part in a two-day virtual summit on climate change hosted by US President Joe Biden at which Boris Johnson is due to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to cut emissions by 78% on 1990 levels by 2035.
“If we actually want to stop climate change, then this must be the year in which we get serious about doing so,” the Prime Minister is expected to tell attendees.
“Because the 2020s will be remembered either as the decade in which world leaders united to turn the tide, or as a failure.”
But it’s not just politicians who can solve the climate crisis – we can all do our bit. Here are six ways to reduce your carbon footprint and support the fight against climate change.
1. Take fewer flights
While this has been easy enough to do while we’ve been grounded due to the pandemic, when travel restrictions ease you may be tempted to book as many long-haul holidays as you can to make up for lost time.
According to data from Atmosfair, a German non-profit organisation, even short flights emit a large amount of CO2 Their flight emissions calculator suggests, for instance, that a round trip from London Heathrow to Rome Da Vinci generates from 499kg of CO2 per passenger.
Choosing a staycation or opting for less carbon-intensive travel options such as trains and boats, can drastically reduce your carbon footprint.
2. Eat less meat
While going vegan has become very trendy in recent years, cutting out animal products could also help you help the environment.
Requiring more land, water and feed, animal farming is more energy intensive than growing vegetables, with cattle (raised for beef and milk) responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
Even if you don’t want to go vegan completely, consider cutting down on the amount of meat or milk you consume, and try to buy from local sources instead of purchasing produce that has been flown thousands of miles to reach your supermarket.
3. Reduce food waste
Not only does what you choose to eat matter, food waste is a huge contributor to climate change as well. According to the FAO, if food waste were a country it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Planning ahead is the key to reducing the amount of food that ends up in the bin at home. Plan meals for the week ahead and shop accordingly so you don’t buy anything unnecessary. Store food properly so it doesn’t go off prematurely, get creative with leftovers and freeze what you can’t eat now. Check out websites like Too Good To Go for more tips.
4. Reuse and recycle
Beyond the kitchen, the question you need to ask yourself before you throw anything away is: can I reuse, repair or recycle this?
Instead of immediately replacing broken electrical goods, see if you can have them repaired. If you no longer need things like lamps or furniture, donate them to your local charity shop, sell them on eBay or offer them up for collection on a site like Freecycle. It’s true what they say, one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
5. Shop sustainably
‘Fast fashion’, where trends quickly pass, comes at a hefty price, with the UN Economic Commission for Europe saying in 2018 that the fashion industry emits about 10% of global carbon emissions.
To reduce your reliance on fast fashion, eschew trends in favour of timeless designs from sustainable brands, those that focus on quality clothing that won’t fall apart after a few wears. Shop for hidden gems in vintage or charity shops and make sure to donate your own unwanted clothing too.
6. Make yourself heard
As well as changing your own habits, if you want to get serious about the climate crisis it’s important to speak out and do what you can to put pressure on politicians to act.
That doesn’t mean you have to stage a dramatic protest (unless you want to). Climate Citizens Lobby, which believes in the introduction of a ‘Climate Income’ fee for businesses that extract or import fossil fuels, recommends starting a dialogue with your MP and enquiring about their views on climate change.
Organisations like Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion have local groups you can join to find out how to get involved in activism where you live.