Nerves are high. Communities are concerned. The world is “on the highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres warned at the start of Cop27 this week.
Addressing world leaders at the start of the climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, he said, “We are in the fight of our lives – and we are losing,” with greenhouse gases still growing and temperatures still rising at an alarming rate. Our planet is in jeopardy.
So, with politicians discussing these important issues and looking at the way they run countries, what can we do as individuals to help the planet?
1. Waste less food
“Reducing food waste is a super impactful action when it comes to the climate crisis – if food waste were a country, it would be the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the USA and China – and around 70% of food waste occurs in our homes,” says Jen Gale, author of The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide.
“It’s estimated that the average UK family throws away around £700 worth of edible food each year, so this is a money saver too. Simple things like meal planning can help. Try to have an ‘eat me first’ box or shelf in your fridge, where any leftovers or anything that needs eating goes, so it doesn’t get pushed to the back and forgotten about,” she explains.
2. Don’t buy stuff new
There are so many online options and charity shops that you really don’t need to buy new items, like clothing and home decor.
“Looking for things we need second-hand is another great way to lighten the impact of our purchases on both the planet and our purses. As well as the usual charity shops, do check out places like Facebook Marketplace, and Vinted is a brilliant app,” says Gale.
3. Make do and mend
Stop getting rid of clothes and buying new things.
“Set time aside to learn some mending techniques and give the clothes in your wardrobe that you don’t wear anymore a little love. Instead of sorting out your wardrobe with the goal of throwing out a load, in order to make room for new items, make a pile of clothes that have potential. Ask yourself whether they need mending, or altering, or if you just need to pair them with a different item of clothing to elevate them. Your item will feel brand new, you might have picked up a new skill, and you won’t have spent any money,” says the founder of Re_Considered, Tabby Bunyan (reconsidered.co.uk).
4. Take shorter showers
“Taking a shorter shower, by going from the average eight-minute shower in the UK to under five minutes, every day, makes a difference. Also, if you always end up adding cold, just heat the water to a slightly lower temperature to save more energy,” recommends Jo Hand, co-founder of Giki (giki.earth).
5. Try a more plant-based diet
“One of the biggest changes you can make for a more sustainable diet is cutting out meat. There is a raft of studies out there comparing meat-eating, vegetarian, and vegan diets, and they all show that meat has a big environmental impact. Some studies suggest eating vegan could reduce the carbon footprint of your diet by up to 73 per cent – but it’s important to remember you don’t have to go completely vegan,” says Thomas Panton, CEO and founder, Greenr.co.uk (greenr.co.uk/)
“Switching out cow’s milk for plant-based alternatives is another great way of eating more sustainably. On average, cow’s milk produces three times the CO2 of plant-based milk, and cows themselves produce methane, another greenhouse gas. Thankfully, there are plenty of options, from oat to soya, and even potato milk,” he continues.6. Check out some green cleaning brands
“If you want to clean greener, there are a few things to look for: is the product refillable, how much plastic is involved and how harsh are the chemicals? From refillable containers made from recycled materials to low water-waste soap bars, switching to more eco-friendly alternatives can help reduce your impact in the home. Our water waste is awash with bleach and strong disinfectants. It’s not hard to imagine the damage that can be caused to animals and wildlife if these get in contact with what we flush away. And with £262m worth of toilet cleaner, bleach and disinfectants sold in 2021, that’s also a lot of plastic waste that could be avoided,” says Panton.
“Check out ekologik and Homethings, two refillable cleaning brands that reduce water and plastic waste by only sending you what you need. If you’re looking for widely-available supermarket brands, Ecover and Bio-D have a variety of green credentials between them, but always aim to refill.”