Climate change is one of the greatest issues facing the Earth today. Huge volumes of greenhouse gases are being emitted and leading to carbon dioxide levels higher than have been seen for millennia. Like the name suggests, these gases act like a greenhouse and cause the planet to warm. Although many of these emissions are coming from large companies, there are steps that individuals can take to reduce their personal impact, with the added bonus of pressuring companies to do the same! Remember: although your personal impact may seem quite small, together, we can make a huge difference.
1. Planting trees
If you have a garden or any land, planting trees is a great way to offset carbon in our immediate environment. Make sure to research the best trees to plant-based on your area to give the saplings the best chance at growing! This can also have the added benefit of supporting local wildlife. If you don’t have the land, look into funding or volunteering with projects that aim to plant trees in high carbon areas like Time4Trees.
2. Consider a plant-based diet
We’ve all seen the rise of veganism in recent years and, with cattle farming making up a substantial proportion of carbon dioxide emissions, eating a plant-based diet could be key to fighting climate change. However, if you’re not ready to commit to full veganism, don’t worry! Your contribution doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Instead, try removing red meat from your diet (or only eating it on special occasions), having one or two vegan days a week or switching to a plant-based milk. Small, manageable changes still reduce your personal impact! And as you may have noticed, large companies are beginning to pay attention and release their own vegan items, which is a step in the right direction for the planet.
3. Shop local
Supporting local businesses doesn’t only keep small businesses operating; it’s good for the planet too! By purchasing locally, you can reduce the fuel costs associated with getting the product to your door, particularly in the case of imported products. Less fuel means less carbon emitted!
4. Support sustainable companies
Some companies are more committed than others to save the environment. Showing your support to these companies can pressure others to follow in their footsteps in order to compete. For example, look for sustainably sourced palm oil in your food products, or buy items that are packaged in recycled plastic.
5. Reduce plastic waste
Plastic is now found almost everywhere on Earth, including some of the deepest trenches in the ocean. As it doesn’t biodegrade, it remains on our planet for millions of years and finds its way into our ecosystems and food chains. And currently, around 8 million pieces of plastic are entering our oceans each day. Luckily, you can reduce your plastic consumption with a few small, easy changes. Purchase products with less packaging, such as loose fruit and vegetables or naked shower products. Invest in a reusable shopping bag and keep it somewhere convenient, like your rucksack or car. Switch to bamboo toothbrushes. Purchase plastic-free tea bags. Simple changes can add up to make a big difference!
6. Shop second-hand
Fast fashion is a large contributor to waste and carbon emissions and is entirely unnecessary. Instead of purchasing a new outfit for a big event, re-wear something you already own (nobody will notice!), borrow something off a friend or family member, have a look in charity shops in your area or look into hiring a dress or suit for a big occasion.
7. Use less electricity
Save on your bills whilst saving the planet! Open your curtains in the day-time instead of turning on the light, always turn the lights off when leaving a room, invest in some energy-saving bulbs, use a clothes horse or washing line to dry your clothes instead of tumble drying, switch off appliances instead of leaving them on standby… There are many other ways in which you can reduce your electricity use, but these are a few suggestions to get you started.
8. Use less water
Water is a valuable resource and we’re running out. That may be surprising given the vast oceans, but only 3% of the water on the planet is fresh water available for our use, and many lakes and rivers are drying up or becoming too polluted to use. Water scarcity affects every continent and is likely to become a more prevalent issue in the coming years. To do your part to help, take shorter showers, avoid baths and hosepipes and collect rainwater to water the plants in your garden.
9. Avoid driving
Congestion is a huge problem in many major cities as the number of cars on the road increases, with each vehicle producing carbon dioxide. Therefore, if you’re able, aim to walk or cycle to places nearby. Not only is this a greener mode of transport, you’ll notice the fitness and mental wellbeing benefits! For longer distance journeys, look into public transport or car-sharing with a friend or colleague. This reduces the number of vehicles on the roads and therefore the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into our atmosphere. Similarly, try online grocery shopping, as delivery vans are able to make their deliveries with lower carbon emissions than if all the shoppers had driven to and from the store. Plus, if you’re not driving, you have time for other activities like relaxing with a book or catching up on the latest episode of your favorite TV show.
10. Carbon offsetting
Obviously, avoiding air travel altogether is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint, but this isn’t always realistically possible for many people. This is why carbon offsetting has been introduced as a way for people who are frequent flyers to compensate for their impact on the environment. The idea behind carbon offsetting schemes is to use money paid to “offset” carbon emissions to fund projects or organisations that aim to remove carbon from the environment like we do at Time4Trees. By contributing a small amount of money, you can take the necessary steps to become carbon neutral, and planting for the future.