26% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the production and distribution of food. Different food types have different impacts, with meat (especially beef) and dairy having the largest impacts. This means that changing our diets can have a positive effect on our carbon footprint. It is estimated that moving from current diets to diets that exclude animal products can reduce food greenhouse gas emissions by 49%. Don’t worry, you don’t need to go vegan overnight! But you can make a huge difference by buying alternatives to beef, lamb, and dairy.
The energy supply sector (heat, electricity and other energy) is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for 35% of emissions. Make sure your energy use is 100% renewable by switching to energy providers such as Bulb, Octopus, Ecotricity or Good Energy.
It’s also important to try and reduce your energy use where possible, because as much as 80% of the energy consumed in buildings is wasted. For years we’ve been told to switch our light bulbs for LEDs, but there’s loads of other energy-saving devices around the house to try out such as smart-meters and smart-boilers, which can make energy use more efficient within the home.
Avoid purchasing bottled drinks where possible – as you’re really only spending money on sending plastic to landfill, and the water is rarely any different to what you can get from a basic water filter at home. Invest in a reusable coffee cup/water bottle and use it. By using one less disposable coffee cup every day for a year, you can reduce your CO2 emissions by 3.65kg! Where you aren’t able to use reusable items, recycle as much as you can.
Around 30% of food produced is lost or wasted, which averages out to 614 kcal per person per day! You should always try to limit your purchasing to only what you are going to use. Planning meals at home can help with this. Any food waste you do produce should be sorted and composted, not sent to landfill. You should also store food correctly to help keep it fresh for longer.
Especially those actively protecting and restoring forests, and divest from organisations that are contributing to the climate crisis. For example, switch your bank account, investments, savings or pensions to a provider that does not invest in fossil fuels. You could sign up to the Global Returns Project, for example. Triodos bank is a good example of a bank that ensures its investments have a positive impact on society and the environment.
There are lots of resources and working groups that help businesses to declare an emergency, and build a climate action plan. Sign your business up to contribute to climate solutions. By doing this you send the message that the climate crisis is real and can no longer be ignored.
Renewable energy is now easily accessible and competitively priced. Switch to an energy provider such as Bulb, Octopus, Ecotricity or Good Energy. It is also important to educate your staff and colleagues on how to limit their energy usage.
Think: do you really need to travel for that meeting or can it be done over video call? Where trips must be taken, for those in the same country or continent, take the train instead of flying. Where flying is unavoidable, pay a little extra to offset your carbon and always fly economy – on average, a passenger in business class has a carbon footprint three times higher than someone in economy class.
14% of greenhouse gas emissions are due to meat and dairy production. It’s easy to remove meat and dairy from the meals and snacks provided at catered company events, as there are so many excellent plant-based alternatives. This is also healthier for your staff too – in the UK, 45,000 deaths could be prevented every year if we all ate low meat diets.
This might include extra paid slow travel days for team members who are required to travel for work, or cycle to work schemes. You could also invest in water-efficient showers if your office building has them. This has the added benefit of making your staff happy; a recent report found that 75% of workers in the UK believe their employer could do more to combat climate change.
Family meal planning is a great way to reduce meat from your diet and teach your kids about the environment at the same time. Introduce more plant-based meals into your family meal planning, and reduce meat consumption (especially beef, lamb and pork).
And about not being wasteful with these precious resources. For example, minimise water use by setting limits on how long showers can be, and use the bath sparingly.
Try to prioritise these methods of transport with the kids instead of driving them – and as they get a little older, teach them to ride the train independently. Try to make driving as small a portion of their total transportation as possible. By living car-free it is possible to reduce your emissions by 1.6 tonnes of CO2e per year!
And consider the environmental cost of items as well as financial. For example, at the supermarket, explain your decision making to the kids when choosing a product with less packaging over one wrapped in plastic or when checking the food miles of a product.
You can work together with schools to implement climate-positive policies. Encourage them to plant trees, prevent school buses from idling, or introduce a climate club. It is especially important that children are taught about climate change, as they still have the freedom to make large behavioural changes that will structure the rest of their lives, and studies have found that children can act as a catalyst to change their entire household’s behaviour.
Globally, transport is responsible for 24% of greenhouse gas emissions. Flying accounts for 2.4% of total emissions and as an industry, has increased dramatically in terms of both volume of passengers and emissions over the past few years.
You will be amazed at how many holiday destinations can be reached by train, and travelling by train reduces emissions whilst avoiding the stress of airports! It is estimated that 1.6 tonnes of CO2e are saved for every avoided roundtrip transatlantic flight. When you have to take a flight, consider offsetting your emissions through an accredited carbon removal scheme.
The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is driven by a culture where we buy cheap things often and throw them away easily. Instead buy clothes second-hand where possible, and always donate old clothes rather than throwing them away. Only buy new when it’s really necessary.
In the EU, transport is responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, of which 72% is road transport. You should try and walk or cycle where possible for shorter distances and for longer distances, prioritise taking the train – and drive only when necessary. You could even invest in an e-bike or scooter to make journeys go faster!
Ecosia allows you to plant trees whilst you search online. It’s accounted for over 100 million trees planted and now plants a tree every 0.8 seconds! This is a quick and easy way to make an impact.
Plastic is made from fossil fuels and it can harm wildlife and pollute the oceans when it is not disposed of properly. Remember the phrase “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” – try to do these in order! Refuse plastics first, then reduce your consumption, then reuse, and finally recycle. Throwing items to landfill should be a total last-resort.
And participate in all local, regional and national elections. By voting and using our voice, we can hope to see governments taking stronger action on the climate crisis. Vote for politicians that support policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon taxation and more rigorous environmental regulations. You can also contact your representatives and demand greater action on the climate crisis.
To help spread the word about effective climate action and raise awareness of the importance of global change. Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future are all climate action groups fighting for environmental causes.
Educate people around you about the reality of climate change. This can be a difficult topic to discuss but it is vital that we all have a good knowledge of the facts. See Ronan’s blog on how to talk when we talk about climate change.
Do this wherever you go! Whether it’s at work, at home, on your commute, or whilst socialising: if you spot something unsustainable, constructively suggest alternatives that would be better for the climate. You can also take part in climate protests, as well as forms of online activism such as writing and signing petitions.
Through collective action, we can achieve incredible things and turn the climate crisis around. Be an exponential individual and support and empower your friends and family to implement real, lasting change.