Saving the planet: What difference can I really make?
You can create a positive difference without overhauling your lifestyle through small swaps and changes to the products you buy and the way in which you live.
David Attenborough’s Blue Planet was a shot in the arm for our planet.
It showed the strain we’re putting on our home and the wildlife that depend on it. Our natural human desire for indulgence paired with single-use consumption is just not sustainable.
The resulting wave of consumer action and pressure on companies and governments alike could therefore not have come sooner.
But while the number of us suffering from ‘eco anxiety’ is on the rise, there are things we can do and there’s no better person to guide us through than Sian Conway, founder of Ethical Hour, the world’s first and largest online support network for people who want to live and work more ethically.
As an ambassador for the UK Government’s Year of Green Action, and the UK’s Green and Eco Influencer of the Year in 2018, Sian is a true ethical mover & shaker helping create positive impact around the world so we asked her for some ideas on how we can all make small changes to effect big impact.
So read on to see how easy it is to make small yet positive changes to your living and shopping habits for the benefit of every species that calls the beautiful planet upon we live home.
“It might feel like a huge obstacle to overcome, but if we remember that our everyday choices and purchases have an impact, we can start to make the small changes, step by step.“
Sian Conway, Ethical Hour
UK Parliament has now declared a climate emergency and recent reports and documentaries have got consumers questioning how they can lower their carbon footprint. When you consider the data, it doesn’t look good.
Most reports say we’ve got less than 12 years to drastically change course before the damage caused to the environment is irreversible. For most people, this feels overwhelming and understandably leads them to question “what can I do?” or even “what difference can I really make?”
David Attenborough has warned that “the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon”.
The language we’re using to talk about this emergency is emotive. It’s designed to spark a much-needed sense of urgency, but with discussions about the “collapse of civilisation” within a decade, it’s beginning to terrify people.
According to psychologists, the number of people struggling with ‘eco-anxiety’ is on the rise.
Extinction Rebellion protesters took to the streets to demand action from the country’s leaders, but were disappointingly told to break up the protest and allow London to go back to “business as usual” – which many feel is the source of the problem in the first place.
It’s not hard to see how the average consumer feels powerless to create change when leaders don’t appear to listen or act fast enough.
When we’re scared, our subconscious brain kicks in and we go into fight or flight response for survival. This could explain why people bury their heads in the sand when it comes to climate change – if your flight response is triggered you just want to get away from the problem as quickly as possible.
But this is an issue we all need to fight. Tackling climate change will require major changes to the way we live, shop, eat, work, travel – the list goes on.
It’s frustrating when others around you don’t seem to care, or when governments, big business and those in charge don’t appear to be taking action – but to some extent, their behaviour is out of your control.
What you can control is your own personal carbon and greenhouse gas footprint, and you may be surprised just how much of a positive difference you can make – without overhauling your entire lifestyle.
“To beat the eco-anxiety overwhelm, the best thing we can do is take it step by step.”
Here are a number of small switches you can make to the products you use everyday, which will help reduce emissions and lower your carbon footprint.
Whether you rent or own your home, you can probably switch to a green energy supplier quickly and easily.
Good Energy states that people can halve their carbon footprint by switching to 100% renewable energy.
Comparison sites can even help you find the best green tariff for your household – so switching might save you money too!
Shop with carbon-neutral businesses
For conscious consumers, shopping for even the simplest of products can become a minefield when you start considering all the ethical and sustainable issues at hand.
If climate change is high on your list of priorities, look to purchase from companies that support the switch to a low-carbon future.
An increasing number of businesses have committed to 100% renewable energy and laid out plans to become carbon neutral, or in some cases, already achieved it. You can show your support by “voting with your wallet”.
Plant trees (without getting your hands dirty)
Trees are the most effective CO2 absorbers we have. They help mitigate climate change and prevent some of the devastating effects such as flooding. They also provide food and income for the world’s poorest communities, regenerate depleted soil and provide habitat for endangered species.
Planting more trees will fight climate change, restore landscapes, protect wildlife and help achieve more economic stability.
The good news is, you can help plant more trees without getting your hands dirty as search engine Ecosia uses their profits from ad generated income to plant trees around the world.
Simply by switching your search engine of choice, you can have a positive impact on the environment and global communities – and you can see how many trees they’ve planted in real time!
Choose more climate-friendly coffee
In the UK, we drink almost 100 million cups of coffee every day! Last year, 7 million of those were served in disposable cups.
Since Blue Planet II threw plastic pollution into the spotlight, many of us have made the switch to a reusable coffee cups such as rCup, made from recycled coffee cups or the reusable bamboo coffee cup from WAKEcup to bring that number down – but how often do you think about the carbon footprint of the drink inside?
Many people enjoy their coffee at home from a pod machine, but often the convenience comes at a cost to the planet. Single-use coffee pods are a dormant environmental disaster that is yet to be recognised by the news media and Governments in earnest. For example, there’s no mention of coffee pods and capsules in the EU’s single use plastic ban guidance makes no mention of so the mountains of plastic capsules will continue to grow globally, taking up to 500 years to break down while their aluminium capsule cousins take up to 150 years!
Some conscious consumers have stopped using their machines because of the waste they cause or avoided purchasing one altogether, but thankfully there is now a sustainable switch you can make if you love your morning brew.
Compostable capsules from companies like Blue Goose coffee can be placed in your food waste collection where they will be processed into compost or liquid fertilizer within around 12 weeks depending on the facilities used by your local council, which also reduces the methane gases coffee grounds create as they rot. This is more potent than CO2 so avoiding landfill is only a good thing to reduce higher landfill emissions.
So composting your food waste and choosing compostable products is a great place to start.
When plastic pollution first hit the headlines, it felt overwhelming too.
But over the last year, we’ve seen people ditch single-use plastics and change their habits. From recycling more to carrying a reusable bag or bottle – the small steps you take every day soon add up to a big impact.
We can all do the same thing with climate change. It might feel like a huge obstacle to overcome, but if you remember that your everyday choices and purchases have an impact, you can start to make the small changes, step by step, that reduce your impact on our the planet.
Good luck and let us know below how you’re changing your ways for the benefit of nature and the globe.