Reports on climate change can leave us feeling helpless, but there is plenty we can do to lessen our impact quickly and easily. Try these small changes to do your bit to save the world.
1 Will adjusting the temperature at home help save energy?
Yes – a lot. Turn down your heating by just one degree and you can save 10% on your energy use over a year. Plus, when you use less power, you reduce the amount of toxic fumes released by power plants and help conserve natural resources. So, set a timer so your heating is off when you aren’t home. Or try Hive Active Heating (£199, including installation), to manage your heating remotely via an app.
2 Are my beauty products harmful to the environment?
Palm oil is the world’s most widely traded vegetable oil, found in everything from moisturisers to toothpaste. Millions of hectares of forest in Southeast Asia have been cut down and replaced with palm oil plantations, devastating species such as orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants, and releasing millions of tonnes of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s also linked to the burning of peat soils, which has caused a dense “haze” over parts of Southeast Asia, threatening people’s health. So, what can you do? Check labels, ask questions and look for RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified palm oil, whose producers must adhere to strict guidelines.
3 Are solar panels for me?
Solar energy creates clean, renewable power from the sun, making it a great alternative to fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gases across the globe. And as solar panels produce energy from daylight rather than sunshine, they work on even the gloomiest British days. “Solar power tackles greenhouse gases head-on,” says Dudley Moor-Radford, MD of Moixa, a smart battery and solar panel company.
The downside? Solar panels are pricey, ranging from £5,000-£8,000 to install. The cost is offset by smaller electricity bills. There’s a Government feed-in tariff that pays you for the electricity you generate, and sells power you don’t use back to the grid, but this is due to end in 2019, with no current plans to replace it.
4 Is an electric car a good idea?
With zero exhaust emissions, an electric car will help reduce harmful air pollution. Some models offer eco-friendly components, too, such as the Nissan Leaf, which has body parts made from recycled water bottles and plastic bags. Yet with the UK’s charging infrastructure still in its infancy, an electric car isn’t for everyone. So what to do? If you and your friends are heading to the same event, car share. If your destination’s only 15 minutes away, walk, cycle or use public transport. And get rid of the second car to save on running costs, not to mention that’s one less car on the road. For occasional car use, car-hire clubs offer easy access to wheels when you want them.
5 Should I pull the plug on standby?
It’s important to switch off everything at the plug socket – appliances still use up to 90% of their power in standby mode, accounting for around 8% of the total electricity used in our homes. This adds up to £740m a year of wasted electricity and four million tonnes of excess carbon dioxide each year, according to the Energy Saving Trust. If you find it hard to remember to switch off, install Bye Bye Standby, a switch system that cuts power to the devices plugged into it when they’re not in use.
6 Should I go meat free?
More than a third of people in the UK now identify as flexitarian – or part-time vegetarian. “In the UK, we eat twice as much protein as we need, and this contributes to our impact on the planet,” says Lesley
Mitchell, associate director of Sustainable Nutrition at Forum for the Future, a nonprofit organisation addressing sustainability challenges. “If the whole world ate the way we do in the UK, by 2050, we’d
need more than five planets to meet food demands.” Research has shown that widespread adoption of vegetarian or vegan diets could lower carbon emissions by 63% and 70% respectively. Beef production requires 160 times more land and produces 11 times more greenhouse gases than potatoes, wheat and rice.
7 How can I save water?
Turn off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth, and you can save six litres of water per minute. Is your tap dripping? It could be wasting 15 litres of water a day, or 5,500 litres of water a year. By using less water, less money needs to be spent on energy, chemicals and additional reservoirs to treat and pump it.
8 How can I reduce paper?
Switch from paper bank and utility statements to online billing and, when travelling, opt for e-tickets. Put a “no junk mail” sign on your door, and opt out from unaddressed promotional material by downloading a form from royalmail.com
9 Is it time to update my white goods?
Your fridge and freezer account for about 7% of the average household energy bill, with those built in the 2000s using up to five times more electricity than newer models. If you’re looking for a replacement, choose one with an A+ or A++ rating. Find out how to recycle old appliances at recyclenow.com
10 Can I help bees to thrive in my garden?
In the UK alone, honey bee colonies have fallen by 50% in the past 20 years. The decline could seriously impact agriculture, with farmers relying on bees to pollinate their crops. And don’t forget honey and wax – two important products made by bees.
To create a haven for bees in your garden:
✢ Leave a wild corner, letting grass grow, or pile logs for shelter.
✢ Plant flowers that bloom from March to October.
✢ Buy plants with single, “open” flowers, such as daisies and foxgloves, so bees can reach pollen and nectar easily. Find out more at bumblebeeconservation.org