cut your emmissions footprint in 2020
Most of us start a new year with a mountain of good intentions. Comically, about 25% of people undertaking new year’s resolutions will give up within a week! (dry January anyone).
People set the bar too high for themselves, have a minor lapse, beat themselves up and write the experiment off as a failure. But sticking to new things is all about forming good habits, and allowing yourself the odd slip-up.
As the climate crisis escalates, forming new habits is important in cutting our own emissions footprint.
Some of these are a one-time thing. 10 minutes could save you hundreds of kilos of CO2. Some of them require a bit more commitment in the long term. But don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon. Allowing yourself the odd cheat is often crucial to changing lifestyle patterns (as a personal example, when I gave up eating meat 4 years ago I would never buy meat, but would treat myself at a restaurant. Within 12 months I stopped that too without even thinking about it, because I had less need to satisfy an old habit). Do your best and stick to it throughout the year, and don't get deflated if you get it wrong once in a while, just get straight back in the saddle!
NO FLY 2020
Taking one return flight every year means you’ll be using more carbon in that flight than some Global South citizens use in the entire year! Cutting out flying is probably the largest single effort you can make this year to slashing your emissions.
A return London-New York flight could account for about 20% of your annual footprint! But you can go to Flight Free UK and pledge to not fly in 2020, along with 5,000 other Brits.
There’s no coming back from cheating on this one! You’ll be about a ton of carbon to the worse, so stick to this one at all costs! There are loads of amazing places to visit in the British Isles. Take a year off flying and explore some of them!
Tourism is actually a great way to start this article. The industry accounts for about 8% of global emissions. But, in the UK for example, 15% of people take over 70% of the flights, and around 80% of humans across the globe have never flown. This drives home the need for large scale government action to ensure that climate action is fair and just. Climate solutions that penalise low income earners are not a practical or fair solution when you consider that the world's richest 10% create over 50% of global emissions.
Yes individual choices are hugely important, but we need fair laws and system reform to ensure the emergency is tackled with the appropriate level of urgency and fairness.
Carbon savings: London to Western Europe = 250kg. London to Australia = 3 tons
£ Savings: A family of 4 will save between £2,000 - £7,000 per year by swapping holidays abroad for the shores of the UK.
Banks, and in particular the City Of London, are hugely culpable for the climate emergency. Even since the Paris Agreement was signed, global banks have pumped $150 billion into fossil fuel companies. Additionally, they invest in companies who are destroying our ecosystems, driving the world’s 6th mass extinction, and causing the death of our oceans via acidification and pollution.
Check out the interactive Banking On Climate Change feature on Rainforest Action Network. It grades all the high street banks on how well (or more accurately, how poorly) they perform on climate and ecological benchmarks. Your bank is almost certainly a top offender, with the ‘Big 5’ - HSBC, Llloyds, RBS, Barclays, Santander - consistently at the bottom of the environmental and ethical standings.
Once you’re done playing with that, shut down your bank account and switch to Triodos or Ecology Building Society to ensure that your money is not being used to fund your own extinction!
Carbon Savings: Last year alone, Triodos investments in sustainable project saved the equivalent of 985,000 tons of CO2 emissions! Not sure how that works out individually, but you'll for sure be helping the planet.
£ Savings: It’s free to switch accounts, so you’ll break even. Some ethical banks have account fees so check that, but rest easy knowing that your hard earned cash is being invested in ethical & sustainable ventures across the globe.
According to a recent study, two Google searches equate to roughly the same CO2 emissions as boiling the kettle for a tea!! On a more sinister note, big tech companies are slowly becoming above the law. They are too large to police, and wield too much power over politicians. The tracking and collection of data conducted with very dubious legality means a lot of people are looking to alternative search engines to both protect their privacy and avoid complicity in this runaway ‘self-regulating’ industry.
Ecosia is a search engine which will plant trees in return for your searches!! They use ad revenue to provide trees to areas which need them, increasing the world’s carbon sinks and providing communities with the opportunity to generate income through various projects. It donates 80% of all profit to reforestation projects, and has planted 80 million trees so far!
About 45 searches will be enough to plant a tree! And best of all you get a little counter keeping track of your searches so you know how many trees you’ve planted!
Carbon Savings: On a basis of 20 searches a day, you’ll generate about 70kg of CO2 per year. You're still going to be generating that carbon, but you'll be building carbon sinks and sustainable projects in return. Sweet deal.
£ Savings: None, but you also won’t be tracked by Big Brother style corporations.
The UK’s use of clean renewables is growing quickly, and wind and solar are now cheaper than fossil fuels in the UK, USA, much of Europe and 60+ other countries. The claim that renewables are expensive or will leave people in fuel poverty is, quite simply, fossil fuel lobby bollocks.
It’s highly unlikely that your electricity runs on 100% renewables if you haven’t requested a 100% tariff from your supplier. Even then, in times of high demand, or if trading certificates are being used, you may be getting shafted.
This handy guide tells you how to check if your energy company is pulling a fast one on you and selling you dirty coal, oil or gas. If in doubt, Ecotricity and Good Energy are typically good as their word.
Carbon Savings: Totes depends on how much energy you currently use, but for an average family this could easily be 8 tons of CO2 emissions every year, so around 2 tons per person!
£ Savings: This is probably one in which you break even, but renewables will keep coming down as time goes on so make the switch today!
The human appetite for meat is a major driving factor in both the climate and ecological crisis. We have destroyed vast swathes of wilderness and rainforest to make room for monocultures. This not only destroys invaluable carbon sinks, but has a devastating effect on biodiversity and the health of ecosystems.
Around 70% of global soy production doesn’t even go to feeding humans. It goes to feed cattle. Ruminants, such as cows, lamb, and goats have a massive impact on global heating due to their methane production.
Typical diets in tons of CO2. Source: Shrink That Footprint
Reducing your meat consumption is probably the easiest and most effective way to slash your emissions footprint. In fact cutting out meat will cut your footprint from food by 60% - 70% if you go vegan - which is anywhere between 10-30% of your total footprint!
Carbon Savings: Up to 1.8 tons a year!
£ Savings: Shit loads!! If you don’t change anything else in your diet that is! When we stopped eating meat we worked out we were saving over £2000 every year, but we used the extra cash to shop better. So we started buying vegetables grown at the farm shop down the road, which are more expensive, but not covered in pesticide, plastic nor shipped from another country.
Leading us in nicely to how we shop! The plastic pollution crisis has hit the headlines in recent years, and people ARE acting on it. Undoubtedly this stems from it being a tangible issue; rivers of plastic crap floating through a Global South community shock us out of this closed world we live in, where our loss of connection to nature and our fellow humans means we forget the impact our own choices have on other communities.
By 2050, the plastic industry will be the single largest contributor to global emissions if consumers don’t start voting with their wallets. This is an area where the power of the purse really does make a major difference. Every time you refuse something, be sure to spark a conversation about WHY you won’t be buying an item, so that those holding the purse strings know we don’t want single-use plastic.
It does take extra effort to become plastic-free in day to day life. It means much better planning, taking not just shopping bags but multiple refill bottles and containers with you, and thinking about what you’ll be eating that week.
BUT! It will save you money. And a decent amount. Removing the packaging removes the main cost from a lot of items. Spices, herbs, nuts, rice, pasta etc are all way cheaper if you buy at a no-waste store.
The internet is brimming with ideas on how to go totally plastic free. (Remember to use Ecosia to search them!) Final tip, is make sure you think through the other impacts of plastic free shopping. If you have to go 2 towns over for a plastic free shop, make sure you're either heading there anyway or combining it with something that'll make the trip a net carbon saving.
Carbon savings: The average EU citizen produces 31kg of plastic waste every year. (If you live in Ireland it's 60kg!).A kilo of plastic has a lifetime footprint of about 6kg of CO2 (includes manufacture & disposal). So plastic-free shopping could save you around 200kg of carbon emissions every year.
£ Savings: Impossible to predict without peeking in your shopping basket. There is an initial investment in containers (charity shops are great for this, also collect old jam jars etc), but once you're set up you should make good savings. Fruit & veg works out about the same, as it's normally grown organically, but spices, nuts, dry food like cereal, pasta, rice etc will give good savings.
WORK FROM HOME
More and more companies are accepting the arguments of working from home. Employees are often less stressed, happier, and therefore more productive when allowed to work from home for 1 or 2 days a week.
From a climate crisis point of view, this could be a game changer in national emissions. Transport is now the UK’s worst emissions sector, generating 26% of the countries greenhouse gas emissions. This is predicted to rise to as high as 40% in the coming decades.
Road expansion schemes are the brainchild of simpletons. It has been demonstrated time & again that increasing road capacity increases the number of cars on the road, increasing congestion, and thus increasing emissions. 40,000 people due every year in the UK from our illegal air pollution levels that the government refuses to act on. This is an absolute classic example of corporate power winning out over common sense. Expanding roads serves only the pockets of the building companies executives and shareholders.
Get off the roads in 2020 and demand your employer lets you work from home!
Carbon savings: On an average 15 miles each-way work journey, you can save about 1.5 tons every year by working from home twice a week instead of driving to the office. Swapping a half hour train ride for your sofa should save you around 500kg per year.
£ savings: Driving - about £800 a year even with a very decent miles per gallon (probably closer to £1000 for most commuters). By train , based on Woking to Waterloo (about 25 mins) monthly rail ticket, your saving by axing 2 days would be over £1000.
JOIN THE CLIMATE MOVEMENT!!
It's important for us to cut our individual emissions footprints, especially where it will impact companies’ bottom lines and make them rethink their practices. But we live in a toxic society, which is built on fossil fuel use. You alone cannot beat the climate crisis. We all need to do the school run, or visit relatives in another country, or buy an emergency sandwich when you forget your lunch which inevitably comes wrapped in plastic and shipped from miles away.
Our choices matter. But to mitigate the devastating impacts of climate breakdown we need a complete overhaul of how our societies and our economic models function.
We simply cannot tackle the climate emergency whilst using an extreme form of capitalism that demands growth at the expense of the planet. It’s just impossible. As long as we continue with 'business as usual' we are screwed. Corporations will exploit our natural resources and keep burning fossil fuels until it’s too late - all for a bit more profit.
Yet this is exactly what our governments will continue to support. Under pressure from multi-nationals, lobbyists, and the billionaire media, who all have vested interests in maintaining the status quo to protect their wealth and power, our governments are not anywhere near to addressing the climate emergency with the drastic action it requires. We need radical system reform.
The biggest impact you can have in tackling the climate crisis is to join the growing numbers of people who refuse to sit by idly whist global governments allow corporations to destroy our planet, and our futures, for profit. Whatever your skills or experience, dedicate what time you can to the climate movement and bring your ideas and unique viewpoint to help force governments to start acting appropriately to the emergency. Join Extinction Rebellion, join the school strikes, join the Campaign Against Climate Change if you're a trade unionist. Just get out and demand government's wake up.
You could be the next Greta, Ghandi, or Martin Luther King Jr. Be the change.