What can I do to have the greatest impact?

Photo by Markus Spiske

Let’s not pretend we can save the planet by rejecting plastic straws or switching our detergent, or even off-setting a ‘business as usual’ approach. The truth is we’ve left it too late for any response but the most urgent and far-reaching, involving each and every one of us.

‘We are now seeing the substantial impacts of a global temperature rise of just 1ºC. The Paris Agreement targets a threshold of well below 2ºC, ideally 1.5ºC, but current global plans give only a 50% change of meeting 3ºC… The need for action has rarely been clearer. Our message to government is simple: Now, do it.’

2019: Progress to Parliament, Committee on Climate Change

But while we wait for the Government to act on their promises, there are steps we can all take as individuals to mitigate the emergency. These are the big ones:

  1. Reduce your energy consumption. Whether by insulating your house, walking or cycling rather than driving, or just lowering your thermostat and putting on a jumper, efficiency has to be in the forefront of our minds in everything we do. And making your home energy-efficient is by far the best thing you can do overall.
  2. Switch to a truly green electricity supplier. For all the companies claiming to offer renewable power, only a few actually put customers’ money into creating more green energy for us all.
  3. Stop flying. This is the simplest way to dramatically reduce a carbon footprint but, for many, the hardest thing to give up. So at the least inform yourself about the impact, and cut back. And while it’s not a license to continue, off-setting is better than not off-setting.
  4. Reduce your meat and dairy consumption. Not the sacrifice I’d have once thought, this frees up an enormous amount of land for the growth of far more efficient foods, as well as tree planting, peatland restoration and energy crops.
  5. Stop buying stuff. We pride ourselves in the UK on reducing our emissions, but much of that saving is because we’ve outsourced our manufacturing to places like China. Recognise the difference between really needing something, and just wanting it. And if you have to buy, focus on quality, that will last and can be repaired.
  6. Review your pension and any other investments, and join the ever-growing number of sovereign funds, pension funds, local councils, universities, even entire countries, now committed to avoiding investment in the fossil fuel industry.
  7. Get informed about the issues, and then talk about them. It’s amazing how much you’ll question ‘normal’ behaviour when you become aware of the true cost. And it’s inspiring how much of an impact each little ripple can have, so take every opportunity to raise awareness while exemplifying the change that’s needed.
  8. Engage with those able to bring about larger-scale change. That means voting for the climate and challenging not just elected leaders but your employer or local supermarket.

The brutal truth is that it’s not a case of prioritising; when you’re in a sinking ship that’s riddled with holes, you can’t just choose a few to plug. It’s going to take action from all of us.

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