Just two weeks ago, we entered a new year – a new decade. We said farewell to our bad habits and hello to a new beginning. But what sort of fresh start are you looking for? For New Year’s Resolutions with an environmental twist, here are twelve practical ideas that will benefit us.
It’s not too late to make a difference this month! The Citizen’s Advice Big Energy Saving Week campaign starts 20 January and is designed to help people reduce their energy bills. Simple behavioural changes like taking shorter showers or using a timer for your heating & hot water needs can have an enormous impact. Searching Ofgem-accredited sites may reveal cheaper deals you could switch to, or you could filter results to show only green tariffs. If you fancy yourself a bit of a DIY expert, you could draught-proof your windows and doors or replace old incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs. For larger measures, like insulation or heating upgrades, check if you qualify for financial help from the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme or other local funding.
UK households create an astonishing amount of food waste, much of which could have been eaten according to charity WRAP. Lots of resources go into producing that wasted food – labour, land, water and energy, and once the food enters landfill, it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Learn to love your food this month by storing it properly, only buying what you need and getting creative with leftovers. Accidentally forgot about that now-slimy spinach in the back of the fridge? Try home composting to reduce your impact.
We’ve all seen photos of animals wearing plastic six-pack rings (not as fashion accessories) and autopsies of marine life with guts full of plastic. The most pervasive plastic pollutant, however, is the cigarette butt with trillions tossed every year. Recent research suggests that not only are cigarettes bad for our health, the unburnt filters are also toxic to plant life, hampering their growth. Help local flora and fauna this month by joining a clean-up. From 20 March, Keep Britain Tidy is hosting the Great British Spring Clean to encourage litter picking in local neighbourhoods, beaches and parks. Find one near you.
April 22, 2020, will mark 50 years of Earth Day, and the event this year will focus on climate action. Climate change is a global threat to our way of life, so moving towards a zero-carbon future is essential. Find out how climate friendly your community is with this Friends of the Earth calculator. If you can’t find an Earth Day event near you, organise your own! Host an educational workshop, screen a movie about the climate crisis, celebrate the intersection of arts and climate change or plan a clean-up. No act is too small to matter.
Walking is such a simple activity yet it brings so many benefits! Get fit, save money and reduce your carbon footprint by swapping car journeys for those on foot. You could also build walking into your daily life by taking the stairs, meeting friends for a walk instead of a coffee or planning a hike for your bank holiday weekend. Check out Living Streets for more ideas to walk this May, download the Go Jauntly app to discover walks in your local area or find a local walking group on the My Journey website.
Air pollution conjures up images of car and factories but many of us are not aware of the air quality in our home. Indoor air pollution can be caused by heating and cooking, dust and mould and fumes from cleaning and personal care products. Exposure to pollutants can increase the risk of some health problems and can make existing health conditions worse. The good news is that there’s plenty to do to improve your air quality! Global Action Plan has lots of resources available and is coordinating the UK’s annual Clean Air Day event on 18 June. Get involved by attending a seminar, joining a school walking bus or enjoying a street party.
Plastic is ubiquitous and it’s not just the plastics we can see – we’re eating, drinking and breathing microplastics. Take an in-depth look at the plastics you’re accustomed to using everyday during this month’s Plastic Free July challenge and test out alternatives – you might be surprised by what you discover. Head to our blog about last year’s challenge for insights.
The kids are off school and there’s a bank holiday thrown in for good measure – time for that long-awaited holiday! But instead of booking flights to a far-away destination, consider holidaying in Britain this year. Brits are spoilt for choice – surf Cornwall’s beautiful beaches, go fossil hunting along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, enjoy stunning scenery in the Scottish Highlands or wander through the Cotswolds’ cute stone cottages. If you’re still set on escaping the UK, there are plenty of ferries, buses and trains that can take you further afield.
The humble bicycle is being touted as a solution to many of today’s problems, including air pollution, congestion and certain non-communicable diseases. Love to Ride makes it evermore enticing to ride this month with individual and workplace prizes to be won during Cycle September by logging a ride on their platform. If you’ve not been on a bike for a while, book a cycle confidence session or find a guided ride near you. No bike? No problem! There are plenty of places to source a secondhand bike as well as repair workshops to safely keep you on the road. If you need an adapted bicycle, Cycles4All in Eastleigh is a great resource.
One of the scariest aspects of Halloween is the crazed consumerism that happens this time of year. From party kits and decorations, to lolly wrappers and even costumes, most of the things we buy contain plastic. Did you know that costumes contributed 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste in the UK last year? Many are only worn once before being discarded. If you plan to mark the occasion in fancy dress, consider creating your own outfit, buying from a charity shop or swapping previous years’ costumes with friends. Terrify your neighbours without spooking the planet.
Glasgow is hosting a major climate change conference this month, known as COP26, to agree on an international response to the climate crisis. It’s the perfect time to have a climate conversation with your colleagues, neighbours, friends and family. Not sure how to bring it up? You could discuss the sustainability of your diets, perhaps even challenging one another to Veg Pledge 2020 or to eating vegan on World Vegan Day. Or you could discuss fast fashion and mass consumerism in the lead up to Black Friday, opting to join “Buy Nothing Day” instead. Whatever your method, have that important conversation because no one else can reach your network and inspire them to act like you can.
The holidays are supposed to be a most wonderful time of the year but oftentimes can leave people feeling stressed, be it from Uncle Don’s political rant at the table or the burden of finding that perfect gift without breaking the bank. While it may be difficult to avoid family clashes, you may like to reconsider your gift-giving practices. In the true spirit of giving, make a pact not to buy your family’s love but instead to share experiences with them. Speak to them about your reasons for doing this well in advance and suggest alternatives, like teaching little Peter to ride a bike, sharing Nan’s secret recipe, planning a foraging foray for the family or a trip to the art gallery. Time is precious so make the most of it.