Published: 08 September 2021. Written by: Tom Ward.
Worried about global warming? We break down how you can do your bit by making smart choices in every area of your life: from gym wear to wine and candles to clingfilm.
As your newsfeed fills with stories about forest fires, melting ice caps, deforestation, tornadoes, floods and, of course, the global Covid-19 pandemic, which could well have been brought about by humans encroaching on animals’ territory, we don’t blame you for feeling a bit overwhelmed.
‘Climate anxiety is real and has pervaded our lives,’ explains Ford Seeman, founder and president of carbon-accountability company, Forest Founders. ‘Coastal real estate is in jeopardy. Heatwaves come with consequences and major death tolls. Once-in-a-hundred-years weather events are now annual as is evidenced by record flooding and destruction.’
A recent UN climate report suggests the planet has reached a tipping point. ‘It is nearly impossible to deny or ignore the dangers new emerging weather trends have on our society,’ says Seeman. ‘The dire warnings are no longer about far-off events, but splashed across the front pages of our trusted media outlets.’
With your own daily stresses to worry about, it can be difficult not to feel helpless. ‘Whenever the news is flooded with worrying new statistics and predictions, I find myself feeling really anxious about my part in the whole thing,’ says sustainability expert Beatrice Turner of The Fair Edit. ‘I ask: how much am I contributing to it? How much am I actually doing to help overturn this crisis? How are my elder relatives going to cope with this changing climate? How’s it going to be when my children grow up?’
Turner has a plan. ‘Rather than focus on only the doom and gloom, we can take our worries and actually use them to propel us into action.’ With that in mind, here are 14 easy ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint, and your climate anxiety.
Consider veganism (or at least vegetarianism)
‘Meat production is the leading cause of deforestation and pollution and accounts for over 16% of greenhouse gas emissions,’ says Turner.
According to World of Vegan, growing just one pound of meat uses an equal amount of water to 40 loads of washing, 40 pints of beer, 53 pounds of potatoes or 1,125 toilet flushes. While a nice steak might be tempting, in this instance chips are definitely the better option. Eating seasonally and locally will also reduce the amount of food miles on your plate. Vegetable garden, anyone?
How often do you replace your toothbrush? Even if you only get through half a dozen toothbrushes a year (and we really hope it’s more), all of that plastic soon adds up. According to research by sustainable electric toothbrush accessory brand, Booheads, swapping out your plastic brush for a bamboo alternative is far greener.
Not only is bamboo the fastest growing plant on the planet (it has been known to grow 47.6 inches in 24 hours), it also releases 35% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees, meaning not only does your toothbrush actively help the environment and capture carbon while it’s growing, it can be replaced in a matter of days, too.
Get into plogging
Your fitness may benefit you, but wouldn’t it be nice to help the planet while you’re out for a run, walk or cycle? Plogging – that is, litter picking en route – is a growing trend among the eco conscious exercisers out there, while the app Charity Miles allows you to raise money from your distance covered and donate it to climate charities. Helping the environment? No sweat.
Make your own candles
With many of us stuck WFH it makes sense to make our homes as comfortable as they can be. But an addiction to scented candles inevitably means you’re left with empty glass containers once the candle has burned out. According to Forge Recycling, this isn’t great for the environment as manufacturing glass requires a lot of energy, and water.
‘There’s some air pollution, too,’ its website reads. ‘Sulphur oxides are released during the melting process, and nitrogen oxides are generated if the glass is heated by burning gas. So although we tend to think of glass as a “clean” product, it has its drawbacks.’
Constant Candle has a solution. Using eco-friendly, cruelty-free paraffin and toxin-free wax, its refillable candle kits are ready for you to heat and pour into an existing candle holder of your choice, offering an alternative to ‘burn and bin’ scented candles in single-use holders. Did we mention they smell great, too?
Eat more oysters
Oysters are delicious, and their ability to filter water is great for the environment. ‘Oysters are these amazing animals that can do all kinds of cool stuff,’ Mark Bryer, Chesapeake Bay Program Director for the Nature Conservancy told Outside magazine. ‘The filtration benefits of oysters are off the charts.’
Not only do oysters clean water, they attract other species of shellfish and fish, contributing to a healthy ecosystem that helps the environment work as it should, and keeps carbon in the water in marine flora.
Drink energy-saving wine
There are plenty of ways to help the planet that just involve doing what you’re already doing. If you’re a fan of a nice glass of wine, you might be shocked to learn that glass packing – including wine bottles – are a CO2 hotspot, according to a study by the California Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance.
Garçon Wines is an environmentally focused start-up that uses 100% recycled PET to save weight and energy both during production and transportation (distributors are able to fit 91% more wine on a single pallet with Garçon Wines). With 1.8 billion bottles of wine consumed in the UK each year, you can relax knowing every time you raise a glass you’re celebrating sustainability.
Choose eco-friendly gym wear
Exercise is great for body and mind, and by running, cycling or walking to the gym instead of driving you can do your bit for the environment too. But it doesn’t stop there; a proliferation of eco-friendly gym wear brands want to help you do even more for the planet while you sweat.
Copenhagen based Organic Basics produces Tencel tank tops (a fibre made from responsibly sourced wood pulp), organic cotton bras and shorts made of recycled nylon. Meanwhile, LA-based Groceries Apparel keeps a close eye on every step of production, producing garments made in a wage-fair environment from natural and/or recycled materials.
Choose slow fashion
Fast fashion’s impact on our environment is well documented. According to Oxfam, ‘It’s estimated that more than two tonnes of clothing are bought each minute in the UK, more than any other country in Europe. That amount produces nearly 50 tonnes of carbon emissions – the same as driving 162,000 miles in a car.’
The solution might be Farly, a sustainable fashion-tech online social marketplace which has been created as a result of the fashion wastage currently damaging the environment. Think of it a bit like Pinterest, but shoppable, allowing you to browse and share sustainable pieces with friends.
Opt for LEDs
Opting for LED lighting is a brilliant way of reducing your carbon footprint. According to a report by the Climate Group, lighting accounts for nearly 5% of global CO2 emissions but a global switch to energy-efficient LED technology could save over 1,400 million tons of CO2.
Steven Jaques, Pelipal National Development Manager for InHouse Inspired Room Design, says modern interior design needs to put environmental challenges at the fore. ‘LED lighting uses significantly less energy than standard light bulbs, contains no substances that are harmful to health and are available in a huge variety of designs.’ Call it a light-bulb moment.
Turn down the heat
Global warming doesn’t necessarily mean everything is going to get hotter, and experts have likened it to a seesaw effect; while it might be hotter over here, it’ll be cooler somewhere else as the planet adjusts. That said, there’s no reason to blast your heating just yet.
Adding a timer or a room thermostat to your home heating setup could save you up to £75 a year on bills and reduce your carbon emissions by 320kg, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
A great way to reduce your carbon footprint in the kitchen is through reducing food waste and loss – estimated by the IPCC to be responsible for 8-10% of all global emissions.
Planning ahead and using every part of ingredients can help minimise waste. Jaume Biarnes Digon, Director of the Yondu Culinary Studio in New York, suggests using every last scrap of your chosen produce whether that be turning your peels and scraps into a flavourful veggie broth, potato peelings into a delicious rosti or broccoli stems into a satisfying pesto.
Adding some umami paste to a dish can also add a flavour kick – essential if you’re trying to go veggie but missing meat.
According to EcoVibe, roughly 740,000 miles of clingfilm is used in the UK every year, enough to wrap its way around the circumference of the earth 30 times over. What’s more, it’s difficult to recycle and is made from potentially harmful chemicals, especially as they break down in the environment.
WaxWrap does the same job, but uses beeswax instead of plastic. As well as keeping your food fresh it can be used approximately 200 times after washing with cold water. And, when you do throw it away, it’s 100% compostable. Go bees!
Be water savvy
Water waste is a big issue. According to the National Trust the average person in the UK uses 150 litres every day.
‘If you live in your own home you can start collecting rainwater which can be used for basics like watering your garden or outdoor cleaning,’ says Nimisha Brahmbhatt, environmental advocate and sustainable investor. ‘A seemingly small action, this can make a real difference in summer, (which we are seeing more and more of) where it’s usually challenging for water companies to secure water supplies let alone make sure it’s reaching every home.’
Looking to save money and the planet? These wallet-friendly tips could help you do both.
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