Having watched the David Attenborough documentary on our Climate Change Emergency that we share as a global responsibility, I was left with a desperate feeling, not knowing what I personally can do.
But then I realised I have a website, already viewed by people across the globe – so I can use that to share ideas and hear ideas from others – you guys!
If we take action it is actually a very exciting time – the Green Industrial Revolution as it has been termed. It is a time for green technology to abound, and for our health and well-being to actually benefit from this new revolution – better for the planet means better for our mental and physical health too.
So, in the spirit of not just necessity but choosing to look at it as exciting, the chance to genuinely make a difference, here are some ideas for changes my family are making. Please share yours and I will add them in here!
- Using an electricity provider that provides 100% renewable energy
- Reducing our heating max to 19 degrees C – hot water bottles and blankets work well to supplement!
- There’s a big push for insulating our homes – I live in a Victorian stone listed building, well insulated by the stone but we are not allowed to replace the original single pane wooden sash windows; I work from home so instead I go to local coffee shops to work, to avoid having to heat my home during the day, whereas at night we close up the shutters (double-glazing Victorian style) – so I guess there are always options!
- Buying well-made appliances that will last – both our fridge/freezer and our washing machine have broken recently, but we managed to find someone to fix them rather than purchasing new ones (which was tempting I can assure you!), and to be fair saved hundreds of pounds by doing so
- Lights – LED bulbs, and of course the one we all heard from our thrifty parents when we were growing up: ‘Turn the lights out when you leave the room!’
- Even garden trimmings produce methane if put into landfill apparently – here in Edinburgh we have a garden waste recycling system; we don’t have room for another recycling bin, so my neighbour has kindly agreed that I can share hers
- Water – I’ve taken to using my son’s cold bath water to water the garden (lucky plants!); my friend tips her hot water bottle water into her watering can for it’s next usage
- I’m lucky enough to live in a walkable city, so rarely use our car – when it’s too far to walk I catch the bus
- However, we chose to have a very small car for when we do need it, that does 40mpg in town and 65mpg on the motorway – I’m excited by the advance in electric car technology, and expect our next car will be electric when our current one has had it’s day
- To get from Edinburgh to London, which I do quite regularly, I take the train now, not fly
- There are 2 places that traditionally I have always flown to – my parents who are 500 miles away, and Italy each summer on vacation; these ones are going to be tricky, and probably cost more to find alternative transport, but again the payoff of knowing I’m doing what I can is worth it. For Italy we could just choose to go every few years instead of every year; we could catch the train to a closer warm destination instead
- Beef and dairy – we don’t eat much meat as a family anyway due to one member’s health issues, but we do use a lot of milk, cheese and yoghurt. Given that cows burping (lovely!) are a huge contributor of methane (which apparently is many, many times worse than CO2 for global warming) we realise we need to reduce all dairy. We are supplementing with other milks as much as possible, and are reducing our consumption of cheese and yoghurt
- Eating everything we buy – my sister-in-law once told me that apparently about a third of food bought in the western world is thrown out. I started to look at the amount I threw out due to not eating it in time etc., and to my horror realised she was right. We now eat everything we buy
- Food recycling – we are lucky here in Scotland, and the UK in general, that we have a good food recycling system. Since using that, plus all other available recycling, we only have one partially filled wheelie bin for landfill every 2 weeks – and none of it has methane-producing food waste in. I guess if you don’t have this in your town push your local Council for it!
- Buying food delivered by boat vs. plane – I’m not sure how to tell, but with some things you can guess; I certainly always look at where food is produced and buy local (Scottish) where possible, UK where not, and wider European next. I try to avoid items from anywhere else, as I don’t want to support food being transported that far
- Packaging – I avoid buying food in packaging that’s non-recyclable; where possible I buy food with the least packaging, such as buying a large tub of yoghurt that has fully recyclable packaging vs. packs of individual tubs with throw away lids and more plastic overall; I do the same with crisps
- We buy the eco-friendly laundry power and dishwashing liquid – it does cost more, but it lasts a long time as you use much less, and protecting our seas and river life is the pay-off for me.
Out and about
- I always have a reusable coffee cup with me so as not to use take-out cups
- For the times I don’t have my coffee cup, some large chains now recycle take-out cups, including cups that didn’t come from them; so I wash any my family have used and take them in next time I go – I admit I have a reputation in my family for being a recycling nut, this being a prime example!
- I also always have a reusable shopping bag on me
- I don’t take receipts for purchases – if I need to remember the transaction I just use Notes on my phone.
- My son has chosen to have a shallower bath each night, thus using less gas to heat water
- He has also chosen to find 2ndhand toys on e-Bay for his birthday wish-list, thus not contributing to the energy required in manufacturing new toys
- I bought second hand books for my niece for Xmas – she was young enough to not know the difference, it was the specific books she was wanting (I did check with my sister first!).
- This one will be a struggle for me – buying second hand when possible. We have fantastic charity shops in our neighbourhood, and yet I just don’t have the eye to spot things like my friends do. One friend makes a shopping list, and instead of going up town just goes round the charity shops to find everything. Another friend finds brand-name handbags and sells them on or gives them as presents. Me not so much, but I’m committed to working on it, so when I next need new jeans I’m going to try the charity shops first!
Please share your ideas with us all, together we genuinely can make a difference. I often see the inspirational phrase “Be the change you want to see” but have never really known what that would actually involve! I think I may have found an answer.
Thanks for reading!
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Great article… Really interesting to hear such a long list of great ideas. I haven’t yet heard the phrase Green Industrial Revolution, but I like it! When chatting to a good friend last week, I realised he makes all sorts of Green Decisions which I was totally unaware of and it reminded me that I’m not powerless, making my own small decisions that don’t scratch the surface but that the impact of everyone’s small decisions, together, is huge.
Nice one, Sis!
Great ideas to reduce your carbon footprint and make a positive change. I would add that you guys have always been good at sourcing items from charity shops (the best fun) and this, too, is a environmentally way of consuming.
Ella loves sparkly things, but the amount of microplastics in the glitter means she may well have to settle for plain pink! We have the opportunity to buy food produced on a small holding here in Bath, with almost zero carbon emissions, which is great.
Great stuff. And of course, most importantly we need to push – through whatever avenue we can – for political change. The scale of the transformation we need means that Government needs to incentivise and invest in the good, and discourage the bad – through taxation policy, the right inftrastructure and transport, the right frameworks for business etc… so that we can all make the right choices more easily!
What a fantastic post! Such a helpful list of all the small things we can do that make such a big difference. We’ve just had a smart metre installed and it’s making us realise how much energy we use without even thinking. We’re definitely realising the importance of protecting our world for our son and future generations so will take up some of your ideas!
So the world has changed a bit since this post last summer…..
But there is some good news I was reading about today. COVID19 has meant that to date the UK has used 20% less power during lockdown, and so here’s the great news – the UK has had two full months now of NO COAL GENERATED POWER, whoop!! I’m thrilled that we are moving definitively in the right direction re coal -given that the UK was the first country to build a coal power station, in the Victorian era, it’s only right that we be among the first to eliminate it.
The other interesting thing I was reading this morning (on the World Economic Forum’s site for those interested) is about geothermal heating from flooded old coal mines – apparently the water gets to 18-20 degrees from geothermal heating, and can be pumped up to nearby houses for heating. There’s a 1500 house village in England using this method of heat already. The water is then pumped back into the mine to be naturally re-heated, a fantastic circular system.
On a personal note, it’s another year, another birthday for my son, who managed to get two presents from us by agreeing to us ordering from e-Bay instead of buying new – saving money and re-using, and he gets double the gifts, what’s not to like!
Keep well all.
A wonderful article is really fun to hear such a list of ideas touch our reality and we need already and must try to change our habits, I love reading and I loved reading your thoughts, thank you.
Great list, Nikki. We are trying to change some of our habits:
1. Cutting out beef and lamb – though we allow ourselves to order it if we are eating out (which is not often).
2. Restricting each family member to 2 flights per year which we can either use as a return flight or 2 singles. We haven’t tried to over-complicate with distance definitions! Beware of carbon offset by flight companies – it makes us feel better about what we are doing, but it is incomparably better not to fly.
3. 5 minute showers – we now have a timer!
4. Composting – ironically, we thought we were doing the right thing by composting, but if you don’t treat it properly, regularly turning etc, it produces more methane than using the Council bins – so we limit our composting now and recycle all food waste with the Council.
5. We have returned to the 70’s and now drink wine from a box! Much better environmentally (lighter to transport, glass is energy intensive to recycle), recyclable cardboard and, ironically, we drink less as we are no longer always ‘finishing the bottle’.
6. Fruit and veg imported is an interesting one. For example, bananas are shipped by boat and production is low carbon. Tomatoes grown under glass in NL are a nightmare – high carbon impact to produce. Mike Berners Lee book is excellent to review – and he is coming to the Book Festival!!
7. And my son is happy to never bath or shower again 😉