Reduce emissions and save cash
2 Jan 2020
It's a prickly subject, we can't pretend it's not. But if you're game to reduce your carbon footprint here's a guide that might just help. If nothing else, it’ll save you some cash.
Worth considering, right?
1. Eat less beefWe kick things off with a simple-yet-monumentally-effective way carnivores can slash their environmental impact.
Emissions relating to the beef industry are enormous: trees are toppled for cattle grazing, import and export emissions are mega, and then there's cows' own toxicity. Methane is one of the most harmful greenhouse gasses of all.
Eating beef three times per week for a year is the emissions equivalent of driving a petrol car 4,100 miles, or from London to Alaska if you prefer.
Beef is the most CO2 intensive of all meats, so cutting back is a good place to start. It’s not like beef’s cheap so the bank account might just thank you too.
2. Take fewer short flightsSure, an obvious one, but there's still some confusion as to how harmful flying is on the environment. And while there's no such thing as an eco-friendly flight, a short haul trip from London to Edinburgh is worse for the environment than long-hauling it over the Pacific.
Why? Smaller planes = fewer passengers. That means CO2 emissions are divided among fewer people, and that's before factoring in empty seats - which are more likely on short hauls.
Then there’s the plane’s behaviour. The most harmful portions of a flight are take off and landing, which short hauls do a lot more of. The least environmentally harmful part of a flight is when a plane is cruising and on long hauls this period lasts hours - not minutes.
So while the pound's weaker than cheap coffee, why not opt for the old staycation. Not only can you enjoy the spoils of the beauty and history that define our country's corners, these days you can (cue awkward/ hypocritical joke) easy get a suntan at home.
3. Get an electric vehicle?Getting your hands on an EV isn't difficult but it is pretty expensive - at least the thick end of £25,000.
As a species we’re not yet fully reconciled to the hows and whys of the EV, fears around excessive charging times and 'range anxiety' (will my car die miles from a charging point?), still abound.
There’s a sliver of hypocrisy in the mix too, as generating electricity still largely means burning fossil fuels. But progress is always being made and EVs are still much better for the earth than cars based on the internal combustion engine.
The world's best-selling EV, the Nissan Leaf, has shifted over 400,000 units to relative rave reviews. At £25,000 they're not cheap but plenty of leasing arrangements exist to make them, and other EVs and hybrids, more affordable.
It's not too big a stretch to say that EVs will feature in our future. So if there's a way to trial them today, why not give the environment a bit of a boost and slash your fuel budget down to zero.
4. Switch energy providerEnergy is energy, right? Wrong. Some 42% of the electricity in UK homes is still generated by burning fossil fuels.
But with renewable providers springing up thick and fast, you can do your bit by investigating exactly who's in the game and how they source their power.
Not only do solar, wind, or biomass energy ease the strain on fossil fuels (and the planet), eco-friendly providers are just as savvy as the big guys in offering introductory rates to new customers, further incentivising your switchover.
So research it at your leisure. In the short term at least, the bank account might thank you.
5. Eat less avocadoGranted this is a weird one, but it's worth highlighting how things we believe are good for us mightn't be as innocent as they seem.
Avocados, for example, are one of the most water-intensive foods on the planet. Growing one avocado requires more water than a human taking an eight minute shower.
As much as food fads come and go, for whatever reason (Nigella?) we now eat more avocados than ever and the demand for extra growing-space is fuelling illegal deforestation in producer-countries such as Mexico.
Not to labour the point, but more avocado space means fewer trees, and as ever that dents the earth's oxygen levels.
It’s an added pain, but it’s worth checking out the whole story behind your favourite foods, even beyond the health benefits.
6. Reduce home energy consumptionMost people generally want to avoid wasting energy in order to keep bills low. But changing our fundamental energy habits can fuel a reduction in overall demand and help us accelerate towards a cleaner, greener future.
You've heard all this before, but the little changes count: put on a warm jumper not the heating. Unplug unused electronics. Boil an appropriate amount of water for what you need.
Cumulatively, those small changes make a difference not only on the world's energy bill, but on yours too. A range of devices and smartphone apps are now available to let you monitor the home’s consumption (and your bill) in real-time, so it's worth investigating whether your energy provider offers such a feature.
If not, see Point 4).
Investing in good insulation is an especially cast-iron way of reducing the environmental impact. At the moment, the UK has some terrible heating-habits. Our energy consumption more-than-doubles between October and March.
Layer-up, power down and you’ll manage this one just fine.
7. The 5 Rs of wasteReduce the amount you buy, use and bin.
Reuse that water bottle again and again.
Repair the heels on those shoes, or the screen on that phone, rather than binning and buying anew.
Recycle those bottles, those plastic bags and all that cardboard packaging (and compost all that food waste while you’re at it).
To allow greater Recovery of your waste, sort it properly and avoid contamination. For example, recycling shouldn’t be placed in polly bags.
More than that, only throw out things if there's no greener option. Think outside the box on this one: for example, spent coffee grounds are an excellent plant fertiliser.
Maybe there's a sixth R for the long term, and that's Refuse.
Refuse single-use stuff if it's avoidable. Refuse energy from non-green providers. Refuse foods with a dodgy carbon legacy. An easy place to start is with the daily consumables, such as plastic bottles and coffee cups. As a further incentive, some coffee shops offer money off if you bring your own cup.
For most of us, becoming an eco-warrior overnight isn’t realistic. But living green doesn't have to mean living lean and small changes go a long way.
While adopting the big ticket suggestions on this list may be a stretch, fulfilling a couple will make a difference. On your household's running costs, maybe. For our overworked little planet, certainly.
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