Reducing our personal carbon footprint can also be a good way to save money, live more healthily, and try new things. Here are a few simple actions we can all do today to help stop climate change
1. Switch electricity supplier
The gas and electricity we use in our homes are a major proportion of our personal carbon footprint. In Frome electricity makes up 6% and gas 14% of our per-household footprint. But it’s easy and quick to swap from ‘dirty’ energy to clean, green options! Suppliers like Bulb or Octopus provide 100% renewable electricity that’s also affordable. It’s easy and free to switch, and there are some good deals – with Bulb, if you refer a friend you each get £50 off your electricity bill.
2. Insulate your home
One of the best ways to cut costs and carbon is to improve the energy efficiency of your home. Mendip District Council offers grants of up to £100 to pay for the cost of getting an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC); and up to £500-£1000 is available for completing energy efficiency improvements where the property has an EPC rated D or lower. You can also call the Centre for Sustainable Energy’s free energy advice line on 0800 082 2234 to see if you are eligible for free insulation through government or local schemes.
3. Eat more plants
There’s no need to become vegetarian or vegan unless you want to, but swapping meat for a non-meat option when possible is one of the single biggest things we can all do to reduce our carbon footprint. Red meat has a heavy environmental impact due to deforestation and land clearance as well as the way cows and sheep digest their food, which emits Methane (CH4), a greenhouse gas with 30 times the warming effect of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Reducing the amount of meat you eat is an easy win for reducing your carbon footprint, and it can also mean eating more fruit and veg which is good for your health too.
4. Walk and cycle for short journeys
‘Active travel’ is a great way to keep fit and healthy, as well as benefitting the environment. Switching just one trip per day from driving a car to walking, cycling or using an e-bike can substantially reduce your carbon emissions, as well as cutting harmful air pollution. Driving can also cause stress and exposure to air pollution as fumes circulate inside the vehicle, not to mention the cost of fuel. If you would like some support to start cycling, you can sign up to the Cycle Together programme to get four free sessions with an instructor to improve your road confidence, and free e-bike hire for a month.
5. Plan a local holiday
‘Staycations’ were increasingly popular even before the pandemic, as more and more people consider the environmental impacts of flying. Taking one short-haul flight from London to Edinburgh emits more climate-warming CO2 than the average annual CO2 emissions of a person in Uganda, while a return flight from London to New York emits more CO2 per-person than the annual emissions of an average person in 56 countries around the world. There are beautiful, fun places to visit in Somerset and in the UK. If you’re planning that much-needed getaway, think about whether you could choose a flight-free holiday.
6. Reduce food waste
If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. In the UK, households are responsible for 70% of the edible food that is wasted each year, an amount worth £700 per year for an average family with children. Things you can do to prevent food waste today include: planning meals and making a list before shopping so you only buy what you need; storing leftovers carefully and eating them up in good time; making sure you do a ‘look and smell test’ before throwing good food away; sharing excess food with neighbours or Frome’s Community Fridge; and composting vegetable peels and other raw food rather than putting it in the bin.
7. Switch bank
Greening your finances is simple, quick, and a hugely important step you can take today. With the ‘top five’ high-street banks in the UK continuing to finance fossil fuel projects and companies around the world, moving your money elsewhere can have a massive, unseen impact on reducing your personal emissions footprint. Banks offer free switching services and they arrange everything for you with your previous bank, so it’s hassle-free. There are several good banks that are fast becoming household names, which promise (and deliver) environmentally-friendly and ethical investment, providing real “value for money”. If you have investments, think about greening those, too.
8. Plastic reduction
Yes, it’s incredibly useful and convenient in lots of cases. But plastic is filling up the stomachs of sea creatures who starve as a result, altering entire ecosystems, littering our local beauty spots and lowering human males’ sperm count. 4-12 million tonnes of plastic reaches the world’s oceans every year. We can all make a difference – try to avoid using plastics where you can by buying loose veg, using your local refill shop, switching to shampoo bars and other toiletries, reusable period products, bringing your own mug instead of using a throwaway or ‘compostable’ (…it’s not really compostable) coffee cup. Share tips with friends and family, find what works for you.
9. Get political
Whether you’re feeling angry, upset, interested, appreciative or just excited about the possibilities that a low-carbon future can bring, let your politicians know! Your MP has to respond to emails (make sure you include your full name and address so they know you’re a constituent). Vote for politicians who clearly have climate and biodiversity on their agenda. Let your Council and Councillors know what’s important to you, show your support for any positive changes, and ask for change where you think it’s needed. Find your MP’s contact details.
10. Talk to friends and family
Having climate conversations can be difficult but it’s one of the most important things we can all do. See this handy Climate Outreach guide to having constructive climate conversations, whether it’s with your loved ones, a new friend or a stranger on the bus. The power of sharing your experiences, feelings and knowledge is not to be underestimated – when protecting the planet becomes something we all think about, talk about and take action towards, it will be the force for wider change.