Hubby and I watched Before the Flood the other weekend.
It’s a film made by Leonardo DiCaprio about climate change, that aims to bring the truth about climate change to a wider audience.
I was in two minds about watching it, and I saw hubby’s face fall when I suggested it. I knew what he was thinking, and I was worried about it too – he was afraid that I was going to watch it and then get plunged into a very bleak place when confronted with the reality of the challenges we are facing.
But actually, it was ok.
I’m not going to lie, it was scary stuff, but it did also focus on some of the things that we can all do in the fight against climate change, that we don’t have to sit back and feel powerless, and wait for governments and businesses to do the right thing.
As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of the little changes we can all make everyday, that add to make a big difference, but actually there are some things that we can all do, today, that might take a bit of effort, but that could very quickly have a massive impact.
I’m planning to go into much more depth on each of these (and more!) in the New Year, but for now, here’s some ideas that will hopefully get you thinking, and more importantly, taking action!
1) Consume less
There was no escaping the irony of the filming fronted by an American film star, whose personal carbon footprint must far exceed that of the average citizen, but nevertheless it is something that we all need to think about, and is actually a pretty easy thing to start to do.
The first step to becoming a conscious consumer is simply becoming more conscious of what you consume. By that I mean really stopping and thinking about what you are buying, and why. About what kind of message your choices are sending the world – are you voting for fast, cheap disposable fashion, or are you telling the world that you want transparent supply chains, fair wages for workers, and less impactful methods of producing raw materials such as cotton? Your money is your vote. Use it wisely!
Simple things like:
– buying less, but buying better (check out Buy Me Once for products with a lifetime guarantee)
– making do with what you already have
– repairing your broken things (see if you have a Repair Cafe near you if you need some help)
– buying secondhand – check out these posts from the archives about “Why buy nothing new?” and “How to source the things you need when you’re buying nothing new”.
2) Switch energy providers
The ‘Big 6’ energy providers here in the UK still use coal and natural gas to generate energy, and if fracking gets approved (as looks likely) then they will undoubtedly add fracked gas into the mix.
There’s a handy table here that lists most of the UK energy companies and gives a breakdown of what type of fuel sources they are using.
For us to even have a chance of keeping global temperature rises below 2C we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to start investing heavily in renewable energy sources, like wind, solar and tidal.
There are a few green energy providers here in the UK, who derive all of their energy from renewable sources, so it’s perfectly possible to make sure that the money you spend every month is casting your vote for renewables over fossil fuels.
Someone posted this week in the Facebook group asking for recommendations for green energy providers, and there was a great response, including some companies I hadn’t heard of before.
We switched to Ecotricity a while back, and the whole process was smooth and dare I say it, painless. The customer service team are brilliant, and our bills aren’t any higher than they were with one of the Big 6.
3) Move your money
I have to confess that this is something that I keep thinking we should do, and then either forgetting to action it, or get overwhelmed at the thought of it, but actually it should be a pretty simple process.
Many investment funds and pension schemes will have their (your) money invested in fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP, as they have historically offered a very reliable return.
By moving your money to a ‘socially responsible investment fund’ like these ones from Triodos Bank, you know that your money is being invested in companies using strict criteria on environmental and social issues.
I’m a million miles away from being any kind of expert on anything financial, but sites like Good With Money will help you find the information that you need.
4) Eat less beef
I will start by saying that we aren’t vegetarians, but there is a pretty powerful environmental argument for vegetarianism and vegan-ism. I was listening to a radio programme the other day where they were discussing this, and apparently just cutting from a heavily meat centred diet to eating less meat will cut your carbon footprint by about 15%. And if you are already ‘meat-lite’ then going vegetarian will reduce it again by about 15%.
The whole effects of our food system on the environment are complex and multi-faceted, but one thing I was surprised to learn watching Before the Flood is that beef is the most damaging meat of all for the environment, and it’s all to do with the methane that cows produce. Methane is something like 20x more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2, so all those cows farting and burping is actually making a significant contribution to climate change.
So depending on where you are starting from, how about joining in with Meat Free Monday (check out some meat free recipes here) or going meat free 4 days out of 7, or simply saving beef for very special occasions?
5) Cut out palm oil
Palm oil is one of those things that is everywhere. Once you start looking at labels you realise just how ubiquitous it is, and it’s production is having a really significant impact on the planet.
Have a look here to see which of the products you use everyday contain palm oil, and then take the 28 day challenge to help you find alternatives.
6) Make your voice heard
I often dismiss online petitions, and roll my eyes at suggestions to write to my MP, but actually I shouldn’t.
Our politicians are supposed to represent US and the things that matter to us. So they need to know what matters to us. Imagine if we ALL wrote an actual letter, or even an online one, to our MPs, demanding that they take real action on climate change, that they vote to ban fracking, and that they lobby the government to invest in renewables. Imagine if we all did that?
For UK readers, here’s how to find out who your MP is (if you don’t already know) and how to get in touch with them.
And organisations like 10:10 often run campaigns lobbying the government around climate issues, so it’s well worth signing up for their newsletter, or following them on social media.
7) Talk to your friends and family about what you are doing and why.
I asked in the Facebook group recently what people’s biggest challenges were when it came to living more sustainably, and more than one person answered by saying how hard they found it to talk to those around them about climate change and the things they were doing.
And I have to confess that I am also one of those people. I find it really easy to sit here and write about it, and to join in with discussions with people online, but it’s kind of preaching to the converted isn’t it? I find it really really hard to talk about it to friends and family, to mums in the playground, to people who might also be worried about climate change and not really know where to start, but because none of us are talking about it, we don’t know!
I would never want to force my views and opinions on someone else, and live in fear of appearing judgemental, or ‘preachy’ but I’m beginning to realise that I do need to start talking about this stuff in real life too!
I’m starting small, sharing much more stuff on my personal Facebook page, but I’m also thinking about other ways that I can start a conversation without it feeling really icky. So things like wearing my very visibly mended jeans, or using my squash-able re-usable cup – these are things that people notice, and comment on, and then instead of smiling and changing the subject, I need to embrace these opportunities and start to talk a bit about the issues around my choices.
So, what are you going to do today?
Let me know in the comments, or hop over to the Facebook group and let us know what has inspired you to act.