If you read my blog, it's probably because you enjoy or love the outdoors in some way or another. And if you love the outdoors, then you should want to protect it. It's impossible to escape environmental issues at the moment. It seems like - within my circles at least - everyone is talking about ways to use less plastic, be more-eco friendly and, ultimately, reduce your carbon footprint. The Green Series is my answer to that. As I learn about these issues myself, I want to spread awareness in a really straight-forward, no-frills, no jargon way through a series of blogposts. These will outline some really simple ways you can protect our planet, or at the very least be more mindful as to the options you have.
I never want to preach anything on Instagram or on my blog, because I'm certainly no saint: I forget to bring a reusable plastic bag now and again; I buy food packaged in plastic; sometimes if I'm feeling lazy I'll drive my car when I could walk in 15 or 20 minutes; I eat meat, which is one of the worst things for the environment. The point is, despite admitting all that, I am taking small steps and making little decisions to reduce my own personal impact on the environment, things that I think we could all be doing. I still have a long way to go, so why not join me on my own journey?
What is a Carbon Footprint?
Let's get the basics out of the way. What actually is a Carbon Footprint? In short, it's a measure of the impact your activities have on the environment. It's all the greenhouse gases we are expected to produce in our activities, measured in units of carbon dioxide. Humans started producing an imbalance of carbon dioxide on earth in the 1700s, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.This imbalance has caused a trapping of heat and warming of the planet - thus leading to climate change. Climate Change is having a multitude of negative effects on the environment we live in, here's a few:
- Oceans - rising sea levels due to melting ice; higher acid levels which damages coral reefs and causes the extinction of marine life
- Extreme Weather - rising temperatures causes heatwaves which can be damaging to humans, have caused wildfires, and reduced air quality
- Forests - forests absorb C02, but rising temperatures means many forests have migrated and wildlife has become extinct
- Fresh Water - more flooding and droughts; extreme rainfall patterns; melting glaciers - all of which will impact on fresh drinking water for humans
- Wildlife - the extinction of many species; 20-30% of species at risk; climate change too quick for species to adapt
Find out more from the WWF here.
How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Change Your Diet
In the UK, the food we eat is is responsible for 30% of C02 emissions. There are a few easy ways you can change your diet, and the way you buy food, to reduce your own impact.
Eat less meat and dairy: The livestock industry contributes the same to C02 emissions as the entire transport sector, and large-scale farming for meat and dairy often results in deforestation and requires a lot of land and water. The truth is, you don't need to eat meat every day for a balanced diet. It's better to eat smaller, better quality portions - and you'll probably feel healthier for it too! For me personally, this is a hard one. In truth, I really like meat, eggs, cow's milk and Lurpak! I don't want to go veggie at this stage, instead I'm reducing my meat and dairy consumption by buying less meat from supermarkets, drinking rice or soy milk, and switching to dairy-free butter. When I go out for a meal, I'll treat myself to a meat dish, but at home I'm becoming more accustomed to Linda McCartney sausages and having more money for smoked salmon.
Buy seasonal, eat local: buying local, seasonal produce means the food is often more likely to have been grown in a non-intensive way, with natural light. This reduces the environmental impact and means your food is fresher and tastier.
Eat more vegetables: this means you are healthier, and is the best thing you can do for the environment.
Buy food with minimal packaging: this can be a tough one, though gladly is something that a lot of supermarkets are catching on to. Vegetables don't need to be wrapped in plastic, and neither does a lot of food. If you're in a supermarket, make a conscious effort to buy food without too much packaging and always remember you're reusable shopping bag. It's harder if you're out and about, as a lot of takeaway lunch options are wrapped in plastic. My advice would be to always ask for no straw, and no lid on your coffee cup. Even better, buy a reusable coffee cup and water bottle while you're at it - Kleen Kanteen or Hydroflask are the ones I'd recommend. Carry your own spork so you don't have to get a plastic one with lunch, and try to find lunch spots that are more conscious of plastic usage - you can almost immediately tell the ones that are, by things like wooden cutlery, recycling, and cardboard boxes instead of plastic.
Travel More, Impact Less
There are definitely ways to travel more efficiently...
- Ride a bike: replace your petrol money with a bike! I love my morning cycle to work, it makes me feel energised and healthy. Of course, on a rainy day I might opt for the tram, but making that effort to use your legs and not get in your car is important.
- Walk those little journeys: we're all so busy these days... no one has time do do anything like walk to the shop. Why not try it? Instead of driving for 5 minutes, put in a podcast or some good music and make that 5 minute journey 15 minutes on foot. Time to switch off and go slow.
- Buy a used car: if you do need to drive, buy a used car. 75% of a car's emissions come from actually manufacturing it in the first place!
- Fly less: we all love to travel, but flying is so bad for the environment. In the last couple of years, I've explored much more of the UK and found some incredible places that mean I don't need to hop on a plane every month. Instead, I can take the train three hours to Devon and enjoy the coastal views, or 3 hours north to Glasgow and find myself within the mountains. I'm not saying don't travel, but be more mindful of how much and for how long. Don't fly to New York for a weekend... If you're planning a long flight, make it worthwhile with a longer trip at the other end - win-win, right? Think before you fly.
- Upgrade your home heating: living in a rented house, this is one I unfortunately can't do. But, poorly insulated homes require large quantities of energy to heat. Things like a new, more efficient boiler, double glazing, and better insulated loft and walls will ensure heat stays inside your house. Personally, I'll be wearing about four jumpers and a dressing gown before the heating goes on!
- Buy energy efficient lightbulbs!
- Use eco gas and electric suppliers: there are certain gas and electricity suppliers who now use renewable power. I'm looking into switching my bills over when the year contract runs out, so I'll update on which I've found to be the best.
- Don't buy fast fashion: this is one that I've going to do a whole blog post about, and that I think is really important. It can be so tempting to buy that cheap £10 top from Primark, but THINK before you buy. Is the top Fairtrade? Is it made from environmentally friendly materials? Will it last? The answer is probably no to all those questions. I don't make a lot of money, but I'd rather spend the money I do make on better quality, ethical and environmentally friendly clothing that is more expensive, but that will last a really long time. I'm currently going through a phase of minimalising my life; selling or taking loads of the clothes I don't need or wear to charity shops, so I only have what I need and use. Before you buy something, think about whether you actually need it.
So there you have it. Of course, there are multiple other ways you can reduce your carbon footprint, but here I just cover twelve that I think can be achievable by almost everybody. Ultimately, I really think that we can all be more eco-friendly by thinking more before making certain decisions, or simply buying less.
I'll delve a little deeper into some of these aspects in future blogposts, but for now, I hope you learned a little something!