ten things you can do today
1 Try to take your holidays by train (or bicycle!) rather than plane because jet engines cause more problems in terms of the greenhouse effect than anything else we do on a personal level. The water vapour trails are even worse than the gases emitted. If you do fly, then pay an environmental charity like Pure or Climate Care to offset the carbon for any flights you take. They will invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
2 Eat less meat and dairy because producing it is such an energy-intensive business. The livestock industry is responsible for an incredible 18% of the world’s carbon emissions. More on why we need to eat less meat and dairy. Grow some food on your window sill, on your balcony or in your garden using permaculture methods. Try to buy local, seasonal and, if possible, organic food. Don’t buy air-freighted fresh food. Best of all sign up for an organic box scheme like Abel & Cole or Riverford Farm.
3 Switch your electricity supply to a 100% renewable energy provider like Good Energy. Or you could sign up with Ecotricity, who are building more renewable capacity per customer than any other UK company. The electricity these companies supply comes from wind turbines, solar panels, hydro, and gas from organic waste or sewage. Ecotricity now also offer an option to sign up for green gas as well as green electricity.
4 Install draught exclusion measures around doors and windows, lag your hot water tank if you have one, and put in cavity wall and loft insulation wherever possible. Best of all install internal or external wall insulation, under floor insulation and double glazing. The idea is to turn your home into a cocoon and waste as little energy as possible. Some councils will give you money towards energy efficiency or energy generation measures, but you can help yourself by changing your light bulbs to energy-saving ones and switching off unused electrical appliances. An estimated 8% of the UK’s carbon emissions are caused by appliances left on stand-by.
5 If you live in a city, sell your car and join a car club like Zipcar, Streetcar, or City Car Club. If there's no car club operating in your area, then join Whipcar and borrow your neighbour's vehicle. Better still get a bicycle or, at the very least, an electric scooter from Electrip or Vectrix.
6 Stop buying milk in tetrapacks, purepaks and plastic bottles or if you do, make sure you use them to grow seedlings in afterwards. Try to use your local milkman who delivers and recycles glass bottles. Always take glass bottles to on-street bottle banks rather than putting them into doorstep mixed recycling collections which use huge amounts of energy to separate the recycling. Refuse plastic bags in shops. Keep spare bags or “bags for life” by the front door to take shopping. Try to carry a travel mug or a metal water bottle with you rather than using disposable cups or buying water bottles.
7 Check out reuse websites like Freecycle or Freegle to find things you want rather than aways buying new objects. Use reusable nappies for your toddlers. Learn to mend clothes rather than throw them away when they develop holes. You could even redesign old clothes to make new ones.
8 Don’t run the tap when brushing your teeth. Take showers rather than baths. Stop the shower when you’re soaping up or rubbing in shampoo. Put a hippo or a brick in your toilet cistern to reduce water use. Install a grey water diverter to channel waste water from your bathroom (so long as it's above the ground floor!) to your garden.
9 Use a compost bin for your garden and kitchen waste. If you have a balcony or some outside hard space, then consider buying a wormery from Wiggler Wigglers or Green Gardener. A wormery can take dairy products and cooked food; a compost heap can only take garden waste and vegetable and fruit peelings. Recent studies suggest food represents about 30% of all household waste and half of it is perfectly edible when it’s thrown away! Write to your local councillor and ask for a food waste collection to be introduced. Anaerobic digestion of food waste produces a biogas which can be used as a vehicle fuel or to run a gas turbine and generate electricity.
10 Last but definitely not least - join a group campaigning for action on climate change like Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace. Find out whether there's a Transition Towns group working towards a society without cheap oil in your area and join it. If there isn't one, then considering starting one. Write to your local councillor, MP and MEP and demand action.