2018 has provided a steady slew of headlines on heatwaves, floods, winds, fires and ever-terrifying scientific reports. So it’s understandable if, when pondering your New Year’s resolutions over the holidays, your mind turns to climate change.
If you want to do more to tackle climate change in 2019, it can be hard to work out where to start.
Some people will tell you to give up meat and dairy. Some will point to flying. Others will offer talking about climate change as a simple shortcut to all the myriad of things we need to shift. And then there is the lot who argue that anything you do on an individual level is pointless and we need to fight for dramatic structural change.
There is a truth to all these arguments. But they’re also, in a way, all selling magic beans. When it comes to climate change, we don’t need “one thing” we all need to act in a whole range of areas - from what we eat to how we get around - at all levels of society.
That just sounds like a lot of work, as well as being confusing and scary. So where can you start?
Pick something you enjoy. You do that better than anything else, and you’ll be more infectious too.
If you’re a foodie, someone who loves trying out new recipes and flavours, give Veganuary a whirl. It’s only a month, and even if you go back to meat and dairy you might well find you eat less of it in the long term, picking up a few new recipes along the way. It might sound like you’re limiting your options, but the challenge to change your eating habits tends to open up a lot that’s new. We’ve got a few ideas for a plant based feast to get you started.
If you like a bit of DIY, you can help cut carbon and make everyone’s lives cosier by finding, then fixing, some draughts. Heating amounts to about a third of UK greenhouse gas emissions, and 88% of the heat in our homes comes from fossil fuelled boilers. If we’re going to kick our fossil fuel habit, we need to get smarter about heating. Check out our five great tips for making the most of your heating. We got handy with some window film at 10:10 HQ last winter, and it has made so much difference!
If you like travelling, working out exciting trips and discovering new parts of the world, why not take inspiration from these Swedish mums and pledge not to fly this year? Travel is one of the stickiest bits of decarbonisation, especially flight, because it runs on oil (if you have an electric car then, at least in theory it can run on renewables). Flying uses so much oil it’s one of the most climate-damaging things an individual can do. A bit like going vegan, at first glance it might seem like you’re limiting yourself by cutting out flying, but you can open up whole new worlds in the process.
Whatever you do, it’s important to remember that working on your own won’t cut it. You need to use your action to bring others with you. You also need to work with others - there are some things you can do alone, but others have to be done at a community level. And you need to poke people in power (politicians, businesses) to make structural changes too.
So if you’re taking a foodie option, don’t just feed yourself, feed your friends and family too - cook up a plant-based feast to show off all the great new recipes you’ve found. Share recipes for low carbon food with your friends. If you’ve got a work canteen, see if you can start some meat free days, or ask local cafes and restaurants if they’ve thought about trying meat free days and/or lower carbon menus too. Think structural too: Write to your favourite brands about what they’re doing to tackle climate change, and ask your politicians what they’re doing to ensure our food policies are as climate-friendly as possible.
If you’re working on DIY, apply the same basic heat-saving tricks you tried at home in your office and/ or community centre. Again, think structural too: Write to your local politicians and ask what they’re doing to help people insulate their homes. Heat is one of those policies that gets ignored and action is very slow - simply letting your MP know you care about it could really start to change things.
And, if your decarbonising you travel bug, make sure you talk about it. We’ve let oil-heavy transport become normal, so work to make cleaner options more normal to. There is research suggesting that our social networks have a huge impact on how we feel about flying. This is another of those issues where we need politicians to act too. Write to your MP to let them know the changes you’ve made, and ask them to do more to make these choices easier for everyone: better investment in cycling and electric public transport, for example, and/ or a frequent flyer levy.
If you’re still looking for ideas, check out our Carbon Crush guides for more. There you’ll find six areas you can get on with tackling climate change - not just food, heat and transport, but light, knowledge and energy supply too. For each topic there's something you can do yourself, something you can do with others and a way to take it to a political level too.