What to do to help the environment

Happy New Year. Why not start 2010 by making the following positive changes:
1.    Reduce eating meat. BBC Bloom say giving up meat could save 15 times as much CO2 as switching electricity tariffs! Approximately 17-30 % of global CO2 (growing, producing, importing – rising if you include deforestation) comes from meat production
2.    Design your living and work around the most beneficial natural lighting / heating; which could mean using 75% less energy
3.    Get a green tariff like Good Energy (which sells 100% renewable). Even better, club together with neighbours and micro-generate from the wind and sun, reducing reliance on dirty power
4.    Turn off power when not needed: appliances on stand-by need 20% of their full power
5.    Install meters to measure your water and energy: monitor the ‘bandwidth’ you want to be in and try and reduce how much you use
6.    Buy FSC certified paper and MSC certified fish: both guarantee sourcing from well-managed, sustainable stocks
7.    ‘Buycott’ – being the opposite of boycott – support products which are making a difference environmentally and socially such as Fairtrade products: particularly where tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate are concerned, benefiting workers in the global South
8.    Eat and drink the view. Eating locally produced organic foods not only limits how far your food has travelled but also protects our rolling green countryside. Riverford deliver the best boxes fresh to your door with recipe ideas
9.    Stop washing your clothes so much – do all those shirts need to be washed and ironed every day?  Those towels could be used for one more day? Then save energy and wash them at 30°C rather than 40°C, reducing the electricity by around 40%

14 comments on “What to do to help the environment

  1. Jason Blake on

    Hi Giles, that’s a good list though some of the statements are a bit simplistic…

    1. agree, but also the type of meat, e.g. the energy input in beef production per unit energy derived in consumption is ten times that of chicken, so choice of meat is important too. Plus, reducing eating meat can mean smaller portion sizes as well as lower frequency so it’s not necessarily a case of cutting it out of meals which a lot of people would find difficult. That said, discover Indian and other cuisines where vegetarian meals are delicious! (Also, 17-30% sounds *very* approximate!!)
    3. the merits of micro-generation need very careful consideration. For example, small scale wind generation is not likely to be a good choice unless your site benefits from strong sustained wind speeds. Local biomass-based generation or energy-from-waste may eventually become more popular I think.
    4. 20% is a bit misleading as modern appliances produced under the “One Watt” initiative that has been around for ten years now may be using less than 0.5% of their full power when on standby (the IEA’s original plan with One Watt was that by 2010 *all* appliances would be designed this way).
    6. yes buy FSC paper, but is there some reason you aren’t buying 100% recycled..?

    These comments aren’t meant to be nit-picky or negative, just making the point that some changes can have a lot more impact than others, and when you’re trying to change behaviours of the masses you want to get the most bang for buck otherwise people sometimes wonder why they bothered.

    Something completely missing from your list… travel! One of the biggest reductions that most people can make is by using cars less. Walk or cycle short trips. Use public transport when practical, especially for commuting. Carshare to work if that’s practical. Drive better! Exceeding speed limits and aggressive driving can add something in the range of 15-25% to your fuel bill. Get rid of your car if you have one that is not needed daily and join a car share club or rent for holidays, which does two things: it saves a lot of money, and it makes you more organised on the occasions you do actually need wheels because you plan and combine trips.

    You mentioned washing clothes, but also heating water for washing ourselves is a big cost: take shorter showers, or don’t assume the water needs to be running the whole time you’re taking a shower.

  2. giles on

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments on my list! I’ve been mulling over the list for sometime and had intended to post it on 1st January. I agree it is quite simplistic but from experience if it is more than 200-300 words nobody reads it anyway! My discussion on your comments is 58 words more than the maximum I allow myself for each blog!

    The challenge is to hopefully interest people in a wide range of areas where people can make significant changes. Organisations I have worked with are loathe to give specific advice as to how people can change their daily lives for the benefit of the planet. Also, DEFRA, despite all their research are quite often non committal, particularly where the area maybe cross departmental.

    That said, I do agree with you about the benefits of reducing meat and consuming less energy hungry alternatives like chicken. The micro-generation debate is also interesting. Friends of the Earth have changed their campaign strategy to concentrate on encouraging consumers to reduce their energy consumption and consider investing in their own micro-renewables after the introduction of the renewables obligation and the complexities of all the renewable tariffs.

    The point about ‘stand-by’ and turning power off is that a lot of people are simply too lazy to turn appliances off. Many of these still consume the 20% of energy quoted here. I guess we are all guilty of this to some extent, but with 4-way plug adaptors with individual turn off controls, zoned lighting, automatic shut down features on many new toys and products, there is less excuse.

    I also agree with you about recycled paper – it is surprising how much recycled paper is mixed with new paper. Also availability is sometimes a challenge, but ideally a mix of sustainably sourced and recycled is best. Travel is another big area, but I think the majority of people – particularly in cities – get this. Cycling and walking are on the increase, as are the number of people car sharing and getting the bus (according to Transport for London). Not sure how they would have fared today in the snow?

    All the best and have a good 2010.



  3. Jonathan Russell on

    A good list to provoke thought and healthy competition! I would urge and support thinking about travel at work not only commuting. Buzzing between meetings in major urban areas – where many of us ply our trade – is ripe for jumping out of the cab and onto a bus or tube or perhaps a rickshaw. I bet there is some research somewhere that this is a better route to catalysing creative thinking – and I don’t just mean navigating the tube network to minimise line changes..

  4. Giles Robertson on

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. You are right about travel being an area of impact and something to reconsider. Developments such as Bedzed in South London have tried to address this by being near tram line links to Central London and Croydon. There is also some evidence that where people try different modes of travel and routes that it keep their brain stimulated and more creative, as you say. But not sure that is an environmental benefit unless of they are green entrepreneurs. But I guess if they walk a new route each day, then that would be one less carbon emitting journey out of the equation. This is something that The Mayor’s Office has been promoting – reminding people how near places are by walking.



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