Sometimes, when we read about climate change it all seems a bit overwhelming. Vast areas of rainforests disappearing, oceans filling with plastic and becoming more acidic, wildfires, storms, and floods – what on Earth can ordinary people like you and me do to make things better?
Have you heard the saying, “The journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step”? It’s a bit like that when it comes to fixing climate change. It turns out that that massive journey can be broken down into lots (and lots!) of single steps.
And yes, there are some big steps to be taken – we need to introduce new legislation and reorganise some aspects of our society. But there is a lot we can do as individuals – lots and lots of those little, single steps. Each step may seem tiny, as if it’s going to make no difference at all. But when more and more people do even a little bit, all of a sudden, it adds up to a lot.
So let’s think about “Carbon Footprints” – a term that’s often in the news. While it may summon up mental pictures of leaving sooty boot-prints all over the carpet, your carbon footprint is all about how much carbon dioxide gets released into the atmosphere as a result of the choices you make in your everyday life.
What kind of a car you drive – or whether you drive a car at all, how you shop, what you eat, how you heat your home, where you go on holiday – it all makes a difference. Carbon dioxide gas acts like the glass in a greenhouse, trapping in the heat. So, to put it in very simple terms, the more carbon dioxide we each cause to be released into the air, the hotter the planet gets.
And because this is a joined-up planet with very complex inter-relationships between winds, ocean currents and weather patterns, even tiny overall rises in temperature can have a spiralling effect on the weather, resulting in things such as the unusually severe bush-fires, tropical storms, droughts, floods and other extreme weather patterns we see in the news so often these days.
So, where do we start, making a difference?
A good first step is to find out your own household’s carbon footprint, which you can do using this questionnaire by the World Wildlife Fund. https://footprint.wwf.org.uk
If you then download their Carbon Footprint app onto your phone, you’ll find a series of challenges you can then set yourself, to start to reduce your impact. Meanwhile, here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Did you know that after 15 seconds, you save money if you turn your car engine off, instead of idling. It’s worth doing in very slow-moving traffic, or when you’re waiting for traffic-lights. And each time you do, that’s a tiny bit less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Set yourself a challenge – Can you remember to do it 10 times a month?
- Does your washing machine have a “Quick Wash” cycle? Some washing machines can do a quick wash in 15-20 minutes. Using that quick wash cycle 3-4 times a month can save you money on your electricity bills and reduce your impact on the planet.
- Switch your energy provider to one that generates all their electricity from renewable sources – solar, wind, and/or hydro-electric power. This makes a big difference, especially if you have an electric car which you charge at home.
Making small changes like this can feel as if we’re doing next to nothing, but there are over 68 million people living in the UK, right now. As Mahatma Gandhi said, we need to be the change we want to see in the world. The more and more of us who start being that small change, the bigger the change we’ll see.