In order to solve climate change we in the western world are all going to have to change our lifestyle. This doesn’t mean missing out, it just means doing things differently.
This post is going to help you become a little more conscious of your choices. It doesn’t require you to spend any money; just be open to opportunities to change your behaviour. It’s a nudge in a planet friendly direction!.
Its a popular misconception that you need a healthy bank balance and a whole array of glass jars, cotton bags and a trendy bike before you can contemplate sustainable living. Sustainable living isn’t about having fancy kit or being Insta ready – it’s about using what you’ve already got.
You’ve probably heard it before but the little rhyme below needs to be our mantra:
Use it up, wear it out
Make it do, or do without
So, ready to get started on your journey?
1 Go outside …. and just think for a minute
Walk barefoot on the grass (or the sand); smell the flowers; watch the bees, butterflies, birds etc; listen; breathe the fresh air…………..
Now, your experience will be different if you live in a city to if you live in a small country village. The idea to capture is that we can reduce the impact of our built environments if we get better at designing and building with nature and climate change in mind and stop rubbing out nature from our built environment and pushing it to the edges.
If there is no home for nature, there will be no nature
If you build it they will comeRSPB campaign: Giving nature a home
The RSPB advert describes it beautifully: we need to be doing these things in every space not just gardens; every development, road, park and office space so that nature can live with us, not become homeless.
What will you do differently from today to lessen your impact and make space for nature?
Could you walk more, fewer cars means fewer roads? Could you plant a herb pot and let the bees enjoy the flowers? Could you give a home to a hedgehog or bees or birds?
The next planning application for development you look at, could you ask why the developer isn’t including air source heat pumps or solar panels? What nature value does the green space have? If we carry on building homes in the same way the buildings will be obsolete so quickly – we will need to retrofit for solar panels or heat pumps, new insulation and shading. We know we need these things now for our houses to function sustainably, why are we not changing the way we build now?
2 Where can you go without the car?
When I started this blog I used the car for multiple journeys daily. Quite honestly, I couldn’t see how not to travel by car – the kids need to get to school, I have to do the shopping etc. I couldn’t imagine a different way.
I started a journey diary – where did I go? to do what? What were my essential journeys? I found it helpful to log all my journeys as single journeys. This is an example of a day:
- Home to school
- School to fuel filling station
- Filling station to home
- Home to town car park
- Town car park to supermarket
- Supermarket to home
- Home to school
- School to home
8 journeys that day – none of them very far but all criss-crossing town.
The first thing I did was to ban myself from driving into town and back – I can walk that distance therefore that is not an essential journey. I came to realise that the filling station and the supermarket trips could nearly always be combined – they are in two different places but there wasn’t a reason not to go from one to the other and then home. I also realised that the trip to the supermarket was much more pleasant if I went straight there from school rather than coming home in between!
That same day now looks like this:
- Home to school
- School to filling station
- Filling station to supermarket
- Supermarket to home
- Home to school
- School to home.
6 journeys and I never drive to town – even en-route to somewhere else – that is a walking journey now.
That reduction of 2 journeys isn’t much – it is about 2 miles but that took place every week – that’s 104 journeys saved a year (just that one day a week). In reality, the trip to town often happened more than once a week. And I feel better for the walking.
Your task is to look at the journeys you make – which ones could you shorten, which ones could you do less frequently or not at all? How could you get to where you are going and not use the car at all?
3 Review the stuff you use/ waste: Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle etc.
This isn’t about zero waste or being about to pack your years waste into a jar. Trust me, you don’t need any new kit for this either – even if you crave string bags for buying your veggies loose! This is just about noticing what you put in the bin and wondering if there is an alternative to having that piece of waste.
We talk about throwing things away.
But really there is no ‘away’
When you go to put something in the bin STOP and THINK. Could you have bought a different thing and avoided the thing you are throwing away completely? Could you buy things loose? Could you buy a refill rather than a whole new bottle? Make a note to look for that swap next time you shop. Even if you don’t (or can’t) make that change happen right now – be receptive to the idea.
Instead of putting that thing in the bin can you re-use it for another purpose – once, twice, indefinitely? This year I have resisted the urge to buy purpose made seed trays and plant pots and been using plastic and alu trays from food packaging in the garden and greenhouse. They have worked fine and I’ve convinced myself seed trays are a thing of the past for me.
Reducing waste is achieved by a variety of things – could you buy one big bottle of something rather than multiple smaller bottles? or does buying a smaller pack size mean you use up the contents before it goes off thus reducing your food waste? Could you make a meal from scratch to avoid the packaging altogether? The next time you buy that product could you buy it in a different format so you could recycle the waste?
Keep thinking about waste, even if you can recycle something, could you avoid it altogether?
Recycling is not the answer – it is part of the solution, but only after we have stopped generating the volume waste we create at the moment. Plastic in particular is an essential piece of modern life – we couldn’t do a lot of the medical work that goes on now without it, for example, but we also use plastic to transport non essential stuff only to throw it out as soon as that use is done. That’s not good enough – we need to avoid those single use and non recyclable plastics to reduce the waste we create.
The next time you buy something, look at what you are really buying – the product and the packaging, and the quantity. Could you buy the same thing or a suitable alternative without the packaging or in a different format?
4 TURN IT OFF – don’t waste power
I’ve lost count the number of times I go round the house and find lights left on or music playing to itself. Even now the rest of the family are more conscious and know that turning stuff off is important it still happens. We are not perfect but we are trying.
Add to that all the devices that we currently have in the house which we bought without realising there isn’t an off switch (I’m looking at you, TV and computer monitor) and I’m frustrated switching things off is so difficult……….
The argument used to be you could save money if you have a regular check for the all the things left on standby and turn them off. That very quickly turned into ‘Oh I can’t be bothered to do this if it only saves me £10 a year!’ If that is you then think about this………
Multiply that wasted energy by the number of houses in your street. That is how much the energy grid is having to oversupply for your immediate neighbours – contemplate that for your village, town or city and imagine how much slicker we could be at powering our homes if we didn’t all waste that £10 of energy.
Add to that all the reheats of your coffee in the microwave, over filling the kettle and boiling it, and the ‘I’ll just put the oven on to heat up while I contemplate what is for tea………. we could be much slicker, much, much slicker!
Turn it off…….. even if it is a pain!
5 Green energy
While we are on the subject of power I would encourage everybody to get yourself on a green energy tariff. That is where your electricity comes from a renewable source – wind, solar, hydroelectric. Obviously your energy comes through the national grid but if your provider is paying for the equivalent renewable energy that you use, that money can be re-invested in building more wind turbines, solar panels etc. It is your way of powering change.
Just allow yourself to dream for a second: how would you feel having solar panels on your roof or apartment building?
The honest truth is that if we as householders all used renewable energy, we didn’t waste a portion of what we pay for and the national grid was SMART – i.e. we all have smart meters allowing much better prediction about use – the fossil fuel usage would only need to go to those industries which need high energy import and don’t currently have an option for less power (steel industry, lime kilns etc) and overall the carbon footprint from energy would drop dramatically.
6 Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink
I’m not quite sure of the statistics but something like 97% of water on out planet is salt water in the ocean – we can’t drink that or use it for crops.
The remaining 3% is already unevenly distributed, leading to crop failure, drought and famine in parts of the world and flooding elsewhere. What is left has to support habitat for nature, animals and us. Yet we take more than our fair share and waste a proportion of what we take.
Target 100 is a campaign by Waterwise to help water companies and environmental organisations highlight our water consumption and ways to use water sparingly. I blogged about it here. See also Sir James Bevans speech about ‘Escaping The Jaws of Death‘ you don’t need to read it all but the section on the public involvement and the closing section are important. Waterwise estimates the average person in the UK uses 140litres of water a day. That needs to reduce.
When our water dries up, so it does for nature too. The water industry is direct in asking customers to consider how much water they use and what for. The target is 100 litres of water per person per day. Look at your last water bill and contemplate where your usage is compared to that 100 litres. How will you reduce your use?
7 No spend day
I promised none of these ideas would cost you money!
Pick a day, anyday in your week and don’t spend any money, don’t buy anything – not food, not that impulse buy dress, not the birthday card – if you run out – do without it. Harsh?
Most of us are in a lucky position of having more than we need. Secure shelter, food and clothes, easy access to transport and any stuff we want, whenever we want. BUT, even in the UK there are those who don’t have that security and around the world many people live with significantly less than us. Our carbon and ecological footprints are bigger than they should be as a result of that access to 24/7 food and stuff.
This is a good way to look at food in particular and find out what you have inadvertently been stockpiling. But it is also good to see how frequently you reach for the ‘buy’ button on-line. Today you need to do without.
So, drop the morning coffee, the take out for lunch or dinner and don’t contemplate impulse buying anything today. Today you are self sufficient – raid the packets in the pantry or the leftovers in the fridge and get creative with feeding yourself. Beans on toast is a meal – might not be what you are used to………..
There are plenty of recipe sites that give you ideas for using up ingredients if you get stuck. Tomorrow when you are allowed to spend – maybe you will be a little more conscious about what you buy, why and where from.
I hope you found these nudges useful.
Good luck this week.