It's the start of a new year, and actually a new decade, so many of us are taking some time to think up resolutions for the next 12 months. But maybe this year you're thinking of adding in some resolutions to help you care for the planet better and reduce your carbon footprint. With "Climate Emergency" being recognised as the Oxford Dictionary's word of the year 2019, we will be heading into the new decade with a heightened awareness of the problems with our climate, especially given the knowledge that we now only have 10 years to tackle this problem according to the IPCC report.
So how about choosing one or two, or all, of these resolutions that can actually help you reduce your carbon footprint and tackle climate change?
And if you find yourself reading this article at any other time of the year, how about making some mid-year resolutions to start reducing your carbon footprint? It's definitely easier than trying to do everything in January!
1. Swap to a green energy supplier
Although this is a simple swap to make, and for most people it only takes 5-10minutes, it has the potential to really help tackle climate change. The current climate emergency is largely caused by carbon dioxide emissions from carbon-producing fuels like coal, oil, and gas etc. If we were to swap the energy production of all of our homes, workplaces and factories to a non-carbon producing energy supply - like solar power, wind power, tidal power, we could dramatically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into our atmosphere, and help stop climate change. You can learn even more about "green" and renewable energy in this post of mine.
This month sit down with a nice cup of tea and coffee and swap to a renewable energy supplier. If you have already done this, or if you are unable to because of your current accommodation, make it your resolution this year to get someone else you know to switch to a green energy supplier. Perhaps you could even resolve to get your work place or church to swap to a renewable energy supplier?
2. Reduce your travel footprint
Transport vehicles often are another big cause of carbon emissions leading to climate change, so limiting or cutting out our use of them can help protect our planet.
This year can you make a resolution to go #flightfree? Planes are the most polluting type of transport because of how much fuel they use so can you commit to taking no flights this year? Instead getting other methods of transport like trains or coaches? If you can't do this because of family locations, could you commit to only taking one international return flight this year?
And what about driving? Less polluting that planes, but many more of us use cars and much more frequently so the carbon emissions soon add up. Can you make a resolution to get public transport to work instead? Even if it's only one day a week, it will reduce your commuting carbon footprint by around 20%. Mass public transit has a hug potential to help reduce the impact of climate change.
3. Limit food going to landfill
The food we eat, and especially the food we don't eat, has a big impact on the climate. A lot of resources - energy, water, labour, time, fertiliser, transportation fuel, packaging - goes into getting food onto our plates, so when we waste food it means that all those resources, and the carbon emissions associated with them, also go to waste. So this year make a resolution to cut the amount of food you waste. There are so many ways to reduce food waste, like making a shopping list, buying odd and wonky produce, creating a meal plan, storing food well and using up leftovers - even more can be found in this article - so pick a couple and start reducing your food waste.
It's also important that organic matter (like food scraps) doesn't end up in landfill. When plant based material ends up in landfill there isn't enough oxygen to allow it to decompose so it turns into methane which is even worse for the climate than carbon dioxide! To tackle this we should be trying to compost our food scraps, whether that is in a food waste bin, a home compost bin or a community compost bin. This January make a resolution to find out how you can start composting in your local area, and start doing it! If you want more information on why composting can save the planet, I have even more tips in this post on compost.
4. Base your diet on plants
On the topic of food, meat and animal products have a larger carbon footprint than plant based foods so by reducing the amount of animal products you use, you are in turn reducing the carbon footprint of your diet. This will look different depending on where you are from and what your diet currently is like but introducing more fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes into your diet can also be good for your health too.
Whatever your diet currently looks like you can always reduce your reliance on animal products over 2020. Perhaps you can make a resolution to try Meat Free Mondays to learn some yummy meat free recipes if you're new to this area, or maybe you want to jump straight in and try Veganuary - going vegan for the month of January to challenge yourself, but maybe some of these ideas will continue into the rest of the year.
5. Buy nothing new
We have a problem with over-consumption. We in the West have a tendency to buy far too much which actually is polluting our planet. Every thing has a carbon footprint so the more we buy, the larger our carbon footprint becomes. But the problem is bigger than just our carbon footprints. As brands try to constantly provide new things for us, they over produce items which end up burnt or in landfill, and try to make items as cheap as possible meaning that the workers who are creating our products are being under paid and treated unethically. To tackle this problem we need to consciously stop taking part in this cycle of consumption, which we can do by resolving to buy nothing new for 2020.
This can mean buying less if we don't actually need something, borrowing or renting things from friends of from libraries if we need it but only for a short time, or buying things second hand if we need something longer term. Charity shops and online second hand stores like eBay, Depop, ThredUp are amazing places to buy things second hand which are usually still in great quality. Will you commit to buy nothing new with me this year?
6. Swap to an environmentally friendly bank
Do you know what your bank is doing with your money? It sadly doesn't just sit in a vault waiting for you to need it again, the bank is using and investing it to make a profit. And sadly many banks will prioritise profits over planet by investing in activities leading to climate change - like mining for fossil fuels.
If you don't want your money to be used to fund climate change then this year make a resolution to move your money away from banks supporting climate change to more ethical banks. You can also move your pension away from funding climate change to things that care for our planet. It's called divesting and it's a big topic which you can learn much more about here.
7. Calculate your carbon footprint
What if none of the resolutions above seem like they are right for you this year? Perhaps you are already doing them all! Well then maybe we need something more specific for you.
How about this January you take a moment to work out what your own carbon footprint is and make a resolution to reduce something in there that is contributing to it? This way you know that your resolution and actions are certain to make a difference in your life.
I like the WWF carbon footprint calculator as a nice simple place to start, but there are also more in depth options available online if you are interested.
I hope you whenever you read this article, that you can start the next week with a new motivation to care for our planet in the years and decades to come. We all need to make changes to reduce our carbon footprint and the resolutions above can help you do just that.