I’m a passionate advocate for all things green. I love making my own cosmetics and cleaning products, I don’t eat meat, fish, dairy or eggs, I never take plastic bags from the supermarket, I take recyclables home if I can’t see a recycling bin when I’m out and about, I turn off lights when I’m not using them, switch off power at the mains every night, buy eco bulbs, buy sponges and toothbrushes that biodegrade, have stopped buying new clothes and only buy second hand ones, minimise plastic consumption as much as I can, never buy bottled water, use a reusable menstrual cup, use a reusable water bottle (so much so that when I lost my Klean Kanteen in January, I went about asking my acquaintances on my course if they had seen it – none of them had, but all knew what it looked like because I always have it by my side), ask for no straws or styrofoam cups at restaurants, put an extra one (or two) jumpers on instead of turning on the heater in winter… you name it and I probably do it (apart from transport e.g. I do use a car and fly fairly frequently. Hey, there’s always room for improvement!). In fact, I’m always on the lookout for obscure eco tips, so if you’ve got any, send them my way :). I’m committed to saving the planet, and I probably take things further than the average person.
Is it enough? If everyone were to live like me, would mankind be able to avoid climate disaster? The answer is, no, probably not. We need to radically change our energy, transportation and agricultural systems if we are serious about averting climate change. How?
- We need to invest in renewable energy (solar, wind, tidal, wave, geothermal etc.). We need to start subsidising renewable energies more, and start subsidising conventional fossil fuel energies (coal, oil and gas) less. This is because when we use fossil fuels, carbon dioxide is released, which contributes to climate change. Renewable energies do not generate carbon dioxide.
- We need to change our transportation system – perhaps by considering electric vehicles, powered by renewable energy.
- We need to change our agricultural system by shifting subsidies away from cheap, factory farmed meat. And I’m not just saying this as an animal-loving vegan; eating factory farmed meat wastes precious resources (water, grain, energy) and pollutes the environment (the UN has identified livestock farming as a greater contributor of greenhouse gases than transportation in this infamous report back in 2006). We also need to grow less cotton, which uses an enormous amount of water, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides.
As an individual, to make a significant contribution to the first two issues (energy and transport), you need to be wealthy. For example, installing solar panels on your roof isn’t cheap, especially since solar subsidies have been cut here in the UK recently. Additionally, you need to own your home, which isn’t a luxury everyone can afford. Electric cars aren’t cheap either. So, like me, if you can’t afford these options, you could use public transport (which isn’t always convenient, and most don’t run on renewable energy) and/or switch to a 100% renewable energy supplier such as Good Energy (which is probably more expensive than a conventional energy supplier, on average). Again, it seems that individuals who are trying to do that right thing are penalised financially! As for reducing our impact on our strained agricultural system, individuals could consume less meat, dairy and eggs, buy fewer new clothes, buy more second hand clothes (e.g. ebay, charity shops, thrift stores), grow their own fruit and vegetables, buy local food etc.
However, we cannot depend on individual action alone if we wish to avert climate change. After all, people who are rich enough to afford fitting their homes with renewable technologies are not the majority of the population, and many wouldn’t want to spend their money on such projects in any case. We need to tell our governments we want change. I don’t know how we should persuade our governments to start investing in renewables more and slowly but surely stop subsidising fossil fuels so heavily, but I imagine it’s probably a combination of emailing MPs, emailing local councils, protesting in person outside parliament at organised events, joining a local organisation that is concerned about environmental sustainability and signing e-petitions, among other activities. I hope that one day I can do more than just doing ‘eco-things’ and writing this blog. Somehow, we need to show our governments that we want the taxpayer’s money to invest in the future of our planet through environmentally responsible policies, such as the Welsh Assembly’s target to achieve zero waste by 2050.
Furthermore, if we are serious about averting global warming, we need to tackle overpopulation and overconsumption. At the moment, there are too many people on this planet (7 billion plus), using too many resources (particularly individuals in developed countries) and the Earth is suffering because of it.
In summary, I believe it is important to do all of the small, eco-things I’ve listed in the first paragraph, and more. It’s essential that we teach our children to do these things too. Changing your consumer habits is good and important (in my opinion), but not enough to prevent climate change unleashing destruction on mankind.
I’ll leave you with an inspirational quote from Margaret Mead: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has’