Climate change is a huge problem, but even small shifts can make an impact.
When sitting back and watching BBC One’s ‘Climate Change: The Facts’ you are likely to feel overwhelmed. Climate change is not just a problem, it is humankind’s greatest threat.
Enough to make anyone feel existential dread. What can one person do to address something so huge?
Well, a recent study from the University of Oxford has found that small actions can bring about significant change. The researchers looked at ‘Sensitive Intervention Points’ or ‘SIPs’, splitting them into ‘kicks’ and ‘shifts’, which are different ways of intervening with an existing system in relatively small ways in order to bring about big change.
The study cited one example of a ‘kick’ being subsidies for solar power — not changing the rules of an energy system, but kickstarting investment and growth. As a ‘shift’, it cited the Paris Agreement, which altered fundamental global rules and gave countries new options for tackling climate change.
These kinds of examples are out of reach for an individual — unless you are a billionaire or the president of the UN General Assembly — but there are plenty of climate change ‘SIPs’ for individuals which are very straightforward, and don’t involve anything as drastic as gluing yourself to the front of a building.
Here are our top five.
Shift: Switch to clean power
We would put this one first. But that is because it is both one of the most significant changes you can make, and amongst the easiest. Compared to the other choices on this list, switching your energy supplier is a doddle.
How does it work? Well, you may not be able to subsidise the entire solar power industry on your own, but by choosing a truly green supplier you can personally contribute to investment in the growth of renewables through your energy bills.
In order to do this, however, it is important that you choose one that is genuinely contributing. As we have recently highlighted, that is often not the case even when the supplier claims to offer ‘100% renewable’ electricity.
To help you determine if your energy supplier is truly fighting climate change or not, we have created an interactive quiz which outputs a traffic light based score. If you don’t know the answers to the questions — it is likely you will not, as often energy suppliers are less than transparent in providing this information — click here to send them to your supplier first.
switching to clean power is one of the most significant changes you can make, and amongst the easiest
If you want to be sure your supplier is investing in renewable by purchasing power direct from independent generators here in the UK, then get a quote to switch to Good Energy.
Shift: Drive and fly less
Transport is one of the most significant contributors to carbon emissions at global, national and individual level. We need to rethink how we travel. So, before any journey, consider your carbon footprint and what your options are. Do you really need to drive? Can you take public transport? Is it short enough to walk, or cycle? If not, can you car-share with anyone?
We are also huge supporters of electric vehicles at Good Energy, and would suggest anyone considering their next car look at electric options — you will not be disappointed. You may also not need to own a car at all, car ownership needs to decrease overall and give way for better shared transport methods. Today membership to a car sharing scheme like Zipcar in London or Co-Cars in the South West allow you short-term access to an electric car as and when you need it.
Air travel also has an enormous impact. Maybe it’s worth considering a holiday in the UK this year?
Kick: Buy food and groceries ethically and locally
Reducing the carbon footprint of your own travels requires a shift in mindset on your part. Through the purchasing decisions you make, you can provide a kick to businesses which has an even broader impact.
Buying locally has numerous benefits — you’ll be eating fresher tastier food, supporting small businesses, as well as knowing you have reduced your carbon footprint. For things you can’t get locally, apps like Giki badges now allow you to scan a barcode and get any product’s sustainability credentials.
You can even ask businesses if they are using renewable electricity. Good Energy is increasingly seeing businesses big and small sign up as customers, both because they want to do the right thing and because they know it is what their customers are coming to expect.
Shift: Eat less meat
Agriculture is another huge area of environmental impact, and the meat industry in particular is responsible for a very significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. So, this is one lifestyle shift which can add up to making a big difference.
Vegetarian and veganism has exploded recently with supermarkets launching meat free ranges, restaurants getting better and better at catering to new diets and no shortage of inspiring recipes online. Meaning there has never been an easier time to cut down on your intake.
If you are a heavy meat eater, maybe that means starting with meat free Mondays. Many people find cutting it out during the week is easy enough to do. Veganuary has been so successful in introducing people to meat free diets over the month-long period that they don’t go back. Once you start, you will find it more and more natural to swerve the hamburgers and hot-dogs.
Kick: Write to your local member of parliament
You may not be directly responsible for energy policy, but you have an MP who is obliged to listen to you and has a say in parliament. Check your MP’s voting record on environmental issues on theyworkforyou.com and if you feel they are due a proverbial ‘kick’ then go ahead and contact them to say so via letter, email or social media. Writetothem.com makes this process even easier.
It is good to be specific in what action you want them to take, and one current example is that of the declaration of a climate emergency. Check if your council has declared a climate emergency here, and if not then get writing.