I’ve been passionate about nature and the problems our amazing planet (and therefore us) are facing, for quite some time. But I know there’s still more I can do to minimise my impact. It’s already a big part of my life – working for WWF, it’s no surprise that the environment pops up in my decision making on a daily basis. But I’m the first to admit that trying to live a low impact life isn’t always easy. For many of us, life today can present some challenges when we’re trying to be good Earth citizens.
Often we’re trying to change the way we do things. For many, change can be challenging; we’re creatures of habit. Sometimes we’re just unsure what the best option is; there’s no database that tells you the best environmental option for every scenario in life. But remember – you’re not alone. People’s awareness and knowledge of environmental issues and our utter dependency on nature, is increasing. With that, comes changes which make it easier to move towards a happy, healthy way of life that doesn’t impact negatively on others.
Sustainable products and services become better, more available and cheaper. And people’s perceptions change. I remember a story a colleague once told, about how she’d been met by awkward silence at parties when she said she was a climate campaigner. When I tell people what I do now, I mostly get an ‘oh, that’s interesting, becoming pretty big all that environmental stuff isn’t it’ type response, followed by a bunch of questions.
The point is, we know that we and future generations need change if we’re going to have the kind of life we want, and we already have the knowledge required to make the changes needed now. And it doesn’t matter if you’re an outdoor enthusiast or you just enjoy breathing (pretty important, that air stuff), every one of us is affected by what happens to nature.
Whether you already live in a self-sustaining, solar panel-clad house and grow your own food (if you’re wondering, I’m not quite there yet), or you’re just starting to think about how you can be part of a more sustainable lifestyle, there’s something all of us can do.
So whatever you do with the environment in mind in 2017, grab some inspiration from the ideas below and give nature a helping hand – after all, nature’s already doing quite a lot for you!
Back to basics
There’s a multitude of tips out there about what we can do in everyday life to help the environment. Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of these; it’s sometimes easy to slip back into old ways. But rather than hit you with a long checklist, I want to share my simple approach: ‘use less, waste less‘ – you can apply this to pretty much everything. Stuff you buy, water, energy and fuel you use, food you eat (I’m not suggesting dieting, just wasting less food!).
We’re using the Earth’s resources faster than it can replenish them, and consuming too much stuff that nature can’t cope with. And, many of the processes that give us everything we want and need contribute to climate change. So, by simply consuming less, making things last longer and recycling more, we can make a big difference (‘mend and make do’ is just retro now anyway right?!).
This applies to everyday actions like using re-usable water bottles and coffee cups (if you missed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s eye-opener, there’s next to no chance the paper coffee vessel you’re clutching will get recycled), and bigger decisions like insulating your home or taking fewer long haul flights. This approach saves money too! (So you can afford those shiny solar panels you want.) And remember, buy one get one free is only a bargain if you actually use the free one.
It’s true we need greater changes than simply turning the tap off when brushing our teeth, but what might seem like small actions can make a difference when taken by many. And, our actions must reflect what we want, if we’re to convince others about those bigger changes:
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Jalaluddin Rumi, poet.
Make your view count
Those bigger changes we mentioned – they need the involvement of governments and big business. Now, I know you might sometimes feel like you want to live like a caveman and hide away from life involving politics and adverts (just me?), but the fact is we’re all part of this world, and we’re all affected by decisions made by people in power.
So, stand up and join others making their voice heard. Whether you sign online petitions or join a climate march, we know people power really can make a difference. Check out our campaigns page to add your voice to current campaigns.
Use your purchasing power
You have power as a consumer – use it. Your money can work for the environment by supporting companies and organisations whose products and practices are more eco-friendly than others. Ask questions, give feedback – companies care about what’s important to their customers.
There are a number of certification scheme logos you can look for when buying everyday items, which helps support sustainable practices. Some of the logos to look for are: FSC for paper and wood products, MSC and ASC for fish and seafood, RSPO for products containing palm oil, Fairtrade, Organic and Rainforest Alliance for many items including fruit and veg, RSPCA Assured for meat and eggs and a good EU Energy Rating for electrical appliances. Look for products made from recycled materials and which are recyclable (find out what all those recycling logos actually mean!).
When buying services, check companies’ websites or speak to them – do they give you any information about their commitments to the environment and what they’re doing to reduce their impact? Do they have an environmental policy or certifications to environmental or sustainability standards?
Get creative in the kitchen
Food, glorious food – most of us are in a life-long love affair with it. It’s a personal thing. It’s a cultural thing. But the fact is, meat, dairy and processed foods have become a huge part of today’s diet in many parts of the world, and it’s not just nature that’s suffering for it, but our health too.
Reducing your impact through your diet doesn’t have to mean drastic changes like eating cucumber for breakfast, lunch and dinner. By following the Livewell principles; eating more whole grains and plant based foods and less meat and dairy, buying less processed food and more whole, local foods, we can make a difference. There’s a plethora of recipes out there to help you, and chances are you’ll find some new things you love!
Get active or let someone else do the work
Road travel is a big part of everyday life for most people. Technology will do wonders, but until the day comes when vehicles produce no harmful gases, we can all play our part. Whether you walk, cycle, run, skate or use public transport for one journey a week or all your journeys, it’s not just the planet that benefits – your health can too. If you need a goal to motivate you to get more active, take a look at our Team Panda events!
Time to get a new car? Check out the emissions when making your decision (you can save loads on road tax!).
Going away? Why not use trains for part or all of your journey rather than flying, and turn your journey into more of a travel experience? You’ll see so much more and you can build stops at other interesting places into your trip.
Find out your footprint
Find out how big your environmental impact currently is with our footprint calculator, and get tips on how to improve.