To counter the climate emergency, we need to change the way we live to save the planet. But knowing where to start to make an impact can feel overwhelming. The truth is we can all make a difference – and we must. Here, Red's sustainability columnist, Armelle Ferguson, explains how.
If, like me, you've already ditched single-use plastics and started a meat-free diet, you’re probably wondering what’s next. You might also be asking yourself, "Is what I’m doing enough?"
The answer is no, says new grassroots climate movement The Jump (takethejump.org), which has identified six ways each of us can make more of a difference. Launched last November, The Jump offers tools, training and community support to everyone who commits to it for between one and six months.
I’ve signed up because I believe sustainable living can – and does – have an impact. The key is to make sure global warming is kept to internationally agreed safe levels of 1.5oC and, to do this, we need to reduce the impact of our consumption by two-thirds over the next 10 years. That’s a lot, but The Jump’s six green steps can help.
"The shifts we recommend people make are based on a year-long research project by the University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Arup, the global engineering consultancy," says Tom Bailey, one of The Jump’s co-founders.
"They made projections about future emissions growth across the global economy and the necessary changes needed between now and 2030 and 2050 to keep to that 1.5oC target. Most of these changes are down to business and government, but citizens and communities must also act, making rapid lifestyle shifts in how we eat, travel and shop. If we do nothing, 1.6 billion people will be exposed to extreme heat by 2050, and 2.5 billion will experience severe food insecurity, with widespread starvation by the end of the century."
But be warned: the Jump’s six shifts are not easy, so I’ve also suggested steps you can start with. Make at least one of these changes and do it for at least three months.
Sian Conway, the founder of online network Ethical Hour, says, "Last year, life changed overnight, and that was an accelerator for awareness. It brought the sustainability conversation into greater focus, and helped us see that our health is part of the planet’s health." As Bailey says, "It’s about balance. 'Less stuff, more joy' is our ethos."
Change what and how you eat
More than 25 per cent of total global emissions arise from the food system, so our current eating habits are simply not sustainable.
"Reducing food waste is the number one thing you can do to make a difference," says Tessa Clarke, who founded the OLIO app to help people share surplus produce with their community. "Try composting, eat any leftovers and make full use of your freezer," she adds.
As well as eating everything we buy, The Jump recommends replacing most of the meat and dairy we consume with plant-based alternatives that are lower in overall emissions. The livestock sector (especially industrial-scale beef production) has the most severe impact on the planet, with 33 per cent of global croplands devoted to feeding crops, and 26 per cent of the world’s ice-free land used for livestock grazing.
The upper limit for meat consumption is 16kg a year (so try a maximum of 300g per week or three servings of meat the size of the palm of your hand) and 90kg of dairy (around 1 litre of milk a week, which is more than enough for a splash in your daily tea or coffee).
The Jump: Move entirely to a plant-based diet; eat everything you buy.
First Steps: Start with two meat-free days a week, then try another day entirely vegan, and build from there.
We all did a lot more of this last year and, as a result, passenger numbers dropped by 50 per cent, with plane pollution down by almost a third in the first month of lockdown.
Anna Hughes, director of Flight Free UK, says, "In Western countries, we fly much more than average, and while aviation is responsible for 3.5 per cent of global emissions, half of these are produced by just 1 per cent of the global population."
As Bailey says, "We need to balance out how much we each fly to ensure there’s enough “carbon budget” to go around".
The Jump: Limit short-haul flights to one every three years and long-haul flights to one every eight years.
First Steps: Start by exploring the UK and Europe. Most countries there are accessible by train and/or ferry, so make the journey part of your adventure.
‘Eco’nomise your clothes
"The clothing and textiles industry now accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than international aviation and shipping combined," says Bailey, which means we need to address our addiction to fast fashion before it’s too late. Try upcycling, alterations, clothes swap and vintage shops or a hire service such as hurrcollective.com and hirestreet.co.uk.
The Jump: Only buy three items of new clothing a year.
First Steps: Operate a ‘one-in, one-out’ policy. Keep an item in your virtual ‘shopping basket’ for seven days before you decide if you really need it.
Cut down clutter
The process of extracting rare earth metals to make electronics and our addiction to buying ‘stuff’ in general is another contributor to carbon emissions. For example, according to The Jump, only 13 per cent of the Apple iPhone 11 Pro’s lifetime emissions are actually to do with its use; the other 86 per cent are associated with its production, transport and end-of-life processing.
The Jump: Keep electronic products for at least seven years.
First Steps: Most of us upgrade our phones every two to three years, so push that to at least five and start to think first about repairing, renting or buying secondhand.
Car share or go electric
Transport is responsible for a quarter of overall greenhouse gas emissions, and more than two-thirds of this comes from car engines. With vehicle ownership levels expected to double again by 2040, this creates a huge climate problem.
Last year, the government announced that petrol and diesel cars will be banned in the UK from 2030, so change is coming. Plus, while electric vehicles still account for only a tiny fraction of cars on UK roads – 164,100 out of a total of almost 32m – they are the fastest-growing type of new car sold (6.7 per cent, according to the latest figures from The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders).
The Jump: Move away from using private vehicles and switch to shared or public transport.
First Steps: If you can, try switching to an electric (EV) or hybrid vehicle.
The DS3 Crossback E-Tense (from £33,900, dsautomobiles.co.uk) is the Parisian automotive brand’s fully electric compact SUV, with a range of up to 206 miles.
Polestar, the Swedish brand, made a big impact with its first vehicle, the Polestar 1, an electric-performance hybrid GT super-car, and has just launched its all-electric, five-door fastback Polestar2 (from £49,900, polestar.com).
The fully electric Fiat 500 will be available as a hatchback or cabriolet, with up to 199 miles of range (from£19,995, fiat.co.uk/500-electric).
Change the system
While The Jump recognises that government and big business still have the largest role in reducing emissions, we as individuals have the power to put pressure on them. As Bailey says, "Protesting is important, but not for everyone. Luckily, there are many ways you can drive system change."
Switch to a green energy supplier (try Bulb or Green Energy UK), transfer your pension to
a green investor such as Triodos, or use ethical banks like Starling or The Co-operative Bank.
The Jump: Make at least one change in your life, to help transform the system. Collectively, these can have a big impact.
First Steps: If the thought of having to switch everything at once scares you, then just start with one. It’s the quickest way to make a difference.
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