As with so many of the world’s problems, dealing with climate change can feel overwhelming.
We may want to make a difference but the prospect of action can be daunting at best; and at worst: a sense of hopelessness teetering on inertia.
In March 2021, 80 per cent of people (aged 16 and over in the UK) were either very concerned (33 per cent) or fairly concerned (47 per cent) about climate change, according to a government survey of public attitudes.
But it appears this concern doesn’t necessarily translate into action.
Overall, 26 per cent of people had made at least one behaviour change that they said had been done mainly as a result of tackling climate change.
That’s not to underestimate the desire of people to change their ways.
There is a “clear appetite” from 72 per cent of the British public to learn more about ways to reduce their environmental impact, and more than half recognise that they are not yet doing enough in this regard, according to a recent report for People’s Postcode Lottery on environmental concerns and behaviours in Britain.
“Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the scale of the nature and climates crises and wonder how, as individuals, we can help wildlife and planet,” said Kathryn Brown, director of climate action at The Wildlife Trusts.
“Every action is important and doing something makes you feel better, so embrace hope and make changes that count.
“There are simple and easy things that we can all do to reduce our carbon footprint, adapt to climate change and make a big difference to the natural world – such as to reconsider what we eat, how we travel and how we use resources like water and energy.
“We can also help nature and do ourselves a favour by planting more around our homes to lower high summer temperatures and soak up floodwater – and reduce the amount of water we use to help save our precious rivers and the wildlife that depends on them.”
The Wildlife Trusts argue that the climate and nature emergencies are inextricably linked; that climate change is driving nature’s decline and the loss of wild spaces is leaving us ill-equipped to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to change.
The organisation has drawn up a list of simple things we can all do to reduce our carbon footprint, adapt to climate change and make a big difference to the natural world.
Change what you eat
Agriculture accounted for 10 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. Buying local produce, eating more plant-based foods and reducing your food miles will shrink this environmental footprint.
If all our food came from within 20km of where we live, we could save £1.2 billion every year in environmental and congestion costs.
Buying local produce can also mean less plastic packaging is used to keep food fresh and saleable as food can be transported and stored more easily.
Tips include substituting meat and dairy for plant-based foods where you can; using your local milk delivery service; buying seasonal fruit and vegetables; and checking the country of origin on labels in supermarkets.
Change how you travel
Transport accounts for 27 per cent of UK emissions. Making changes to your vehicle emissions will reduce your transport costs, fuel bills, wear and tear on your car and, if you switch to a lower emission car, reduce your road tax costs.
Choosing a greener car (hybrid and electric vehicles are greener alternatives, and electric vehicles produce no exhaust emissions when being driven) is one way to reduce your vehicle emissions.
If buying electric isn’t an option, try looking for cars with the lowest emissions.
Avoiding flights where you can (perhaps travelling by boat or train); using public transport; cycling; walking and car-sharing all help.
Avoiding using cars for short journeys; driving efficiently; and caring for your car (tyre pressure and brake upkeep can impact the level of emissions) can also make a difference.
Open the windows instead of using the air conditioning – air conditioning systems increase fuel consumption and emissions.
Change your energy use
Energy used in buildings accounts for around 17 per cent of total emissions.
Reducing your household energy use by switching to a renewable energy supplier or purchasing a heat pump will help cut down.
Turning the heating down helps as does improving your home’s energy efficiency with for example, draught-proofing strips for windows. Make sure you also have enough ventilation to ensure good air quality and cooling in summer.
The simplest measures include turning off lights when not needed, using low energy light bulbs, turning appliances off at the mains, washing clothes at a lower temperature and only filling the kettle with the water you need.
Recycle and reuse
Recycle, upcycle, and make do and mend. Production of household waste needs to decrease by 33 per cent by 2037 to reach emissions targets.
The fashion industry accounts for around 10 per cent of global carbon emissions so mending or refashioning clothes are important.
If you are not sure about fixing electrical appliances yourself keep an eye out for local stores and projects that offer a fixing service. Repair Cafe and The Restart Project hold events.
Food tins can be refashioned into plant holders while jars make great storage.
Plastic bottles can be cut open to protect plants from slugs in the garden or used to create a bird feeder.
Reduce your flood risk
Across the UK 1.9 million people live in areas of significant flooding. This number could double as early as the 2050s
.Avoid paving over gardens and replace hard surfaces with grass and plants.
Borders and lawns soak up the rain and help reduce flood risk. Even using pebbles and stones is better than concrete or slabs as it provides some drainage.
Be diverse in your planting. Some plants love wet conditions in the summer while others soak up water in the winter. A mixture of plants can help improve water absorption throughout the year.
Try creating an eco-friendly driveway and choose a hedge, not a fence.
Reduce your heat risk
Around 20 per cent of homes are at significant risk of overheating.
Shading your windows and planting more greenery around your house will help lower the temperatures.
Growing a mini meadow means mowing less often over the summer - longer grass is great for wildlife and cooling down the garden.
Maximise the ventilation and shading around your home as much as possible during the summer.
Reduce your water use
The average person uses around 140 litres of water a day, depleting the water available for wildlife.
Water metres, water-efficient appliances and water butts are among the things that can make a big difference.
Try putting a large bottle of tap water in the fridge instead of waiting for the tap to run cold.
Fill the kettle only with the water needed.
Putting lids on saucepans reduces the amount of water lost during heating.
Other tips include: using a washing-up bowl in your sink, turning the tap off while brushing your teeth, fixing a dripping tap and showering instead of bathing.
Try a water butt to catch rainwater and use this to water plants, clean your car and wash windows.
Contact your MP
By writing to your MP or meeting them in person, you can help them to understand more about a nature or climate issue that you care passionately about.
What can children do to help? Find out here: https://www.wildlifewatch.org.uk/facts-and-stories/environment
To find out more about The Wildlife Trusts visit: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/