This Saturday, 24 March, is WWF Earth Hour - a global movement of people standing in solidarity for our planet by turning out their lights for an hour at 8:30pm. WWF is also asking people to make a promise for the planet - a small swap of your choice which will have a positive impact on our environment. I encourage you to sign up - for every promise made, Ariel UK will donate £1 to environmental causes. In the spirit of Earth Hour, I decided to put together a list of five simple steps you can take today to reduce your carbon footprint and help mitigate the negative effects of climate change.
Start washing your clothes on cold
This is a great switch that will reduce your carbon footprint instantly. 75% of the energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions from washing a load of laundry come from heating the water. There has been a big push to encourage people to switch to 30 degree washes (including by WWF!), but now is the time to switch to cold! Modern day detergents are designed to work well at cold temperatures, and to truly ‘sanitise’ your items (as you think you might be by washing hot) you would need to wash at a temperature far higher than most washing machines offer. I have been washing my clothes cold for almost a year now and I’ve had no issues. My clothes are perfectly clean and I’ve found it to be less wearing on them too e.g. they don’t lose their colour or shape. Take a positive step for the climate and start washing on cold.
Buy loose vegetables instead of plastic packaged
We all know by now that plastic pollution is wreaking havoc on our oceans. The recent boom in coverage of this issue around the world is incredible and very encouraging. It’s so important to understand that recycling is a great place to start but a bad place to stop. We desperately need to reduce our demand for plastic in the first place, in order to effectively tackle this issue. A really simple and easy first step to reducing your plastic consumption is to start buying loose vegetables instead of pre-packaged ones. Have a look next time you are in the supermarket and you’ll find loose veggies in amongst the piles of packaged ones. I actually find my veggies end up being cheaper when I buy loose, too - a win, win! Forget the plastic produce bags - they serve no purpose. If you are feeling more committed to the cause, buy yourself some nice cotton produce bags and use these.
Shop second hand first
This is another switch which has a significant impact on your overall carbon footprint. The modern day ability to jump on Amazon and order something instantly might be convenient, but it most definitely is not a sustainable way of shopping. It’s astounding much ‘stuff’ already exists, and most of the time there will be someone out there trying to get rid of exactly the item you are looking for. Make an effort to shop second hand first - look in your local charity shop, check gumtree or eBay or post in a buy swap sell Facebook group local to you. There are also so many ways to shop second hand for fashion, beyond local charity and vintage shops - check out the Depop app or Vinted if you're in the UK. You can read more about why it is so beneficial to buy less and buy second hand here.
Eat less meat and dairy
I've talked extensively about the connection between consuming meat and climate change. Animal agriculture is a leading contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. Eating less meat and dairy is one of the most effective ways of reducing your carbon footprint. Consumers have the power to drive industry towards alternatives to the mass production of meat - and it's already starting to happen. You can signal to the world that you no longer want to support this environmentally destructive industry by simply choosing to go meat and dairy-free a few days a week. For those who want to take the leap into vegetarianism or veganism - fantastic! Why not read my guide for going plant-based for tips on getting started?
Offset your flights
For those living in the global north, flying has become a part of most people’s lives. While the transport industry, overall, contributes a fairly small % to greenhouse gas emissions (compared with other industries like animal agriculture), it is clearly a carbon intensive form of transport. I’ve vowed to offset every single flight I take this year. Although not flying at all would be the most sustainable option, it’s simply not possible for most. Why not start offsetting your flights too? A small step for the protecting our planet and alleviating some of the guilt of flying. I recommend using Reforestum to offset your emissions - they plant trees to offset your emissions and you can even select where you would like to your trees to be planted!
Taking just one of the steps I've outlined above is a huge win for the planet. Right now, we are facing some huge environmental challenges and while government policy and systemic change is most certainly required to tackle these challenges, individuals play a role too. It's time to stand for what we stand on and make the conscious choice to contribute to the solution, not the problem.