Climate Change Checklist

In a slightly different style to my usual posts, I wanted to share a list of ways in which you can ensure that you are doing your part to safeguard the planet for the near future.

If you have any other suggestions for the list, I would love to hear them.

In the home
  1. My energy provider sources all their electricity from renewables or nuclear power
  2. When buying new furniture / appliances / clothing etc, I:
    • Consider if I really need to buy more
    • Purchase second hand items where available
    • Sell or donate the old items to be used again
    • Ensure that the old item is responsibly recycled if it can’t be re-used
  3. I have replaced all lightbulbs with low energy equivalents, and ensure no lights are left on when not required
  4. When heating my house, I:
    • Only use the heating in the colder months of the year
    • Only heat the rooms that I am using, for when I need to use them
    • Don’t heat rooms above 20°C, or less if I am not sedentary
  5. I have checked for drafts and repaired to reduce air leaks
  6. When buying new appliances, I prioritise energy efficiency as a key purchase consideration
  7. When washing clothes, wash at 30°C unless heavily soiled
  8. Select bar soap and shampoo over liquid soap, shower gel or bottle shampoo
  9. I choose clothes made from natural fibres rather than synthetics, such as cotton or wool
When buying food / eating
  1. I make an effort to buy only local, seasonal produce
  2. I limit the amount of red meat I eat to maximum one portion per week
  3. I actively try to minimise the quantity of all meat that I consume, in favour of vegetable based protein alternatives
  4. I’ve considered switching to non-dairy alternatives
  5. I manage my food so that none is wasted, and only buy what I need. I do this by planning meals ahead, freezing excess food, and re-using leftovers.
  6. When disposing of food scraps, I:
    • Use a food digester for processed, cooked foods, meat, fish and bones and then add to the compost
    • Compost raw fruit and vegetable in a garden composter
    • Use the council food waste collection service if I have no garden, so that it can be recycled as biowaste energy
  7. I eat at restaurants that emphasise local seasonal produce
  8. Bring a cloth bag or bag for life for shopping – don’t keep buying or using new plastic bags
For getting around
  1. I walk or cycle wherever possible for short journeys
  2. When getting about the city, I will use public transport wherever practicable
  3. If I need to use the car, I:
    • will make an effort to car share
    • will ensure that the car is well maintained and tyres are correctly inflated
    • will ensure that I am not carrying any unnecessary weight around
    • will drive in a fuel conscious fashion, avoiding excessive acceleration and braking
  4. For travelling between towns, I will use the train or coach where a service exists
For holidays
  1. I will avoid flying wherever possible
  2. I will consider destinations that I can reach by road, rail or ferry
  3. If I choose holidays that requires a plane, I will take fewer and longer holidays to minimise the number of flights I take
  4. When flying, I will always select Economy class – and definitely won’t commission a private jet!
  5. If I do fly, due to the huge carbon footprint this creates, I will make a point of investing in a carbon offset scheme to mitigate this
With work
  1. I will encourage video-conferencing or conference call meetings wherever possible to avoid business travel
  2. If compatible with the nature of my employment, I will work from home some days per week to reduce commuting and office costs
  3. Promote environmentally friendly policies in the workplace
For the rest
  1. Calculate the carbon footprint you haven’t been able to help each year
  2. Invest in a carbon offset scheme to mitigate your personal emissions
  3. Don’t use this as a reason to stop trying to reduce your emissions

5 comments on “Climate Change Checklist

  1. These are all valid points in an immensely complex problem.

    I agree that the manufacturing costs of plastics makes them appealing. But the safe disposal of used plastic is a huge disgrace.

    Much of it cannot be recycled and is dumped in China or Malaysia. We should be embarrassed about this.

    However, I came accros a company using plastics that cannot be recycled in the normal way, usib it to make durable road covering

    Saving on oil based bitumen.

  2. Colin makes some very valid points. There are no easy answers. Almost everything we do has a climate impact.

    My answer is to try to do nothing. I do try to shop local for local produce. But, our nearest farm shop is a 15 minute drive away. And blanching and freezing has an energy cost.

    However, my aim is to limit my impact not stop it.

    When I’m gone my impact will cease. But only after my remains have been cremated. The cremation process must use a lot of gas.

    • You don’t necessarily have to go to the farm shop – and there is an argument that making lots of individual trips to local stores (if you need to use a vehicle) is counterproductive. It could be as simple as adjusting what you buy – when shopping at the supermarket, buy produce that has been grown here in the UK. Also reduce the frequency that you eat meat – beef and lamb in particular as these animals ruminate, which releases large quantities of methane into the atmosphere, which is far more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2

      Freezing does have an energy cost but it is surprisingly low – in general, if you are desperate to buy out of season, buying frozen UK produce will have a lower footprint than air freighted produce from the southern hemisphere. It is certainly better to freeze than to waste food. And if you have a freezer running already, the incremental cost of putting food in it is minimal – in fact a full freezer runs more efficiently than an empty one!

  3. One thing that’s worth considering as a consumer is not only do products have a carbon footprint from their delivery (Moroccan strawberries consumed in Scotland vs Scottish) as you mention, and single use plastic waste is certainly up there in the top tier of climate emergency, but one thing that is rarely considered is manufacturing energy.

    The old adage about needing to reuse a cloth bag 7000 times for it to be of use is not without its merit. Plastic is popular because it is so cheap and so efficient to produce, so it’s useful to consider actually what’s going in to the reusable product you’re buying, and if you should actually be buying it. I don’t know what the right answer is but it’s definitely something that needs considered.

    A study done by heriot-watt showed that if we were to immediately replace single use plastics with non-plastic alternatives, the increased power demand would sky rocket uncontrollably, as would the emissions associated with it.

    What I’d love to see are entrepreneurs getting behind reusable plastics as part of their business model, having a cheap to produce plastic bottle for example that can get refilled at any of a number of refill stations, so if you liked to drink soft drinks, you could could potentially be cutting down your consumption from 300 plastic bottles per year to 12, or maybe even fewer. Extrapolate for other products, but you get the picture.

    Also – dairy-free alternatives are another tight rope on which to walk. From an environmental point of view, I’d sooner consider cutting out dairy and its imitations altogether than replace it with the likes of soy/almond/coconut based replacements, as these are just as impactful.

    • Good points, thanks Colin. The plastic one is an interesting dilemma, however I suppose the consideration here is not the manufacturing cost, but rather the environmental pollution – cloth at least will biodegrade harmlessly over time.

      An interesting initiative I learned about while I lived in Germany, is drinks sold in plastic bottles (e.g. Coca Cola) are sold in much sturdier plastic bottles than in the UK, and carry a 25 cent deposit. When the bottles are returned, they are chemically cleaned and then refilled, in theory to cut down on waste and manufacturing. It would be interesting to see a study of this compared to single use plastic.

      With regards to dairy replacements, there are a lot of rumours going around on the impact, but this is largely due to misrepresentations of the data. Soya is considered very impactful due to land clearance, but that is because around 70% of grown soya is for animal consumption. If we were to consider the impact only of the soya required to create 1 litre of “milk” then it has a footprint of approximately a third of dairy milk, according to a study by Oxford University.