When faced with a problem as big as climate change it is easy to feel disempowered. The threat is huge and can only be solved by global action.
I used to feel helpless, until I realised that global environmental problems are caused by widely replicated local actions, both big and small. The realisation that every individual is both part of the cause and part of the solution started to make me feel stronger: I felt I could do something to change the world. Every little action I took in the future could either help solve, or make worse, the problem of climate change.
More than 50 Catholic organisations have signed up to the Live Simply project which encourages us all to “live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with the poor” and aims to put us back in touch with the things that really matter in life. This Lent, see what you can do to create a brighter, more equitable and sustainable future. Remember that what we can do here in Britain helps everyone, especially people in the poorest countries who will be hit first and worst by the impacts of a changing climate.
1With the present economic downturn, having the courage to look at your spending is vital. Are all the things you buy necessary? The less you consume, the smaller your impact on the environment.
2At the last count, there were 4,515 public libraries and 846 academic libraries in Britain. Borrowing books rather than buying them saves you money and means many people share just one resource.
3Drinking tap water is an easy way to reduce your impact on the environment. In Britain 80 per cent of bottled water is sold in plastic bottles made from PET, a plastic made from oil. The UK bottled water industry uses 50,000 tonnes of PET per year, which equates to 150,000 tonnes of CO2. According to Thames Water, a litre of its mains tap water emits around 600 times less CO2 than some of the leading bottled water brands.
4There are lots of things you can do to conserve water. Remember wasted water gets re-processed so it is clean enough to go back into your taps. That uses up a lot of energy. So don’t let your taps run, fix any drips, put a brick in your toilet cistern, catch rainwater in an outdoor butt for plants, take a shower instead of a bath, and if you must have a bath – share the water. When you’ve done the washing up, remember that “grey water” is ok to put on your plants.
5Learn a musical instrument. It doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby – a recorder or penny whistle will do – but it’s good for your health and mental agility. It also stops you watching television, and unless it’s an electric instrument, it should be a time when you’re not using any external resources.
6Comedian Billy Connolly once said: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.” Get your waterproofs on and, if you can, walk to work, school, or the shops. If you have a longer distance, get on your bike, if you can. All these activities use people power rather than fossil fuels. You’re cutting your emissions and you’re being good to your heart and body.
7Over Lent, try to replace at least one main area bulb with an energy-saving bulb.
8Where possible, take public transport on long journeys (and preferably a train and not a plane).
9When you use your car, see if you can join a carshare scheme so you never travel alone.
10 Before you buy your own garden and 10 Before you buy your own garden and household tools, does your neighbour already have the ones you need? Sharing saves resources and tightens your community.
11Individual actions are vital but we also need combined international political action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Get involved in campaigning for a fair international climate deal. Cafod launches its Climate Justice campaign on March 12 (cafod.org.uk/climatejustice).
12Change your present energy supplier over to a renewable energy supplier. It costs a little more, but it doesn’t cost the earth.
13Live Simply calls on people to live their lives more simply, sustainably and in solidarity with people who are poor. The project, aimed at parishes, schools and individuals, is supported by 55 Catholic organisations in England and Wales. Join the Live Simply challenge: cafod.org.uk/ livesimply.
14 Never eat alone! Cooking for more 14 Never eat alone! Cooking for more than one and in batches is energy-efficient. Delia Smith’s re-released book Frugal Food, for example, can help you make the most of your ingredients. Cooking from scratch is usually better for you and the environment because you have full control over what you’re eating.
15Try to buy organic, Fairtrade or local food. It can be more expensive in the supermarkets, but there are usually local organic box deliveries that are tailored to your needs and your pocket. Organic means fewer fertilisers and that means fewer resources used up to grow your fruit and vegetables, fewer chemicals entering your body, the soil and the surrounding water sources. Local means fewer emissions due to fewer miles travelled, and Fairtrade products are usually better for the environment because they support local farmers and encourage farming practices that are environmentally sustainable. 16 Cut the meat! Just a couple of meat-free 16 Cut the meat! Just a couple of meat-free meals a week can cut your emissions considerably. If you think about what resources are used to grow a kilo of carrots in comparison to a kilo of beef – with a cow’s intake of food and water, the land needed for grazing, the methane the cow itself pumps out, the slaughter process and so on – you’ll understand how cutting some meat from your diet will help the environment. When you do eat meat, try to make it organic, local and free-range.
7 You’ve heard it before, but switching off your gadgets so none is left on standby saves energy and money.
18If you want to buy something, see if you can get it second-hand in your local charity shops. The longer we use and enjoy something the more the resources that have gone into the item have not been wasted. And, of course, the money goes to a good cause.
19Another way to get new stuff without costing the earth is to join a recycling network. Freecycle is an online group where individuals advertise unwanted items for free collection. From sofas to wedding dresses, it’s a great way to make sure your unwanted things find a new home.
20Think about your body and what it can do. Machines and chemicals are marvellous things, but they use fuel and resources. In the past we would have carried out many tasks ourselves instead of using machines or letting chemicals do the work. See if you can walk somewhere rather than take transport; collect leaves with a rake rather than using a blower; do the washing up (but think about water consumption) rather than using the dishwasher; put some elbow grease into the cleaning of your home or car instead of relying on chemicals.
21 Create a nature garden. Let one part of your 21 Create a nature garden. Let one part of your garden go wild. It will attract insects and animals and means you can relax on those summer days rather than mowing.
Turn your central heat ing down a few 22degrees. It saves money and helps the environment.
23 Wash your clothes at the lowest temperature possible.
24 Try to minimise the harsh cleaning chemi 24 Try to minimise the harsh cleaning chemi cals in your home. There are many environmentally friendly alternatives now which do a good job.
25 Get outside! Go for a walk, fly a kite, take a 25 Get outside! Go for a walk, fly a kite, take a flask of hot tea, take the kids, look for fossils, birdwatch and remember your place in nature. Why not organise a “creation walk” in your community, check out cafod.org.uk/climatekit for ideas.
26If you’re buying new white goods, like fridges or washing machines, only buy the “energy efficient” versions.
27 Learn more about nature and climate 27 Learn more about nature and climate change. The more you relate to your environment, the more you will understand how to protect it. There is so much you can learn – from clouds to stars, from wild flowers to birds and insects. Join your local parish or community to reflect on God’s creation and how we can all help it flourish.
28Ifyou’re thinking of buying a new car, think again. Is your old car too worn out to fix? It may actually use fewer resources to mend your old car than to bring a brand new one on to the road.
If you fly frequently for work see if your 29company can organise meetings via videoconference. Just one saved flight has a huge impact on cutting your carbon emissions.
30 Holiday in Britain, or if you do want to fly to 30 Holiday in Britain, or if you do want to fly to your holiday destination, try to make it as long a holiday as possible to make it worthwhile. Also make sure you take direct flights – it’s the taking off and landing that uses most fuel, and, where possible, choose an airline with a modern, fuel-efficient fleet.
31 Insulate your home. Lagging the roof space 31 Insulate your home. Lagging the roof space and cavity walls is one of the best ways to cut your fuel bills and help your environment. If you want to take this further, you could have a heat-loss photograph taken of your home to identify the routes of escape for your energy.
32 Work out your carbon footprint. You can do 32 Work out your carbon footprint. You can do this in great detail or as an estimate. The Energy Saving Trust can help you calculate your annual emissions.
If you have space in a If you have space in a garden or allotment, 33grow your own food. Not only is this the most efficient way to feed yourself and your family, it will rejuvenate your relationship with nature. It’s also a great way to involve neighbours in sharing the hard work, and benefiting from the fruits (or vegetables) of your labours.
34 Recycle as much of your waste as possible 34 Recycle as much of your waste as possible and make sure you understand what your local authority waste contractor can and cannot recycle. The wrong type of plastic in a bag or box of recycling can contaminate the whole lot and mean it ends up in landfill. Try to recycle your waste food with a compost bin or wormery. 35 Reducing the amount you consume, and the 35 Reducing the amount you consume, and the packaging it comes in, will reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill or the recycling facilities. Try also to reuse anything you can – from yoghurt pots and jars as containers, to worn-out clothes as cleaning clothes or cushion covers. Remember that recycling is great, but it uses energy.
36 Protecting your envi ronment and that of 36 Protecting your envi ronment and that of people in developing countries shouldn’t be a chore or a sacrifice – just a change of habit. But when you have done something with the environment in mind, remember to give yourself a pat on the back. You are wonderful, and you mustn’t forget it!
37In fact, to reward yourself, perhaps a small glass of organic, Fairtrade or locally made beer or wine is in order. If you invite others to share your bottle and a meal, you will collectively save on heating, cooking energy, support a sustainable industry and it’s a chance to tell your friends about how you are helping the environment this Lent.
38 Plant a native species of tree. It takes many 38 Plant a native species of tree. It takes many years for trees to make an impact on carbon dioxide levels, but it’s a good start. Native trees provide habitats for Britain’s wildlife.
39 Talk to someone who has lived a long time. 39 Talk to someone who has lived a long time.
Ask them about a saying like “waste not want not” and if they lived through the War, find out how they coped with rationing. They will most likely have a huge amount of knowledge about how to reuse and recycle, cook from scratch, grow fruit and vegetables, or make something old into something new.
40 Go to a gallery or read a poem about nature. It 40 Go to a gallery or read a poem about nature. It will remind you just how sublime it can be, and how vital it has been to inspiring humans to their highest levels of creativity.