60 actions to help tackle climate change

We asked our readers what actions they were taking to reduce their personal carbon footprint.

We had a massive response and here we list 60 of the most popular, achievable and interesting ideas on how to tackle climate change.

We’ve devised actions into categories to make it easier to follow. The actions are in no particular order. We’re sorry we couldn’t include all your ideas in the list below.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

As you might expect the 3Rs were a big theme in readers' responses.

1. “I buy fewer, better quality things and make things last” said Margaret of Much Hadham, which seemed to set the tone of your responses.

2. Carrying a re-useable coffee cup, water bottle and shopping bag were three of the main things readers such as @nickyclemo were doing to cut down on plastic waste.

3. Many of you are also using Terracycle to recycle things local councils were not able to. This included everything from asthma inhalers to crisp packets. Some had also arranged Terracycle bins in local community buildings such as churches. Keri from Aldershot is  “transforming our non recyclable plastics into ecobricks”.

4. Shopping at local markets or independent stores to reduce plastic packaging is also popular. Hilary from Wiltshire uses her local health food shop which has recently launched a product refill scheme to cut back on the amount of packaging needed.

5. Paul from London has been on a mission at work where he has helped set up two recycling areas. The first is on the shop floor where they now collect plastic pallets, the second is in the communal kitchen where they now better sort their lunch time waste.

People were also:
    • Using biodegradable or re-usable nappies
    • Avoiding unnecessary packaging
    • Doing their own plastic audit to see where they can reduce plastic consumption
    • Taking bottle tops to local Lush stores for recycling

Travel and Transport

Image: bamboo bikes

The general feeling in this sector seemed to be to ditch the car in favour of walking, cycling or public transport.  Others took a more nuanced approach to driving.

6. Walking more
Alice from London says, “I walk as much as possible. I moved closer to work 8 years ago, so I can walk 4 miles a day rather than driving 60 miles. It's better for my physical and mental heath too!

7. Cycling more
Many of you simply advocated cycling more to replace car travel. 
For families and business journeys the Urban Arrow electric cargo bike was suggested along with its all weather cover and cape. “Bring on the rain” says Guy From London.
Readers were also involved in fitting cycle racks at schools, work and places of worship to encourage cycling.

8. Electric cars
There were mixed opinions over electric cars.
Many of you are buying electric cars including Julie-Ann @NaiveHelpWish.
However others are less keen. Poppy from Birmingham avoids cars (including electric which still produce particulate pollution), opting for public transport and cycling instead. Aqeel has avoided an electric car due to the human rights & environmental issues associated with mining for the minerals and metals in the batteries.

9. Using a car club or car sharing
Some of you also mentioned joining a car club, and one person suggested ecarclub.co.uk. A “rural dweller with NO public transport... shares lifts with neighbours to local events & classes”.

10. Setting targets to help reduce car use
We all know that due to work and family commitments dumping the car altogether isn’t always possible. David from Ilford has instead set himself a reduction target “from 6,000 to 2,000 miles per year”.

11. Avoiding long journeys by car
Ruth from Dunmow went a step further by moving closer to friends and family to avoid the need for longer journeys. While another reader described this as “Adopting a postcode lifestyle - trying to work, shop and take leisure activities near to home.”

12. Flying less or not at all
Many of you were giving up flying and instead holidaying in the UK, or Europe and using the train. Two sites recommended to help with this were www.seat61.com and https://loco2.com.
Anna from Llanidloes [@ethicalchange] says “I have stopped flying for holidays, and seriously ask before doing it for work or family reasons. Is this really needed?”.

13. Video conferencing
Lorna from Swansea was using more video conferencing to cut down on business travel, @rebeccaxlcr has replaced it with Skype.

 

Energy

Image: Solar PV Panels

Reducing energy consumption was another of the more popular categories.  As well as the more obvious ‘keeping the thermostat on 18C’ and ‘turning off the lights when leaving a room’ there were many other reader actions.

14. Using low energy LED lightbulbs
The switch to ultra-low energy LED lightbulbs is well underway in the UK. Eveline from Henley was one reader amongst many who was using them.

15. Using a green energy tariff
This was one of the most popular actions. The two green energy providers most often quoted were Ecotricity and Good Energy.

16. Getting solar panels for your house
Despite the costs and reduction in feed-in tariffs many of you have already installed solar panels, including David from Bridgeport (@djneylan1) who installed ~4kW of solar PV and connected it to the grid.

17. Looking for energy efficient appliances
Many of you were buying the most energy efficient appliances by looking for the highest energy rated e.g. A+++ fridges, A+ rated boilers and A+++ washing machines. People were also turning the water temperature down on both the boiler and the washing machine.

18. Insulating houses
@gavingowans was using “Lots of insulation” as a way to cut down on emissions and save on heating costs. Ideas included: improved cavity wall insulation or cladding coupled with better loft insulation, and maybe even a chimney balloon which keeps warm air in and cold air out!

 

Food and Drink

Image: organic veg box

19. Going vegan (or at least flexitarian)
Perhaps the most popular action in the survey was going vegan. Cutting back on meat and dairy intake make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Kristen from Los Angeles is cutting out beef specifically as cattle farming is a big source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cowspiracy was an oft-quoted source of information and inspiration.

Many of you, such as @seevsea, also said you’d cut down on the amount of meat you consumed: from only eating meat at the weekends to having meat one day a week.

Many more of you, including David from Cardiff, have also ditched dairy products, most often for either soya or oat varieties.

20. Buying organic fruit and veg
Many readers are buying organic fruit and veg where possible, with some are opting for box schemes. CJ from Telford uses Riverford, but Able and Cole and more local schemes were also mentioned.

21. Buying more seasonal foods
To cut down on resource-intensive farming and food miles many of you like Jean from London are trying only to buy seasonal fruit and veg.

22. Locally grown food
There is a real appetite among our readers for using local farmers' markets to help cut down on food air miles. “An interesting experiment is to eat only UK produced food for a month,” says Cathy from Wales.
@alifemoresimple suggested joining a Community Supported Agriculture scheme for fresh local vegetables and no plastic packaging.

23. Growing your own organic veg
Quite a few of you were turning your own gardens into mini allotments to help reduce food miles. @gendor is one such reader.

24. Composting food waste
There were all kinds of compost suggestions including from @jimd106 from Swansea who now only uses loose leaf tea and composts the waste.

25. Boycotting palm oil
With the explosion of palm plantations and the forests being cut (or burnt) down to grow it many of you including Liz from St Neots, were boycotting palm oil.  Find out how to do this on on our Palm Oil free list.

26. Buying in bulk
Some of you are shopping in bulk from local stores that offered zero packaging. Two stores mentioned were the vegan zero waste food store Hetu in South West London and plasticfreepantry.co.uk.

27. Cooking from scratch
Many readers are cooking from scratch with fresh veggies to cut down on packaged processed foods. Erin from Devon also makes her own “soya milk easily with a soyabella machine to save on all those cartons and to reduce transport costs.” Others are baking their own bread. “Irish soda bread is dead easy” according to Anne from Northallerton.

28. Reducing food waste
@sharmayneW is only buying the food she needs and eating all the food she buys. “Planning meals for the week ahead helps”, she says. Hannah carries an empty lunch-box to fill with leftovers if eating out. A couple of people mentioned using Oddbox to eat veg that was misshapen, and food sharing apps such as Olio to help reduce consumption.

29. Not buying bottled water
Sue in North London “Uses the tap”. Good advice we think.

 

Money

divest

30. Divesting money from fossil fuels
Changing bank accounts was an important action for many of you. A large number are now banking with Triodos and have divested from fossil fuels in everything from your ISAs to pensions.

31. Pressuring financial institutions
“Pressurising my financial institutions (including my pension fund)  to divest from fossil fuels is probably the most effective thing I do”, says @rebeccaxlcr from London.

32. Finance campaigns
Some also mentioned Christian Aid’s Big Shift Campaign as a good way to get involved in pressuring the banks into changing their investment habits.

33. Renewable and community energy investments
Investing in a community energy project is also a popular action. Readers suggested checking out www.gmcr.org.uk, Sheffield Community Renewables, or Abundance for opportunities.

 

Ethical Fashion

Image: grass jackets extinction rebellion road blocks at london fashion week 2019

34. Buying pre-loved
I've made a pledge to stop buying clothes other than second-hand or from ethical clothing brands” says Cherry from Edinburgh.  She was one among many of you that suggested this.

35. Buying ethical when new
When buying new clothing, I only buy organic (and Fairtrade) cotton clothing, or clothing made from recycled materials, or where full traceability can be provided” said one anonymous reader.  Many others echoed this in their responses.

36. Mending old clothes
Readers are darning their socks and mending their denim like its 1950! Good on you. “I mend clothes! And I teach sewing so others can do the same” enthuses Cherry from Edinburgh again.

37. Clothes swapping
@alysond106 goes to clothes swapping parties -  she goes to one where “if you take ten items, you're allowed to take ten home.” Sounds like a good deal.

 

Health and beauty

Image: soap bars

38. Cutting down on cosmetics
I’ve stopped conditioning my hair! One less product, plus shorter showers. I have waist length fine hair so I never thought it possible but after a little adjustment I don’t notice the difference”, says Josie from Lydden.

39. Changing the type of cosmetics
@MathesonJoanne is now using only bars of soap and shampoo bars to cut down on plastic bottles (many other were doing the same). Ellen from Lowestoft was one of a number of people making their own shampoo bars.

40. Using environmentally friendly sanitary products
@wbal,bra72 is using plastic free sanitary protection and others are going for re-usable protection as advocated by several other readers.

 

Home and Garden

Image: gardening

41. Using eco household consumables
Clare from Mold uses eco cleaning products from BioD and Ecozone.
In addition Sharmayne (@sharmayneW) from Edinburgh now also uses home compostable bin liners.
Rich from Cambridge goes a step further; “I’m buying refills of detergents and cleaning sprays from a local co-operative (https://dailybreadcambridge.org), and reusing old bottles.”

42. Making your own cloths
I use a hand knitted dishcloth instead of a plastic sponge for washing up” says Barbara from Birmingham.  Others, such as Hannah from Brentwood, said they use old clothing for this.

43. Making your own cleaners
I use bicarbonate of soda and/or borax substitute, (which also comes in plastic free packaging), for all household cleaning” says Catherine from Rochester.
Anne “cleans the toilet with citric acid which comes in a box with no plastic and is safe for the environment.”

44. Keeping your front garden green
John from Borehamwood complains that too many front gardens have been paved over for car parking space losing vital inner-city green spaces. He has kept his green and urges others to do the same. Others suggest planting a wildlife friendly garden, complete with ponds and wildflowers. 

45. Creating a community garden
@Jules_MK from Loughborough helped set up a “Greening group in our village. One of our actions is that we've planted an orchard”. Others volunteered at local community gardens to encourage local and sustainable food production. Many others were gardening organically, planting trees and growing food (see also food section above).

46. Building your own eco home!
Going the extra mile, and then some, is Anthony @saddlecrazy from Somerset “We have built a straw bale Passivhaus ecohouse.” Go Anthony.

 

Campaigning and Political Pressure

school climate strike

The majority of our readers also advocated, and were taking part in, some form of campaigning.

47. Pressuring local councils
David from Bath is trying to persuade his local authority to go carbon neutral. While Heather from Tywyn (@heatherywales) formed a local action group (which was also suggested by many others) and got their local council to declare a climate emergency.

48. Using the ballot box
Vote for people locally and nationally that want to make changes. Individual change is great but the larger scale changes require (unfortunately) governments and corporations to change” said one reader. Many of you also suggested voting for the Green Party.

There were many local campaigns mentioned too. @DeniseVFriend was campaigning for water fountains across Brighton to cut down on bottled water use.

49. Pressuring companies
@RebeccaFricker from Loughton was “lobbying companies regularly about sustainability”. Julia from Gosport contacts online businesses about the amount of packaging they use. Kerstin from London  presses “local supermarkets to cut down on plastic packaging, unpacking everything [in store] and leaving packaging at the till”.

50. Signing and sharing online petitions
A large number were signing and sharing online petitions. No doubt we all have at least one in our inbox right now from the likes of change.org or SumofUs!

51. Campaigning at work
Adeline from London has been“launching a sustainability initiative at the company I work for (review of the way we do business, our suppliers, communication around climate change etc.)
@keziasmithe has also been “advocating for and develop environmental policies” where she works.

52. Joining a group to take collective action
There were a whole range of campaigns that people are also supporting. Here are a selection:

suggested by
@Jules_MK  @jomountford_  @K8Mcr  @les_flack and others

 

Life-changing decisions

53. Birth strike
Not bringing another human being into an already overpopulated world is a big way to reduce the amount of resources used by human kind”, lamented one reader. This view was echoed by others.

54. Changing jobs
Josh from London actually changed jobs “into an organisation that is mitigating climate change”.
Similarly @what_dodlestonian_does chose a career in tackling climate change and now works for the Environment Agency.

55. Embracing minimalism
A personal favourite of mine and practised by Elise from Oxford. "It helps the environment, cuts down the clutter, saves money and stops you wanting more more more..."

 

The final word

56. Using Ethical Consumer
Thankfully a number of you also remembered to mention using our shopping guides. “I read Ethical Consumer and try to follow suggestions” says Jenny from Manchester. Thanks Jenny!

57. Think before you buy
Before buying I ask myself - Will I use it? - Do I need it? - or Do I only WANT it?!” says Dave from Minehead. This approach was echoed by many others. @LibraryCram was “Living consciously - thinking before every act; turning on a tap, taking the car out, what to eat for dinner.” and avoiding “meaningless consumerism”.

58. A stepped approach
Another practical suggestion came from @alysond106Try and make one change per week” she says.

59. System change
But perhaps @Lgunbie sums up the overall mood of our readers well when he says, “Recognising that changing our own individual behaviours is important, but that it needs to go hand-in-hand with more wholesale systemic change.”

60. Relax
Or maybe we could all take a leaf out of Laura’s green book and cut down on our personal as well as home energy use and “Go to bed earlier”.

Thanks and good luck in your campaigning

Thanks again to all those who responded to our survey. There were hundreds of wonderfully thought-out and heartfelt responses. It was inspiring to know that while governments and corporations continue to do too little, people are taking actions every day, big and small, to help fight global warming.

We hope that you’ll share this article to let people know what the Ethical Consumer community is doing to tackle climate change every day and to inspire them into action.

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