The Youth4Climate summit, held in Milan recently, brought together young climate champions from 197 countries.
The event – intended to build momentum toward the COP26 summit in Glasgow at the end of October – put pressure on global leaders to make concrete decisions and commitments to implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The COP26 summit will need to address the targets set out by the Paris Agreement, and while many of these are not currently being met, there are steps we can all take to lower our carbon footprint and live more sustainably.
Here are just a few ways we can make a collective difference.
Around the home:
1. Switch to LEDs
LED lights are not only better for the environment than their energy-saving predecessors, but they can save you money too.
Despite a higher initial outlay, your reduced energy bills could mean the bulbs pay for themselves within months.
They also reach full brightness the moment they are switched on.
2. Unplug electronic devices you aren’t using
Unplugging devices you aren’t using is a simple way to cut your carbon footprint.
Once your phone or tablet is fully charged, unplug it.
Also, consider turning off your laptop screensaver in favour of an energy-saving hibernation mode, but be sure to turn it off completely when it is not in use.
3. Take shorter showers
Cutting your shower time in half could save gallons of water.
You’ll also be saving the energy it takes to heat all of that water, making a huge difference to your carbon footprint.
4. Reduce the thermostat by one degree
A small reduction in temperature inside your home could make a big difference to your energy bill, but you should also consider a smart thermostat that moderates the temperature even when you are not at home.
Food and drink:
5. Eat less meat
The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) confirms that meat production is responsible for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This includes CO2 and methane, both contributors to global warming.
Veg Pledge Month in November challenges us to go vegetarian for the month, while 1 November is World Vegan Day.
You might build up to a meat-free month more slowly, cutting it out of your diet for one day a week, then one week a month.
6. Consume local and seasonal produce
Whether you are eating meat, fish, or vegetables, think carefully about where your food is coming from.
Sustainably sourced food, bought in season and from local growers, will have a much lower carbon footprint than imported goods. Also try to buy only what you will eat, cutting back on unnecessary food waste.
7. Be a green gardener
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the transport of perishable goods.
You might also consider using water butts to collect rainwater, composting food waste, and replacing plastic pots with ceramic pots (but only once the plastic ones are no longer fit for purpose).
Out and about:
8. Reduce, reuse, recycle
These three Rs are the central tenets of sustainability. From the amount of single-use plastic around your home to the car journeys you take, there are plenty of ways that small reductions can add up.
Reusing might simply mean remembering your bag for life when you go to the supermarket or upcycling clothes and furniture to extend their life.
Once something is no longer reusable, be sure to recycle it where you can.
9. Use public transport
A simple way to cut down on the amount of fuel you buy and the amount of pollution in the air is to cut the number of car journeys you make.
Opt for a car-share scheme to work or take public transport. Be sure to cycle and walk when you can, combining a huge positive impact on your carbon footprint with keeping fit and active, and enjoying the fresh air.
10. Plan your holidays carefully
The BBC states that around 2.4% of global CO2 emissions come from aviation. Combined with the industry’s other negative environmental impacts, it is responsible for around 5% of global warming.
Planning a holiday in the UK or Europe might mean you can take a train or bus. If you have to fly, consider taking a longer trip once a year rather than multiple short-haul flights.
Some airlines are more environmentally aware than others so research those that actively promote the environmental health of their destinations, offer carbon offsets, or commit to recycling cabin waste.
11. Use tech to form good habits
Whether you are out and about, at home, or in the garden there are plenty of apps that can help you to keep track of your environmental impact and help you form good habits.
An app like AWorld will allow you to track the changes you make and log your impact on the environment, whether through gallons of water saved or the reduction in your carbon emissions.
Some apps, such as Ailuna, go one step further. They help you to form good habits by turning the changes you make into challenges that can be shared on social media, or with family and friends.
Others can help you to recycle your unwanted clothes by finding them a new home (Vinted), prevent food wastage (Too Good to Go), or even plant trees whenever you make an internet search (Ecosia).