8 Easy Eco-Actions
Angry, overwhelmed, Frustrated, powerless, terrified. These are just some of the emotions I experience on a regular basis when faced with the environmental crisis.
It can be really easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problems facing our planet. Maybe you’ve even suffered from eco-anxiety, which is defined as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”.
Well, do you know what? I reckon eco-anxiety is actually a logical and rational response to the situation. The scale of the problem is huge and you can’t solve it on your own. But… the best remedy for eco-anxiety is to take action, no matter how small.
So here are eight easy eco-actions to hopefully inspire you. Do one, do all, do more, but please do something!
1. Switch to a Green Energy Supplier
Switching to a green energy supplier is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and may even save you a few pounds. You can switch online without even moving from your sofa! It is important to look out for “greenwash” and choose a company that genuinely supplies 100% renewable energy from wind, solar or hydro (biomass is NOT environmentally-friendly). The greenest energy companies (according to Ethical Consumer) are Good Energy and Ecotricity because they are building their own sources of green energy. You can sometimes find incentives to switch to these companies (at the time of writing a quick internet search found these offers for Ecotricity and Good Energy. Another well-known green energy supplier is Bulb, which we are currently with. Bulb has a Refer a Friend scheme, so if you would like to switch to them please contact us for a referral link!
2. Put a Jumper On (a.k.a. Turn Down Your Thermostat)
It’s official: I have turned into my dad. But in this case, he’s probably right. I’m not saying be uncomfortable, but if you’re sitting in shorts and a t-shirt in midwinter you could definitely turn down the heating. A 2019 Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report recommends we should all turn out home thermostat down to 19C in winter. Vests, slippers and onesies are your friends – as the old adage says “ne’er cast your clout til may is out” (I think this basically means layer up until the spring). Plus turning down your thermostat by just 1 degree could save you up to £80 a year apparently!
3. Go Litter Picking
All you need is a bag and some gloves (I recommend waterproof gardening gloves). You can combine fresh air, exercise and some eco-action in one! This is also one eco-action that my kids really enjoy. It’s incredibly satisfying although it can become addictive! I try to remember to take a bag and gloves with me on my daily walk around the block, as invariably a new bit of litter will have appeared overnight (don’t get me started on John Smith’s cans!). If I’m super-organized I take a separate bag for recyclable stuff. Since I’ve been regularly litter picking I’ve started to see other people doing the same and have noticed much less litter on my local routes. I know people shouldn’t drop litter in the first place, but if we relied on others not littering or on someone else tidying up, more litter would end up harming our wildlife and getting into our rivers and oceans. Litter picking is one easy eco-action we can all do!
4. Join a Local Environmental Group
It doesn’t have to be Extinction Rebellion (although in my experience, nothing beats a bit of non-violent disruptive action for quelling eco-anxiety)! There are load of small groups all over the place doing great work; in Wiltshire alone there’s the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, Wiltshire Climate Alliance, Sustainable Devizes, Friends of the Earth, to name a few. Meeting likeminded people can really help to empower and inspire you. Last winter we volunteered to plant hedges along local footpaths as part of a project funded by The Woodland Trust. It is very satisfying to take practical action that will directly benefit wildlife and the local community.
5. Ditch Google and Plant Trees
Did you know a single Google search could generate up to 4.5g of CO2? (According to the book How Bad are Bananas? by Mike Berners-Lee). So why not switch to a search engine such as Ecosia that uses its profits to plant trees and runs its servers on 100% renewable energy? I’ve installed Ecosia and made it my default browser and use it all the time (a quick tip if you really want to see Google’s search results is to type #g before your search term in Ecosia). Apparently every Ecosia search removes 1kg of CO2 from the atmosphere! And there’s the feel-good factor that every time you do a search there’s a counter showing how many trees you’ve planted. I installed it as a Chrome extension, which was really easy to do. You can find instructions here.
6. Think Before You Buy
This is one of the most important things you can do if you’re trying to develop a more eco-friendly mindset. There is already so much stuff in the world that we should all be trying to use things that already exist rather than depleting more of the planet’s resources. If you are thinking of buying something, always ask yourself if you really need it. If it is a necessary item, could you use or repurpose something you already own? Could you borrow it from a friend or family member (this works well with things you don’t use often such as DIY tools)? Can you find it second hand on Facebook, Ebay, Freegle or Freecycle? If you want to replace something that’s broken, can you try to fix it? There are loads of videos online showing you how to repair all kinds of things, or check if there’s a Repair Café in your local area.
7. Reuse Before Recycling
Of course, it’s great that we have kerbside recycling to reduce the amount of waste being incinerated or sent to landfill. However, reusing stuff is even better than recycling (and refusing and reducing packaging in the first place is even better). So, before you chuck that plastic bread bag or jam jar in the recycling bin, ask yourself if you can reuse it. Jam jars, plastic tubs, shampoo bottles etc are really useful for all sorts of things, from shopping in a zero waste shop to storing food in the fridge or freezer. My friends will know I usually have a spare tub or two in my bag, which come in handy for taking leftovers home when I eat out! Plastic bread bags can be washed, dried on the washing line and reused again and again as freezer bags or sandwich bags. Cardboard boxes can be used for storage. A word of warning though – to avoid becoming a hoarder, have a dedicated space for “things that might come in useful” and when it’s full, give stuff away to someone who needs it. I’m always finding people on Facebook and Freegle who need cardboard boxes for moving, jars for chutney and so on.
8. Spread the Word
It may seem like making small individual changes to our lives won’t make a difference when the really big actions need to come from governments and businesses, but we all have a voice and by talking about our actions and concerns, and why they are so important, we can influence others and ultimately those in power to change. Writing to your MP or local councillor might seem daunting, but they work for us and they won’t know what is important to us unless we tell them! If you don’t have time to write a long letter, the easy way to keep the pressure on your MP is to send campaign emails at the click of a button. I’ve signed up to get emails from groups such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The Woodland Trust and Surfers Against Sewage, all of which run powerful campaigns which are easy to take part in. Or you could follow these groups on social media. Signing online petitions is another easy thing to do. Another way to spread the word is to contact (by email or social media) companies such as supermarkets if you think there is more they could be doing to help the environment. Businesses do listen to their customers. After so many people complained to supermarkets about single-use plastic, they have all started to take steps to address packaging issues. And the recent ban on plastic straws is a result of people telling those in power what we want.
All of these eco-actions are easy to do. Don’t feel you need to do everything at once, just doing something is a step in the right direction! If we all take one step at a time, we can create little ripples that will build to a big wave to make the world a better place.