By Holly Barry, @HJBarry
On the 5th of June the entire globe will come together to take care of our planet on World Environment Day. The theme for this year’s event is connecting people to nature. It’s an excuse for each and every one of us to get out into our local greenery and reacquaint ourselves with the world that sustains us.
Although many of us have been taught to be green from a young age, through littler picking duties at school, recycling and clothes banks, the UK still wastes a massive £13 billion of food each year. Moreover, of the 7.3 million tons of household waste, it was reported that 4.4 million tons were avoidable.
Although saving the environment may seem like an impossible task, there are many ways that we can make a difference both on an individual level and as a nation. So to really get into the ‘green spirit’, changing your lifestyle and the world around you for the better you could organize a picnic, litter-pick or hike in your local area. You could also go get out into nature for the day and take some photographs to add to the World Environment Day Global Album.
There are many reasons to conserve water, first and foremost, the energy required to deliver water to every household is astronomical. Wasting water means that lots of excess energy goes towards re-filtering, this can easily be avoided by turning the tap off when brushing teeth, choosing short showers instead of baths, and fixing any leaking pipes or dripping taps. Shortening your shower time buy just two minutes can save more than ten gallons of water. You could also think about investing in a rain barrel to collect water, which you can use for cleaning cars or watering your lawn.
Another way to be greener is by purchasing a reusable water bottle. Plastic water bottles have a harrowing effect on the environment. 200 billion water bottles are used globally each year. 176 billion of those end up in landfills. It takes three times the amount of water to make a plastic bottle than it does to fill, yet 1.2 billion people don’t have access to clean water.
When it comes to food, the average household in the UK wastes £470 of perfectly good food every year. Each year, the food wasted nationally generates 19 million tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of a quarter of car emissions in the UK. In just ten minutes, households in the UK throw away around 20,000 potatoes, whilst households across he globe will have generated almost 18,000 tons of waste. The agricultural industry contributes 18% of the world’s carbon emissions, whilst every cow releases between 70 and 120kg of methane per year.
A few ways that families can combat their food related carbon footprint is by reducing the amount of meat and dairy products in your diet. Planning meals and finding ways to use leftovers is a great way to reduce waste. You can turn your chicken leftovers from Sunday dinner into a great Monday pie, or use any stale bread to make a ham and cherry tomato bread and butter bake.
This year saw air pollution reach dangerously high levels. As a cross-party committee of MPs declared the issue a public health emergency. Data collected by the government shows that air pollution causes 40,000 to 50,000 premature deaths every year, and many more develop lung and asthma problems because of it. Hopping on a plane may seem cheaper than it’s ever been, but short-haul flights contribute disproportionately to emissions. Moreover, travelling by car makes up 22% of Co2 production in the UK. Despite this, car sales in recent years reached are at an all time high. It therefore seems that despite dangers to our health, we rely on cars more than ever.
Car sharing is a great way to combat air pollution. Whilst cycling, walking or taking public transport to work would help to significantly reduce carbon emissions. It’s also worth avoiding using the car for short journeys and using higher gears when possible.
Kicking the Habit: Vaping Over Cigarettes
In the UK discarded cigarette butts make up 38% of dropped litter. Whilst globally, tobacco farming contributes to the problem of illegal deforestation. 200,000 hectares of forests or woodland are destroyed by tobacco farming each year. Destroying ancient rainforests not only kills animals and destroys their habitats, but reducing the amount of trees means that Co2 is much more difficult to manage. Cigarettes also have large carbon footprints because of the fuel used in the manufacturing and shipping process.
If you’re a smoker, vaping is a great way to minimize your carbon footprint and improve your health in the process. Vaping has been proven to be 95% less harmful than smoking. Whereas cigarettes contain over 4000 chemicals, most e-liquids contain only four. Vaping would help you to kick the habit and decrease your cigarette induced carbon footprint.
Savings at Home
There are a number of really easy and effective ways of reducing your carbon footprint at home. When it comes to laundry, wait until you have a full load and try washing your clothes at a cooler temperature. This will both save on energy and keep water waste at an all time low. You should also make sure to turn all of the lights off when you leave a room. In the UK this wastes £170 million a year by leaving lights on unnecessarily. In terms of heating, adjusting the temperature in your home by just one degree can save you 10% on your energy use over a year. This is both a great saving for you and a great help for the planet. You could also try setting a timer for your heating or cooling systems, so that they are not on unnecessarily when you aren’t at home.
If you haven’t already, think about switching your statements from paper to electronic. If every US household received electronic statements we could save 18.5 million trees, 2.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases and 1.7 billion pounds of solid waste every year.
Going Green at Work
Similarly, there are a number of really easy methods that can help conserve energy and the environment in your office. Turning your screen brightness down from 100% to 70% can save as much as 20% of energy. Fully shutting down PCs, TVs and stereos instead of left on standby is another great way to cut down. When making a cup of tea, only boil as much water as you need. If everybody did this for a year we could save enough energy to power all of the streetlights in the UK for nearly seven months. You should also think about bringing your own mug into the office instead of using polystyrene cups.
When washing up, use low-phosphate washing-up liquid and washing powder. Phosphates aren’t great for the environment because they stimulate algal growth when discharged into water. This lowers oxygen levels and kills plants and fish. Finally, you could throw a Tupperware party. Encourage your colleagues to invest in reusable and airtight food containers rather than disposable sandwich bags and plastic wrap.
Ultimately, we should all take part in World Environment Day. First and foremost it’s a great excuse to take a break from our busy lives and get outside. More than this though, World Environment Day encourages us to be a little more aware of the resources we consume on a day-to-day basis. It could help to shave off a lot of money from your bills and help the planet in the process.