With the UK in the throes of an unprecedented heatwave, and news stories of freak storms, hail and wild fires coming from across the planet, overcoming climate change may seem like an insurmountable task. But it doesn’t have to be.
Together we can make a difference by making small changes to our everyday lives. Here at the RSPB we’ve been doing our bit and making positive changes. Here’s six ways you can get involved too and help save nature.
1. Eat ethically
The food at RSPB cafés is sustainably sourced. Photo: Tom Simone (rspb-images.com)
It’s becoming increasingly clear that reducing the meat in our diet is vital in reducing the impact of the climate crisis. Going veggie or vegan helps reduce environment-damaging livestock farming.
If you don’t want to cut out meat altogether, try reducing your intake to just once or twice a week. Eating locally sourced food will also help reduce emissions associated with shipping and transport.
How we're doing it: All 11 RSPB nature reserve cafés have been awarded at least bronze in the Soil Association’s “Food for Life Served Here” scheme. The award celebrates locally sourced, additive- and GM-free, sustainable food that meets animal welfare standards.
2. Switch to green energy
The wind turbine at The Lodge was erected by the RSPB in partnership with Ecotricity. Photo: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
If we’re going to limit global temperature increases, we need to make a change to cleaner energy. Switching to a green provider such as Ecotricity ensures that the electricity and gas supplied to your home is greener and frack-free.
Using LED light bulbs and unplugging any idle devices instead of leaving them on standby might seem like small changes but even these will help to reduce your household energy consumption.
How we're doing it: Installing solar panels, wind turbines and biomass boilers helped reduce carbon emissions from energy use in RSPB buildings by 25% in 2017. Right now we’re on track to reduce our carbon emissions by 30% per staff by 2021.
3. Opt for sustainable clothing
Buy an RSPB T-shirt made by eco-brand Rapanui to support the Let Nature Sing campaign. Photo: RSPB
Reuse, repair and recycle! There’s no need to throw away your favourite old shirt just yet; give it a new lease of life by repairing any holes or frayed seams at home. It’s a great skill to learn and will help save you money and nature at the same time!
If that really doesn’t sound like your cup of tea you can limit how often you buy new clothes instead. When you do buy new clothes consider where they are sourced from and choose natural fibres over plastics. Buy second hand, or arrange a clothes swap with your friends.
How we're doing it: We’ve been working with ethical clothes manufacturer Rapanui to launch the first circular T-shirt supply chain and recovery system. All Rapanui T-shirts are made from organic cotton, not plastic, and are designed to be sent back when they are worn out. You can now buy some RSPB campaign T-shirts made from recycled materials.
4. Use alternatives to clingfilm
Nature's Home magazine now comes wrapped in a compostable wrap to cut down on single-use plastic.
It’s easy to replace clingfilm with eco-friendly alternatives such as wax wraps. When they’re no longer useful you can just pop them in your food waste for composting. You can also repurpose some empty glass jars or invest in a few storage containers to keep food fresh. The best bit is that you can also use these in zero waste shops to cut down on food packaging!
How we're doing it: We’ve switched the wrapping on Nature's Home magazine to potato starch, to reduce the amount of single-use plastic. This is just part of our ongoing commitment to reduce single-use plastic use across the organisation.
5. Make your commute a green one
Ditching the car is better for the environment and better for your health. Photo: Getty
Trade in your commute by car for a morning cycle or a refreshing walk. It can be tempting to opt for the ease of a short drive when you’re running late but once you make the change, you’ll wish you’d done it sooner. You’ll feel energised and ready for the day ahead while cutting down on your greenhouse gas emissions. What’s not to love?
If you live too far from your workplace to make walking a viable option, you can check with your organisation to see if there are any car sharing schemes available.
How we're doing in: At the RSPB we encourage our staff to be as green as possible. The internal website helps staff arrange lift shares for the commute and encourage participation in the Bike to Work Week each year.
6. Give nature a home in your garden
John Gould worked with landowners, companies and the Council in his local area to turn disused land into wildflower meadows. Photo: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
There are sadly very few truly wild spaces left in the UK. Luckily, if you own a garden, you’re in a position to help change that. Put some space aside in your garden to allow it to rewild. Plant wildflowers and other pollinator friendly plants. Let the grass grow to flower instead of keeping it short. If you have the space, you could even plant a few trees to help offset some of your carbon use!
Before long you’ll start to notice new species buzzing and humming around your own private meadow. Bees and butterflies will benefit from the wildflowers and birds will be attracted by the plethora of insects.
How we're doing it: Our reserves save around 110,000 tonnes of CO2 a year through turning arable land into wet grassland, planting trees and restoring peat bogs to reduce the amount of carbon emitted by the land.
Learn more about how you can help save nature by getting involved with the RSPB or find out how you can become a campaign champion. By joining the RSPB, you can also contribute to the vital work that we do to help save nature.
Want to share some of your own tips? Share them in the comments below.
In a recent study*, researchers compared the greenhouse gas emissions associated with various lifestyle choices, to gauge the likely effectiveness of recommendations made by governments and NGOs. They estimated that - for individuals living in developed countries - living car-free for a year would reduce one’s greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 2.4 tonnes CO2 equivalent (tCO2e). Eating a plant-based diet would save an average of 0.8 tCO2e per annum, while avoiding a return transatlantic flight would save a further 1.6 tCO2e. The average annual increase in greenhouse gas emissions associated with having had one child was estimated at 58.6 tCO2e - for each year of each parent’s life. Unfortunately, governments and NGOs tend to shy away from recommending having fewer children, even though the mitigation effects of this lifestyle choice massively outweigh those of any other.
*Wynes, S. & K.A. Nicholas (2017). The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Environ. Res. Lett. 12
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