I doubt that anyone in the country was unaware of the nation’s recognition of Her Majesty’s 70-year reign. Four days of parades, concerts, street gatherings and tea parties would have been hard to miss. But amid all the Jubilee celebrations we might have overlooked another important event that deserved our attention and reverence, World Environment Day. Sunday June 5 marked the occasion for world leaders to review their country’s commitment to our planet through collective and transformative action. The theme for 2022 #OnlyOneEarth was also the slogan in 1974…and I can’t help but wonder how much have we really achieved over the last 48 years?  

In fact, probably more than you might think. It is true that modern human living has tipped the balance of mankind’s harmonious relationship with the natural world. It is also true that habitats have been devastated, are still being devastated and countless species of wildlife have disappeared from our planet. However, we are now aroused from our slumber of denial and recognise that humanity, as well as being the protagonist of a dying planet, can be the healer too. In recent years we have restored millions of acres of land, safeguarded marine ecosystems, protected thousands of species, helped repair the ozone layer, reduced the use of fossil fuels and banned harmful chemicals and pollutants. We should now ask ourselves “Is it enough?” Can we sit back and smugly say “We’ve done our bit?”.

All life has a basic right to live in a safe and healthy environment, and this requires not only global legislation but individual action. There is still a large onus on all of us to make smarter choices about what we produce, consume and use.  Over the past few days, many of us have sat in gardens adorned with colourful bunting, flags and balloons, drunk from plastic cups or eaten with plastic cutlery… what happens to all of this now? No doubt next week’s waste collection will contain large volumes of non-recyclable plastics, stale cake and uneaten sandwiches. While we may want to see leadership from the forefront of government, each of us can play a role in driving change.  Every action, each positive change we make is one step towards a better environment for us, for nature and for the planet.

This year, on World Environment Day, we were challenged to put these six simple steps at the forefront of our daily lives:

  1. Save water – we’ve been thinking about this for many years, but as we go into summer and turn our thoughts to our gardens and vegetable patch it can be tempting to get the hose out and splurge. I have two water butts that collect rain runoff but couldn’t afford a third so rescued a large plastic barrel from my local tip. It lacks an easy-to-use tap but works well with a bucket or small watering can.
  2. Reduce plastic – swap plastic for recyclable materials where possible or reuse existing plastic items as much and as often as possible. Most major supermarkets now take plastic wrappings from food products which is great, but let’s pressure the food industry not to use plastic in the first place.
  3. Reduce paper – it’s better than plastic of course but there remains a cost to the environment as most paper is still produced from trees. Loo rolls, kitchen rolls, tissues, printer paper, greeting cards and so many other products can be sourced from recycled paper at a reasonable cost. With the advent of smart phones and tablets, it’s easy to go paperless for bills and financial statements.
  4. Recycle and reuse – these are everyday actions which so many of us commit to now. There are some fantastic ideas on the internet for reutilising everyday products or turning them into something new. I pick up a lot of useful items via neighbourhood recycling schemes or social media advertising. Reusing someone else’s unwanted items is not just good for the planet but helps my budget too.
  5. Shop responsibly – where possible buy consumables that are locally grown or try and grow fruit or veg yourself. Again, there are lots of ideas, tips and hints on the internet to help those of us with small gardens or balconies produce a mini food crop. It’s still shocking to see how much of our food is imported from across the world when it really isn’t necessary.
  6. Watch your miles – I’m really challenging myself every time I get in the car to determine if the journey is necessary. Public, community and neighbourhood transport schemes may be an option depending on where you live or perhaps you live within walking or cycling distance of local amenities. Many of us use doorstep delivery for our shopping needs, this is a great time saver but is this increasing our individual carbon footprint?

Thinking about our environment should be a daily part of life and not relegated to an annual reminder on our calendars. However, World Environment Day marks an important event for recognising human efforts to protect our world and improving our relationship with nature. Let’s also celebrate our achievements in building a brighter more sustainable future and support each other to stay on track. We may need to remind ourselves more than once or twice a year that we only have one earth, one home and it’s up to all of us to look after it.