There are plenty of well-known ways in which we can follow a more sustainable lifestyle. Cutting out meat and going vegetarian, getting public transport to work instead of driving, and going paperless when it comes to bank statements and bills are just three commonly followed processes.
But for some, dietary changes and taking the bus everywhere are impractical or inaccessible. This doesn’t mean there is nothing else that can be done.
Many of the below actions are passive. That is, they don’t involve a visible change to your everyday life. They are also ways to make a difference without even leaving our homes.
Change your bank account
Did you know your bank account may actually be contributing towards fossil fuel production and deforestation? Your bank could be investing in oil production, harmful societal practises such as gambling companies, or even weapons.
NatWest may have had its logo everywhere at COP26 in 2021, but the UK-based bank is still in the top 50 most polluting banks in the world. According to the Banking On Climate Chaos report, they spent over $13 billion in fossil fuel financing between 2016 and 2020. Santander, based in Spain but big in the UK, sit above them. HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays and Standard Chartered all make appearances on the score panel too.
On the other hand, an ethical bank will instead invest in green energy, local causes and communities. They will be open about this, and will usually have great customer service as a bonus, too.
You can check your particular bank using the Bank Green website, which gives information about fossil fuel investment, the Paris Agreement, and what you can do to try and get them to act.
If moving your bank account is a possibility, you can choose a more ethical bank, such as Starling or Triodos. This means you as a customer are not funding unsustainable practices, and if your previous bank calls you to ask why you’ve moved, you can be clear as to why.
Unsubscribe from marketing emails
Are you signed up for dozens of marketing emails? Do you not even remember ever signing up for them?
A study by OVO Energy found that sending a single email creates 1g of carbon emissions. Not much when you think that boiling a kettle creates 70g, right? Well, what if we told you that Brits send over 64 million unnecessary emails every day?
Marketing emails often hit the inboxes of thousands of customers. When you think that you probably get at least ten every day, unsubscribing from any you don’t need or want could help save thousands of grams of carbon emissions every single year. You should also think twice about whether you need to send an email to your colleague which simply says ‘thank you’.
Fewer marketing emails could also mean less risk of you falling into the trap of buying things you don’t need. Manufacturing and shipping online purchases are bad for the planet, so cutting out buying unnecessary items would have a positive effect on the planet (and your bank balance).
Factories are thought to have contributed towards 2/3rds of the pollution that has caused climate change. Then comes the transportation: nine out of 10 items that are on the shelves in your local shops are thought to arrive there via container ships. Just one of these ships can produce the same amount of pollution as 50 million cars. In 2021, the ships operating in the United Kingdom alone produced the equivalent of 16.14g of CO2 per metric ton of goods shipped per kilometre.
Demand for shipping is only increasing, too. A report by the World Economic Forum found that between 2014 and 2019, e-commerce sales almost tripled globally. By 2030, it is expected to grow by 78%. Thanks to COVID-19, the top 100 retailers in the UK said visits to their websites increased by 52%, showing that online purchases are growing at a rapid rate - having a potentially catastrophic effect on the planet.
Reduce the thermostat temperature
Is your heating set to 20°C, yet you’re sitting on the sofa with a t-shirt on? Popping a jumper on and turning down your thermostat by just one degree could help to combat climate change.
A government report in 2012 found it could save households 16 TWh of energy every day. Turning the thermostat down by 2 degrees from 20°C to 18°C could save even more (33 TWh). Research by Uswitch.com also found that doing this could save people £80 per year.
Other tips include using radiator valves to cut off the heating in unused rooms or using smart thermostats to reduce the need for the heating to be on when you’re not at home.
Using a renewable energy company
Talking of energy - not all providers are equal. Some use completely renewable energy, also known as ‘green energy suppliers’.
Sunlight, wind and water are natural resources used to produce electricity by some of these companies. The resources are ‘renewable’ as they won’t run out, and because it is increasingly popular, it no longer costs customers more either. Not every company will be available to each one of us in the UK, but it is worth checking which serves your area.
Going vegan one day a week
While dietary changes aren’t suitable for everyone, changing meals to make just one day vegan could have a huge impact.
Jack Monroe wrote in her book Vegan(ish) that eating vegan just one day per week would save 1100 gallons of water and one animal. 1100 gallons is equivalent to almost 4 months' worth of showers.
The ability for one person to save this much just by changing three meals is quite extraordinary. And, many meals can be turned vegan just by leaving out certain ingredients or making substitutes with something in your cupboard, so it doesn’t have to cost any more money.