Practical advice for saving the world, no cape required
The world is large, its ecological crises are complex and deep-rooted. By comparison the individual seems small and powerless. It’s easy to feel resigned, overwhelmed…
But there are certain things each of us can do to make a positive difference, and indeed to bring systemic or political solutions closer to fruition. Here, as an impetus to action and a stay against despair, are 5 simple yet substantial things you can do to stick up for the planet this Green Friday, or any other day. They aren’t in any particular order
1. Pension Power
Your pension has more power to combat climate breakdown than you may realise – more power than all your other lifestyle choices put together, according to some estimates. In fact, analysis by Make My Money Matter suggests that switching to a sustainable pension scheme has 21 times more impact in tackling climate change than going vegan, stopping flying, and moving to a renewable energy provider combined.
If you have a pension, a chunk of the money you earn every year is taken by your pension provider and invested – in other words lent to other companies to facilitate whatever it is they do. This could be researching renewable energy, or it could be drilling for oil, cutting down forests, spewing pollutants into the atmosphere, or some other environmentally sub-optimal activity.
So make sure your pension’s being put to good use. Protect Our Winters is a great resource here, with advice on how to divest your own pension or, perhaps even better, talk to your employer about divesting from their current default pension provider. You can also find out how much money your local council holds in fossil fuels investments (then proceed to Step 4, below).
2. Follow Your Food
Figuratively and/or literally. Okay, directly sourcing your own food or catching your own fish isn’t exactly straightforward, especially not with a speargun à la Jayce Robinson. Even identifying responsibly sourced fish is a challenge. But making better informed choices about what and how we eat is one of the keys to a healthier ocean, increased biodiversity, and a more stable climate.
To focus just on the ocean, recently we went to the Blue Earth Summit in Bristol, where one of the guest speakers was Clare Brooks. She’s the CEO of Blue Marine Foundation, a conservation non-profit that campaigns against unsustainable fishing practices. In her talk “The True Blue Economy” she highlighted the following facts:
- The ocean is the world’s largest climate sink, absorbing 25-30% of annual CO2 emissions and 90% of excess heat.
- The global fishing industry receives $7.7bn in fuel subsidies alone. (Total “capacity-enhancing” subsidies for the fishing industry, i.e. those that reduce costs and/or increase revenues, are estimated to be worth at least three times this amount.)
- Large-scale fishers receive 3.5 times more subsidies per person than small-scale fishers.
- Often these subsidised, distant-water fleets operate in the waters of the least-developed countries, depriving local fishers of their livelihoods and local populations of their main protein source.
- Bottom-trawling releases an estimated 1 billion tonnes of stored CO2 annually.
- Protection, i.e. stopping destructive overfishing, would be far cheaper and more effective than restoration.
“I think she’s the coolest woman I’ve ever seen,” said Lauren, Surfdome’s marketing manager, on at least three occasions. Dan Crockett, also of Blue Marine, also cool, recently met up with our head of sustainability Adam Hall for a trip to Lundy Island, home to the UK’s first no-take zone:
3. Bank Better
Similar deal here to your pension. Most high-street banks still invest in fossil fuels. Does your bank? Find out. If so, find one that doesn’t, and tell your own bank why you’re leaving.
The website Bank.Green has a very simple tool that tells you how your bank rates on this front, but there are numerous other guides and rankings out there to help you make an informed decision.
4. Use Your Vote (And Your Voice!)
To be sure, without genuine political change there’s a limit to what individual choices and collective action can achieve. Your vote is arguably your most valuable tool, so make sure you use it, not just in general elections but local elections too. But democracy doesn’t end there – there are various other democratic means at your disposal. Adding a signature to a petition is great, but those with experience of working inside the system will tell you that writing your MP an email is 100 times more effective. Putting it down in an actual letter is even better.
5. Think Long-Term
Good gear lasts longer and typically costs less in the long run, both in economic and in environmental terms. So buy better and buy less. And when things do get damaged, try to have them repaired rather than replaced. You can choose brands (such as Patagonia and Picture Organic) that offer a free repair service and/or lifetime repair warranty. Alternatively, send your damaged products to a repair centre like Bodyline Wetsuits in Newquay, or Rooted Ocean in Bude, who also repair clothing and outdoor gear. Broken zips, leaky seams, gashes, holes – all these things are well within their ken. It’s really impressive seeing what they can do to a piece of kit that had seemed destined for the scrapheap.