Climate change. It’s the era-defining issue that just won’t go away. Sadly, the longer we delay serious action, the more we’ll need to do further down the line. So we’d better get to it, right?
The great thing about many of the changes that we need to make is that they are things that will make us happier and healthier, so why not get started in 2022? Here are some top tips for personal and community action for the year ahead…
Our homes are a large source of our emissions. A lot of the energy we use, the food that we consume and the waste that we produce comes right back to the four walls and a roof that we spend our time in.
Long term, we’ll need to ditch our gas boilers. Heat pumps are on the way along with other solutions but can be expensive. If you are in the market for a new boiler then now is a good time to think about investing in a shift away from gas but in the short term, focus on insulation. A leaky home is a bad idea regardless of what is used to heat it. Check your window seals and loft insulation and spend a bit this year on them. Even thicker curtains can help a lot in winter.
If you have some home improvement work in the pipeline – a new bathroom, extension or need a new front door – then plan for sustainability from day one. Go for triple glazed windows instead of double. Think about ditching a radiator for electric heating. Insulate like your life depends on it. They might cost a little more upfront but they will soon pay you back with lower long term energy costs (or, if you do it right, no energy costs at all!)
Our homes are also the places where we produce a lot of waste. Is your green or grey bin overflowing after two weeks? If they are, then it’s a sign that you might be getting through a bit too much stuff.
Food is a big one that I could talk for hours on but there are some basic rules: eat food that is in season, try to avoid items that have been flown into the UK, buy locally, reduce your meat intake (particularly beef and lamb) and work hard to reduce the amount of food that ends up in the bin.
We have a Bokashi home composting bin for food scraps. We try hard not to buy things wrapped in plastic but things like crisp packets are taken to our local Co-op that now recycle soft plastics.
The result? A green bin for a family of four that is usually about half full every two weeks. Still work to do but we take pride in it being as empty as possible.
It can get a bit obsessive but the reality is that we need to put a reasonable amount of thought into every purchase we make. Do I really need that new set of trainers? Can I buy something that might cost more upfront but will last me 5-10 years?
Purchase things that will last and think hard about where they have come from and how they have been produced.
This one is simple… and also really hard. We need to drive less.
I know, I know – it’s hard. We still run a car but have taken great strides as a family to become less reliant on it. There is a certain inevitability to the electric car revolution but what is often not understood is the urgent need to reduce car miles overall.
For short trips of less than a mile then walking is your answer. Simple. Tried and tested. For journeys of up to 5 miles then a bicycle will see you through. Add a rack with a pannier or two and you’ll be amazed how easy it is to transport your shopping or work kit. I shuttled my kids around for years on a bike seat and it saved us hundreds of pounds.
If you haven’t tried an e-bike yet then you are really missing out. It’s like riding with the wind behind you all of the time. We invested in an electric cargo bike in 2021 and it has transformed our lives. It can easily haul our two kids, our puppy and a load of shopping. An e-bike might look expensive but if you have a couple of cars on your driveway then you can afford it, especially if you’re brave and ditch one (pro tip – the market for second-hand cars is very buoyant right now, so it’s the perfect time to sell a car).
Don’t forget buses and trains. Merseyrail plus a bicycle is my personal favourite combination to get virtually anywhere in our region cheaply and quickly, but our bus network is arguably even better. Learn the timetable and try a local trip out in the next few weeks. Start getting in the habit of travelling sustainably. A family trip to Chester by train is our current favourite thing to do.
For longer trips, I can recommend a railcard. We have a Family & Friends Railcard that gets us discounts on train travel. Perfect. Travel by coach is often the cheapest way to get between cities but can take longer.
If you’re used to getting around by car then a switch to active travel or public transport can take quite a colossal shift in habit but the rewards can be huge – both for yourself and the people around you. Go for it.
Politics, Community & Further Learning
My last tip is to get engaged locally. The impacts of climate change will hit us all and we need to see change right across Wirral. Email or speak with your local councillors and let them know that you support the changes needed to our local environment. Find out about the most important projects that are in the pipeline and help to shape them, making sure that sustainability is at the heart of every decision.
A lot of the changes we need to make go against decades of habit and culture, so they are often met with a lot of resistance. Our representatives need support.
Get involved with local organisations like Wirral Climate Action Group , Planet Heswall , Transition Town West Kirby , Wirral Environmental Network or the fabulous Wirral Wombles litter pickers . You’ll meet more like-minded people that will give you the energy to keep going.
Speaking with friends and family members about this stuff can be hard. I’ve gotten used to being the token ‘climate guy’ in my family but it’s a good chance to teach others about what you’re doing and be a positive role model for change.
Finally, be ready to learn! My current favourite book is ‘Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle ’ by Lloyd Alter. It’s important to remember that, as we learn more about our perilous position on Planet Earth, we keep finding new solutions and answers to our problems. Be prepared to have your assumptions tested and change direction.
That concludes my crash course in climate action for 2022! People have literally written books about every topic I’ve mentioned so dig deeper if you can.
Go easy on yourself though, and remember that no one is perfect. We don’t need to be perfect, we just need to reshape our lives to fit in with the resources that are available to us. Get stuck in, enjoy the process of change and good luck!