What can you do, to make a difference?

The Sustainability Festival has ended, after a fabulous three weeks.  As things wrap up for this year, Catherine Ross, the current chair of the festival organising group, reflects on one of the most common questions asked by people coming to events:  “But what can I do, that really makes a difference?

So, you’re worried about climate change, you’re aware of the issues, and you want to act.  That’s a great place to start … lots of people aren’t even interested.

Here are five things you can do that really help:

(1) Make changes in your own life, using our Climate Action plan.

(2) Be a conscious consumer: every time you spend or save a pound, make it part of the solution.

(3) Influence the people around you.

(4) Join local groups and achieve more as a community.

(5) Normalise it, by talking about it.

Here’s a little more information on each one.

(1) Make changes in your own life, using our Climate Action plan.

For SustFest, we created an action plan with 25 things you can do.  See here to find it.

Each area has a lot of impact on your carbon footprint; home energy, food, getting about, the stuff you buy, and spreading the word. They start out easy, and get harder.

Don’t try and do everything at once.  You’re trying to build up new habits, and you’re only human. This month, choose one thing to focus on.  Give it a proper go.  Once you’re used to it, choose another one.  Work your way through the plan. Put it up on the fridge to remind yourself!

(2) Be a conscious consumer (and investor)

People often forget that they have a lot of influence by the way they use their money.  Every single purchase you make sends a message about what you care about.  Companies listen to their customers.

So, when you are about to buy something, ask yourself;

  • do I really need it?
  • could I buy it second hand?
  • if I do need it, and need a new one, then what is an ethical / environmental choice?
  • on this occasion, can I afford to make that choice?

Of course, this varies massively, depending on what you’re buying … whether you’re buying a banana or a car!  But here are some things to think about. Will it last?  Can it be easily repaired? Can it be recycled at the end of life?

record player fixed

St Lukes Repair Fair

Can you buy one that was locally made? It helps that some products come with ratings for energy efficiency. I often look at Ethical Consumer Magazine for reviews. Also, you can ask on Facebook on a page like ours, or sustainable(ish) with jen gale’, and people will often answer.

For fruit and veg, there are some good local options, like Carpenters Nursery and Box Local.  For dried food and household goods, there is the Refill Pantry and Eat Whole Foods.Carpenters veg

 

As well as your purchases, think about your pension and investments.  have you asked your pension provider if they offer a fossil-fuel free pension? They probably don’t yet, but the more people that ask, the more likely it is to happen. They might well have an ethical option to consider.  Do you want to move any investments you have away from fossil fuel companies? If you are a high net worth investor, you might even consider investing in green start-ups.

green heart.png

(3) Influence the people around you.

You’re reading this blog, so you care, and probably making changes already. Stop and think about who in your life you might be able to influence, and how.  This stuff is difficult, but not impossible.

  • Start small. Could you speak to the people you live with about turning down the thermostat? 
  • Could you speak to extended family about not giving “stuff” as presents and instead buying experiences or trips?
  • If your work involves plane trips could you speak to your boss about flying less?
  • Could you speak to the kids’ headmaster about helping fundraise for solar panels?
  • Could you speak to your vicar or imam about putting Eco Churches or Eco Mosques on the agenda of the management committee?
  • Could you write to your councillor or MP and tell them you care about climate and ask them what they are personally doing?

Stop for a minute and write down a list of the people you could speak to, and about what. Word of mouth is amazing.

 

 

(4) Join local groups and achieve more as a community.

Our district has lots of fabulous groups of committed people, working to improve the environment, and build stronger communities, in different ways.  They are fuelled by volunteer time and effort of all sorts.

It can be anything from the odd hour here or there, with no ongoing commitment, like going on a litter pick, to regular commitments as a trustee, a fundraiser, a comms person, or a project manager.

ver valley riverfly

There are so many groups working across the district … just look at the SustFest programme for inspiration.

If you can’t see a group that hits the spot, then start one.  Every project Sustainable St Albans has ever run started (Thermal Imaging Camera; Playing Out; Open Food Gardens; Electric Bike Day) with a passionate volunteer.

(5) Normalise it, by talking about it. 

This is the simplest and the hardest action all at once. It needs to become normal for people to talk about the climate emergency e and the terrible effects it will have, if we don’t make radical change quickly.

You can really help by simply talking about it to people.

These don’t need to be big, earnest conversations, unless the other person welcomes this.  A short comment, and a very brief explanation is enough.  Try these on for size.

 

 

  • What did you do at the weekend? “I went for a bike ride. I stopped riding my bike for years, but I’m back on it now and really enjoying it. I love feeling I’m getting some exercise and not contributing to all the pollution.
  • What are you getting for lunch? “I think today I’ll try something vegan. I read at the weekend it makes a real difference, so I’ll give it a go today.”
  • Where are you going for holiday this summer? “We’re thinking of getting the Eurostar to Amsterdam and then hiring bikes. We thought we’d try and get through the year without flying.

Don’t be afraid that you don’t know all the answers. You can say how you feel without needing to be the expert.

  • Have you watched the David Attenborough documentary about climate change yet? It really scared me, but it’s definitely worth seeing.”  
  • “What do you think about the kids striking? I kind of admire them, raising their voices about something so important for their future.”

By making small steps, spending wisely, influencing others, joining forces, and normalising climate conversations, we can each can have a real impact.

So what’s stopping you? The end of SustFest19 could be just the beginning…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s