Climate change is a big problem and can seem overwhelming. But there are some simple things that YOU can do to reduce your carbon footprint and help accelerate the transition to a sustainable future. Here are 10 effective ways to get started...
1. Drive less
Road vehicles account for about 39% of all carbon dioxide emissions in NZ. Using public transport, car pooling, biking or walking, whenever possible, can make a big reduction in your carbon footprint (and road congestion). Perhaps you can even avoid the need to commute entirely - many employees have recently discovered that they can do their jobs just as effectively working from home. Chat to your boss about making working from home part of business as usual.
2. Fly less
We all know flying is bad for the environment. But you might be surprised just how bad: you are likely to generate more emissions in a long-haul return flight than you would in a whole year of driving! Choosing to fly less is another great way to help the planet. When you're planning your next family holiday you might like to consider the destinations on your doorstep. And with so many great communication options available, there is less reason than ever to fly somewhere for a business meeting. Suggest a video call instead!
3. Buy an electric car
In New Zealand, about 75% of our electricity comes from renewable energy sources. This means that electric vehicles are far better for the environment than petrol or diesel alternatives. If you need to buy a car, then electric is the smart way to go. Electric cars are clean, quiet, reliable and fast - the Tesla Model 3 can go from 0 to 100kph in just 3.4 seconds! EVs are also very cheap to run.
4. Eat less meat and dairy
Cows fart and burp a lot, which generates methane gas, which is about 80 times worse as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide! The less meat and dairy you can eat, the better. Red meat (beef and lamb) is by far the worst for emissions-per-serving. Chicken, pork and fish are much better choices, and vegetarian dishes are best of all. Becoming 'flexitarian' is a great compromise if you love meat too much to give it up completely.
5. Shop smarter
Consumerism is a big contributor to climate change (and ocean plastic contamination). It takes a lot of energy and resources to make, distribute and dispose of all the goods and gadgets that we have become accustomed to. But many companies, large and small, are now making public commitments to sustainability and reaching carbon-neutral status. When you are out shopping try to 'vote with your feet' and look for the brands that are doing their bit for the environment.
6. Upgrade your home
Many homes and offices waste enormous amounts of energy through their walls, floors and roof, leading to hefty utility bills. If you can afford it, then investing in double glazed windows, good curtains, roof / floor insulation, draft proofing or installing a heat pump can make a big difference to your long term carbon footprint. You may even be eligible for a Kiwi Warmer Homes Grant covering 90% of the cost of ceiling and underfloor insulation.
7. Talk about the crisis
Climate change is up there with politics and religion as a potentially divisive topic. Unfortunately, far too many people still don't understand the problem, how serious it is, the urgency, or what is needed to address it. Talk about the climate problem whenever you get the chance. Hit the like or share button on any webpage or blog that addresses the issue. And try to remain positive - humans may have created the problem but we can also solve it together!
8. Vote for change
Governments have the power to make a huge impact on climate issues. By voting for politicians and parties that have made meaningful commitments to hitting emission targets and investing in sustainable policies you can help usher in the leaders we need. Young voters have the worst track record for voting in elections, but have the most to gain (and lose) from climate change policy. Make sure you use your power to vote, and encourage your friends to do the same! You can also write to your MP (or even the Prime Minister) to express your concern and ask what she is doing to address the climate crisis.
9. Join a street protest
In 2018, Greta Thumberg started a global movement by sitting outside the Swedish parliament with a sign saying 'School strike for climate'. Since then street protests have been happening and gaining in size all over the world. Joining a march is a great way to show solidarity and support for the cause and help to push climate onto the political agenda.
There are many groups around the world working hard to tackle climate change. Most operate on shoestring budgets and are in desperate need of ongoing funding to continue their work. Studies by thinktanks such as Founders Pledge in the UK have identified the most effective climate charities, and quantified their impact, with surprising results. They conclude:
"when you think about the actions available to you, you should consider donations as well, because they're very important and allow you to leverage your impact far beyond what you can do by changing your lifestyle".
Carbon Critical has set up the Net-Zero Fund to make it easy for Kiwis to make tax-deductible donations to the most effective climate charities. If you can afford it, then even a small donation could be the biggest thing you can do to make a real difference.
That's it! We hope you are inspired to make some positive changes and be part of the movement for a sustainable future.