Environment

Ten simple steps to help the environment

As the NHS affirms remote care is having a positive impact on the environment, Tory in-fighting about climate change escalates fears about the UK’s green agenda. Amid the discordance, there are small changes we can all take to accelerate the race against climate change.

There are lots of small steps anyone can take to help the environment whil companies and governments get their act together. Image: Marcu Ioachim/Flickr

A drop in in-person medical appointments have had a positive impact on the environment, says NHS England’s chief sustainability manager, Dr Nick Watts, as fewer people drive to see their doctor.

Speaking at the annual NHS ConfedExpo conference in Liverpool last week, Dr Watts said that in 2021, the health service reduced its carbon emissions by 276 kilotonnes “principally” because the number of car journeys to appointments had been reduced. Dr Watts added that remote care was “an intervention that should save carbon” in the future.

The practice of moving appointments online or by telephone was introduced during the pandemic, and is one of many steps big organisations like the NHS are taking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Sadly, many companies are not doing enough. Research shows that just 20 different state-owned and multinational companies are driving the climate emergency that threatens humanity.  Data also shows that many of the biggest emitters are not disclosing their footprints at all.

As it appears that many in a position of power are wilfully continuing to pollute the environment for profit, will governments do more to make these firms accountable?

Meeting sustainability targets requires an ambitious, whole-of-society approach that is sustained by long-term government commitment.

Regrettably, not all governments seem to share such commitment. In the UK, the Conservative government is accused of not doing enough to move faster on green issues. As the government faces growing pressure from environmental campaigners to do more to tackle climate change, a group of Conservative politicians complain that there is an excessive focus on the environment that will alienate constituents.

As Tory in-fighting about climate change escalates fears for the country’s green agenda, there are steps anyone can take to engage more sustainably with the planet.

Walk, cycle or car share

Ditching the car for walking or cycling reduces personal carbon emission. If walking or cycling isn’t an option, travelling by car in a pair or group will reduce pollution from car emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.

Cut down on food waste

The Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that if food waste was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States and China. Taking steps like planning ahead for meals and only buying what you need can help reduce the environmental impact of wasted food.

Use reusable products instead of disposables

Cutting back on single-use items will help save on the energy and materials from manufacturing and prevent waste.

Recycle

Recycling reduces the need to extract raw materials from the Earth. This in turn means fewer forests are cut down, less water is polluted, and less wildlife is harmed or displaced. Wherever you can, use recycling programs and facilities to recycle waste.  

Switch to e-billing

Paper accounts for a huge amount of municipal waste and generates millions of tonnes of CO2. Save paper by signing up for e-billing.

Buy locally

Produce in large supermarkets can travel thousands of miles to reach consumers. Buying fresh, local produce helps customers cut carbon emissions and air pollution by reducing food miles.

Use cold water

Around 90 per cent of the energy used by a washing machine goes on heating water. Switching to a cold-water setting could help you cut out 864 pounds of CO2 emissions a year.

Use LED light bulbs

LED light bulbs use 20 – 25 per cent of the energy that traditional incandescent bulbs use, as well as lasting up to 25 times longer.

Plant a tree

A single tree will suck up approximately one tonne of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. Planting trees and plants play a vital role in helping mitigate climate change.

Encourage others to conserve

Sharing information on climate change and encouraging others like colleagues, businesses, and public officials to establish policies and practices that are good for the environment, will go a long way in helping combat global warming. 

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