Is it time to make your pledge to the planet?

COP26 has been and gone, with participating countries making a range of commitments to action on climate change. Countries will republish their climate action plans by the end of next year, laying out their aims for reduced emissions by 2030.

Other outcomes of COP26 include agreements between various groupings of countries on key issues such as phasing down coal usage, stopping deforestation, cutting methane emissions, and investing in “clean” technology, such as renewable energy.

Reactions to COP26 have varied enormously. On the one hand, disappointment has been expressed that more has not been achieved. On the other hand, there has also been some optimism that this is the first time a COP conference has made specific decisions regarding coal and fossil fuels. 

Overall, opinion is divided on whether COP26 has done enough to make possible the 1.5C temperature goal set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Progress will be reviewed at COP27, which will take place in November 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. 

Meanwhile, it’s fair to say that both COP26 and the ever-increasing amount of publicity and activity around climate change is making us all more aware of the issues involved. But the scale of those issues can leave us feeling pretty helpless.

Yet there are things that we can all do on a daily basis that can help. Only small steps, but steps that if everyone agreed to take, could start to make a difference.

Here are ten small steps for you to consider. Even taking one or two of these steps on a regular basis can help you to play your part in reducing the use of fossil fuels and resulting carbon emissions. So why not make your pledge to the planet and incorporate one or more of the steps below into your daily routine?


Ten small steps to help the planet

For each of the ten steps below we will suggest three ways in which you can take that step forward over the next few weeks and months:


Step 1 : Reduce / Reuse / Recycle

Instead of throwing things away and increasing landfill, always ask yourself whether you can reduce, reuse or recycle the item instead:

  • Reduce

Even at the shopping stage, it’s helpful to consider whether you really need the item and think ahead to how you will dispose of it when the time comes. Reducing consumption is key to reducing waste.

  • Reuse

Wherever possible, use reusable rather than single items rather than single-use. An obvious example is cutting out using single-use plastic bottles and carrying a refillable bottle or flask instead. Also see if an item can be repurposed for a different use before getting rid of it.

  • Recycle

If you personally can’t reuse an item that you need to get rid of, see if it can be recycled elsewhere. Is it anything that you could donate to anyone else, perhaps a community project? If it has to be thrown away, see if it can be recycled rather than going to general waste.


Step 2 : Watch what you eat

Three of the food-related steps that you can take to be more environmentally friendly are:

  • Eat smaller portions

An estimated third of the food produced globally is either lost or wasted, which contributes around 8–10% to man-made carbon emissions. Careful meal planning and realistic portion sizes can ensure that everything is used and food waste reduced.

  • Eat less meat and dairy foods

Meat and dairy production contribute significantly to global carbon emissions. So reducing these elements of your diet is another small step towards reducing climate change.

  • Buy seasonal and local food

Buying food in season, and from local suppliers where possible, can reduce the food miles involved in getting food onto your table. You will still eat just as well, but using less carbon emissions in the process.


Step 3 : Use your car more carefully

There are times when you do need to use your car, but it is easy to get into the habit of using it unnecessarily. Why not try to:

  • Make your journey a different way

Walking, cycling or using public transport for your journey wherever possible.

  • Share your journey with others

For regular trips such as commuting to work or the school run, why not consider setting up a car sharing or lifts arrangements with colleagues or neighbours.

  • Go electric

If your lifestyle or circumstances make a car essential, it is worth considering changing to an electric or hybrid car when possible. See our recent article Are you ready to change to an electric car? for more details.


Step 4 : Choose not to fly

Long-haul flights have a huge impact on carbon emissions. So if you currently need to travel regularly, particularly for work, consider one of the following options instead:

  • Let the train take the strain

If you are travelling within the UK, opt to take the train rather than fly where this is practical.

  • Choose non-stop flights

When flying long-haul, choose a non-stop flight if possible as a large proportion of carbon emissions are emitted during take-off and landing. 

  • Use online meetings where possible

If you have to travel a lot for work meetings, see which may be able to be done online rather than in person. This largely worked well during the Covid-19 restrictions, and in many cases could be extended even now that restrictions are being lifted.


Step 5 : Save energy in the home

There are many ways that energy use in the home can be reduced with no significant impact on our quality of life. Just a few of these are:

  • Turn down the temperature

By turning your central heating thermostat down by just 1˚c, you can reduce carbon emissions and also save money on your energy bills. The same applies if you use lower water temperatures for showering and washing machines.

  • Switch off when not in use

Turn appliances off at the wall rather than leaving them in standby. Also turn off lights when leaving a room. All of these small steps can contribute to reducing your carbon footprint.

  • Go energy-efficient

When replacing light bulbs and electrical appliances, look for energy-efficient versions. 


Step 6 : Switch to green energy

Many energy suppliers are now offering green tariffs which use natural sources such as wind, solar, and hydropower to generate energy using lower amounts of carbon emissions. You can benefit from this by:

  • Contacting your current supplier

Check with your current energy supplier whether they have a green tariff, and how green it really is. If you are happy with it, ask to change onto that tariff..

  • Changing supplier if needed

If your current supplier either doesn’t have a green tariff or there are things you are not sure about, look around at other suppliers and change to one of them if you need to.

  • Creating your own green energy

Investigate whether there are changes you can make to your home to make the most of green energy. For example installing solar panels or a small wind turbine.


Step 7 : Choose your bank carefully

It may come as a surprise to find that many banks invest in companies that generate significant carbon emissions. But there are things that you can do about this:

  • Check how green your bank is

You can check how green your bank is by using the Bank Green search tool.

  • Change your bank if needed

You can also use the Bank Green tool to look for an alternative bank that you feel more comfortable with. Some of the banks currently rated as the most ethical – including not investing in fossil fuels – are Tandem Bank, Gatehouse Bank, Oxbury Bank, Ecology Bank, Charity Bank and Triodos Bank.

  • Consider carefully future financial transactions

For future financial transactions – with either banks, building societies, or direct lenders – make their environmental policy one of the key factors you take into consideration when deciding which provider to use.


Step 8 : Buy less new clothing

Up to an estimated 10% of carbon emissions are caused by the fashion industry. So when you need an item of clothing, instead of just looking at new options, see if there are other potential sources instead:

  • Buy second hand

There are so many good sources of second hand clothing around that you will be spoilt for choice. For example charity shops, online auction sites and local selling sites. Not only will you be shopping in a more environmentally friendly way, you will also save a lot of money too.

  • Buy eco-friendly

If you do want to buy new, try to find brands that use natural and organic materials and eco-friendly production methods such as low-impact dying.

  • Swap with a friend

Another great way to update your wardrobe is by swapping with friends. Everyone probably has items that they like and don’t want to get rid of permanently, but never really use. So why not swap a few items with one or more friends? You can always get the item back if you have a sudden urge for it, but in the meantime it will be put to good use.


Step 9 : Make your garden a wildlife haven

If you have a garden, you can provide a variety of resources to help sustain wildlife and have a positive impact on the environment. Three of these are:

  • Leave part of your garden wild

If you have a section of the garden where you can let nature take its course, you will be creating an environment where wildlife will thrive. You can make this even more attractive to butterflies and bees by planting wildflowers.

  • Make homes for wildlife

Adding structures to your garden such as bird boxes, bug hotels and hedgehog homes can provide wildlife with safety and shelter.

  • Create a water feature

Including a natural water feature in your garden such as a pond or fountain can provide a home for amphibians and insects, or water for birds and mammals to drink or bathe.


Step 10 : Work with your local community

The increased awareness of the importance of the environment can also be a great opportunity to connect with others in your community to take action together. Three ways you can do this are:

  • Raising awareness

Setting up different ways of raising awareness and educating people can really draw a community together. This could be a local social media site, or monthly meetings in a community hall with speakers on different topics such as some of those above.

  • Waste management

Local litter picks – where you work together to help clean up the neighbourhood – are often popular, and something that whole families can do together. It can also be interesting to create a league table street by street of how much waste goes to landfill and see who can reduce waste the most on a weekly basis.

  • Greening projects

Find ways in which you can make your community more attractive and environmentally-friendly. For example, planting wildflowers in communal areas, or encouraging people to display window boxes or install bird boxes in their gardens.


We hope that this article has provided some useful pointers as to how you can make your pledge to the planet, and build small steps into your daily routine that will play their part in reducing carbon emissions.

Check back here soon for more lifestyle and financial articles from Munzee Loans.