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Image for Are you doing enough to help save our planet?

Article by Neill Barston | 29th August 2019

Are you doing enough to help save our planet?

With major concerns over a recent UN report showing we have little more than a decade to limit extreme damage to our global climate, many governments and industry bodies have recognised the urgency of tackling such vital environmental pollution issues. But is there anything we can do to significantly influence such matters ourselves?

With Canterbury City Council declaring a climate change crisis in the district just a matter of weeks ago, its plans to reduce pollution levels should prove quite a wake-up call. The authority’s proposal is to become carbon neutral by 2030. It is setting aside a £500,000 fund for what it describes as one-off actions to reduce its environmental impact. These include ensuring its planned new offices are eco-friendly and that its vehicles for waste collection and buses are low emission models.

Such measures are certainly headline grabbing from a local authority’s perspective – but knowing what we can do on an individual level to bring about a difference is often hard to fathom.

Taking direct action is clearly one means of highlighting the issue, with Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg gaining international headlines back in March for her protests outside her country’s parliament. The 15-year-old inspired a total of around 1.4 million children around the world to stay off school as part of the Global Strike for the Future, which urged adults to take a significant lead on the issue.

And only last month, Greta, who refused to travel by plane to the US because of the environmental impact of flying, was hoping to be on course to sail in a solar-powered yacht to the US in time to appear at two crucial global gatherings: the Climate Action Summit in New York on 21st-23rd this month and the UN Climate Conference in Santiago in early December.

But knowing how to make a difference isn’t always as obvious as you might imagine, yet there are at least some relatively straightforward measures you can take.

Small steps = bigger changes

Last year, Canterbury City Council launched Love Where We Live, which included a series of small steps targeting improvements to our living environment, which have gained a positive response from residents.

Perhaps the key environmental measure was an increased rate of prosecution and enforcement of waste fly tipping, as well as encouraging people to use licensed companies to remove bulky waste items, ensuring that they are disposed of in as environmentally friendly a manner as possible.

The scheme has encouraged people to sign up to making personal pledges in a bid to become collectively more environmentally aware.

Simple steps such as remembering to take your own litter home and reporting any full bins can all make small but notable differences to raising recycling rates and lessening our levels of pollution.

Speaking to The Canterbury INDEX Magazine, Canterbury City Council said it has welcomed residents’ engagement with its environmental campaigns. As a spokesperson explained: “We are always incredibly grateful when people give up their valuable time to help their community and the district we all live, work and study in.

“There is small army of volunteers who litter pick throughout the district. 

     “You will see scores of people around Canterbury’s streets, in villages and on our beaches, clearing up after others. They should not have to but we’re very grateful that they do.

“We work hard to help these volunteers by providing advice, litter pickers and high vis jackets. We also arrange for our contractor Serco to pick up whatever is collected.”

Blue Planet effect

Perhaps one of the biggest areas impacting on our world, that of plastic waste, was put very firmly under the microscope recently by Sir David Attenborough with his latest Blue Planet II series for the BBC. It highlighted the huge amount of waste being put into our seas – thought to be around eight million tonnes of plastic per year – which has provoked a major change in consumer habits.

According to recent research, 60% more people use reusable water bottles than they did in 2017, and a similar figure was shown for increased use of refillable coffee cups as a direct result of Blue Planet.

Another area in which we can all make a real change is in choosing the clothes we wear – the industry reportedly uses around 98 million tonnes of non-renewable resources each year. Even making just one pair of jeans is said to equate to producing the same level of greenhouse gases as it takes to drive more than 80 miles.

So it’s encouraging to see examples of people making a difference, such as Kent-based Siobhan Stirling, who is challenging people through 50challenges.org to give up buying new clothes for a year – instead recycling, upcycling or making use of a wealth of charity and second-hand stores that can help break the cycle of a throwaway society that we have all collectively become increasingly part of.

Eco-friendly funerals

Woodland burial, also known as green burial or natural burial is becoming increasingly popular as an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional burials and cremation.

Taking place in natural burial grounds, or designated woodland burial sites in larger cemeteries, a biodegradable coffin or casket is used, usually made out of recycled paper, wicker or willow – and many woodland burials are not marked with a headstone but simply identified by a tree or flowers.

New wheels

Cycling, walking, car pooling or taking the bus are the best ways to commute sustainably but the last few years have also seen a huge surge in demand for electric vehicles in the UK with new registrations of plug-in cars going up from 3,500 in 2013 to more than 214,000 by the end of May 2019. If you’re thinking of making the switch, check the zap map for local charging points – and get ready for the launch of new hydrogen-powered trains!
• Visit zap-map.com

Green babies

The average baby gets through 4,000 disposable nappies by the time they’re potty-trained, costing families £400 a year and taking up to 500 years to break down, creating the equivalent of half-a-tonne of carbon dioxide. By switching to cloth nappies for just one child, parents could divert as much as 874kg from landfill and reduce their carbon footprint by up to 40%. 

Travel in style and save the planet with Dutch-designed, award-winning Greentom stroller (below). Introduced in 2014, the recycled, bio-plastic buggies claim to be the greenest stroller on Planet Earth. 

Turn your office green 

From recycling old ink and toner cartridges, to using environmentally-friendly products, Bishops Office Products in Kent (bishops-office.co.uk) help their customers to become more eco-friendly. Geami WrapPak is a disposable and recyclable alternative to plastic bubble wrap while their Woodland Trust office paper range is from sustainable sources – for every tree harvested three or four replacement trees are planted. 

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