8 climate actions for Earth Day under lockdown
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Today is the 50th international Earth Day and the theme for 2020 is climate action. Asher Minns, executive director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia says that even under lockdown, climate action is easy and beneficial.
Before face masks and social distancing, there was another global crisis that our planet faced – climate change.
The world’s focus is, quite rightly, firmly on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but it’s important that we don’t lose the momentum of our response to the climate change emergency. Indeed, as we all spend more time at home, now is the perfect time to think about reducing our impact on the planet – and why not start today on Earth Day?
Save energy at home
With most of us at home or working from home, carbon dioxide emissions have temporarily reduced, but your own energy bill has gone up. Domestic energy use has increased by around 30pc, the peak is when we are all cooking our lunch. Hot water and heating account for the biggest share of energy use in our homes at around 80pc. A few small changes can save you money and improve your comfort, while reducing your household’s carbon footprint. The National Energy Foundation and the Energy Saving Trust offer helpful advice on saving energy in your home.
Switch to a green energy supplier
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Now is a great opportunity to search for better energy deal. And while you’re at it, why not choose a renewable supplier? Green energy suppliers sell renewable electricity and there are many different options to choose from. What’s more, you might even find they are much cheaper.
USwitch will compare green tariffs for you. You can still switch if you are prepayment or in a rented home. Furthermore, Norwich City Council has a new green and community energy scheme called Roar Power.
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Explore plant-based options
Some of us are already exploring new recipes and baking, proven by the fact that flour is now rarer than loo roll in the shops. Give some plant-based recipes a go.
Plant-based foods are grown and produced with lower greenhouse gas emissions than meat, fish and dairy, and have health benefits compared to a meat-heavy diet.
Vegetable box delivery companies and green grocers are affordable, they are sourced locally and they reduce emissions due to less food miles, while your council tax won’t be spent on collecting all that supermarket plastic packaging.
Grow your own
Interesting, fun, healthy, educational, tasty, self-sufficient. What’s not to like about growing yourself some veggies in a window box, tub or garden border? Even better when you use it in one of your new meat-free recipes.
And if you don’t fancy growing some food, you can sow some wildflower seeds to grow pretty flowers to benefit pollinator insects. A third of bee and hoverfly species are in decline.
Only ever buy peat-free compost to grow in. Before it was dug-up, whether from mountain bog or Norfolk broad, peat compost accumulated over thousands of years as plant carbon which was safely locked away from the atmosphere.
Keep the car in the garage
Norwich has very poor air quality and, lockdown or not, we all know how switching short journeys to cycling or walking results in significant health benefits. Coronovirus cases appear higher where air pollution is bad.
Pollution monitoring at Norwich Lakenfields has recorded a beneficial 18pc reduction in exhaust nitrous dioxide, while the East of England overall has seen a 38pc drop. Because of the lack of traffic right now, our roads are safe, silent and clean.
Children are learning the lifelong skill of cycling, my daughter included (plus extra available parenting time). The past few weeks I’ve seen lots of families cycling together from my window. I’ve had a cargo bike for about a year and I now need to use my car so infrequently in the city that I worry the battery has gone dead. Electric bikes are a boon for future cyclists, too.
Bring nature to your home
If you are lucky enough to live in the middle of a wood or at the seaside, maybe your nature deficit is not quite as bad as mine. Or maybe you never quite realised how much you enjoy being outside before, whether in urban parks or rural countryside.
Nature is important for our mental wellbeing, among all its other essential benefits. To bring nature to your home, you can play nature detective on your daily exercise stroll; the air is fresh and the birds are singing.
Even better, join Norfolk Wildlife Trust or the RSPB. They will deliver magazines full of information and activities to your door and inbox.
When the lockdown is over, you will have a huge choice of nature reserves and visitor centres for family trips. These organisations in their habitat management and education activities are protecting local wildlife against the impacts of climate change.
Air travel is one of the most carbon-intensive activities we engage in. This is because of the quantities of fuel burned over long distances. The current crisis has led to many of us becoming more familiar with attending work meetings online, which will hopefully continue in future.
When holidays are a possibility again, staycations are a great option. Essential for the Norfolk and UK economy, they are also lots of fun – with no traffic jams or SatNav arguments necessary. There will undoubtedly be a resurgence as soon as lockdown is over.
Time to talk
Public surveys show that around 90pc of UK citizens are worried about climate change, and now more than ever we all need to talk about our worries.
Recognising a crisis rather than denying it or thinking it’s a problem in a far-away country – called psychological distancing – is essential to dealing with a crisis. Let your councillor and MP know your thoughts on how we can do things differently when economic restructuring begins.
The climate emergency will still be there when we emerge from our homes and visit our families and friends. We’ve had 50 years of Earth Days to act.
Enjoy your Earth Day at home.
For more information on Earth Day and to be a part of the drive to flood the digital landscape with messages and action on climate change, visit www.earthday.org