Surely I can't make a difference? Yes you CAN!
It's easy to feel overwhelmed by negative news about climate change and think there's nothing we can do. But that's not true at all. The future isn't set in stone, and our actions - individually and collectively - WILL make a difference. All we need to do is commit to taking the first step.
The 3 biggest sources of global greenhouse gas emissions are coal, cows and cars. So why don't we start there?
We don't just use a lot of electricity, we waste a lot too. It may seem silly to worry about switching off lights around the home, but if we all did this we could save millions of tons of CO2 at a stroke.
1. According to the University of Cambridge a single light left on overnight for a year, accounts for as much greenhouse gas as a car drive from Cambridge to Paris.
*Source: University of Cambridge
That's not to mention the savings on wear and tear, since you won't have to replace the bulb as often, and so save CO2 there as well.
Our energy use in general is a big burden on the world's carbon cycle.
2. Cambridge researchers also found that by setting all staff PC monitors to go to sleep after 10 minutes instead of 30, the university could save enough energy to run all the street lights in Cambridge for 4 nights.
Small actions have BIG effects.
3. If everyone in the UK boiled only water they needed when using a kettle, it would save enough electricity to power the UK's street lights for nearly 7 months.
Have you ever driven through your city and seen office lights left on all over the place? Even at midnight on a weekend? Seems wasteful doesn't it? Well it is.
4. According to the Energy Saving Trust, office lights left on overnight use enough energy in a year to heat a home for almost 5 months.
That's just the lights from one office. Now imagine that multiplied by all the offices in cities across the country. Ridiculous isn't it?
5. At home, switch to renewable energy suppliers where possible. There are an increasing number of options nowadays, so vote with your wallet.
6. If you can add some solar power to your property, you will save on your bills and your carbon footprint. The payback period may be quite long - even though solar costs are plummeting - but the long term reward is a healthier planet.
7. Unplug devices and appliances when not in use, and install energy saving bulbs and appliances whenever possible. Simple actions can add up to a major carbon benefit.
All of the factors which affect the climate, by far the most controversial is food - especially the meat issue. The facts are pretty alarming.
8. The Livestock and Climate Change report in 2009 said that meat, dairy and egg farming created 32 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, or over 51% of the global total.
*Source: Livestock and Climate Change Report 2009
That scary statistic includes the land use, cooking, storage, packaging and waste.
Unfortunately our eating habits are harming the environment significantly. Now no-one is saying that we should all go vegan tomorrow because that would be unrealistic. But there are definitely some steps we can take to adjust our eating habits and reduce our carbon footprint.
For example we can all pledge to eat LESS meat and dairy from tomorrow - because even lowering our consumption has a dramatic effect.
9. If everyone in the UK didn't eat meat for two days a week, that would save 26 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. Which would be the equivalent of over 70 million return flights from London to Ibiza. WOW!
10. Even cutting out beef from our diet, while continuing to eat other meats, would reduce our carbon footprint from food by around 40%.
11. Eat food which requires less cooking. This saves energy - and therefore emissions - as well as offering a more natural diet. Consuming salads, lightly steamed vegetables, less fried foods and other more simple recipes can significantly reduce our carbon footprint, and deliver more nutrients.
12. Eat more local, organic and in season foods. By avoiding big chain products, we reduce the waste, transportation and packaging costs associated with mass produced food. Local produce is delivered over a shorter distance, and will have more nutrients. The local farmer's market is a great place to start a new healthier diet regime.
13. Even the way we prepare and process our meals in the kitchen can reduce our footprint. Use a pressure cooker or other efficient tools. Cook in batches where possible, to prepare several meals in one go and save energy. Don't waste food. Instead of throwing leftovers when shopping, turn them into delicious meals for the next few days.
14. Finally reduce waste even further by recycling what you cannot eat. Set up a composting system is possible, and try growing your own veg. Even a single tomato plant is a good start. Also don't be afraid to buy mishapen (wonky) or end end of date food products when shopping. They are good value and reduce waste a lot!
We're addicted to cars. They are currently responsible for around 12% of the total emissions of CO2 in Europe. There are simple rules for reducing our transportation carbon footprint.
15. Share the ride. Either use public transport, share journeys as much as possible with family or restrict journeys to local or essential ones where possible.
16. Work out the best way to commute to save CO2. It may involve a little more inconvenience, but it is helping towards a greater good. Could we cycle instead of taking a bus? Can we share a car with a colleague in some way? Can we arrange some work from home days with our employer? Doing that 3 days a week can save 4 tonnes of CO2 a year alone.
17. Drive slower. If every UK driver cut their speed down from 70mph to 60mph we could save 810,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. That's equal to the electricity used by 120,000 homes for a year. And journey times would be slower by mere minutes.
18. Consider joining a car club. Why own a car when we can use one whenever we need just by flashing a credit card? Car clubs provide all the benefits of 'door to door' travel without the headaches of ownership. Not only does an urban car club vehicle remove 10 privately owned cars from the road, but they are typically more fuel efficient (producing 29% less CO2). Which means the average car club saves around 50,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
19. Consider upgrading to an electric vehicle if a car club is not practical. The range of EV's is increasing, and prices are coming down in the 2nd hand market. While there is still some controversy over the lifecycle impacts of lithium batteries, there's no question that driving an EV has an overall positive benefit on our carbon footprint.
20. Even buying a more fuel efficient car has a dramatic effect. Buying a used car which does 34.6 mpg instead of a current vehicle which does 24.9 mpg, will save 1.7 tonnes of CO2 off your emissions each year.
21. No matter what vehicle you own, taking care of it with regular servicing is a must to keep your emissions as low as possible. If possible try and take a lessons in eco-driving techniques. These specialist driving lessons can help you save up to 15% on your fuel bills instantly and reduce the wear and tear on the car.
The fight for a healthy planet is still one we can win. We just have to think creatively and refuse to give up. If enough of us take action, no matter how small, we can and will make a difference. And that may be all we need to avoid the worst in the coming decades. Small steps, big wins!