Guest Blog: Effort efficiency. What makes the most difference?
The brass tacks of deciding to do something good for the environment are really, honestly, how much bloody effort it will take. Can I be bothered to cycle everywhere even if it’s raining? Can I find a way to make quinoa taste interesting? We all have a limited time on this planet, and a limited amount of effort each day outside of the basic struggle of just carrying on with everything so being faced with a constant barrage of information and opinions on how you can and should be doing something to help the environment can be tiring but most of all lead to just finally caving into one or more ‘causes’ either because of peer pressure or the amount of marketing that particular cause receives.
Here’s a mischievous thought: What if the choices you make are not the product of careful examination of all the options and that you may make a bigger difference with less effort if you just checked the facts and your own lifestyle first?
Here’s a really interesting paper which goes into detail about what government and school textbooks tell us about how we can make a difference to the environment and compares it with what changes actually make the biggest differences.
1: Wynes & Nicholas (2017)
It turns out none of the biggest western governments (and educational systems) suggest having one less child as a way of emitting sixty times less carbon than eating a plant-based diet. They don’t even mention eating a plant based diet for that matter. But they do all agree that we should switch to reusable shopping bags, a practice which is less than 1% as effective per year as not eating meat.
I don’t want to suggest that anyone should stop recycling, composting or insulating their houses, but these moderate to low benefit practices can be harmful in that they give one the impression that they are doing something really beneficial when their efforts could be doing so much more good elsewhere as well. I also understand and agree that plastic waste production is not the same as carbon emissions, but to me the outcome of carbon emissions is far more harmful to us than the build up of plastics. We must direct our efforts wisely because our time is short. Here then is a list of the most beneficial things you can do:
1. Have one less child
Most people don’t seem to consider their genitals as weapons of mass destruction however there isn’t a single argument for any method of avoiding global catastrophe that can’t be brought back to reducing the number of humans on the planet. Hans Rosling sets out a compelling case for how population growth is shifting regionally and will (along with improving living standards) plateau. Part of that levelling off requires each of us to consider our motivations and capacity for having kids and if we do how many is a responsible number.
2. Live car free
Buying and owning a car generally means owning a big lump of fairly expensive stuff that spends most of its life sat still and not doing its job. Having access to a car generally means it will get used when a walk or short cycle ride could have completed the journey. A bit like going vegan it is almost entirely impractical to one day throw your keys away and buy a bus pass so first think about your needs and what solutions are a best fit for your area. There is no one solution so your car replacement may be a combination of several other modes of transport. The average cost of owning a car is between £160 and £300 per month depending on how you buy one, so if any of the following seems like an expensive solution bear in mind how much you will be saving without a car on the road.
- Grocery deliveries: Losing the car shouldn’t mean having to forage for food. Deliveries by supermarkets or local initiatives aren’t as expensive as having a car and can be greener by having one van doing a round trip rather than multiple cars doing return journeys to and from the shops
- Car share: If you live in a city a car sharing scheme like Zipcar might be a solution for times when you have stuff to carry
- Cycle: Get fit whilst saving cash and the environment. Gumtree and Shpock are great places to find cheap used bikes locally and there are lots of solutions for carrying cargo and children with trailers and kiddy seats
- Motorbike: Although still using dead dinosaur juice for power, being able to get through traffic means they run for less time so you wont ever be late! From scooters to superbikes there are motorised two wheelers for all budgets
- Public transport: Depending on where you live this may be a pleasure or a bit grim. Either way local bus or trains might link up your commute giving you a cycle/train/cycle journey
- Car rental: Car owners sometimes need to do longer 100+mile journeys but so infrequently it can work out cheaper to hire a car for these occasions or let someone else drive and go by train
3. Avoid one transatlantic flight
The real statement here is avoiding one long haul flight per year. Unless you have family flung across the globe this is probably the easiest one to achieve off the bat by spreading those long distance breaks across a longer time and looking into vacating domestically. Alternatively a road trip is a much greener alternative!
4. Buy green energy
Suppliers like Bulb offer a super-simple way of going green. Simply switching suppliers means your lights still come on just as before, except they are now powered by %51% wind with the rest coming from hydroelectric and biogas. The cost is no different to a non-renewable supplier and the best part is you’ve saved more carbon each year than if you became a vegan.
There you go; you’ve done it, saved over 65 tonnes of CO2 per year with a few lifestyle choices. Some of them take some serious thought and planning but you haven’t had to reach for the tofu. Yet.
Simon lives in Whiteley with his lovely wife and two children. He has a sense of humour as dry as an exquisite white wine on a summers day. Simon previously owned an off the grid scuba diving resort in Indonesia with his wife where he met our co-founder. His favourite eco product hails from his South East Asian days… the bum gun. In his own words “it makes my botty sing with the happy voices of a thousand uncut trees”.