Unless you’ve been hiding in your (end of the world ready) bunker the last few weeks you will have likely heard about a young girl called Greta Thunberg. She’s rattling a few cages of people who don’t seem to have perspective of the issues related to climate change and instead of finding this funny and a little bit stupid it’s actually scaring me. It scares me because I realise that the majority of the population aren’t taking climate change seriously, they’re focusing their efforts on trying to bring a 16 year old girl down for taking on one of the single biggest issues of our time. Instead of trying to understand the issue and how they can help they’re posting nonsense like this and being keyboard warriors. 

I have a milkman, do you?

Today’s blog post isn’t just for those people who remain ignorant to the cause and post things without thought of what it actually means, this is for everyone as I think we could all do better. But there is one question I want to ask of the people who post vicious and unhelpful vitriol about a courageous young woman and the very valid issue she’s fighting for; what have you done today to make a positive change in this world? If you can ask yourself that question each day and feel proud in your decisions then great. If not then what could you start to change? If not for your own future what about for your children or grandchildren. Because when the time comes and they are asking you what you did to help wouldn’t you like to have an answer that would inspire them?

I feel the need to pull apart this particular meme that got my back up, the one above. I noticed the majority of the people posting it were only children themselves in the 60s and 70s so think about it; if you did post this or found yourself agreeing with it, were you the ones making the decisions on the packaging that your goods were produced in and your holiday destinations The “school kid’s” agenda isn’t aimed at individuals either (so seriously, calm down no one is attacking you), it’s aimed at corporations and governments and coincidentally the people heading up those corporations and governments were mostly born between the 1950’s-1960’s. So in effect a lot of Climate Change is as a result of people born in those eras that didn’t take action when they should have and continued to make decisions based on short term individual profit rather than long term well-being that affects entire populations. So the reality is that these people have stolen Greta’s future as well as a little bit of yours and mine and a whole lot of my 2 year old daughters.

Another point that these children (and many times more adults) are making is that actually it’s not simply about recycling or reducing waste, the biggest thing is fossil fuels, and really there are only minimal things that you or I can do about that right now, short of inventing or engineering a solution (which I’m deffo not qualified for or have any ideas about). But guess who is? The same corporations that figured out that gas could power our heating, or that solar panels could power entire homes and wind turbines could power entire towns. But why – instead of wasting *your* energy on posting snarky comments on Facebook – aren’t you taking action and writing to your MP about why renewable energy and solar panels aren’t affordable or top of their agenda. Why are you continuing to purchase clothes that you’ll only wear once or brand new cars that you only need as a ‘run around’ even though you’ve already got a family car and the shop is 5 mins walk down the road?

I read some comments on this particular post from a Facebook group and was happy to see that not everyone had taken a one way ticket to looney town which illustrate perfectly the issues with this post and many others like it: 

What school kid can afford mobile phones and computers and consoles and McDonald’s all the time and how dare they force their parents to take them on foreign holidays and buy all the new cars.

Do not blame children for the way they have been brought up or the society they have been born into. This is s***, blame big business and governments or stop pointing fingers.

I cannot believe that instead of finding solutions for problems society seems happier to point fingers. But we cannot blame children, they learn from adults. I’m inspired to see children stand up for their world, their planet their future. I haven’t seen that before and perhaps we do have something to learn from them.

My point exactly.

Now I know it might seem hypocritical of me, someone who loves to travel, to be “mouthing off” about the environment and how people aren’t doing their bit, but if you’ve stuck with my post this far you’re in for some education. 

I’ll be 100% transparent here, when it comes to travel, I know that’s something that I don’t want to give up and in some instances, when needing to get to a destination hassle-free, I can’t see better alternatives to flying in terms of convenience and cost. 

Take this example; a return flight to Paris costs just £59 and takes approx four hours if you count travelling to the airport and checking in etc, yet the same journey by train costs £165 as a minimum, takes around 7-8 hours dependent on changes (and you have to change at least once). For people who don’t have a lot of free time (or money) you can see why that is favourable.

Additionally, tourism is the main source of economic growth for many countries – if we all stopped travelling tomorrow entire economies would collapse. So what do I do when I love to travel all year round and I don’t want to give that up? I create trade offs in other areas of my life and I try and travel in the most environmentally positive way possible, and yes that might not mean not flying but it does mean being prepared and conscious when I make decisions whilst travelling. 

Here’s what steps I’m taking to reduce mine and my family’s impact on the planet. I know it’s not perfect, and it’s pretty simple, but it’s a start…

Reducing plastic waste

I have been trying to reduce my waste steadily each month, I don’t buy bottled water, I always take a reusable bottle on any journey and I have my handy little collapsible coffee cup which has already travelled around Europe with me. Recently it was estimated that our love of takeaway coffee uses 16 billion cups per year globally, and only around 1% of these can be recycled.

Replacing this with home made coffee or at least getting a reusable cup is such a small change in your life but the impact is huge.

Recently, I decided I need to do more and throughout October, I will be undertaking my own experiment with my family to see how easily we can live plastic free. Check back here each week to see how we are doing. 

Walking

We walk or cycle EVERYWHERE. I don’t get public transport to work and the daycare drop offs are almost always by bike or walking. My general rule is that if the journey takes less than 30 mins by foot then I will walk, otherwise I will cycle dependent on how much free time I have. 

Here’s some light facts:

  • Between the ages of 35-54 you will travel approx 15,000 miles by car each year on average
  • The average commute each day in the UK is approx 10 miles by car (Source: RAC)
  • Annual CO2 emissions therefore for an average commuter are approx; 0.67 tonnes 
  • If I drove to work each day it would probably be around 4.5-5 miles (given the one way systems in Bristol)
  • My recent trip to the Baltics (a return flight from UK to Latvia via Berlin) was 0.52 tonnes, for my entire family (Source: Carbon Footprint Calculator
  • The output of emissions I save from not driving to work would be 0.3 tonnes per annum 
  • My individual contribution to my flight would therefore be 0.26 CO2e

The fact that my aviation travel emissions are not as high as an average person’s commuting emissions does make me feel slightly better and with the addition of being able to offset this through the Carbon Footprint Calculator these trips can still be made relatively guilt free.

Solo national travel

If I am visiting friends alone then I will almost always get the train or the coach. Rarely do I use the car if it’s just me. I’d love to extend this to travelling with the family but sadly train travel is almost unaffordable compared to driving as soon as you add an extra person to the mix.

Food shopping

I tend to only shop in a few places, Aldi, our local minimarket and bakery – the latter two where you can shop for fresh produce almost packaging free too. I’m so lucky where I live and I know this isn’t easy for everyone but obviously distance travelled to purchase your shopping contributes to CO2 emissions. Our local Aldi is only 1 mile away and I would of course choose not to use the car if I didn’t have to get a weeks’ worth of shopping for the entire family (and with a toddler in tow).  

I know I can do better and I am going to start looking in to the food miles for the produce we need. We grow our own fruit and veg at home but it’s very minimal at the moment (mainly because I’m bloody awful at it).

Disclaimer, the berries are actually from a neighbour’s garden, they just grow over our fence.

We have a lot of dairy milk in the house because of our toddler and we just signed up to Milk & More to have our milk delivered in reusable glass bottles. It actually not that much more expensive than our local minimarket and we can guarantee that it’ll be organic too!

Clothing

It’s no secret that I’m a clothes addict (I won’t say fashion addict as that is debatable), however over the past few years I have bought more and more from charity shops and vintage and indeed decreased the amount of clothes I was purchasing anyway. 

Even when I bought my wedding dress I bought a plain yellow evening gown so that I could wear it for other occasions rather than spend thousands on something that would never see the light of day again.

My daughter’s clothes are around 70% second hand, I purchase bundles from people on Facebook or we’re often given hand-me-downs from friends and family and of course there are plenty of second hand shops that sell brilliant children’s shoes and clothes.

But my favourite thing most recently has to be discovering Onloan. It’s a subscription service where you can hire designer clothes for a monthly fee. I choose the lowest subscription (£69 a month for two items of clothing) and not only does it satisfy my uncontrollable shopping desires but it means I get to try loads of new designer clothes whilst feeling smug that I’m reducing my carbon footprint and supporting a small business. If you’re interested you can take advantage of my discount referral code when you sign up: CHARLOTTE206

So that’s my (shortened) list of a few things that make a difference to our environment, of course I’d get on a train if it was a similar price to flying but the reality is that price drives a lot of my choices. I can afford to shop ‘plastic free’ (which I should point out should not be a privilege and should be the norm), but I can’t spend £300+ extra to take my family to Paris for a long weekend.

We can only do what we can to reduce our impact on the planet though (unless you’re Richard Branson or Grant Shapps reading this) and more needs to be done to lobby for fairer and greener travel. As this piece in the Guardian rightly points out, trying to tackle this as individuals “paralyses change”. That’s not to say we should give up being good but we need to also focus our efforts on the people who can change it.

We need a revolution and this is what Greta and others are trying to achieve. So instead of belittling her efforts why not focus yours on something good, something that can help move the tides of change, before the real changing tides move you.

If you are feeling passionate about this here are some things you can do:

  1. Take part in a climate meeting or even go to a strike/protest. Today (October 7) there is an Extinction Rebellion protest in London, if you can, just go along and talk to one person there to understand what they’re trying to do.
  2. Refuse to purchase goods or services from organisations that are known to be exploiting our planet where there are clearly other options for them. Write to them and tell them why you are no longer a customer. 

    (Side note: I currently have a letter in my drafts for Tampax, they continue to advertise and manufacture their plastic applicator tampons, yet they already have the answer with their normal applicator tampons –  Boycott them!)
  3. Make demands to your local MPs and other politicians. Demand they tell you what they’re doing locally, nationally and internationally when it comes to climate change. Better still, don’t be distracted by the bickering and egotistical politicians that actually don’t give a crap about you or the planet, vote for a party that has a strong plan for reducing our emissions and puts the single most important issue of our lifetime first.

These changes are going to take you out of your comfort zone but think about the alternative, in your lifetime it is predicted that millions will be displaced globally due to climate change. And that includes you, you only have to look out of the window today and watch the news to see how people’s homes are being flooded and are no longer liveable. This is displacement due to climate change and it’s happening more frequently. This is not something to ignore or belittle, it’s real and it will affect you.

Join the Conversation

7 Comments

  1. Thank you. I will be sharing this and particularly with my husband who is currently a disbeliever!

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  2. Great post, I relate to the travel issue. I love to travel but I have stopped the overseas travel out of guilt, for me the compromise was to see more of my own country and to do it with a tiny tear drop camper, still not ideal, but we have the smallest most fuel efficient car possible and the tear drop is an eco pod designed to reduce our impact. At least more of us are trying to make a difference now. Greta gives me hope and what she has achieved and inspired gives me some hope for the future.

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    1. Wow thanks for that Sharon. You’re doing a brilliant thing. We travelled in a camper around the Baltics in the summer but we could have definitely been more eco-friendly, we stayed in a few eco-friendly camping spots but we should have done more. Where do you travel in your camper?

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  3. Thanks for writing and sharing this. It’s great that you are thinking about these things and trying to move in the right direction. It’s important to remember that none of us are perfect and we’re all humans trapped in the same toxic system. Guilt and blame aren’t helpful. Too often they have been used to shut down arguments about the climate.

    I think there are still some sacred cows that need to be sacrificed. You mention loss of “economic growth” as a reason not to act in some cases. I realised recently that growth cannot continue forever. Especially when it relies on mining more minerals, intensively farming more land and inevitably causing more waste and emissions. It seems rather obvious now I think about it. So at some point we have to get comfortable with the idea that growth, especially GDP growth will have to stop. This will either be because we decide it isn’t making us better off or because we ignore the problem until food-supporting systems collapse.

    Now there are obviously issues with fairness and how much different countries can safely grow, but growth is inherently unsustainable. The way the world works is going to change. Let’s do what we can to make that change as fair and positive as we can.

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    1. That’s an interesting hypothesis James, do you think it will happen in our lifetimes? It doesn’t feel like it would with the amount of consumerism and the growing populations.

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      1. You’re right that people, especially in the developed world, are very much bought in to consumerism and growth. A lot of jobs and systems depend on it. There are some promising signs with countries like New Zealand and Scotland considering Wellbeing as a more appropriate measure than GDP.

        But for the large scale, dramatic changes that UN climate scientists tell us are needed, I doubt the majority are going to change so easily. For most of us, growth seems to work nicely. This is pernicious as most consumption and therefore emissions are caused by the richer people in the world – we’re probably both in the top 5% (http://www.globalrichlist.com/). You can’t blame the developing world for wanting all the same things, but if we continue on that path, disaster is inevitable.

        To answer your question, I think predicting when these things will happen is incredibly hard. But from what is already happening with warmer,drier climate causing harvests to repeatedly fail, forcing people to migrate from many parts of the world, I’d say the problem is starting already. Not to mention loss of pollinators, soil erosion, flooding or salinisation of farmland. We may be insulated from it for a while in the UK, but we import about 50% of our food. My guess is that we’ll experience food rationing within my lifetime. I don’t think we’ll drown from rising sea levels, but might end up fighting over the last scraps of food. If much of the world starves or kills each other, that would stop growth, but with terrible consequences.

        Of course it would be much better if people see these problems coming and transition gently to a more sustainable relationship with the planet. I think it’ll take some big shocks to wake people up to that uncomfortable reality. (sorry for the wall-of-text, but you got me thinking. 🙂 )

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