Mind The Environment

Recently I watched Sir David Attenborough's newest documentary Extinction: The Facts You can't help but get emotional as the 58-minute programme unfolds. The shocking images of environmental devastation caused by human activity seem more powerful when accompanied by the passionate narration of the beloved 94-year-old naturalist.

Najin & Fatu and a caretaker 
Photo credit: Bench Africa
Personally, the most impactful images were those featuring the last two remaining northern white rhinos (a subspecies of white rhino), a mother and daughter Najin and Fatu, and their caretaker who tells his story of living through their decline. They seemed to almost ooze isolation and loneliness, as though they know they are the last of their subspecies. 

They are deemed functionally extinct: the last male northern white rhino Sudan died of old age in 2018 and the pair are his offspring. Whilst sperm and eggs have been stored from all three there are concerns there would be complications from inbreeding.

By the end of the programme, some viewers may be left feeling encouraged to act whilst others might feel powerless, thinking that it's too late to make a difference. But make a difference we must, with a million species at risk of extinction, rising global temperatures and an increased risk of further pandemics from human encroachment into wild animals' habitats.  

Now you don't have to go live in a yurt to make a difference. Here are some small changes you can consider to increase the collective impact.

1. Change your search engine:

Our environment needs trees, especially with around 26 million hectares of tree loss each year. By searching with Ecosia.org instead of through a global search giant you can help to reduce the effects of climate change for free. It takes approximately 45 searches to finance the planting of one tree. They finance trees through clicks on advertisements that appear alongside search results (more details if you click here), so if you do purchase something through an ad make it an environmentally conscious one. Just bear in mind that every web search leaves a carbon footprint of at least 0.2 gCO2e, so only search if its essential. 

2. Clear out your old emails and think before you send:

2019 study by Ovo Energy, estimated that Brits send approximately over 64 million unnecessary emails every single day. If Each UK adult sent one less ‘thank you’ email a day, it would save over 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year - the same as 81,1522 flights to Madrid or taking 3,3343 diesel cars off the road.

Every time you keep or send an email you are adding to your carbon footprint.  Sending even a short email adds approximately four grammes (0.14 ounces) of CO2 equivalent (gCO2e) to the atmosphere. This is through greenhouse gases produced in running the computer, server and routers but also those emitted when the equipment was manufactured. Adding a large attachment puts around 50 gCO2e into the air, and it's about 0.3 gCO2e for receiving a spam email, even if you don't open it.

Depending on how many years you haven't run a spring clean, and if you aren't prepared to just mass delete, this might take a while. If it's overwhelming do it in chunks at a time, trying to make sure you are deleting more than are coming in (the unsubscribe button is your friend!). You might want to consider cleansing message histories on your social media as well. 

3. Reduce your waste

Make sure you only buy the food and drink you need rather than letting it go off, and make use of leftovers in other meals. Avoid heavily packaged items, particularly those using single-use plastics and other non-recyclables. Before you throw something away consider whether it genuinely is at the end of its life or if it's just that you want a shiny new thing; can you give it to a friend who might love it, can it be upcycled, could it have another use than its primary original function?

Want to quantify how much you waste? Keep a log of everything you throw out, over time you will start to see patterns to tweak your shopping accordingly. 

4. Understand expiration dates

Sell-by is the date limit for retailers to sell an item, use-by is when you should use the product by and can be unsafe if consumed after this date, and the best-before is the date after which the item will start to lose its quality. Stay safety conscious of course, but for a lot of items you can use your own judgement and senses to decide if something is still edible e.g. does it look alright? does it smell okay? - bunches of grapes aren't harvested with dates stamped on them! 

5. Watch 
what you buy

Take some time really thinking about whether you want to purchase something or if it is just an impulse buy. Buying less can save you money, and you can use your purchasing power to encourage positive change by supporting eco-friendly products and companies. Can you swap to organic, or buy locally? 

What is the overall environmental impact of the product as a whole, broken down into its components parts and the miles they may have travelled? 

These ideas are just a starting point, and there are many other ways to reduce your impact on the environment. I would love to know some of the changes you have made, share in the comments. 

Cover photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels


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