2015 has been a big year for climate change. In September, we saw the release of theGlobal Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 goals which cover topics that include â€˜ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns’ as well as â€˜taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts’. Momentum is also building for the UN Climate Conference in December where global leaders will meet in Paris to (hopefully) adopt the most universal and ambitious climate agreement we have ever seen.
Never has there been more need to take action. This month we learned the Earth’s temperature is now 1 degree above pre-industrial levels which means we are already halfway to the 2 degree limit set by global leaders in 2009. It was also announced that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has crossed the 400 parts per million threshold. The last time carbon dioxide levels were this high was over three million years ago, before modern humans existed.
Often climate change can seem too huge a problem to comprehend. While we know industry leaders and governments need to drive change, sometimes we struggle as individuals to know how we can make a difference. Does it even matter what we do? It absolutely does! So what CAN you do?
1. Take a stand
On November 29, hours before world leaders meet at the Paris Climate Summit, marches and other events will be held around Ireland as part of the Global Climate Marchmovement. By attending these events you can help to raise awareness of climate change and highlight to political leaders that they need to commit to meaningful action at the Paris summit.
Now is a perfect time to start a 350.org group in your area. 350.org is a global movement of of local citizen-led climate action groups, active in 188 countries. Ireland is not amongst them yet. You can learn here how to start your own group.
2. The best ways to reduce your own impact
Sometimes it can be hard to see how the small changes we make to our lifestyle make any difference but if lots of us make small changes it can really make a big impact. Some simple things you can do today:
What a Waste!
The last place we want waste to go is landfill. A huge amount of what we throw away can be diverted from landfill through reusing, repurposing, recycling, repairing or composting.
Repair Cafes have begun to be established in Ireland. These are free community events where people are invited to bring down things they have that are broken to be repaired, alongside expert volunteers, in a cafe environment. Keep an eye on WEEE Public Collection Days where you can bring any electrical waste you might have. Repak also have a handy recycling facility search here where you can find bring centres to recycle items like clothes and glass.
Food waste is one of the biggest challenges of today’s world – 1 in every 3 calories is wasted! There are lots of great tips on how to reduce food waste at StopFoodWaste.ieincluding advice on how to start composting and some great recipes to use up leftovers.
If you’d like to take this one step further and help to reduce the food waste of your community you might like to bring Foodcloud to your area and make sure the surplus food in the local supermarkets gets to those who need it most instead of ending up in the bins. You can register your interest right now to start the Food Rescue Project withFoodCloud in your community.
As well as food, textile waste has increased along with our passion for fast fashion. There’s a price to pay for all of this surprisingly cheap clothing including increased textile waste and unethical supply chains. The simplest step you can take is to just buy less and buy pieces that you can wear different ways that are of great quality.
You can also try to buy vintage or pre-loved clothes rather than buying new. Rediscover Fashion, Ireland’s Green Fashion Label, produces 100% redesigned, repurposed and recycled fashion, accessories and home-ware ranges and encourages you to â€˜rediscover’ fashion through do-it-yourself training programmes and redesign consultancy alterations and dressmaking service.
Who Left the Immersion On!?
There are lots of easy ways to reduce the amount of energy you use every day. Switching off the lights is an obvious one but why not go further and change light bulbs to compact fluorescents (CFLs) or LEDs. When you are finished with your CFL bulbs you can exchange them for flowering bulbs in lots of stores around Ireland as part of the Bulb Exchange Initiative.
Try and unplug computers, TVs and other electronics when you’re not using them, if they’re on standby they are still using energy. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland has lots of great tips on how to save energy around the house as well as some great grants and support available for your home and business.
Get out of the car!
You can help reduce emissions by using your car less and walking, cycling or using public transport whenever you can. Cycling is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in Ireland at the moment and there’s lots of support out there to help you get back in the saddle:
- They say you never forget how to cycle a bike, but just in case, check out the Irish Centre for Cycling who offer adult cycling classes.
- Have a look at Cyclist.ie â€“ The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network to connect with other cyclists in your area
- For extra impact, instead of buying a new bike, get an old one fixed or find a second-hand one at Rothar.
- Ask your employer if they are part of the Bike2Work Scheme.
- And don’t forget to stay safe â€“ check out the RSA Cycle Smart Cycle Safe campaign.
Changing from using a car to public transport can sometimes be a bit of challenge but thankfully technology is helping to make the transition much easier. Check out these apps which are designed to make using public transport a lot simpler. The National Transport Authority runs a Car Sharing Initiative where you can connect with colleagues from your organisation and share the trip to the office. If you find that you still need a car but not every day, check out GoCar which allows you book a car as you need it if you are in Dublin or Cork.
3. Get Informed
If you want some more information about climate change you can check out the EPA website or watch this video from NASA. Even Netflix has some great documentaries about climate issues. There is also a new group of enthusiastic climate communicators who have recently partnered with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Projectto provide climate talks around Ireland. These new Climate Leaders are available to help educate your local community groups at a time and date of your choosing.
4. Get Involved Today
I already introduced you to 350.org and the Food Rescue Project which are two great ways in which you can get actively involved in fighting climate change in your community in different areas. Another very practical way to make a change at the community level while getting your hands dirty is The Green Plan. This initiative gives you a framework for hands-on actions across seven themes: Energy Usage, Green Procurement, Carbon Production and its effects on Biodiversity, Water, Climate and Society. Actions include installing a water butt to collect rain water, replacing all your lightbulbs with LED bulbs – simple actions but when done together and consistently can achieve strong results and significant cost savings.
5. If you can still take moreâ€¦
Here are some more sites you can check out:
- Green-Schools Ireland
- Green Communities Ireland
- Environmental Protection Agency of Ireland
- Tap Tips
- Clean Coasts
Do you know about more successful initiatives that have an impact on the community level? Please let me know about them in the comments below or send a tweet @changexhq
For our series on the power of communities to tackle climate change in the run-up to the UN climate summit in Paris we’ve asked social entrepreneurs, environmentalists, researchers and community leaders for their input on how communities can take action to reduce their carbon footprint and to build awareness for a more sustainable lifestyle.
Please share your opinion on the issue with us. #ChangeX #COP21 or [email protected]
Ali Sheridan is a Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility consultant and the the founder of PurposeHub. She specialises in company-wide sustainability strategy, communications and engagement.
Follow Ali on Twitter @SherSustainable