Written by Helen Aitchison
It’s a New Year, a period for reflection and adaptations in our lives. A time for motivation, commitment and a renewed zest to achieve! Whether we stick at them is another thing, but January naturally brings new cycles, new thoughts and opportunities. I personally prefer the term “Goals,” than New Year’s Resolution, which eases the pressure and fear of failing.
One of my goals this year is to be greener. I score well on the “Green scale,” but would like to contribute more and play a great part in protecting further damage to our planet. It feels that never in our lifetimes has there been as much emphasis on our need to protect our world, and rightly so. Climate activist such as Greta Thunberg have brought the topic into our front rooms and minds, and COP 26 in November of 2021 saw commitment and emotional speeches from leaders across the world.
COP, for those interested, stands for ‘Conference of the Parties.’ COP26 was the 26th meeting for global climate summits, this time in Glasgow.
So how can we all play our part in protecting our climate? I recently heard someone saying,
“There’s no point, I can’t make much of a difference alone.” If we all thought that, we would never make an impact. One person, plus another, plus another becomes an army of hope, action and change. Simple everyday changes can contribute to change and importantly, these can be cost effective as well as benefit your wellbeing and that of your loved ones.
Here’s a list of ideas, that may just feel like a great fit for you personally and could even become one of your 2022 goals:
- Use your car less – walk, cycle, plan journeys more effectively, use public transport and car share. This will not only help reduce fuel omissions, but will also offer an opportunity to possibly save money and exercise as a bonus.
- Volunteer with local litter pick-ups – these occur across the North East, in our beautiful woodlands, parks and beaches. Take partners and children along. Many organised events build community links and allow for making new friendships, as well as educating our young people and each other.
- Reducing waste – be more mindful of what you throw away. Recycle where you can. Plan meals to reduce food waste, or make a basic compost bin for food waste. Take unwanted food that can still be consumed to a food bank. Donate unwanted clothes to charity shops and local services who support homeless people. If clothes are beyond repair, use them for pet bedding, or cleaning rags. Buy second hand where you can, in charity shops or online. It saves you money and supports individuals and local charities.
- Conserve water and electricity – simple things like having showers instead of baths, cutting down the time you spend in the shower, even by a tiny amount! Turning the tap off when you are brushing your teeth, washing at a lower temperature and a quick wash, turning lights off when not needed and switching off electrical items at the socket.
- Eat sustainably – going vegetarian or vegan even for a month or two a year. Studies indicate that going vegetarian can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5 times, compared to a meat diet. (www.vegsoc.org)
- Use less plastic – Invest in material shopping bags that will last for ages, rather than paying for plastic bags that we never remember to take shopping with us again! Use metal or bamboo straws and avoid buying disposable plates and plastic, one use cutlery. Carry a travel cup with you, or a reusable water bottle. Some coffee shop companies give discount if you visit their cafes with your own cup. Look into cosmetics and toiletries that use less plastic packaging. I’ve recently discovered a shampoo soap that works wonders for my unruly hair!
- Have conversations about climate change, with colleagues, friends and your family. Keep it on everyone’s agenda. We can all play a part in making a positive impact, with much of our lifestyle changes benefitting our bank accounts and our health as a bonus.
Helen is a journalist for Radio Gateshead, a local lass who has spent the last two decades working in health and social care. She currently works for a local charity, managing service across the North East for vulnerable children and adults.
Her debut novel, The Dinner Club, is due for release in March 2022 and her writing has featured in a number of anthologies and magazines.