Five ways to start making a difference

Mothers. What are they really good for? I mean, ok they clothe you, feed you and nurture you for 18 years or more, but really what did they ever do for anyone apart from that?

Well this week, they inspired a blog.

You may have noticed that there was no ‘View from a Hill’ last week. Simply that was because we ran out of time whilst getting ready for the first visit from family in not far short of year. Like many people emerging out of pandemic restrictions we hadn’t had a visitor sit on our sofa in months. As a result, tidying the place up a bit and finding some clean bedding became the (time consuming) priority.

But at least the effort was rewarded because whilst sitting there one evening have a chat the conversation turned towards the climate emergency and sustainability. Now, my family are no green warriors. They’re what I suspect is very average in that regard. They recycle as they’re meant to at home and are aware that man made climate change is definitely a thing. But beyond that, well not a lot to be honest. However, in this case, pretty average was very useful.

Because we own the shop and have the land at home, we’re moderately clued up on all this stuff. We read lots, educate ourselves, make sure we have the best answers possible for when customers ask us things in store. We’re not average at all when it comes to our understanding, even though there’s loads we don’t know. But sometimes, we forget that. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own little bubble of greenness. Mum cut through that with a simple challenge after I’d been pontificating for a while; Yes all those numbers and figures and details are great, but what do you actually want me to do? What are the five things I can do to help?

Well mum, this one’s for you…    


It feels like we’ve talked about this a lot over the past few weeks but it seriously is the one thing that is going to make the biggest difference over the next five to ten years. We have all the technological solutions we need to keep on us track to reach net zero by 2050 over the next decade but we are failing to implement them as quickly or as widely as we need to.

We know how to make fossil fuel electricity, we know how to heat our home without emitting carbon, we know how to make and sell electric cars, we know how to retrospectively insulate (nearly) all of our homes, we know how to eat a more plant based diet and cut food waste. All of these things are totally possible and yet they are not happening.

Many of those actions are down to individual choice but plenty of them need better designed regulation, well thought out incentives to encourage or big sticks to deter people. That is the work of government at all levels and we’ll only get leaders willing to take those actions if we vote for them.

It is also worth keeping in mind that change takes time. Even if we had a government announce that as of tomorrow only electric powered cars could be sold in the UK, it would still take a decade to phase out all the existing petrol vehicles. If regulations were introduced now to say only oil powered boilers were banned in homes, it would take between five and seven years to replace all the existing ones. If we don’t get our voting behaviours right in the next couple of years that time lag will seriously derail our progress towards net zero.

We’re not going to tell you how to vote, just that you need to vote for people who recognise the scale of challenge and have genuine answers to fix it. Unfortunately, that narrows your choices down quite a bit.

No more than one flight a year

Ok, this is an obvious one. Flying is not good for the planet. Foreign holidays might be lovely and the world is a big ol’ fascinating place to explore, but we need to fly less. There really is no way to sugar coat it. If, as a family, you take one flight per year, you’re going a long way to helping. We’re realistic, people aren’t going to stop flying, the world is full of people with friends and family to visit and that’s not going to change. The trick is to minimize flights and look for alternatives. This would also have the happy side effect of removing the need for any airport expansion in the UK as well.

And it’s not just pleasure flights. All those business trips need to go as well. The pandemic has shown most things can be done by zoom. Are you really so special that your personal magic is needed in the room on the other side of the ocean?

Cut down the red meat and dairy

Cow emit gases. And what they emit most, is methane. This is a problem as methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases. It has ten times the effect that carbon dioxide does although it hangs around in the atmosphere for a lot less time.

Basically, this means that red meat needs to be a treat. We need to be looking for locally produced, high quality red meat and eat it sparingly. The same goes with dairy. Fancy a nice bit of cheese? Ok, have it as a treat, but when you’re grating cheddar on top of dinner, how about using a vegan substitute which will taste just the same once it’s melted all over your pasta.

When it comes to milk, the substitutes really don’t taste bad at all these days and there is a whole world of choice out there. Our recommendation is to go for the non-nut options as nut production can involve ridiculous amounts of water use in their growth which is a whole other issue (see almonds in California). Try oat or hemp milk as they are probably the lowest impact options.

In an ideal world we’re going to need plenty of people moving to plant based diets but cutting the red meat and dairy is the most effective starting place.

Get your home insulated and energy efficient

This one may surprise people a bit but if you want to cut your energy use, this is almost certainly the easiest way to do it, and in the long run it’ll save you money as well.

Our biggest energy consumption at home is heating and the latest estimate from the construction industry estimate that it would cost around £5bn to insulate our homes whilst creating 100,000 jobs alongside the environmental benefits. It is a very clear win-win. Jobs created, energy use decreased.

But even if you can’t retrofit your home fully you can always do the basics, shut doors and windows, fill any obvious cracks or gaps where cold air gets in. Insulate your loft as hot air rises and most easily escapes that way. Failing all that, get yourself an old fashioned sausage to put along the base of the back door to stop a draft. It all helps.

Find ways to not need to recycle in the first place

 Ok, we might be a bit biased here, but recycling isn’t necessarily the answer. Not using stuff in the first place is. Now, part of that equation revolves around not using shopping as hobby on a Saturday afternoon but more it revolves around the everyday choices we make.

Yes, I’m telling you to use your local zero waste shop.

Refilling and reusing existing containers makes a difference. Plastic isn’t the enemy. Using plastic once and then binning it or chucking in the recycling tub is. If you use a plastic tub 50 times there is no more sustainable option. But, that means you need to change some habits and justify that Chinese takeaway but reusing the tubs to support a local business and reduce your impact on the environment. It a win, win. Not only that, but the choices available to you in your local shop may well be more locally produced so you’re supported robust local food networks as well.

Seek out options in glass jars instead of plastic bottles, get in the habit of checking if packaging is recyclable when you buy it and consider learning to bake your own bread and cakes if practical to save on more packaging.

Mostly though, get down to your local refill shop…

So, there you have it. Five things you (and mum) can do to help tackle the climate emergency we’re living through. Some are big, some less so. Some take immediate action, some longer term education. The common theme is that they are all within our power to implement and all help us keep on track with where we need to be by 2030.

What are you waiting for?