Thursday, 3 March 2011

What YOU can do in your own lives to help the environment

Climate change pledges

Switch to energy saving light bulbs
Why? Changing the way you light your home can make a real impact on the amount of energy you use. If you replace your light bulbs with longer lasting energy saving bulbs you'll save money, use less fuel and help reduce carbon emissions.

Green your work place
Why? computers get left on overnight, emails needlessly printed-off then thrown away, and lights left on over the weekend. If just 20 employees turned off their computers during a lunch hour, they would save over 3700 watts of electricity; enough to keep an energy efficient light bulb burning for over eight and a half days. Energy inefficiency in the workplace doesn't just cost the environment - it costs the business a great deal of money.

  • using one glass for drinking water, instead of taking multiple plastic cups from the water dispenser, saves plastic and money. 
  • Turning off lights, shutting down your computer and turning off the monitor properly
  • Trying not to print out email and other documents (unless it is totally unavoidable) saves paper and ink.
Turn it off
Why? It's an instant way to save energy, cutting carbon emissions and your fuel bill. 10-15% of the average household electricity bill is attributable to power used by machines during their stand-by periods. The combined effect of radios, computers and other appliances being left on stand-by is 4,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK each year. The average household wastes £37 each year by leaving appliances on standby.

  • turn off appliances, chargers and adapters when not in use.

Start a car pool
Why? Sharing your journey is a great way to reduce the environmental impact of travelling by car, and it's more sociable as well.
  • if you have children who need to be driven to school, try organising a rota for car pooling with other local parents.
  • if you know local people whose workplace is near your own, discuss organising a car pool with them.

Switch to a greener energy supplier
Why? A little bit of effort on your part could go a long way towards reducing emissions if you switch to a greener energy supplier. The more consumers who demand greener energy, the more the major power suppliers will have to increase their investment in renewable energy sources. The single biggest cause of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK is burning fossil fuels (such as coal, gas and oil) at power stations. At present only around 5% of UK energy is produced from green energy sources such as wind turbines.

  • you can switch to a supplier that provides renewable electricity, where the energy will probably come from wind power or hydroelectric power. 
  • or you can choose a scheme that supplies an equivalent amount of renewable energy into the national grid for the amount you consume, although the energy you use may come from a traditional energy source.

Turn down you thermostat
Why? 80% of home energy is used for heating. Turn your thermostat down by just one degree and you'll reduce your carbon emissions by 325kg. You'll also save around £35 on your fuel bill.
  • make sure that your home is only being heated when you're there
  • if you are going away for a few days you can afford to turn the thermostat right down to 13oC without risking frozen pipes, even during very cold periods
  • help your radiators work more effectively by placing silver foil behind them. This means they will radiate heat back into the room, rather than heat-up the brickwork.

Wash your clothes at 30°C
Why? Apart from the dirtiest loads most clothes don't need to be washed on a hot cycle, and many of them will fare better from a cooler wash. By washing your clothes at 30° your machine uses less power making your wardrobe greener.
  • Lowering your washing temperature to 30°C can save around 40% energy per wash, so you’ll be doing your bit to cut carbon emissions, which guarantees a clean conscience, too!

 Waste pledge

Use a bag for life
Why? Cutting the number of carrier bags that you use will help reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill. If everyone in the UK stopped using plastic bags and switched to a reusable bag, each year we'd save enough plastic to tie around the earth 103 times.
  • Get into the habit of taking your bag for life everywhere so it's close to hand when you need it.

Grow your own compost
Why? Home composting takes much of the food waste out of your rubbish bag and puts it to good use in the garden. The UK currently produces 28 million tons of household waste per year. 60% of this is buried in landfill sites. 35% of the average household's waste can be easily composted.
  • fruit and vegetable kitchen peelings, eggshells and coffee grounds, as well as garden waste such as grass clippings, leaves and twigs, can all be used for compost.

Recycle your old furniture
Why? All of these bulky, often non-biodegradable goods end up in landfill sites.
  • Keep your unwanted furniture and electrical items out of landfill and give them a chance of a new life with someone else by joining a local free recycling group.

Join a Free Recycling group
Why? Every day we throw away thousands of perfectly usable items of furniture, office equipment and electrical appliances. These bulky, often non-biodegradable goods end up in landfill sites when there could well be someone in your neighbourhood who could find a good use for them.
  • Join a group such as FreeCycling Network or FreeSharin

Make your rubbish work harder
Why? Recycling is good, but reusing is better. The UK has a current household recycling rate of 34% for glass, compared to Switzerland and Finland who recycle more than 90%. Even worse, we currently only recycle 7% of our plastic.
  • reuse things instead of throwing them away
  • see how much you can reduce the contents of your rubbish bin by finding new uses for packaging

Love food hate waste
Why? On average, a third of all the food we buy ends up being thrown away. UK shoppers waste 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, enough to fill Wembley Stadium eight times over. As well as being a massive waste of money, this has a huge environmental impact as producing, storing and transporting all this food uses up energy and resources. If we could tackle this problem, it would have the carbon reduction equivalent to taking 1 in 5 cars off the road.
  • plan your meals for the week. This will help you avoid purchasing food you will not use and end up throwing away

Recycle your Christmas cards
Why? By recycling your Christmas cards you can help reduce the number of cards that end up in landfill. It is estimated that 1 billion Christmas cards, (17 for every man, woman and child in the UK), could end up in bins this Christmas. If everyone in the UK recycles just 1 card through the Woodland Trust scheme, not only would this save 1,570 tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases - the same as taking 500 cars off the road for a year - it would also enable the Woodland Trust to plant 15,000 trees in 2009.
  • Recycling your Christmas cards. Take your Christmas cards into M&S stores throughout January, put them in the special recycling bins provided and help support the Woodland Trust.

Sustainable raw material pledges

Choose free range eggs
Why? Making the decision to buy only free range eggs will help to improve the lives of millions of hens in the UK. Nearly 70% of Britain's egg-laying hens are still kept in battery cages. In the UK, the average consumer eats 170 eggs per year. Of these, 140 are eaten as eggs bought in the shell, whilst 30 will be consumed in processed form such as in cakes and ready-made meals.
  • insisting on only eating free-range eggs, can make a big difference to hens' welfare by forcing the market to adopt animal-friendly practices.

Use less water
Why? Water is a precious resource and, in the UK, we use 150 litres of it per person, every day. This has been rising by 1% a year since 1930. This consumption level is not sustainable in the long-term. In fact, demand could outstrip the water supply by 6-10% by the end of the decade.
  • if you have a garden, buy a water butt. 
  • install a water saving Hippo in your toilet cistern. This simple device can save up to 3 litres of water - or a third of the cistern volume - every time you flush.

Green your car wash
Why? According to the International Car Wash Association, the average home drive way wash uses 100-350 litres of water.
  • keep water and detergents to a minimum, and use a bucket and sponge rather than a hosepipe. This will help you use up to eight times less water.
  • To avoid contaminating local rivers, park your car on a lawn or gravelled surface before washing it so that the dirty water runs off into the soil rather than stormwater drains.

Give your unwanted clothes to Oxfam
Why? Every year we send tonnes of unwanted clothing to landfill. It's estimated that we discard around 1m tonnes of clothing each year in the UK, a lot of which is good enough to be re-sold or recycled.
  • Instead of throwing clothes you don't want any more in the bin, take them to your local Oxfam store.
  • When you show them the M&S label(s), they'll give you a voucher worth £5 to use the next time you spend £35 or more on clothing, home or beauty products in M&S.

Fair Partner pledges

Invest ethically
Why? By choosing to invest ethically you know that your money will not be used to fund arms, tobacco or other potentially damaging industries.
  • By investing ethically, you choose to invest with a cleaner conscience.
  • Seek out specialist ethical investment funds or ask a financial advisor to assist you in finding them. Look for a fund with policies that are broadly sympathetic to your own principles.
  • If you already hold investments, write to the manager of the fund asking what their ethical and environmental policies are.

Travel Responsibly
Why? Ecotourism makes sure that the money you spend while you're on holiday goes straight to the local community rather than to a large corporation.
  • Make sure you thoroughly prepare for your trip. Learn about the local history, culture and environment. Approaching travel with a desire to learn, rather than just observe, will help you get far more out of your visit.
  • Respect local traditions and be conscious of the resources that you use. Be aware of local eco-systems and the impact your activity is likely to have on them
  • Support the host economy by using local transport, guides, restaurants and markets. Don’t eat at the tourist trap where they ship in beef burgers every day, get your food at one of the local market stalls. You’ll directly benefit the local economy.

Buy Fairtrade coffee
Why? Choosing fair-trade coffee means you know that the farmer who grew the coffee beans got a fair price from his crop and an additional sum to invest in local community projects. Around the world, 25 million coffee-farming families are dependent on their crop to feed and clothe themselves. Choosing to buy Fairtrade means that as well as getting a great-tasting cup of coffee, you're investing in better lives for millions of people.
  • Look for coffee bearing the Fairtrade Mark.
  • It is now also possible to buy Fairtrade fruit, chocolate, sugar, cotton and many more products beside.

WWF footprint calculator
Why? You can measure the natural resources needed to support your lifestyle, or your 'ecological footprint', by using the eco-calculator.
  • As you begin to live your life in a more environmentally friendly manner, you can use this figure as a benchmark to track your progress.
  • Using our online calculator, you can measure your ecological footprint in about five minutes, as well as reading tips on how to reduce it.

Health pledges

Eat your 5-a-day
Why? The UK Government has stated that cancer and coronary heart disease account for 60% of all early deaths. A key factor in combating these diseases is good health and nutrition. Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables every day will make sure that you get the nutrients your body needs. A good diet will help you to stay healthy, prevent illness and live longer so start today with an extra portion of greens. Fruit and veg are packed full of vitamins and minerals. They are a good source of the fibre we need to maintain good digestion, and they may even help reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes and some cancers.
  • Pledging to eat five-a-day is a commitment to improving your long-term health.
  • substituting sugary or fatty snacks with healthier alternatives - pocket a mango, nibble on carrot sticks or chow down on dried fruit when you're feeling peckish.
  • eat different-coloured fruit and vegetables, such as blueberries, spinach, sweet potato and bananas.
  • buy a recipe book dedicated to the art of mouth-watering vegetable dishes.
  • M&S uses a five-a-day logo on products which tells you how many portions are in a serving. 

Get into the exercise habit
Why? With our busy lifestyles it can feel hard to find the time to exercise. Many of us take vehicles to work, then sit in an office chair all day before coming home tired, at which point we use labour-saving machinery (such as lawnmowers and washing machines) to take the effort out of domestic chores. But regular exercise is vital to our health. In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, exercise helps combat stress, depression and fatigue. In short, the people who feel they don't have time to exercise are probably the people who would benefit the most.
  • the minimum recommended amount of exercise: 30 minutes of moderate activity, five times a week.
  • increasing the heart rate for just 30 minutes a day cuts your risk of heart disease in half. You'll also boost your overall immune system.

Cut out the salt
Why? A diet that is high in salt is one of the contributing factors to heart disease. Pledge to reduce the salt in your diet by choosing reduced salt options and adding less salt to your cooking.
  • Cut the salt out. At the very least, pledge to cut it down to a maximum of 6 grams per day.

Be breast aware
Why? Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK. It accounts for nearly 1 in 3 of all cancers in women and nearly 46,000 women are diagnosed each year in the UK. The earlier breast cancer is found the better the chances of beating it - so it's important to be breast aware and make regular checks.
  • TOUCH your breasts. Can you feel anything unusual.
  • LOOK for changes. Is there any change in shape or texture? 
  • CHECK anything unusual with your doctor.

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