Simple steps: practical local responses to climate change

It’s easy to feel that climate change is such a large problem that our actions won’t count. In fact, facing this crisis depends on actions we can all take, as well as responses from governments. Here are simple, positive steps you can take, regarding food, home energy, travel, and mutual support. This briefing is by Bridport’s Seeding our Future project.

Food

Climate change is driven by human activity emitting carbon dioxide and other gases. Food contributes about 30% of household carbon emissions: mainly the energy used for artificial fertilisers, food processing and transport, and rearing livestock. The biggest chunk comes from food wasted – thrown away from our kitchens, at the farm, at the processing plant, or the shops. Here are steps you can take:

  • Reduce waste by learning ways to use all of your ingredients, re-use leftovers, and take advantage of gluts and surpluses (e.g. by preserving or freezing).
  • Buy more local produce: this cuts transport emissions, and local farmers have a more secure market, receiving fairer prices. Suppliers are listed on the website below.
  • If you have a garden or allotment, grow more of your own produce, including climate-adaptive crops as described on www.bridportfoodmatters.net.
  • Use seasonal produce, rather than out of season fruit and veg that come from afar, sometimes by air, and/or grown in hothouses heated by fossil fuels;
  • Eat less meat and dairy: this reduces emissions, and uses land more efficiently.
  • Support food banks and other affordable food initiatives: this will be increasingly important as food prices rise.
  • Support growers that use practices that nourish the soil, and produce healthy food in a changing climate.  This agro-ecology approach includes key elements of organic, regenerative, or conservation agriculture.

Please visit www.bridportfoodmatters.net to offer your ideas, find more info, and sign up for our free e-newsletter. We can also lobby local and national governments to provide the policy framework to encourage large mainstream food growers, manufacturers, and retailers to change.  This might include: regulations about climate-friendly farm practices, clearer information and food labelling, and more access to land for small producers. To explore this see www.nationalfoodstrategy.org and www.landworkersalliance.org.uk.

Home energy

The average UK household emits 30-40 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, according to most estimates. Some ways to cut home energy emissions are fairly simple, others may not be affordable:

  • Improve insulation and cut your heating bills. You can get advice on what to do and possible funding sources from www.ridgewaterenergy.co.uk, 01202 612726.
  • Especially if your boiler is old, or fuelled by oil or coal, consider replacing it, ideally with a zero emissions system like a ground-source or air-source heat pump. (See more at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk.)
  • Switch to an electricity provider using 100% renewable energy: you can see recommendations on best suppliers at www.greensquare.co.uk.
  • You can get a free home visit to advise on energy savings if you are on a low income through the LEAP scheme, operated locally by Ridgewater Energy: details above.
  • You can assess your carbon footprint (emissions) with an online calculator, see www.footprint.wwf.org.uk, or for more detailed analysis www.carbonfootprint.com.

Travel

The UK Climate Change Commission estimates that car travel is 34% of the average UK household’s carbon emissions, and air travel is 12%. This is why the Government is banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Here are some steps you could consider:

  • Use bike, foot, bus or train if possible. Tell Dorset Council if you’d like improvements for non-car travellers, e.g. more frequent buses.
  • Join the trend and get an electric car, or a plug-in hybrid which is electric for local trips: these are expensive, and more Government support is needed.
  • Avoid air travel if possible. See www.seat61.com for great train routes.
  • Help start a car sharing club for Bridport: this is being planned by CoCars, see more at www.co-cars.co.uk.

Mutual support

We can see from weather events in Britain and globally that our community faces a rising risk of an emergency, such as floods, storms, drought, and interruption to essential services. We can also learn from covid that the best time to prepare for a crisis is beforehand. Here are some basic steps to improve mutual support in our community:

  • Know who your neighbours are, get contact details, be aware who has mobility or other conditions and might need support.
  • Keep some basic supplies such as water, food, torches at home.
  • If you could give any voluntary help in an emergency, put yourself on a volunteer list: we know this was vital during the pandemic. Do a web search or look on the Bridport Community Support Facebook group.
  • Give a bit of time or a donation to support local initiatives such as Cupboard Love, tree-planting, Plastic Free Bridport.: see Facebook group above.
  • Bridport Town Council declared a climate emergency in 2019, along with most UK local authorities. Their 23-page Climate Emergency Action Plan is at www.bridport-tc.gov.uk: fulfilling this will depend on action from the whole community, so please read it and see how you can help.
  • Share this information through any local organisations and networks. It’s available online at www.bridportfoodmatters.net.

Pressing for policy changes

We live in a democracy! You can help the policy changes we need by contacting your MP and councillors, and supporting lobbying groups and petitions. For example:

  • www.writetothem.com shows you how to contact your MP and local councillors. Tell them your concerns, the changes you want.
  • www.friendsoftheearth.uk have a West Dorset branch, and a list of local Climate Action Groups.
  • www.greenpeace.org.uk highlights many climate-related issues and offers various ways you can support positive action.