As an individual
We all need to make different choices if we are to achieve the vision of sustainable development. This is particularly true for our everyday actions in and around the home. We have compiled the following information and links to provide advice on how you can make a difference. For ease of reference we have broken the information down into the following areas:
We cannot continue to use energy at our current rate. Some calculations suggest that three planets' worth of resources would be needed to achieve UK levels of consumption across the globe. If we continue emitting the present levels of Carbon Dioxide we will see a significant impact on our climate which will threaten the homes and livelihoods, and the well-being of large numbers of people across the globe.
In the UK, households are responsible for around 25% of our total Carbon emissions. Household energy demand continues to rise which means we need to act now. Wasting less energy can save a significant amount of money. Improvements in energy efficiency can usually be achieved for low capital outlay and with a short payback period.
For support and advice on making your house more efficient, including grants to help you do so, follow the links below:
- Energy Saving Trust - a Government funded organisation offering in-depth advice and support for making your home more energy efficient. They also provide information on funding and advice for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
- Clear Skies programme - funded by Government and managed by the Building Research Establishment, this programme provides grants and access to sources of advice for renewable energy projects.
- Warm front programme - the Government's main grant-funded programme for tackling fuel poverty. A Warm front grant can provide a package of insulation and heating tailored to each property.
- Energy labels - UK Government advice helping you make the right choice
Water is a precious natural resource. It is essential to manage it sustainably in order to meet current and future demand. Population growth, household size and growth and affluence have all affected how much water we use. According to some sources we use 50% more water than we used 25 years ago . For advice and tips on conserving water in the home and garden see the Environment Agency's tips for saving water.
We all produce waste, especially in our homes. Households in England produce 25 million tonnes of waste every year and on average every person in the UK now produces about seven times their own weight in waste every year. While waste cannot be eliminated, we can reduce its environmental impact by preventing it wherever possible, and making more sustainable use of the waste that is produced. The following links provide information on how to reduce, re-use and recycle:
- Recycle Now Campaign - A nationwide campaign to encourage people to recycle more often, run by the Waste and Resource's Action Programme.
- Wastewatch - UK environmental charity promoting sustainable resource use. It provides information on how to reduce, re-use and recycle at home.
- Recycle-more.co.uk - help and advice on all aspects of recycling at home, at school and in the workplace.
- Community Recycling Network UK - a membership organisation promoting community based sustainable waste management.
The food products that you buy can have a significant impact on many areas of sustainable development. Whilst we may only see part of it, the production and transportation of food products can be a long and complicated process, known as its life cycle.
When all environmental impacts are taken into account across the life cycle of goods and services, whether in the UK or abroad, food may be one of the most environmentally significant aspects of consumption. Consumption of food in the UK is responsible for global greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 22 per cent of the UK's overall total.
Reducing the amount of food we waste can also have a huge environmental benefit and save ourselves a lot of money. The Love Food Haste Waste website has more information on this.
Follow the links below for information on the different aspects of food consumption:
- Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming - Provides information and publishes reports on, amongst other issues, healthy eating, organic food, food miles and links to climate change.
- Green Choices - Some information on how to buy more environmentally-friendly food products.
- LEAF - Linking Environment and Farming - Advice for consumers on affordable food produced by farmers who are committed to improving the environment for the benefit of wildlife and the countryside.
- Fish Online - For those concerned with declining fish stocks, this site gives details of how to identify which fish are from well managed sources and/or caught using methods that minimise damage to marine wildlife and habitats.
Information on organic food
Organic food is produced without most artificial fertilisers or pesticides and in a way that emphasises crop rotation, making the most of natural fertilisers and ensuring that the life of the soil is maintained. Animals are kept in ways which minimise the need for medicines and other chemical treatments. Organic methods of farming tend to be more energy efficient and enhance surrounding biodiversity. See the Soil Association website for more information.
Information on Fairtrade products
- The Fairtrade Foundation - The Foundation licenses the Fairtrade mark to products which meet internationally recognised standards.
Information on food labelling
An important step in becoming a sustainable consumer for food products is better understanding of where products have come from and what impacts they have. The following websites provide information on labelling:
Advice on healthy eating
- Eatwell - the Food Standards Agency's consumer advice and information site
Tourism is one of the world's largest industries, accounting for nearly an eighth of global Gross Domestic Product. Our holidays can have huge social and environmental impacts. For example, they have potential to support the economic and social development of poorer countries. At the same time we need to consider the negative affects our holidays can have on the environment and indigenous cultures. The following websites show what the everyday holidaymaker can do to make a difference:
- The Travel Foundation - an independent UK charity that aims to help tourism make a positive contribution to places we love to visit.
- National Geographic - sustainable destinations resource center - aimed at increasing knowledge of sustainable tourism
- Tourism Concern - an independendent UK charity campaigning for fair and ethically traded tourism.
- Sustainable Travel International - a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting responsible tourism, supporting sustainable development, and helping travellers and travel providers protect the environments and cultures they visit.
Transport contributes 25% of the UK's annual Carbon emissions, as high as any other sector. In addition the rise in the number of cars in the UK has dramatically added to the problems of congestion and pollution that we're all so familiar with. In order to create a healthier environment with cleaner air and clearer roads we need to consider our travel options carefully and where possible reduce the negative impacts we have on the environment and our quality of life. Travelling more sustainably can include: walking or cycling, using public transport instead of our cars, forming or joining a car club, carbon offsetting our flights (see below) or buying lower emission cars. There are many ways we can change the way we travel and even the smallest change individually can have a huge impact collectively. Follow the links below for guidance on traveling more sustainably:
- Sustrans - a charity that works on practical projects to encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport.
- Sustainable Travel - UK Government pages on sustainable travel, includes information on walking and cycling, car clubs and car sharing, school travel and making travel plans.
- Energy Saving Trust - a Government funded organisation, their website includes guidance on cleaner vehicles and fuels and simple tips for your car .
What is Carbon Offsetting?
In the ideal world travelling sustainably would mean that we contribute zero or minimal emissions to the atmosphere. However there are times where this is simply not practical or in some cases impossible. Carbon offset projects provide a means of neutralising the negative impacts that our ground and air travel have by calculating the carbon dioxide emissions created by our journey and investing in projects that prevent or remove an equivalent amount of emissions from the atmosphere.
Carbon Offsets are by no means the ultimate solution for reducing our carbon emissions. They do however provide an effective way for us to reduce our negative impacts on the planet. You can calculate the emissions created by your journey using one of Climate Care's CO2 calculators . For more information on the Government's Carbon Offsetting programme visit the Decc Carbon Offsetting pages.
Updated: 16 June 2008