At, this time of increased consumption, I thought I would write about the role of personal choice and reflect back on just a couple of things that we have done as a family this year to reduce our impact.
I heard a member of Extinction Rebellion talk recently. He gave his perspective on the choices that individual consumers or citizens can make. It made a lot of sense to me and it went something like this.
We all make choices in our everyday lives and these can reduce our personal contribution to the crisis. These are necessary but not sufficient. Even if every person made reasonable adjustments to their lifestyles and purchasing habits, this would not make enough of a difference to avoid catastrophic climate change. An unlimited marketing budget and 24/7 Attenborough on our screens would change the individual choices we make each day but would not be enough.
Only governments have the tools to make the scale of change required through taxation, regulation and legislation. That is why XR’s focus is on direct action in centres of power to campaign for action from those in power.
However if we are campaigning for this level of change, we need a certain amount of authenticity in our own life choices. Exactly where this level lies is down to personal choice and individual circumstances. Sailing across the Atlantic for meetings in New York is not going to be practical for everyone. But driving yourself around in a grotesquely large petrol or diesel vehicle everyday when you have access to public transport isn’t really going to cut it either.
So how should we think about ourselves doing the “right thing” if we know it is not enough? Individual and collective actions and changes to lifestyle can make you feel better. Clearly you are not going to solve the problem on your own but if you can be a little less a part of the problem, why not feel good about that? Enjoy the warm feeling of “doing good”. See it as therapy for your climate anxiety if you like.
So, as a bit of look back at 2019, I thought I would share just a couple of changes that our household has made over the last year to reduce our impact. I really don’t want any of this to come across as being pious. It is just a sharing of ideas, some of which might be relevant for choices you can make in your life.
I hadn’t realised how big an impact moving to a plant-based diet can make until I spent some time playing with this calculator from the BBC. It really brought home to me the emissions involved in meat, especially Beef and Lamb. I’m not a pure vegetarian, I don’t find these labels to be all that helpful. It’s not a religion, and if someone kindly prepares a meat-based meal for me I am not going to refuse it. But nearly all my own cooking nowadays is meat free and I am gradually persuading some of my family that I can make a decent meal without meat!
We consume a lot less cows milk than we used to thanks to the alternatives available. I have converted to oat milk on my cereal. It’s about the same price as milk, keeps a lot longer and is really tasty on cereals. We still need cows milk for tea, though! I found a good blog about the impact of various milk alternatives. Maybe I need to try making my own in 2020…
We still have one of the those big diesel-fuelled cars I was talking about. At some point we will swap it for an EV but it still works fine and for long distances it’s not a bad eco-choice. But we have cut down how much we use it locally. I have always cycled, but this year started using BlueCity electric rental cars. Sadly, they are ceasing operations in February. That could be the subject of a future post if I can find out more about it. But the option of renting a car when you need it to go point-to-point, parking it and plugging it in at the other end seems like a great solution to me. Especially as more lamppost charging is rolled out in London.
So you could do nothing. After all what difference would the actions of an individual make? But you don’t exist on your own, you have influence over friends, family, colleagues. Whatever you do could inspire others to do the same, which in turn inspires others still. And by being open-minded to new options, taking the time to explore alternatives to your current choices you might just find something you really like as well as doing your bit to save the planet.