On this Earth Day (week), I'm minded to notice that it might be very easy to assume that we are helpless in the face of climate change & the destruction of our natural environment. In fact, a sense of despair is all too easy to come by when we think about the sheer scale of what we need to do globally to make the difference that will pull us back from the edge.
I first wrote about 'global warming' in an essay for my A-Level Environmental Science and it's heartbreaking to think that that was some 32 years ago. However, back then, we were highly focussed on CFCs and the gaping whole in our ozone layer, which in recent years is making a remarkable recovery. A tiny glimmer of hope. And so, as an antidote to panic and paralysis, I wanted to spend Earth Day focussing on the power we all have in our hands and how we can make our influence felt in the right places.
My suggestions might seem small, in fact micro, but collectively and loudly, we will drive change for the good. We can influence our friends, our customers our communities and our local, & national decision makers.
Every penny we spend is a vote for the future we want. So what is it we really want?
You might not be surprised to find that I'll be including the efforts of micro business in my top tips for our fight for the Earth's survival. Grand? Possibly, but as someone once said, every little helps.
What you do does count. In a world full of grumpy news and even grumpier polarisation, it's easy to assume that all is lost so why bother. However, by bothering we are not only being the change we want to see but we can influence those we know. This might be friends and family or customers, clients and communities. What ever you're managing to do, now is the time to share it and show others how they can join in.
Forget recycling. Well no, don't but...try to avoid getting to that point. By the time we're winging that plastic into a wheelie bin, it's already cost a fortune in resources and will continue to cost the earth even if it's actually recycled properly. Think about how you could purchase with less plastic. Ask your local supermarket for less packaging, shop with a micro business who packages differently or even take your own containers - common place in many parts of the world!
Try to stop 'popping out'. I'm a rural living, and a car user which is hard to avoid as a business owner & without a decent bus service. So I reduce the number of times I drive. I'm not living without but I do a 'big shop' once a week & pick up extras on the way to and from other places. I try to schedule appointments on fewer days. I'm always mindful what errands I can achieve 'on the way' to somewhere else. Simple but imagine if we were all able to do the same.
Rethink your wardrobe. The 3rd biggest polluter on the planet, fast fashion is more than a surge, it's a tragedy. In a world where we all have a much smaller budget, choose second hand or choose well. Vinted and other platforms are allowing us to 'reuse' other people's mistakes. If you need something new, choose independent shops and choose well so that the clothes last wear after wear. I'm more than proud to be wearing coats from 6-10 years ago, my favourite Vinted bargains and the odd new piece that I share with friends & sisters.
Rethink your tech. We've been told for years that there's nothing we can do to avoid the built in failure of hard and software. But there's a new way. Typing away on my nearly 10 year old Apple laptop, I chose hardware that I could keep going for this long. My mobile phones and other devices are leased & reconditioned and always sent back to those companies once I'm finally finished with them. We can make things last a lot longer & we can choose manufacturers that recycle & allow us to update our devices for much longer.
Stick to the cloud. We know now that much of our 'storage' is costing the earth. Huge energy hungry silos of data everywhere. However, cloud computing is still a better CO2 option that a bulky hard drive or office server. Want to help even more? Do the dreaded email and photo clear out - if these files were paper we'd need to be rescued from our homes by the fire service!
Choose who gets your cash. We have understood our power as a consumer well for decades and that still stands. Large organisations will make change if they think that they'll lose customers. We can make demands that matter. Think about who your bank invests in, how your supermarket is managing food waste, how fast your favourite clothes brand is and if your local council is doing enough. Your pennies and votes really matter.
Get better at cooking. Food waste accounts for huge amount of our CO2 output which is even more heartbreaking to think so many don't have enough food. We can and must do better. Meal planning helps, cooking from scratch is better & making meals with leftovers is frankly, a slightly smug joy. We all have access to Google & it is possible to learn what to do with leftovers or best ways to freeze. Delicious & money saving too, what's not to love?
Support local. Don't be fooled that this is somehow only for the better off and for Sunday markets & brunch. Shopping locally is so much more than that. An example is a local electrical repair company I have used for decades. It is shopping local, they do repair my white goods to last longer and they never go to landfill and their travel footprint is just 15 minutes down the road. Not to mention that they're still going. The power that small, micro, independent and local businesses can bring to helping our global situations cannot be underestimated.
Become a gardener. If my child self had read this I would have been horrified but producing something that's good for our natural environment is a huge statement to the world. It doesn't matter if your 'garden' is a pot of flowers on a windowsill - you are supporting nature in a truly epic way. Birds, bees, butterflies, the very air we breathe.
Want to know more about how your business or you can help? Check your personal footprint on the WWF Carbon Footprint Calculator - quick easy & eye opening! There's lots of sustainability help out there but try SME Climate Hub to get you started, you can even make a pledge to join the race to net zero 2030.