6 Planet-Friendly Pledges That Could Actually Make All The Difference

Spoiler: they're not as simple as all that.
Vladimir Vladimirov via Getty Images

Saving the planet isn’t easy and it isn’t a job just for individuals. All of us need to play our part, but where can we start? There are so many different ways we are told to be more environmentally friendly that it can seem overwhelming.

We repeatedly hear that two thirds of global carbon emissions are produced by fewer than 100 companies, several of them big multinational oil companies.

And during last year’s UN climate conference, COP26, the spotlight once again shone on the not inconsiderable carbon footprints of some of the world’s richest people, many of them flying into Glasgow on their private jets.

Watching all this, it can feel there’s very little ordinary folk can do to make an impact, which is why a new grassroots climate movement, The Jump, has launched a campaign – tagline “less stuff, more joy” – centred around the changes we can take that will have have a positive impact on the planet.

And they’ve been boiled down to just six simple(ish) steps, collectively being described as “taking the jump”.

As The Jump’s co-founder Tom Bailey, an energy and climate expert with 15 years’ experience, tells HuffPost UK, the project is the result of a two year research collaboration between Arup, C40 Cities and the University of Leeds.

“The analysis used a wide team of experts to compile a vast amount of peer-reviewed data, and built a computer model to look at the changes needed across the global economy to keep global warming to 1.5°C. [They] then identified which actors (whether citizens, industry or government, both national and city) had ‘primary influence’ in delivering those actions,” he explains.

“The conclusion was that 73% of the impact needed to avoid climate breakdown comes from actions that are the main responsibility of government and industry, through measures like dramatically expanding renewable energy, providing low-carbon transport infrastructure, and decarbonising supply chains.”

Crucially, researchers identified the following five clear actions that citizens could still influence (as well as putting pressure on government and big business to make the bigger systemic change needed from above).

1) End clutter

What the science says: Keep electronic products for at least seven years.

“Our addiction to gadgets, and buying ‘stuff’ in general, is another contributor to carbon emissions,” the report explains.

Extracting rare earth metals for electronics and creating huge volumes of products generates a significant amount of emissions – often more than the emissions associated with the energy demand of using the product itself.

Try not to buy any new electronics during your own personal ‘jump’ is the advice. “Instead try to repair products, borrow them, rent them, buy second hand, or if you really need something then keep new items to a minimum.”

2) Travel fresh

What the science says: Get rid of private vehicles (unless absolutely essential).

Globally, transport is responsible for about a quarter of overall greenhouse gas emissions, and more than two thirds of this comes from the engines of road vehicles, the research says. The Jump’s study highlights how the use of private vehicles causes the less-than-holy trinity of congestion, noise pollution and air pollution, which is one of the main global heath risks humans are facing.

“Many of us have become accustomed to owning a car, and sometimes more than one. Car ownership levels have been growing globally and are expected to double again by 2040, leading to a huge climate problem,” the report reads.

If you’re planning on buying a car, hold off from getting a new one and find alternative ways to travel, it recommends. How about sharing with a friend?

3) Eat green

What the science says: Move to a plant-based diet. Eat everything you buy. Eat healthy portions.

“Changing our behaviours around food is the most impactful of all the shifts,” the reports says – this is because more than 25% of total global emissions arise from the food system. “And an added bonus is that we can all save money!”

If we want to help the environment we need to have a greener diet. Here are three ways you can change your eating habits:

  • Move to a mostly plant-based diet replacing most, if not all, meat and dairy you eat with plant-based alternatives, which are lower in overall emissions – though not everyone may want to go all the way.

  • Eat everything you buy. This means stopping throwing food away to avoid wasting the resources and emissions associated with producing it in the first place and getting it on your plate.

  • Eat healthy amounts. This means not eating excessively. The ‘healthy amount’ of food will be completely personal for each person, body type and level of physical activity, so find what feels right for you.

4) Dress retro

What the science says: Only buy three items of clothing a year.

“The clothing and textiles industry now accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than international aviation and shipping combined,” says the report “Fast fashion means we are buying and replacing clothing more frequently than ever before.”

Each item of clothing we purchase has emissions associated with it. We can reduce these by reducing the amount we buy new and going second hand or recycling clothes instead.

5) Holiday local

What the science says: Keep short haul flights to one every three years.

“Aviation currently contributes around 2% of overall global emissions and this figure is increasing more than any other form of transport. Flying is also highly unequal: in the UK, 70% of all flights are taken by just 15% of the population.”

The sustainable amount to fly is one short haul return flight (ie. less than 1500km) every three years. A long haul return flight is sustainable once every eight years depending on how far you’re flying, according to The Jump’s report.

And finally... change the system

What the science says: Big improvements are needed to global infrastructure, economic and financial systems – this is the job of government and business (encouraged by us).

The Jump’s research outlines the big changes needed to ensure that the world achieves zero carbon: replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy; improving energy efficiency of buildings and industry; investing in green technology; shifting heating and transport to electricity; and decarbonising supply chains.

“Business, governments and individuals cannot solve climate change in isolation,” the report recommends. “We must work together. Each actor must make the necessary changes. It’s important to build a narrative which is not solely dependent on individual action, but as a wider collective society.”

Motivating ourselves and other to take on these six pledges is easier said than done, but Bailey says that communities all around the UK are already getting involved by with community fairs, events, kids workshops and more.

“We can motivate ourselves by remembering that ’trying is enough,” he says. “Even if you can’t keep to it 100%, it’s still an incredible impact to ‘take the jump’ and just do your best.”