Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, NASA.
I remember COP21 for the Paris Agreement from 2015 and its’ significance and the commitments required for reducing climate change with – “every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees, to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to make money available to deliver on these aims”. My feature photo above is of artwork that was in St Pancras station as I walked home that evening that the agreement was signed. In the last few years, the Paris Agreement is still on our consciousness as politicians wrangle with the challenges and opportunities, but even more evidently is the changes to the climate that has been proven with scientific evidence. As CO2 rises, the Earth’s atmosphere is rising. NASA listed some of the negative impact here are: Global Temperature Rise, Warming Ocean, Shrinking ICE Sheets, Glacial Retreat, Decreased Snow Cover, Sea Level Rise, Declining Arctic Sea Ice, Extreme Events and Ocean Acidification – so for you and me…this may manifest itself as floods, fires, extreme weather with further changes to our environment on land, sea and air. There is a genuine need to act urgently to reach these targets by 2030, or hopefully by 2050.
Individually, I am not here to lecture but to learn, share my thoughts and small actions with you. Obviously, Sustainability is a very important and broad topic for my blog post but I hope to tackle it by give you seven top tips that resonate with me. Sustainability has several meanings and strands by this explanation on Wikipedia – I am not an expert on this topic, nor do I have all the answers but I know it is the right thing to do now for all our futures.
Seven actionable tips to sustainability:
- Set yourself some sustainable goals – The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) are a great way to look at sustainability and they are clearly identifiable on some of the ways you can incorporate and implement them in your work and personal life. I was really pleased to attend a couple of conference talks about the role that libraries and information centres can help us achieve these goals, and it makes me proud that that the professional is right at the heart of research, best practice, scientific engagement and evidence. These SDGs are now also being incorporated into strategies and employment roles – with organisations benchmarking and tracking their progress against these targets. The best way to start is to come up with a plan based on your values and the strategic outcomes that you want to achieve. However, there are still so much work to do and I hope little by little, we can accelerate and meet these goals together.
2. Stop! Reduce and make changes to your habits now – One of the challenges we are facing is the depletion or damage to the earth’s natural resources. These are caused by some of our own personal behaviours for example, how much the use of fossil fuels instead of renewable energy, materials that we are consuming unnecessarily or changes to our eating patterns. One great idea is the ‘unused paint’ shops in my neighbourhood, which are re-sold instead of going to landfills or other chemical dumping sites. There are some individual behaviours and habits listed here on Treehugger which has an impact on the climate – these include driving (types of cars and frequency), food (choices), consumerism and waste. It is obvious that there is a trend for plant-based and vegan diets as more people become more aware of the issues with meat production and transportation and CO2 by animal agriculture. We can make conscious choices, such as having part of the week with vegan or vegetarian meals, using public transport, walking or cycling more, as well as looking critically at our consumption and consumerism and we must stop wasting. The pandemic and current shortages in the supermarket are really also making us adjust our behaviours when before it was not so urgent or pertinent. It is all a little bit of maths and awareness, but making better decisions will add up to a lot in the long run if we all start doing this. Waste not, want not, as the old adage goes.
3. Reuse, recycle, replenish – One of the best words I learnt about 11 years ago was upcycling aka reuse. This verb is great for taking what is already here and then applying techniques to make it in fashion or contemporary again. Some of the items I have seen used are clothes, handbags, furniture, soft furnishings like curtains into cushions. I recently met a business client who was upcycling lampshades with African inspired prints. Recycling has been here for a couple of decades such as paper and newspapers, bottle banks and rubbish. The biggest change has been the move to recycle plastics and cut back on single use plastics. The scariest is the impact microplastics are having for our oceans and food chain. Recent analysis in The Plastic Waste Makers Index by Minderoo Foundation states at Australia, The USA and South Korea are still waste the most per person as show in the chart by Statista. We should also take action to put back or give back what we take. We need the Earth to sustain us – and in return, we also need to help the with replenishing what we take from it. Trees are great for offsetting carbon emissions and the more we plant and replenish, the better for the atmosphere, environment and our own livelihoods. It is easy to remember these three ‘R’s – and we can use it to easily master sustainability in action.
4. Innovate and inspire with new ideas – In the last decades we have made baby steps with improving sustainability, such as with technology by less paper printing in the office, digital transactions replacing paper, and even using more reusable drinking bottles! There are great inventors and innovators who are coming up with ideas which enable us to adapt and change to more sustainable models and products. We need this creative energy to help us get to Net Zero and some of the entrepreneurs I have met in recent years have been great at coming up with ideas for the sharing economy and circular economy. Transport is one of the main causes of CO2 but there are also innovations and shifts happening, but probably not as fast as they could be. Car sharing and pooling has been introduced in neighbourhoods and is practical as well as economical. Electric cars and charging points have really taken off and the hybrid model is much talked about (I first started noticing electric cars growth about 10 years ago). Buses in London are now electric, and cycling has grown exponentially in the last 15 years, with infrastructure changes to our road layouts, neighbourhoods and even office spaces. Living and working in London, I still rely heavily on public transport. Rural and towns outside of London still use their cars an awful lot due to the cost and inconvenience of public transport. Perhaps we can lobby or come up with better ideas for rural areas too. The financial, profitable benefits and the value of sustainable concepts, products and services are being realised. There is still so much we can work towards that will be real benefits for small as well as large companies. Let’s keep our thinking hats on for these new sustainable ways of living and working.
5. Spread initiatives from local to global – The problem with an unsustainable climate and world at large, is that climate change has no borders and it is a global problem. We are all feeling and seeing the impact of floods, hurricanes, fires etc locally or globally. The local community can help collectively in providing green initiatives, sharing resources and support for wider issues with waste and scarcity, such as with food banks, repurposing, swapping and support for low footprint businesses. Corporate Social Responsibility is great for big business to give back to local communities and if this is not already in your values – you better get started! The bigger picture is also great for business who are thinking of communities that are distant but also part of our supply chain – I met a business client who is collaborating with a rural textile and organic dye producer in India for her clothing designs in London. Being able to support communities in this ethical way is great for knowing our manufacturing processes and supply chains, as well as not having a negative impact with 21st century globalisation. Being responsible for our local and global initiatives give us a better chance of working collaboratively and effectively to achieve global goals. Good leadership demonstrates and operates in this interconnected, bigger picture and ripple effect basis.
6. Community and society – A lot of the issues being discuss depends on acceptance that climate change is happening now, and that we all have a stake in the impact it is having on our Earth. It is great that there is scientific developments that get us excited and can help us understand and evidence climate change. However, we are never going to make changes for better and sustainable life on Earth if we do not get our communities and societies informed, enthusiastic and doing their bit for the planet. Individual responsibility is great for doing what each one of us can change within our control, but we also need the collective support and compliance from communities and society. Green spaces, food programmes, wildlife, local authority services such as rubbish collection and clean drains are all contributing to the ‘engine and ecosystem of our environment’. It annoys me that trees are being cut in my borough which is changing the landscape and impacting on the environment. Bullish behaviour and arrogance to the needs of the community are sometimes disregarded by those in authority, and we also have citizens who are dirty culprits who litter and fly-tip in large scale dumping. This makes me sad…and angry. I also love wildlife – birds, spiders, squirrels, cats, foxes, insects and other creatures and some do sometimes come to my home and garden despite being in an urban environment. However, we need to remind people to respect nature, and each other to help us work together collaboratively on these important societal issues that affects our communities.
7. Champion and commit for the future – I have read that we are unlikely to reach our Net Zero targets by 2030 and it is more likely to be 2050. We are tackling big issues for this big planet and therefore there is not going to be a ‘quick win’. What we really need are champions, leadership and like-minded people to make sure that we stick to these promises and pledges to ensure that our behaviours and actions are happening now, but also sustained and ingrained for the future. There are quite a few of us who do support green initiatives but if they are enforced in law perhaps in the future – we won’t have much choice, and therefore personal responsibility will be applied in these scenarios. Making a commitment to these goals and sustainability actions makes perfect sense to me. Sense and sustainability actions will help us achieve these changes and ensure that they do not slip away or disappear. Let’s get it done!