Blog post

Five easy ways to help save the planet

With COP26 happening right now, sustainability and climate adaption are at the forefront of the global political stage. The year 2021 is thought to be a ‘make or break’ year to confront the global climate emergency. Charlie Mercer outlines steps you can take to help fight against global warming. 

By Charlie Mercer - 5 November 2021

Over the summer, I was made aware of the Derby Goes Green Project, a student-led sustainability project and network spreading awareness about environmental issues we are facing to students and staff. Derby Goes Green provides students, much like myself, with a platform to become drivers of positive change. The goal of the project is to show individuals how simple alterations to their habits can have a huge impact on protecting our planet.

Students on the Derby Goes Green Project will have the chance to work on things like creating opportunities for increased biodiversity on campus; reducing waste at the University; promoting sustainable travel and encouraging people to try and reduce their meat consumption.

Despite the difficulties that came with Covid-19, this past year gave me the time to educate myself around climate change and the issues we are facing. Last summer, I volunteered with a sustainability charity called Raleigh International. The charity works in remote, rural areas to improve access to safe water and sanitation, build community resilience, sustainably manage natural resources and protect vulnerable environments.

Based in the West Highland Peninsula, we took down many diseased ash trees, which allowed for more light and healthy ones to thrive. We also built a disability ramp, allowing wheelchair access to an eco-school in the forest. These are just a couple of examples of the variety of tasks I took on during the placement.

I have also adopted a plant-based diet to reduce my carbon footprint and, when possible, avoid buying new clothes, as the fast-fashion industry has devastating effects on employees who are poorly paid and forced to work in unsafe working conditions. I believe that everyone can change their behaviour to benefit individuals and the planet. But we all need some guidance to create that change.

So, I'm going to give you five simple tips that you can use to help reduce your environmental impact:

  1. Reduce car use: Instead of driving to places, where possible try to walk, cycle or make use of public transport. Using public transport will drastically reduce pollution.
  2. Buy second-hand: Second-hand shopping and sharing clothes with friends and family creates less waste and lowers your carbon footprint. Consumerism and fast fashion are contributing to the destruction of our environment. The rise of consumerism leads to more pollutant emissions and increased land use and deforestation.
  3. Eat less meat: Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth. Animal farming is the leading cause of rainforest deforestation, uses large amounts of our precious water supply (eating one beef patty is the equivalent of two months worth of showers in terms of water use), the largest driver of habitat loss and species extinction. Try and eat meat-free meals a few nights a week, there are handfuls of delicious recipes online. There is a misconception that eating veggie or vegan is expensive, this is far from true. Tins of chickpeas, lentils, beans and vegetables sell for (roughly) 30p a tin, also rice and pasta are some of the cheapest foods in the supermarket!
  4. Reduce single use plastics: The benefit of reducing plastic consumption is that it lessens the amount of new raw materials being used, saves energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and limits the level of rubbish entering the oceans. Ways to reduce plastic include carrying a reusable water bottle, avoiding plastic straws, reusable coffee cups (which gets you a cheaper brew in Blends!) and try to limit excessive packaging on food.
  5. Recycle: Recycling reduces the demand to harvest or extract new raw materials from the Earth. This results in less damage being inflicted upon the natural world. At home, university or wherever you may be using the correct bins to dispose of your rubbish (bins are labelled with what they accept) - make sure you rinse them before you put them out for recycling. Reuse shopping bags and read your local recycling guide

Businesses and governments are striving to make themselves and their functions more sustainable. As such, employers are looking to take on environmentally cautious graduates to ‘greenify’ their businesses. In this respect, I feel it is so important to shift into a more sustainable lifestyle.

Derby Goes Green provides an unmissable opportunity to improve your environmental understanding and to show future employers that you can be a positive driver of change.

Recommended Netflix documentaries on sustainability

About the author

Charlie sitting at the top of a mountain.

Charlie Mercer
Primary Education student

I am second-year student studying Primary Education (a course which I am loving). I am involved with the Derby Goes Green Project, the University Rugby Team, a running club and much more. I have further interests in sport, sustainability, veganism and travel.