RResearch shows that people in wealthier, high-consumption countries can help avoid climate breakdown by making six relatively simple lifestyle changes, creating a “less stuff, more joy” society.
Experts say if passed, these ‘changes’ would amount to a quarter of the emissions cuts needed to keep global warming to 1.5C and increase pressure on government and the private sector to proceed to the far-reaching systemic change needed.
The research inspired the Jump campaign, urging people to sign up to make the changes. Tom Bailey, one of its co-founders, said that while committing to all six shifts is too daunting, just starting some of them can make a difference.
End the clutter
Keep electronics—smartphones, personal computers, smartwatches, and televisions—for at least seven years. “Gadget addiction and buying ‘stuff’ in general is a major contributor to carbon emissions,” according to the report.
The study shows that the process of mining rare earth metals and producing more and more products often generates more emissions than using the objects themselves. For example, only 13% of an iPhone 11’s lifetime emissions are due to its use; the remaining 86% is associated with its production, transport and transformation at the end of its life.
“We typically replace these products with an improved model at least every two years,” says Bailey. “The goal is to keep electronics products for five to seven years – their full optimal lifespan.”
He says people should try to repair equipment, borrow, rent or buy used, adding: “If you really need something, then keep new items to a minimum.”
Get rid of private vehicles (unless absolutely necessary)
Many people have become accustomed to owning a car and for some their vehicle is essential either for work, because they are disabled or live in a remote area.
But owning a car generates huge emissions, according to research. Globally, transport is responsible for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, and more than two-thirds of these come from the engines of road vehicles.
Activists are calling on those who can to stop using private vehicles – ideally by getting rid of those they own – and instead turn to public transport, walking, cycling or car clubs.
“If you were planning on buying a car, see if you can wait and find alternatives that can get you where you need to go,” Bailey said. “If you’re feeling brave, get rid of the car(s) you have, or see if you can join a car-sharing program to share the profits – and the emissions.”
The study indicates that although there is a lot of emphasis on the role of electric vehicles (EVs) in the fight against climate change, a greater effort must be made to reduce the number of cars on the road in the world. together, because a significant source of emissions is in the manufacture of vehicles – even electric vehicles.
The apparel and textile industry generates more greenhouse gas emissions than international aviation and shipping combined, and the rise of fast, disposable fashion is accelerating this trend.
Bailey says, “Lower prices often mean lower quality clothes that don’t last as long; but these low prices have also resulted from invisible human and environmental costs such as polluted rivers, poor working conditions, low wages and the exploitation of factory workers.
Campaigners are therefore urging people to buy second-hand, repair or adjust existing items and limit purchases to three items per year – ideally those that are durable and will last.
Bailey said: “These garments may be more expensive, but it’s worth considering the cost per wear. If it lasts three times as long but only costs twice the price, it’s a financial saving over the life of the item and better for the environment too.
More than 25% of total global emissions come from the food system and today’s research shows that there are three changes in diet that would significantly reduce the impact of the foods we eat:
Bailey said: “Changing our behaviors around food is the most impactful of all changes. And it’s not just about climate change; if you look at biodiversity loss, land use change, fertilizers in the ocean creating dead zones, and the mass extinction and loss of insects due to pesticides, these issues are all food-driven.
Do not fly more than once every three years
Aviation contributes around 2% of overall global emissions and this figure is growing more than any other form of transport. Theft is also very uneven: in the UK, 70% of all flights are taken by just 15% of the population.
The research found that the global average number of return flights per person in 2017 was one short-haul return flight every one to two years. Experts say halving that number – committing to one short-haul return flight every three years or one long-haul flight every eight years – would have a huge impact.
Bailey said: “We can still see the world: fly overseas 15-20 times in a lifetime, or travel more slowly overland to different places. But we have to be realistic about the impact of city breaks abroad. Why not visit all the amazing places we have closer to home? »
The report suggests choosing holiday destinations closer to home that you can access by train, ferry or bus. He also advocates using technologies such as video calls to stay in touch with family and friends.
Change the system
The actions outlined above can lead to huge reductions in global emissions – 25% of those needed to sustain 1.5°C warming – but the research also clearly shows that the bulk of the reductions will come from systemic changes made. by governments and the private sector. To help transform the system, activists are calling on people to make at least one change in their own lives. Ideas include:
Switch to a green energy provider.
For those who can afford it, install home energy efficiency measures like insulation and heat pumps.
Transfer your pension to a green investor.
Use ethical and green banks.
Efficient use of energy at home.
Push for change through activism or peaceful protests or by writing to your MP.
Bailey says, “This change is different from others because the research does not imply that individuals are responsible for changing global systems. However, we know that personal changes in our own lives can, collectively, have a huge impact.