30 Day Eco-Challenge
Climate, Conditionality and Karma
30 Day Challenge
As part of the Triratna Earth Sangha retreat, we will be asking you to take part in a 30-day challenge throughout the month of June. Each morning there will be an entry on the retreat padlet covering a simple topic that you can reflect on to see how you might incorporate it into your life.
Each entry will relate to either one of the four main areas of a personal carbon footprint (Energy; Travel; Food & Drink; Stuff), or an action that can help with the wider environmental challenge. We hope the ideas inspire you to make changes in your life – to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle for the benefit of you and all living beings.
1 Buy second-hand.
Approximately 25% of our average carbon footprint in the UK is caused by us buying “stuff” – material goods such as clothes, books, utensils, equipment etc. If we could get into the habit of buying good quality goods such as clothes from second hand shops we could reduce the demand for new stuff to be made. So check out your local charity shops when you next go shopping – you may well find yourself a bargain and save some money as well as helping to save the planet.
2 Cook vegan
Over a quarter of our average carbon footprint in the UK is caused by what we eat and drink. And experts suggest that the single best thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to go vegetarian, and even better still, go vegan. Buddhism’s first ethical precept would suggest that we become vegetarian to avoid causing harm to other sentient beings. Coupled with the impact industrial agriculture (particularly the meat and dairy industries) has on the environment, this could give you the incentive to adopt a vegan diet, at least for a few days a week.
3 Dry laundry outside
Energy is a major part of your carbon footprint, accounting for about a quarter of your CO2 emissions. As such, any opportunity to reduce your energy usage should be considered and given that a tumble dryer is amongst the most energy intensive of all household appliances, then drying your laundry outside is a great option – both for the planet and for your wallet. Of course, this one does depend on the British weather doing its part!
4 Walk/cycle short distances rather than drive
The fourth major contributor to our personal carbon footprint (together with Energy, Food & Drink, and Stuff) is our Travel. Often this is caused by our use of the car, even for short journeys. It has been estimated that if we cycled or walked, rather than drove, for short journeys totalling one mile per day then we could save 180 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per year. Not to mention the reduction in air pollution and the health benefits of cycling and walking.
5 Go for a walk in nature
As Buddhists we all know that we are constantly looking for distractions and in our modern world this often that comes in the form of mindless entertainment. A better option both for your health and your state of mind could be to take a walk in nature, without your phone, so that you can fully appreciate the wonders of our natural world. As well as improving your wellbeing, you can get in touch with our beautiful environment as a source of inspiration for taking action against climate change.
6 Take a shorter shower
Your use of energy is a critical factor in considering how your actions have an impact on the climate, especially with the majority of our energy supply in the UK still coming from fossil fuels. As such, simple ways to reduce our energy demands that don’t have a big impact on our lifestyle should be embraced, and taking a shorter shower (from ten minutes to five say) could halve the amount of heated water you use each morning. Note also that a five-minute shower uses just over a quarter of the water needed to fill a bath about a third of the way up.
7 Donate clothes to charity (reuse)
We in the Western world live a life of luxury and this is often reflected in our wardrobes where we have a great choice of clothes to wear. And given the fashion conscious environment in which we live we often discard clothes that are perfectly serviceable just because we no longer want to wear them. Instead of throwing them away, get in to the habit of sorting through your wardrobe once every six months and donating any unwanted clothes to a local charity shop, so that last year’s favourite top can be enjoyed by someone else.
8 Eat seasonal food
The globalisation and mass distribution of fruit and vegetables worldwide allows us to enjoy a large variety of produce at any time of the year. But if we can eat more seasonal fruit and vegetables, we can improve the sustainability of our diets. Growing fruit and vegetables in season requires lower levels of artificial inputs like heating, lighting, pesticides and fertilisers than at other times of the year and so has a lower environmental impact. We need to learn to “eat the right thing at the right time”. And not only will it help reduce carbon footprints but what we eat will be of better quality and a better price. You can get more information on what you should be buying when you head out to the shops from www.eatseasonably.co.uk .
9 Catch the bus/train rather than going by car
Over 75% of households in England have a motor vehicle, with the typical English household owning 1.33 cars. The manufacture and use of cars in the UK is a major contributor to climate change, especially with most still running on fossil fuels. It is worth considering our use of cars – do we have options to reduce our dependence on this mode of travelling? For instance, it has been estimated that simply taking a weekly return trip of 12 miles by bus rather than car can reduce your carbon footprint by 300 kg/year.
10 Change to LED light bulbs
There are two types of energy-saving light bulb now available in the UK: compact fluorescent lamps, known as CFLs (the most common type of light bulb) and LEDs. LEDs are miles ahead of CFLs in terms of estimated lifespan, although they're usually the most expensive to buy. LEDs are also the most energy efficient option, using 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs (by contrast, CFLs use 60-80% less energy). Although the upfront cost might be high, LEDs you'll notice the difference in your annual energy bills.
11 Recycle more at home
It is estimated that UK households throw away a staggering 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging a year, averaging 66 items per household per week. These are mainly food packaging items, such as snack bags and fruit and veg trays. The more we can recycle responsibly the less will be thrown into landfill.
12 Write to your MP and/or local councillors.
Whilst it is important for us to take personal responsibility for our impact on the environment, it is clear that the Government has a huge part to play in addressing the climate and ecological emergency. And as such, regardless of your opinion of politicians, it is vital to let them know your concerns. In our constitutional democracy, your MP has to represent you and respond to your communications. Your MP may not always agree with you, and you them, but it is still their job to explain to you why. All MPs can table written questions – these questions will go to the most relevant Government Minister – and there is no need for MPs to agree with the sentiment of your question in order to table it. However, MPs prefer to tackle issues that directly affect their constituents (the people that live in their area) or those which a lot of their constituents care about, so the more you can demonstrate that a lot of people in your area want the change you’re asking for, the more an MP will be influenced to act. There is a lot of advice online about writing to your MP – it’s one more way we can influence the world we want to live in.
13 Turn thermostat down by 1 degree
The energy we use to heat our homes is a major contributor to our carbon footprint. Plus, with the huge increase in energy bills it has a major impact on our finances. According to the Energy Saving Trust, a typical home can reduce their carbon emissions by about 300kg a year for every degree the thermostat is turned down, and it will also save you money.
14 Buy food locally
Making changes to the way we shop and eat can benefit not only our health and happiness, but can boost the local economy, reduce waste and help us fill our plates with tastier, more nutritious food. Choosing to shop locally and eat local food is also great for building communities as well as protecting agricultural and food production in our countryside. A staggering 30% of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. When you add to this the number of food miles travelled – as food is shipped around the globe from producer to consumer – you begin to appreciate the benefits of a lifestyle which supports local food producers. Local produce includes everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, veg box schemes, pick your own farms, farm shops, farmers' markets and artisan bakers. By buying locally everyone, not just farmers and landowners, can contribute to ensuring that a well-managed countryside benefits wildlife and the environment.
15 Reusable coffee cup
The UK's caffeine addiction sees us drink around 35 billion cups a year, but that comes at a huge environmental cost. We throw away more than 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups annually. Using a reusable coffee cup would have a significant impact on this waste – plus many coffee shops offer a price reduction if you use your own reusable cup. What’s not to like!
16 Turn off devices (TV etc) rather than leaving on standby
Households in the UK can save an average of £147 per year by switching off electronics that drain a large amount of power even when they’re on standby. Since 2013, legislation has required devices to switch into a low power mode (such as standby) after a reasonable amount of time and they must not consume more than 0.5 Watts in standby or in off mode. However, the latest research suggests that the small amount of energy appliances do use on standby can still add up (and the total will be greater if you have old appliances in your home). Some devices only need to be plugged in a wall for them to be draining power. Smart speakers, laptops and internet routers all cost to keep plugged in – both in terms of money and energy.
17 Reduce stuff
Excess “stuff” not only increases our carbon footprint due to the manufacture and shipping of material goods, but it also generates a huge amount of waste, both in terms of unwanted things and their packaging. The idea of reduce, reuse and recycle is one that forms part of the waste hierarchy and has helped people to think about the environmental impact that they have. Preventing waste in the first place is the most favourable option. Where this is not possible, then reusing products or recycling is better for the environment than disposal in a landfill. Reducing the amount you purchase reduces the amount of energy required to manufacture and transport goods. So, next time you feel you “need” something new, ask yourself whether you really do. And remember what the Buddha taught about attachment to things.
18 Check tyre pressure (can improve your mileage by more than 3 percent)
Even a modest difference in tyre pressure can reduce the fuel economy of your car or van. Running on soft tyres also contributes to the damage done to the environment in our everyday driving. Estimates vary and other factors affect your miles per gallon but underinflated tyres could be increasing your fuel consumption from anywhere between 3% and 10%. Whatever the true figure, that will be having a direct impact on your wallet every time you fill up, as well as on the environment.
19 Plant a tree
Trees are essential for life. They clean the air we breathe, lock up carbon as they grow and provide homes for wildlife. Trees are one of our best natural defences against climate change which is devastating places where people and nature can thrive. The National Trust predicts that planting and establishing 20 million trees will, at their peak, store around 300,000 tonnes of carbon a year. Plant a tree today and support life for years to come.
20 Compost your food at home
The way you dispose of your food waste can have a massive impact on the environment. One way to reduce the amount of food waste going into landfill is to compost it at home. Composting is an easy way to reduce food waste that would go to landfill. Home composting is the most environmentally friendly way of dealing with kitchen and garden waste, plus it produces compost that can be used as an excellent soil improver. There is a lot of advice online for how to set up a home compost – have a go and get your hands dirty!
21 Install a smart meter
Smart meters help to make better sense of the energy you use so you can manage your consumption and your bills. When you get a smart meter you’ll start to see your energy differently - monitoring what you are using in near real time. It will encourage everyone in your household to adopt good energy habits. And smart meters help to create a smart energy system. With a truly smart energy system supply can be better matched with demand and more renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, can be integrated into the system. These forms of generating energy create less air pollution and emit significantly less CO2 into the atmosphere.
22 Use a local repair café
The amount of stuff we buy has a significant impact on climate change due to the CO2 equivalent of making and transporting material goods. And in our throw-away culture we often chuck out items that have stopped working and buy a replacement, rather than trying to get the original item fixed. Repair Cafes are community events that match people who need stuff fixed with people who like fixing things. Local, experienced, volunteer repairers repair all sorts of household items such as kettles, toasters, lamps, laptops, clothes, toys, bikes and more. Next time something breaks, consider whether you could get it repaired rather than just getting rid of it.
23 Join a campaign group
Regardless of your opinion of the tactics used by groups like Extinction Rebellion, there’s no there is no doubt that XR gets people talking and raises awareness of the climate crisis. Whether people have good or bad views, just about everyone is familiar with their activity. Equally, groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have been successfully campaigning for greater care of the environment for decades. The only ways such groups can keep climate change near the top of the political agenda is through continual publicity campaigns. This needs both money and people power. So consider how you can help and get involved.
24 Look into improving your house insulation
UK homes are amongst the worst insulated houses in Europe. An uninsulated home loses heat through the roof, walls, windows and floor. Insulation prevents that heat loss by creating a barrier around the house to stop the heat from escaping. The benefits of insulating a home are a warmer home in winter, lower energy bills, reduced carbon emissions, a cooler home in summer and reduced noise pollution. If you want to keep your energy bills low and reduce your carbon emissions, installing insulation is one of the best ways to keep the heat in your home, and the cold out.
25 Cut food waste – plan your meals and use leftovers
As stated before, food and drink accounts for over 25% of our average carbon footprint in the UK. So anything we can do to avoid food waste will make a significant difference. According to latest figures, household food waste makes up around 70% of the UK’s post-farm-gate total. Estimates suggest that by cutting food waste each household could save up to £700 per year as well as making less waste. Ways to reduce waste include not over buying; checking the use-by dates of fresh food when you buy it; planning ahead, thinking what you're going to cook and how you'll use the leftovers; and using your freezer to batch-cook and freeze. But, if you only do one thing – try not to buy too much!
26 Get a reusable water bottle and drink tap water (not bottled water)
In 2021, 2.5 million metric tons of plastic packaging waste were generated in the UK. Globally, the UK is believed to be the fifth-largest producer of single-use plastic waste, with an estimated three million metric tons generated in 2019. A large part of this is caused by our society’s obsession with bottled water. A very easy step we can all take is to start using a reusable water bottle and drink tap water whenever possible – it is surprising how easy it is to get these refilled when you are out and about. And as with most other climate change actions, there will be a saving in your pocket as well as for the planet.
27 Wash clothes in cool water settings
Washing clothes in cold water has plenty of benefits. Technology in home appliances has improved drastically over the last years and detergents are now a lot better, which means that washing clothing with cold water is now a viable option. As well as saving money, there are two huge environmental benefits to doing your laundry in cold water. Firstly, cold-water washing decreases water usage as the washing cycles are usually shorter. And properly doing your laundry can save a lot of water. Water scarcity is a huge issue that already affects every continent. Two-thirds of the world population experience severe water scarcity at least one month every year. Secondly, the washing machine and dryer are not the most environmentally friendly devices in your home. They consume an absurd amount of energy. To reduce your energy consumption, protect the environment, and ensure your clothes last longer, choose lower temperatures whenever you can.
28 Holiday by train – don’t fly
Are you planning a Summer holiday this year? Many of us go travelling to get a change of scenery, to experience a new culture, or just in search of the sun. Whilst it could be argued that staying in the UK is the soundest environmental choice, if you do go abroad then your choice of how you travel is significant. With short haul flights being the most damaging mode of transport per mile in terms of carbon footprint, you can greatly reduce your environmental impact by travelling by train. For instance, travelling to the South of France by train rather than flying can reduce your carbon footprint by almost 500 kg/year.
29 Share with your neighbours
There is a famous quote – “People Don’t Need a Drill. They Need a Hole In The Wall”. And yet we all have our own personal drill, ladder, and lawn mower. Yet how often do we use them – and how often are they just sitting in the shed? If we could build relationships with our neighbours we could all share the implements we need as we need them. This is the idea behind a number of schemes labelled a Library of Things which allows people to borrow what they need when they need it. Next time you have a job that requires a new tool, rather than buying a new one (which will spend most of the time in its box), consider asking your friends if they have one already, or look to see if there is a tool sharing scheme in your neighbourhood.
30 Get involved with Triratna Earth Sangha
Last week, we suggested that you could get involved in an environmental campaign group of your choosing. At a more local level, Triratna Earth Sangha are a group of Order Members, Mitras and friends who are deeply concerned about the climate and ecological crises we face and see it as part of their practice to do something about them. We would love you to get involved. You could start a Triratna Earth Sangha at your own centre. If people in your sangha are talking about the climate and ecological crisis, get them together and start acting. If they aren't, start the conversation yourself!