We’ve all heard the lists of things we can change in our lives to mitigate emissions, but how to get started, and how on Earth does one make it a part of one’s everyday life? Do you have to make climate action your number one priority, give things up and think about climate change every hour of the day? No, you don’t. When it comes to climate action, the easy way is worth just as much applause as the hard one.
In 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its much talked about report stating, amongst other things, that citizen climate action is going to be part of the solution to climate change. That’s not just because it helps individuals to reduce their personal emissions, adds up to large emission savings when many are acting (van Vuuren et. al., 2018) and sends a strong message to businesses that cleaner goods and services are in demand, but because people taking action in their own lives is one of the best ways to get to a society that reaches the 1.5°C target set in the Paris Agreement.
So, our personal climate actions matter — but where should one start? The fact that globally, 72% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are related to household consumption (Hertwich and Peters, 2009) means that 72% of GHG emissions depend on consumption choices that we make.
And they can all be made in a more or less climate-smart way.
It’s easier than you think
The emissions you are in direct control of include how your home is heated and lighted, how many and what kinds of things you buy (there are always emissions when something is produced), what you eat and how you travel. In all of these contexts you can find a selection of services and products that can help you live a life with less emissions — right here and now. What’s even more exciting is this:
research shows we can reduce the emissions we directly control by 55%, using only solutions and technology that are already available to us (SYKE, 2017).
To make it as easy as possible for you to start taking climate action, we put together a list of climate-smart services and products that will help you take the first step:
- First and foremost: buy less but of higher quality. Ditch fast fashion and cheap junk and spend your money on things that are made with care and will give you joy for years to come. Our favourites for furniture: Antique shops (nothing says “quality” quite like a table that’s been around for 200 years already!); and timeless high-quality brands such as Lundia and Hakola. For clothing: Marimekko and Samuji. For homeware: De Buyer, Fiskars and Iittala.
- Got a hole in your shirt or a broken screen on your phone? Instead of buying a new one, extend the lifespan of existing items and use repair services such as StichMe, Espoo Mending and iTapsa.
- In sudden need of a power drill or an evening gown? Use rental and sharing services! Check out your local library (Helmet has loads of info if you happen to be located in or around Helsinki), Nettivuokraus, Kuinoma, Skipperi, Varusteleka and Vaatepuu.
- Look for things you need second hand. Visit flea markets, Facebook groups and curated websites selling second-hand gems! Here are a few of our favourites: Relove, Bohemia, Tyylit.fi, My Vintage Kiddos, Iittala’s Vintage service & Taitonetti.
- Favour products made from reused and recycled materials, or materials that would otherwise have gone to waste. Check out HallaxHalla, Pure Waste and Lovia.
- Do you have a broken electrical appliance lying around at home? Recycle it and save precious minerals & metals! Many electronics shops take in old and broken devices for recycling — just drop them off and let them take care of the rest!
- Prevent food waste and utilise products that would otherwise go to waste at home, restaurants and shops. Matsmart and Fiksuruoka sell food and household products with end-of-date approaching; Restaurant Nolla and Ravintola Loop are on a mission to minimise food waste; and ResQ app helps you to find meals for a reduced price. Get inspiration and tips for what to do with tired greens and foodstuffs just about to go old here: Satokausikalenteri, Saasyoda.fi, Martat.fi and Lovefoodhatewaste.com.
- Favour vegetarian and vegan items, especially plant-based proteins, and fish from sustainable sources. Our favourite plant-based products are made by Oumph!, Gold&Green, MÖ, Jalotofu and Mama Mem’s. If you’re going out for food, check out Bun2Bun, Yes Yes Yes, Zucchini, Oh My Goodness, Maker’s café and Pom & Flora in Stockholm. Happy Cow app shows vegan-friendly restaurants on the map!
- If you need to own a car, choose an efficient one that uses fuel from renewable, low-carbon sources. You can check the emissions of different car types at Autokalkulaattori.fi.
- This one is easy: support your local and use services from areas you can reach by walking, cycling and using public transport.
- There are loads of Facebook groups where you can find people to share a ride with! If you commute by car, ask around if there’s any neighbour who’s going in the same direction, or if you have a colleague who lives close to you. Less vehicles on the roads means less traffic jams and a smoother commute!
- Use a car sharing or rental service such as Blox Car or Go Now.
- Walk or cycle short trips and on longer ones, combine it with public transport. Whim app gives you access to public transport, taxis and rental cars, and you can use them based on your needs. Remember, the last mile by taxi is still a lot fewer miles by car!
Housing and energy use at home
- Buy electricity from renewable sources. Many companies offer electricity with the EKOenergy label, which guarantees a sustainable origin not just in terms of emissions, but also in terms of biodiversity.
- Choose energy-efficient devices when replacing old ones. Look for EU energy labels!
- Replace inefficient lights with LEDs.
- If you’ve decided to make a home makeover, take the opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of your house at the same time! Would this be a good time to replace those drafty windows?
- Save hot water by installing low flow taps and shower heads. You can also ask a technician to adjust water pressure in your whole building.
- If you live in a detached house, install renewable heating systems such as heat pumps or solar power as a main or secondary heating system.
- Invest in devices such as a photovoltaic system to produce renewable energy.
- Utilise timers to control the devices that can be turned off at certain times, e.g. outdoor lighting and extra electric heating systems.
Climate action doesn’t have to mean extra effort or giving up on things. What it does require is re-evaluating our existing habits from time to time: could I do this in a more climate-smart way? New services and products are appearing everywhere, making climate-friendly living easier — and cheaper. By choosing to switch to a more climate-smart service or product, you’re not only reducing your personal emissions and supporting the company providing it, but changing the social norms around you, moving climate-smart options to the mainstream.
Our final advice to you is to always start with considering whether you actually need to buy anything. If the answer is yes, see if you can find a suitable solution from the list above. Reusing and sharing is gold, but going for quality comes in at second place!