Lifestyle changes can often feel futile when witnessing the scale of environmental degradation worldwide. However, time and time again, it has been proven that small scale changes have real value in the battle against climate change, in the least because of the act as an effective indicator for politicians about public concerns. In this blog, Vaughn, a long-time supporter of Hope for the Future, writes about his personal journey to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle.
I began writing this in Arctic Norway, where our changing climate is much more apparent than at home in London. I have seen the dwindling seabird colonies, I have felt myself sinking into the ground which was frozen when I was here a few years ago. This is my record of a personal journey as I think out what I can do as a personal contribution to combat climate change, as I work out how I can use my actions to encourage other people to make their own small difference and use the lessons that I have learned to seek changes from our politicians, both national and local.
It is amazing to watch our young people rising to the challenge when my generation has been unable to address climate change. I belong to the first generation that has begun to really understand how we can alter our planet through our own apparently trivial actions. We are also the last generation that can do anything to avert disastrous planetary outcomes that could result from our collective behaviours.
This is simply a personal story but it has thrown up some interesting choices, and some decisions that are very definitely not obvious in conventional cost-benefit terms. It has demonstrated that we have to develop a different mindset and overturn conventional wisdom. It is easy to sit back and just think that it all too difficult, and just leave it to others. But this is a story with hope, at least it should be!
Carefully calculating my carbon footprint and offsetting, through Climate Stewards, does clear the conscience but it also helpfully identifies the big contributors. The petrol estate car should clearly be retired. I had the good fortune to attend an evening meeting when a couple of enthusiastic EV users who dispelled many of my concerns and presented data that dealt with some of the myths. Rapid charging points have a low occupancy rate, so are usually available. Most charging is done at home and you can always leave with a ‘full tank’, which is not the case with a petrol or diesel car. The benefits outweigh the challenges, and with journey planning, it becomes a far more pleasant experience. In future, supermarkets and out-of-town shopping zones could be obliged to provide charging points.
I live in a modern, conventional detached house with the usual gas central heating and electrical appliances. Of course, when electrical appliances need replacement, the efficiency can be improved and all of the lighting has been switched to low energy solutions - that is obvious and straightforward. In January 2016, I fitted 4kW of solar panels. The annual total generation has exceeded the predicted values by over 14%. I was lucky enough to have completed the installation shortly before a big reduction in the income provided by the Feed-In Tariffs for small scale generation. Without these Tariff payments, the costs of installation are more difficult to justify without some battery storage, which in itself is a costly complication. I am aware that this is a common topic of conversation when Hope for the Future supports individuals to meet with MPs, so hopefully, more progress concerning the values of solar panels will be made soon.
I am now looking at options for space heating with air, or ground-source heat pumps alongside some modifications to the house inline ‘passivhaus’ ideas to reduce the carbon footprint. That remains a work in progress, but the current inefficient state of the UK housing stock is another example of how hard-wired we are into standard solutions that are not fit for the future.
It has been an interesting journey but I do feel that I am doing the right thing and that I am probably future-proofing my lifestyle. There’s no doubt that early adoption comes at a premium but it is also exciting to be able to encourage others to follow by demonstrating how practical solutions are possible. The solar panels make a visible statement. The electric car certainly starts discussions in all sorts of unlikely places, and being red it does make a statement! Through these opportunities, in my own small way, I am able to challenge the traditional wisdom that taking action on climate change is unattainable.
What has your personal journey with climate change been? Some of the actions that Vaughan has taken himself, or discussed, such as using electric vehicles and installing solar panels, are climate change-related topics that you could discuss with your MP. Engaging your MP with topics such as these is yet another way you can help to make a positive change in the fight against climate change. We can support you to build a relationship with your MP by providing you with expert research, accompany you to a meeting or helping you to set up an event.