6 Simple Ways You Can Have A Big Impact On Climate Change

Do your bit.

30/06/2017 4:32 PM AEST | Updated 30/06/2017 4:35 PM AEST
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Hotter, drier days, heavier downpours, flooding, bush-fires and drought -- unfortunately, climate change isn't in the far-flung future, there's evidence it's happening right now.

Australia has one of the highest rates of greenhouse gas emissions per person, but it's by no means too late to join in the global effort to turn the tide.

A few small changes in our day-to-day lives can have a real impact, if we all take action now.

Below are six simple and effective actions you can take that will reduce your carbon footprint and help fight climate change.

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In Australia most of our energy comes from fossil fuels, so reducing your energy usage is key to combating climate change at home.

"It's always important to consider energy efficiency first. Is your household using more energy than it needs to?" Jack Noonan, manager of climate change programs at Sustainability Victoria said.

"The easiest thing to do is to ensure your thermostat is set between 24 to 26 degrees for cooling in summer and 18 to 20 degrees for heating in winter," Noonan said . "That seriously reduces the amount of energy you're using."

Another solution is to ensure proper insulation for your home -- wall, floor and ceiling -- and blocking any draughts around doors and windows.

"One thing that's really simple is washing your clothes in cold water. Not only does that save energy, but it saves money. Buying energy efficient appliances has a huge impact too. For every extra energy related star, you can cut up to 30 per cent of running cost associated with running the appliance."

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One easy way to reduce your carbon footprint is by shopping more mindfully, and this includes even the most innocuous of purchases.

"Buy products that are built to last instead of something you'll use once and then throw away," Noonan said. "Every time something new is made, it uses up water and energy and produces more greenhouse gas emissions. So by buying things that are made to last, you can reduce your impact on climate change."

Another way you can have an impact is to purchase products from brands who are making commitments to tackle climate change.

"Check labels when shopping -- or look at their website -- to see if the brand is committed to responsible practices and to sustainability and climate change action more broadly. Also, check whether they're using recycled content as well."

Some other easy tips to get you shopping in a more environmentally friendly way include; shopping locally to reduce energy used on transport and storage, looking for products that are made from sustainable materials, buying secondhand clothes and household items and always opting for the products with minimal packaging.

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Throwing stuff away isn't just a waste of money, it's also a serious waste of resources and clogs up landfill sites. As well as reusing everything you can to cut back on waste, make efforts to recycle everything else -- whether that's paper, plastic, newspaper, glass or cans.

Plastic is a big problem -- and an easy change to make is to avoid using plastic food wrap. This single use plastic destined for landfill uses valuable natural resources to produce and creates greenhouse gas emissions in production, transport and disposal. Durable containers, reusable food covers and beeswax wraps are eco-friendly alternatives that will reduce your use of plastic food wrap.

The recycling service offered by most local councils is a great environmentally friendly initiative that makes it easy for every household to reduce their contribution to landfill. But with non-recyclable items -- like food or plastic bags -- contaminating your recycling bins, it's important to keep a separate bin in your kitchen for recyclables and to never put recycling in a plastic bag.

Food waste also makes up one quarter of the average household rubbish bin -- so it's also worth considering composting.

"Landfill prevents waste from decomposing properly," Tracey Bailey, founder of Biome Eco Stores said.

"A much better option is composting. It reduces landfill and as a result lowers methane gas emissions, which contribute to climate change."


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One of the most well-known and talked about ways of making a difference to your climate footprint is opting for green power.

"Look at your electricity provider and consider purchasing green power from them. This form of energy creates far less of the emissions that contribute to climate change. The power you purchase is an investment in renewable energy, so the more people that do it, the more these companies will make an effort to source from green energy providers," Noonan said.

Although it can be a more expensive option, Noonan explained that this is starting to change:

"The price is coming down and you have options to buy 25 per cent and 50 per cent amounts, if you find the 100 per cent too pricey."

Solar energy is one of the fastest growing forms of renewable energy in the world, and also one of the best weapons available to help fight climate change.

"The key consideration about solar panels is that they reduce your energy bill over time," Noonan said. "They might have a large capital cost up front, but you'll be making savings over the lifetime of the unit. It reduces the reliance on burning fossil fuels to create energy, which obviously has an impact on reducing emissions and climate change.

"However, it's important to acknowledge that solar panels aren't accessible to everyone, because they either rent or they're in an apartment block that isn't feasible. But that doesn't mean that these people can't get involved in sustainability. Whether prohibited by circumstance or by finances, there are other ways to save on energy."

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Unsurprisingly, swapping your car for a bicycle -- or your feet -- reduces emissions. But so can being smarter about how you use your car.

"20 percent of the average Australian's eco-footprint is due to transportation," Sara Rickards, program manager for The Centre for Sustainability Leadership said.

"Driving your car has six times more impact in terms of carbon emissions than taking the bus or train."

However, if you can't avoid taking your car from time to time, at least consider these straightforward ways of reducing those carbon emissions.

"Simple ways to decrease this impact include lightening your load -- that extra junk in your trunk is causing your car to burn more fuel. Other measures you can take include checking your tyre pressure (which is usually on the inside of the driver door)," Rickards said.

"Other things you can do to decrease your impact include not speeding, excessive acceleration or braking -- which can decrease your mileage by as much as 15-30 per cent."

And of course you can try to carpool with workmates or commute by walking, running or cycling. The health benefits from commuting using foot or pedal power make the swap a win-win.

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While it is evident from the above that there are many ways we can do our bit, staying on track can be tricky.

"Research shows that people start these actions with good intentions but life gets in the way," Director at Australian National University's Climate Change Institute, Professor Mark Howden said.

"Forming a small 'kitchen-table' group of family, friends or neighbours, where you discuss climate-friendly options and make commitments of actually taking action, is more likely to succeed."

Community action might include creating vegetable gardens, pooling resources and recycling unwanted goods. "Not only is the group-based approach more effective," Howden said. "But it's more fun and can also lead to much bigger and more ambitious action."

Victoria is joining other leading countries and states around the world in committing to do our part to reduce emissions, and keep the global temperature rise to under 2 degrees. For more information on TAKE2 and to join Victoria's pledge to act on climate change, visit take2.vic.gov.au.

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