From academics presenting the dangers of micro-plastic to David Attenborough attempting to educate us through the telly; Increasingly, as consumers we are becoming more aware of the impact our disposable culture is having on the world around us, and the hunger for change is surely, if only slowly, spreading. But is it enough?
In 2018, collectively we used up natural resources equivalent to 1.7 earths. And to add to that, the latest Emissions Gap Report stated that “Current commitments expressed in the NDCs are inadequate to bridge the emissions gap in 2030. Technically however, it is still possible to bridge the gap to ensure global warming stays well below 2°C and 1.5°C, but if NDC ambitions are not increased before 2030, exceeding the 1.5°C goal can no longer be avoided”. The report also claims that “in fact, global CO2 emissions increased in 2017 after three years of stagnation.”
Although, every year a day passes which undermines our collective efforts of sustainability completely; it’s called Overshoot Day and it marks the day when humanity has officially taken and used up more from nature than nature can produce in an entire year. Overshoot Day was conceived by Andrew Simms of the UK think tank New Economics Foundation and is hosted and calculated by the Global Footprint Network, another international think-tank which coordinates research, develops methodological standards and provides decision-makers with a menu of tools to help the human economy operate within earth’s ecological limits.
The organisation determines the Overshoot Day by “calculating the number of days of that year that the Earth’s bio-capacity suffices to provide for humanity’s Ecological Footprint”. The remainder of the year is overshoot. Last year in 2018, the world Overshoot Day fell on August 1st, the earliest it has ever been since the day’s conception in 2006, and the UK’s very own Overshoot Day landed on May 8th. This is absolutely shocking, so how can we help #MoveTheDate?
One form of combat which has spread across the UK on the back of a newly energised wave of eco-warriors, is Zero-Wasting. The term zero-waste means exactly what it implies. The aim is to produce a zero amount of waste as mush as possible, avoiding any contribution to landfill with the ultimate aim of bringing about a circular economy where discarded resources can be put back into the greater system and re-used. Zero-waste shops have now begun to flourish around the country ever since the August 2017 opening of Earth.Food.Love down in Devon. From then, the rest of the UK has slowly followed suit with places such as Leeds, for example, which is now home to 3 zero-waste shops, such as Kirkgate Market favourite; The Jar Tree.
Back in January of 2018, Theresa May vowed to eradicate all avoidable plastic within the UK by 2042, after the launch of a 25-year environment plan that aims to improve the UK’s air and water quality while also protecting many threatened plants, trees and wildlife species. Since the launch of the plan, and following the more recent launch of the ambitious Clean Air Strategy, the government has rolled out a “ready to burn” scheme that has seen major retailers such as Lidl sign up to take important steps in encouraging their customers to buy cleaner fuels to heat their homes in an attempt to ultimately reduce the impact on their health and the environment.
However, the acts of limiting our waste, reducing our pollution and cutting out our plastic usage are all only small chips off the melting iceberg, so to speak. Even the food we consume and diets we follow have been identified as having a huge detrimental effect on the environment around us, as Harriet Smith, an award–winning dietician and founder of Surrey Dietician, explains; “Food production contributes 15-30% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the UK and therefore contributes significantly to global warming. Of all foods, red meat and dairy production has the greatest impact on GHG emissions.”
Harriet says that: “The Committee for Climate Change in the UK has voiced concerns about whether these industries are doing enough to reduce their carbon footprint. Although the UK is becoming more aware of how our diet impacts on the environment, the national diet and nutrition survey data shows that as a nation, we aren’t good at translating this into dietary behavioural changes.”
To help raise awareness of this concern, in November 2018 the British Dietetic Association launched the ‘One Blue Dot’ campaign. One Blue Dot is an environmentally sustainable dietary toolkit which enables dietitians to help promote sustainable eating to their patients and the general public.
“We should all be aiming for a more plant-based diet,” Harriet continues, “Incorporating seasonal fruits and
vegetables, wholegrain carbohydrates and starchy foods (potatoes), moderate dairy consumption (or fortified plant-based alternatives), sustainable fish (including oily fish), more plant-based protein (nuts, seeds, tofu, soya) and less than 70g of red meat per day. In addition, we should also try to reduce food waste and recycle where possible, choose water, tea and coffee over soft drinks and reduce our use of plastic.”
It isn’t a secret that future of our planet relies on the making of real change to multiple sectors of our society, but scientists have already warned and predicted that there are only around 12 years left to bring these changes into effect if there is to be any chance of turning earths bleak future around.
“It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,” said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts, speaking to the Guardian.com. “This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency”