How to save the planet from your sofa or school: How we can all be Guardians of the Planet
Published on: 09 January 2020 Author: Karla Hill
New book Guardians of the Planet: How to be an Eco-Hero by Clive Gifford and Jonathan Woodward is full of ideas about how we can all make a difference and help protect the world around us.
It includes an introduction from the charity ClientEarth, so here's ClientEarth lawyer Karla Hill with her ideas of how you can help...
Illustration: Jonathan Woodward
It's the start of a new decade, and we have big hopes for the next ten years. School strikes for the climate prove that young people want to protect the environment, and they are calling for change.
At ClientEarth, we use law to make governments and businesses change - to stop them polluting and make them defend nature. But there's lots you can do too at home, at school, and even when you're on holiday to make sure we all do our bit for the planet...
Eat your lunch, protect a bunch
Let's start with something we all have in common - food! It's really easy to protect the environment while eating your lunch. You can choose a vegetarian option, because it takes way more water to produce meat than it does vegetables - around 287 litres of water to grow a kilo of potatoes vs 15,400 litres to produce a kilo of beef.
Like taking photos? Why not take a 'shelfie' of what's in your fridge before your family goes shopping? That way, you can make sure you only buy what you need and nothing goes to waste.
While you're at it, you could try growing your own food - tomatoes, radishes and chives are super easy to grow, and you can even try sprouting tomatoes from the seeds of shop-bought ones. How's that for recycling?!
Not just a drop in the ocean
While we're talking about food, there are a couple of little changes you can make to protect the oceans, too. Say no to plastic straws! Your drink tastes just as good without them, and they often end up in the sea, where they take thousands of years to decompose and are dangerous to turtles, fish and other floating friends.
A few years ago, the UK brought in a new law saying shops had to charge 5p for plastic bags. Now people are using them 80% less! Small changes like this can make a big difference. Could you ask your school to switch from plastic cutlery to metal, or to remove drinks in plastic bottles from vending machines? First your school... next, the world!
Taking the fight for nature on holiday
Luckily, not every day is a school day! There are big changes you could make even when you're on holiday. Next time you're at the seaside, take a good look at the rock pools to see what's inside. If it's plastic rubbish, pick it up and bin it - it makes it even easier to spot cute critters like crabs, tiny fish and sea anemones.
If trees are more your thing, there's some good news! Vietnam and Cuba have over 55% more forests now than they did in 1990. And Uruguay has more than doubled its forests in the same time! Closer to home, you can check out local woodlands - they're great for spotting birds, wildlife, bugs and more. You could even plant your own tree! If you don't have space at home, ask your school for a spot in the playground, or ask your local council for a planting scheme in your area.
Protect the planet from your sofa
If you're more of a stay-at-home green warrior, there are lots of things you can do. The wild animals on your doorstep could really use your help. Leave out a shallow bowl of water for thirsty bees, and make sure you pop in some stones or marbles for them to stand on because bees can't swim! Birds appreciate a drink and a snack too, so you could dig a pond in your garden, or hang up a tasty feeder packed with seeds for them to peck at.
While you're sofa-saving the planet, ask your parents to turn down your heating by a few degrees. Lowering the thermostat by just one degree can stop 340kg of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year. Try it on a mild day if you're feeling chilly, and everyone will soon get used to the change - it'll save your family money too.
Energy saving at home - watch out for vampires
There are loads of ways to save energy without ever putting your shoes on! Switch off plugs when they're not in use, because electrical things like toasters keep drawing power, known as 'vampire energy', even when they're not switched on. Over a year, the average household spends around 8% of its total electricity costs on these vampire leaks - that's an entire month's bill!
And it's not just electric energy you could save - cut down on your time spent doing chores by putting lids on saucepans when you cook and letting your hair dry naturally instead of using a hairdryer.
Out and about - walk, pedal or ride
When you do go out and about, you can save energy and pollution with a few easy changes. Make new friends by taking the bus, or get fit and feel better by cycling or walking short journeys and choose less polluted routes along the way. Carpool with your friends when you're going on an outing - it's more fun and better for the planet too. You could even organise a walking school bus to get your friends along for the ride.
There are so many ways to save the planet, and loads of them will save you time and money as well. You don't have to do them all - a few small changes will make a difference, and might inspire other people too.
At ClientEarth, we use the law to make governments and businesses bring in big changes to protect the climate and keep plants, birds and animals safe. If you want to find out more about defending the planet, read the brilliant new book Guardians of the Planet, written in support of ClientEarth. Happy saving!