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The power of parents.

9 ways parents can make a positive difference

Have you seen posts recently telling you that the world your child or children may live in the next 30 years will be practically unliveable? Is it making you feel pretty helpless as a parent? You are not alone.

All the scaremongering around the recently released IPCC report drives me mental. Why? Because they portray these horrifying scenarios but without giving any real, tangible solutions for the everyday person to get on board with.

Whilst the scenario could well be a true depiction of what is to come if no action is taken, there are in fact many things that everyone can do to help ensure this scenario never comes to fruition. I have brought together seven things that any parent can jump on board with.

Kitchen Timer in orange

1. Bank and invest your money responsibly

Since 2015, when the Paris Agreement on climate change was agreed upon by world leaders from 196 parties, 35 of the world’s largest banks – many of whom you will recognise – have provided $2.7 trillion (£2tn) to fossil fuel companies.

David Attenborough sums up the madness of it all when he said so succinctly, “It’s crazy that our banks and our pensions are investing in fossil fuels. When these are the very things that are jeopardising the very future we are saving for.”

It’s time to rethink who you bank with, where your pensions and ISAs are invested and any other money you have locked away. There are lots of names batted about but due to financial advice, I am not going to suggest any. However, I do strongly recommend that you look at Ethical Consumer Magazine. They are fantastic at distilling all the information out there into an easy-to-digest format. For example, here is an in-depth analysis of the current account options available in the UK in terms of how good each option is for the planet. One area the article tackles is which banks are investing in fossil fuel companies and which are not.

2. Start a conversation at work

You may have a big voice but I bet the company where you work has an even bigger one (even if it’s small). We often run workforce surveys within companies and in general around 75% of employees feel passionately about wanting to do something so you will not be alone.

  1. Identify what your company is already doing.
  2. Decide what action you would like the company to take.
  3. If you can arrange an appointment with senior leadership then go in with your suggestions but make sure you are armed with facts and figures from credible sources for why change is required in those areas. Finding proof that competitors are already doing it always helps. This research helps back up your points.
  4. If the organisation is huge, why not start with how you can improve your function e.g. if you work in marketing, have you measured the carbon footprint of all of your campaigns to find out where your biggest negative impacts are.
  5. Find others within your company that feel the same and organise an open letter signed by emploees asking for change that you end up sending to senior management (if the company is large enough). 3.5k employees had signed an open letter to Amazon’s boss Jeff Bezos within two hours about Amazon’s need to adopt a climate change plan.

3. Change to renewable energy

It may cost an extra £2 per month but your house will no longer be relying on fossil fuels to run it. If you want to go one step further (and have the capital which I appreciate not everyone does), then installing solar panels is a great option. The payback period is now around 5 years rather than 10 years with the rising costs of energy and the lowering costs of production as mass adoption takes off. Properly insulating your house is a no-brainer. For all that Insulate Britain may have wound some people up, their cause is more valid than ever. We need to insulate our homes much more than they currently are.

4. Rethink the way you go on holiday. 

Everyone deserves a holiday and whilst I don’t think flying halfway around the world every few months is a good thing to do for the climate, I appreciate that people have family elsewhere. If you do have to travel, make sure you offset your carbon footprint. There are now schemes in place that allow individuals to offset the carbon from their travel whether that’s through replanting trees in vulnerable areas or investing in social programs that reduce carbon elsewhere e.g. investing in technology that allows families in developing countries to cook off electric stoves rather than cutting down trees and burning wood. The cost will vary depending on how far you are going but expect something in the region of £150 if you are traveling to Australia from the UK. Also if you can travel by train then even better. Train networks across Europe are gearing up for this in such an amazing way that sooner it will be less hassle and a more enjoyable way to travel.

5. Who you vote for is critical 

Vote for a political party that is genuinely trying to help society and the environment become cleaner. Many political narratives are still only focused on short-term wins over the detriment of the planet long-term. If you are confused, ask yourself – what will this policy do in the long term if it goes through? Is this party designing policies that outlive their terms? This is a fun, engaging game from the FT that takes 5 minutes to do but shows you what kind of policies we need in place to hit NetZero carbon in time.

6. Don’t throw any food away

A whopping third of all food produced is thrown away. Half of that amount comes from the everyday person at home throwing away food, all 900 million tonnes of it every single year. Yet nearly one in three people worldwide did not have access to adequate food in 2020. We need to all stop wasting food plus it just makes pure economical sense. The average person in the UK wastes £700 of food every single year. Imagine what you could spend that money on? A few tips to help you on your way:

  1. There are a lot of amazing chefs out there easy-to-cook recipes to use up leftover food. BBC Good Food is a great place to start.
  2. Apps like Olio enable you to give away your leftover food such as cans to someone who may want them.
  3. The app Too Good to Go means you can pick up reduced or free food from supermarkets throwing it away.
  4. If you are tempted by a BOGOF offer, ask yourself, will you really eat the second lot? Just because it’s free does not mean that you should buy it if it is just going in the bin.
  5. Buy products like Rubies in the Rubble or ChicP who make all of their products from leftover or wonky supermarket fruit and veg. Plus they’re delicious as well.
  6. Order a fruit and veg box from Oddbox which use ‘ugly’ fruit and veg rejected by supermarkets. All this means is wonky carrots or massive kiwi fruit. They are brilliant at keeping the box varied with lots of recipes on how to use the produce.
  7. Check the use-by dates. These are the dates to take notice of, rather than the best-before dates. Only buy what you think you can use before each product goes out of date.
  8. Plan ahead. This will prevent you from buying products you genuinely won’t eat.
  9. Let the freezer become your friend. Slice up your bread and put it in the freezer. Every time you want some bread, just take out a slice and toast it. Same with herbs. It’s also great if you haven’t managed to finish the soup you’ve made. It just means you will have soup available next time you’re in a rush but don’t have the time to cook.

7. Do you really need that new item

Ask yourself, do you really need that new item of clothing or any new item in fact? If you do, go through this amazing process that my client EcoSki designed:

  1. If you have this item already, can it be repaired?
  2. If it can’t be repaired or you don’t have one to start with, can you buy it secondhand?
  3. If it is not going to be used much, are there rental options instead (this option usually works out much cheaper and prevents clutter)?
  4. And if none of these options are viable, can you buy new from a responsible brand? Goodfind is a great website to find greener versions of products and Good on You for determining a better clothing brand. H&M or Zara despite all their green gumpf will never sit in this category or at least not for a long while.

8. Cut down your weekly meat and fish consumption

Meat production accounts for approximately 20% of entire global carbon emissions every single year whilst due to our overfishing, we’ve lost 50% of our entire fish population in our oceans in just 50 years. Each of us in the western world needs to reduce our meat and fish consumption to two or three times a week max if we are going to hit any climate change targets. The great thing is that the amount of chefs that have latched onto this means there is an abundance of inspiration for what you can cook when not incorporating meat and fish.

9. Do you have to drive?

70% of all car journeys made in the UK in 2020 were to drive only 2 to 3 miles max. Next time you are thinking of going somewhere nearby, ask yourself, could you cycle or walk that distance instead? It saves money on fuel, prevents more carbon from entering the atmosphere and counts towards your 10,000 steps!

Blog.

What we see matters.

Changing the visual may answer one of our major communication failures

As I crossed the city this morning, I passed numerous adverts with imagery of women carrying disposable coffee cups and people sitting in restaurants with plates piled high with food. It occurred to me that despite David Attenborough issuing the marketing world a communication challenge to help change the narrative, we are never going to accelerate the shift over to a more sustainable lifestyle if we consistently use visuals that portray unsustainable lifestyles.

The challenge.

We’ve got to get the Western World, who contribute to the majority of the world’s carbon emissions, to change the way they live in less than a decade, otherwise we may end up with a world where our children and grandchildren will never get the chance to swim with manta rays and turtles on the Great Barrier Reef or come eye to eye with an elephant because these creatures will be all but a living memory!

The challenge is to make sustainable living not only ‘cool’ but desirable and easily attainable for everyone. Ultimately we need to get people to a place where they don’t question whether they should be doing it but rather why wouldn’t they be doing it.

The solution.

Now if the average American is exposed to 1500 adverts a day and the average British member is expected to spend 10 years of their life watching TV, surely the first place to start driving this change is the visuals that we use in these highly influential mediums. 

What could this look like? Well it could include people walking around with reusable bags, electric cars driving past, solar panels on roofs, diversity of cultures living in the same streets, people drinking from reusable mugs, housing estates full of greenery rather than tarmac and recycling bins sitting prominently in kitchens. You are probably starting to get the picture.

What’s already being done?

The Environmental Media Association have been doing wonders already in this area over the past couple of decades, working with film directors on how to incorporate more environmentally focused messaging from the cast of Friends pouring out milk from a reusable glass bottle to Detective Briscoe from Law and Order asking his lieutenant at a crime scene what the blue fleece found was made of and her replying ‘recycled plastic bottles’. 

Taking the plunge.

It’s time for marketing to start getting its game together. This is not about taking away the creative flair of marketing or telling marketers how they should be doing their job but I do believe that they should be held responsible for the wider good. Is there a way we can depict sustainable lifestyles regardless of the product or service being promoted?

Imagine the impact this could have if every marketer started adopting this sustainable marketing approach. The exposure to sustainable living would be through the roof. It would not only help everyone visualise what a sustainable life would like, it would start to change people’s views on what a desirable life looks like…and all with no mention of saving the planet…because as we know that is clearly not working right now. 

If nothing is done then the regulators may end up being the ones that push the change. Do we really want to wait for our creative freedom to be restrained? I’d say no. So come on marketers, what are you waiting for?