25 small steps we can all take to a greener 2022

As we mark the new year, we want a greener, cleaner environment - we asked five environmental campaigners to recommend small changes for a more sustainable world
25 small steps we can all take to a greener 2022

Not sure where to start with going green in 2022? You've come to the right place.

As we mark the new year, we want a greener, cleaner world. And what better way to play our part than by making New Year resolutions for sustainability. We asked five environmental campaigners to recommend small changes for a more sustainable world.

Lyndsey O'Connell, communications director of environmental charity VOICE, says about half of total greenhouse gas emissions and more than 90% of our global biodiversity loss comes from extracting, processing and consuming our natural resources – whether oil to heat our homes, food on our table or plastic packaging.

“This is why we need to challenge our ownership model and adopt new ways of consuming. Each of us has a part to play, through our buying power and campaigns.” 

1: Think twice before shopping – and support zero waste shops

Our culture around shopping and waste changed in the 1950s. 

Suddenly there was so much of everything there was no need to keep packaging, or reuse bottles and tins. 

We need to change the culture again. 

If we buy products with the intention of refilling or reusing packaging we can seriously impact amount of waste being created. 

Support businesses/shops offering these solutions. Zero waste shops are popping up all around Ireland – check out GoZero.ie.

2: Drive less 

Changing our driving habits can drastically reduce our carbon footprint. 

Dust off that bike, participate in carpooling kids to school, organise car-free days at work, combine shopping trips – just a few ways to cut down car journeys.

3: Go plastic-free 

Plastic is a fossil fuel that never goes away. First line of defence is to refuse it. Buy fewer products with plastic on/in them and reduce dependence on such a highly polluting material.

Look for plastic-free options (loose fruit/veg), bulk buy rice/pasta, buy refillable products (again look for local refill/zero waste shop). 

Demand your local shop stops wrapping everything in plastic and follow Sick of Plastic Campaign, which helps supporters take action against plastic overuse.

4: Consider the environment when buying big

Elaine Butler of Living Lightly in Ireland
Elaine Butler of Living Lightly in Ireland

Not everyone can afford to buy a new electric car. Use what you’ve got until it can’t run anymore because manufacturing of cars is energy-intensive.

But if you’re in the process of getting a new car, look for an efficient model – you’ll save money and reduce your carbon footprint over the years.

If buying a new home appliance, check the machine’s energy rating. Aim for the most efficient model possible. 

Need a new water heater? Consider solar energy. SEAI have home improvement grants that’ll make your home warmer and less expensive to run.

Elaine Butler runs sustainable living guide livinglightlyinireland.com

She and her family have changed their choices since she began looking more closely at sustainability in 2016. 

“We're eating less meat, flying and driving less, avoiding buying as much as possible and, where we must buy, choosing second-hand first and foremost. Living sustainably isn't about doing without, it's about doing differently.” 

5: Break your attachment to owning stuff

“We’ve got out of the habit of borrowing from and lending to neighbours. 

"Every house seems to own a hedge-trimmer or power-washer that only comes out once or twice a year. 

"Since starting on our sustainable journey we’ve become used to borrowing and lending these rarely-used items."

6: Rent

Rent kids’ partyware from a Rainbow Rental agent if there’s one in your locality.

Rent toys from: 

Clothes-wise, borrow from peers via: The Nu Wardrobe app. 

Or rent from companies like: 

For maternity wear there's: 

7: Buy second-hand

Buying poor-quality goods means buying more frequently. 

By purchasing second-hand, you can afford better quality items, which are generally easier to repair than cheaper models – e.g. good quality leather shoes with soles and heels that can be repaired. 

Doing this keeps carbon from replacement goods out of the atmosphere.

8: Opt for reusable items over single-use

At home choose washable cloths over kitchen paper, Tupperware over freezer bags, beeswax wraps over cling-film, face cloths over disposable wipes. 

The list is endless – think back to what your parents/grandparents did, when single-use products didn’t exist.

9: Make do

Melanie O'Driscoll of The Green Step
Melanie O'Driscoll of The Green Step

Use what you have instead of buying new. We’re so quick to shop our way out of problems we don’t give it a second thought. 

If we’re honest we often don’t ‘need’ the item at all. It’s hard to resist marketing material that’s designed to drive us to shop – which is why I no longer subscribe to newsletters from retailers.

Melanie O’Driscoll’s background is in zoology and environmental education. 

She founded the Green Step Community project and offers workshops to support people care for themselves while taking climate action. She also hosts the Green Step Podcast.

10: Buy local food

A practical, yummy and political way to put earth-based values into action. 

Buying local helps avoid the largest multi-national companies responsible for environmental degradation and plastic waste globally. 

A beach clean survey in the UK found almost 65% of branded packaging pollution can be traced back to just 12 companies. 

Supporting local food producers builds communities, reduces plastic waste – and lets you enjoy nourishing, nutrient-dense food. 

Check out farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture initiatives and nearby community allotments.

11: Engage with Community Finance

To bring about system change – rather than climate change – we need to seriously look at how our money is being used/managed. 

Whether you work from paycheck to paycheck, have some savings or money to invest, it’s wise to divest from big banks (they often have shares in the fossil fuel industry) and switch to credit unions, community-led finance projects and cooperatives. 

Check out your local credit union, learn about doughnut economics and visit Financial Justice Ireland.

12: Listen to indigenous wisdom-keepers

Indigenous peoples are the stewards of 80% of the world’s terrestrial eco-regions

Their worldviews and traditional ways are intimately connected to the lands where they live – they see themselves as part of the natural world, not separate. We’ve become disconnected from this way of relating to the world. 

The Celtic Wheel of the year can help us reconnect to the natural rhythms of life in the northern hemisphere and can fortify our connection with nature. It’s an essential shift in perspective to prevent further biodiversity loss.

Read Tyson Yunkaporta’s book, Sand talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World; also education/research project Tuiscint na Talún (Wisdom of the Land).

13: Practise your cúpla focal

Like other indigenous languages, Irish is intimately connected to the land and its wisdom. 

Read Manchán Magan’s book: Thirty-Two Words for Field: Lost Words of the Irish Landscape. 

He says we risk losing much land-based knowledge that’s embedded in Gaeilge. 

By preserving Irish we protect the indigenous worldview it contains. 

And we connect with our ancestors – and the knowledge they preserved about living, farming and thriving in an Irish landscape.

14: Listen to the more-than-human world

Go for a walk – connect to the place you call home. We co-habit this world with a multitude of other life forms. 

From plants and animals to fungi and microorganisms, the web of life is full of wisdom we can learn from. 

Cows self-select medicinal herbs to cure ailments when let out on bio-diverse pastures. Some herbs, like bird’s foot trefoil, can reduce amount of methane cows produce. 

The more-than-human world knows so much about living well with planet earth. 

When we allow ourselves to slow down, be out in nature and observe, there’s so much it can teach us about how to live in right relationship with the rest of life.

15: Take action for happiness

Megan Kennedy-Woodard of Climate Psychologists
Megan Kennedy-Woodard of Climate Psychologists

Happy people are more resilient to major life challenges. 

Join communities that help you feel happy, or recommit to ones you may already be part of. Spending time with like-minded people can boost mood, greatly supporting your mental wellbeing in the face of climate change.

Megan Kennedy-Woodard is co-founder of Climate Psychologists and co-author with Dr Patrick Kennedy-Williams of Turn the Tide on Climate Anxiety, Sustainable Action for Your Mental Health and the Planet. 

It publishes later this month and is available for pre-order.

16: Educate yourself – but remember: you don’t have to be a climate scientist to talk about climate change or take climate action

If you read one book on climate change and actionable steps to take, read Professor Mark Maslin’s How to Save Our Planet: The Facts.

17: Talk about climate change actions you’re taking so as to nudge others to make their own changes. 

Emphasise what you enjoy about your climate work – how much fitter you feel from less meat and more cycling, how you’ve booked a greener holiday, or how much money you’re saving from not buying fast fashion.

18: Give up the idea of having to be a ‘perfect’ environmentalist

Zero-waste chef Anne-Marie Bonneau says: “We don’t need one person doing plastic-free perfectly – we need millions doing it imperfectly.” 

Identify what’s important to you and act within your values and what you care about.

19: Talk about emotional impacts of climate change 

Some people are directly experiencing climate trauma, others are anxious about what’s to come. 

Connect emotionally with others to support self-care, take breaks and celebrate successes.

20: Don’t be misled into thinking climate change is individuals’ responsibility

Jerry MacEvilly of Friends of the Earth
Jerry MacEvilly of Friends of the Earth

How can you hold corporations and governments to their promises? Vote also with your wallet. 

Every time you buy, bank, or binge you give feedback to a company. Buy less, buy local and repair. Look for pleasure in experiences rather than things. Remember: protest is also a form of voting.

Jerry Mac Evilly is head of policy change at Friends of the Earth (FOE). He says climate action requires a fundamental system change – and individuals can use their voice to call for that. 

He quotes Greta Thunberg: ‘When we start to act, hope is everywhere. Instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then the hope will come.’ 

21: Get angry. Get vocal

Talk to family, friends and colleagues about real climate action. And don’t just talk to people you know – talk to decision-makers. 

Tell your TDs this is an emergency: the most vulnerable are being impacted right now and they’ve lost their capacity to respond, because developing countries are experiencing the worst effects of extreme weather.

22: Get involved in a local/national group that’s taking collective action to address climate change 

Like One Future, a network of local campaign groups across Ireland supported by Stop Climate Chaos and FOE.

Groups advocate for faster, fairer climate action within their constituencies/communities – they build local campaigns and lobby local TDs.

By joining, you'll help increase the growing numbers challenging politicians to take the action required. Once you join you’ll get linked up with your local group.

23: Get personal

Do anything you can in your own personal life to reduce your carbon footprint. 

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good – strive to do your best rather than for perfection. 

Maybe you can use public transport more, fly less, reduce meat intake or make your home more energy-efficient.

24: A new app aims to stem the rising tide of dumped food in Ireland

...estimated by the EPA to be over 19,000 tonnes a week. 

Food sharing app OLIO connects neighbours to give away unwanted food and other items that may otherwise end up in landfill. 

Download from Google Play and Apple app stores. Desktop version also available.

25: A new Deposit Refund Scheme aims to reduce amount of plastic bottles and aluminium cans discarded as litter. 

In November, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan confirmed legislative regulations for the scheme had been signed. 

Customers will pay an extra deposit on aluminium cans and plastic bottles – which is refunded if the can/bottle is returned, to be reused or recycled. Scheme comes into effect later this year.

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