From wilding your garden to community collaboration: 10 practical ways to help protect the environment

It’s been reported that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so it shouldn’t be unreasonable to expect these billion-dollar companies to pay for efforts to tackle the crisis. In fact, more than 40% of respondents in a poll held in the US, UK, France, Germany, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa believe that these companies should shoulder a lot of the costs associated with combating global warming.

Global governments, too, must also lead the way in both enacting more eco-friendly policies and the financial support needed to implement them. But that doesn’t mean we as individuals are powerless – especially if we work together as part of a community. The power of ordinary people working together has brought about historic changes in many societies, and it’s something we shouldn’t forget as the news continues to highlight negative stories.

Whether an individual or a small business, here are some top tips to help protect the environment. Here’s how to take those first steps to make a collective change:

Five tips for individuals, families and communities

1 Get on your bike
Or e-bike, electric scooter or just your own legs, as going car-free has been ranked as one of the most effective actions an individual can take to reduce their carbon emissions. The pandemic pushed many of us back on to our bikes in a bid to get around without adding to the fog of pollution. Keep up these good habits, and there’s a bonus of getting fit at the same time.

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2 Rewild your garden or window sill
The No Mow May scheme is just one of many that encourage people not to have neatly manicured lawns, and instead let them grow a little wilder. By allowing grass, wildflowers and window boxes to flourish, it encourages biodiversity, and will provide a home to little insects and bees, who help pollinate and encourage flowers and plants to thrive.

3 Collaborate with your community
Hearteningly, one positive to the lockdowns was that we actually got to know our neighbours, and through apps and sites such as WhatsApp or Nextdoor, communities were forged. Many people have continued with these groups since the world opened up again, and many have found great benefits: from taking care of local trees, through to organising litter-picking groups to tidy community green spaces, these connections help celebrate everyday doorstep heroes.

4 Cut back on flying
These days, we’re all more aware of flygskam (flight shame), in which people are called out for flying too frequently, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid all long-distance holidays and journeys. By travelling by train, bike or electric car instead of an aeroplane, you can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint. You can even pledge to stay grounded for a year as part of Flight Free UK, in the hope that it might inspire others in long-term change. As one pledgee says: “Collective individual actions are a crucial way of working towards government and system change.”

5 Write a letter
It’s a simple, but tried and tested route: make your feelings known about implementing greener policies by sending an email or letter to your local MP, or arranging to meet them in person, after all, they’re your representative in government. Find out who your local MP is – and what policies they vote for or against – at theyworkforyou.com and drop them a line with your concerns, and tell your neighbours and friends to do the same. Meanwhile, as part of Great Big Green Week 2022 and in collaboration with the National Trust and The Climate Coalition, you can write a letter to your future self or a loved one, sharing hopes and fears for the climate’s future, which will be sent to the government on your behalf.

Five tips for small businesses

1 Ethical banking
Make sure the bank you use for a business (and personal, for that matter) account doesn’t hold investments in fossil fuel companies. Do your homework and check out online somewhere like Money Expert, which explains what ethical banking means and suggests some providers to check out.

2 Renewable energy
With the cost of energy soaring, there’s never been a better or more important time to consider renewable energy sources for homes and small businesses. The cost of solar panels has fallen by 80% since 2010, and schemes such as Solar Together reduce the cost even further when neighbourhoods group together to buy the panels. The project has currently been rolled out in London, Liverpool, Norfolk, Suffolk and Hertfordshire with many more counties and cities to follow.

3 Tell your pension provider to ‘go green’
According to the Make My Money Matter campaign, the carbon footprint of the average pension is 26 tonnes. So, simply by encouraging your pension provider to clean up its act and avoid investing in fossil fuels, deforestation and mining and other business activities that harm the environment, you could substantially cut your greenhouse gas emissions.

Mature male entrepreneur turning off computer in corporate office
Turn computers and appliances off when not needed to reduce power consumption. Photograph: Maskot/Getty Images

4 Activate power management systems
The cost of energy-draining “vampire devices” such as computers, laptops, smart speakers, TVs and phone chargers is often overstated. All the same, you should make it company policy to activate the power management system on all computers, which puts them into reduced power mode after a period of inactivity. Also, switch off all appliances if not needed when leaving the building, and encourage staff to do the same at home.

5 Choose to work with other green suppliers and partners
From more eco-friendly web hosts to toilet roll subscription services (Who Gives a Crap), make the choice to surround your business with other like-minded suppliers and partners who share your planet-friendly ethics. It’s been proved that we are influenced by the actions of others around us when it comes to making positive changes, so start that conversation today and stay vocal about it: register your action on sites such as Count Us In or through the United Nations Act Now app, AWorld, which allows you to track your input and see the impact you’re making in real terms.

Write your own Letters to Tomorrow and join the movement for urgent action against climate change. Part of The Climate Coalition campaign, supported by the National Trust. For more details, visit letterstotomorrow.com