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Every little helps in the war on carbon emissions

Words:
Stephen Cousins

From domestic cleaning products to personal computers, small choices can build up into big environmental differences, according to Tessa Wardley’s Eco Hero Handbook

Architects and their clients have considerable power to transform the impact of buildings on the climate and ecology, but even the most responsible will have concerns they should be doing more on a personal level to set the planet on a better course.

Such eco-anxiety is actually a ‘normal and healthy human response to the facts’, claims author Tessa Wardley in the introduction to her guide The Eco Hero Handbook, but if individuals make conscious actions to control their daily CO2 emissions, it can actually improve their mental state.

The practical guide sets out everyday actions that anyone can take to help lessen their impact, organised into six easy to digest sections – in the home, out and about, travelling, at work or school, on holiday, and food and shopping.

Some advice is familiar, some surprising. For example, it was news to me that for everyday cleaning ordinary soap, warm water and plain detergent are as effective as antibacterial or antimicrobial products squirted from single use plastic bottles. Microfibre cloths will remove more than 99% of bacteria using water alone.

  • The Eco-Hero Handbook, the Ivy Press.
    The Eco-Hero Handbook, the Ivy Press.
  • The Eco-Hero Handbook, the Ivy Press
    The Eco-Hero Handbook, the Ivy Press
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Remote working has turned peoples’ homes into makeshift offices but who among us considered the climate impacts of our new devices and set-ups? According to Wardley, it takes 75% less material to manufacture a laptop than a desktop, and a laptop consumes 70% less energy in use. An ethernet cable connection to the internet uses less energy than wifi and 4G.

A spot of gardening can support birds and pollinators, but be sure to read the label on your compost - products containing peat deplete peat bogs, the biggest terrestrial store of carbon, more than all the other vegetation types combined.

The pandemic may have spelt the end of international travel as we know it, but if flying is unavoidable direct flights produce fewer emissions than multi-leg flights because take-offs use more fuel than cruising. The more cramped conditions in economy class are better for the planet, business and first-class passengers take up more space so emissions are three and four times higher per person respectively.

Maxing out an eco-friendly lifestyle might seem like more stress at a time when we’re getting to grips with the new normal, but in a changing world our automatic responses may no longer be appropriate or productive. ‘Being informed and getting involved can help us to eat, travel and live in less consumptive ways,’ says Wardley, which doesn’t just benefit the planet, it can have positive impacts on our health and wellbeing too.


The Eco Hero Handbook is published by Ivy Press and costs £9.99

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