There’s a bewildering amount of advice around, and a lot of dos and don’ts – sometimes it’s hard for a girl to know where to start! So here are 10 top actions to get you going.
1. Go Plastic Free
Plastic is horrible for the environment: it sticks around forever once it’s made, suffocates creatures that eat it and releases poisons into the sea. Sign our plastic free pledge and cut plastic out of your life as much as possible.
2. Don’t leave stuff on standby!
There’s really no need – burn a few extra calories and switch off the TV, sound system, DVD player, microwave etc at the wall. Learn to hate the little red light, and kill it whenever possible! You’ll save a surprisingly large amount of energy – if everyone in the world stopped leaving stuff on standby for example, we’d save enough energy to decommission an entire power station or share our energy with others that really need it! So if you’re not using it, turn it off!
3. Take alternative transport whenever you can
Instead of the car, try to walk, cycle, skate or run where you need to be. It’ll get you fitter and save money too. If you can’t do that, try to take a bus or a train instead, because that’s still better for the environment than a car per one or two people. If you can’t even do that, try car-pooling: get as many people you know are going in the same direction to travel together, so it saves on fuel. See if there are school friends that could share lifts with you every day. A car for every four or five people is still better for your carbon footprint than a car with just one or two passengers!
Use less of everything. Only take as much as you need in every situation you can think of, and you will prevent a lot of waste, and save a lot of energy and resources.
Don’t just throw stuff away – find a way to reuse it. Keep old bread bags and use them for sandwich bags, turn old food into new meals with clever recipes, wash used tin foil to use again. Make your own new fashion statements out of unloved clothes - our planet will be prettier if you do!
When stuff really isn’t reusable any more, recycle it so the materials can be used again. This saves resources like metal mines and forests, but it also takes a lot less energy to make things out of recycled material – for example it takes 95% less energy to make aluminium by recycling it than it does to make it from scratch by mining the ore and processing it all. This can make a massive difference, so remember to recycle every bit of waste you can.
7. Raise your voice!
Make a fuss about the planet! If we don’t pass on information to all our friends, they can’t know and act too. And if we don’t tell off the companies that are damaging the planet, they will keep doing it because they won’t think people care, or worse, not noticing! So talk to all your friends about this stuff, and make a big fuss to companies who are damaging the earth. Write, email, ring, and even send postcards. If you feel like it, join a pressure group like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth and take part in some campaigns too. It really makes a huge difference to speak up, so don’t hesitate.
8. Replace with ethical products
Think about your purchases, and try to buy stuff that is local (better for your community as well as your carbon footprint); is biodegradable; sustainable; free of nasty chemicals. It may take a bit of research, but has a huge impact because not only do you help to stop bad practices like chlorine bleaching and intensive farming, but you also get to support the companies that are doing their bit for the environment.
9. Switch to green energy use
Bug your parents to use green energy sources as much as they can – use a green energy supplier, choose a car that runs on electricity or hydrogen as well as petrol, and buy the most efficient devices they can. A fridge, TV or hairdryer that is energy efficient can use a lot less energy just by being better made. Tell your parents and carers that it will save them money on the electricity bill, and then they might be more up for it!
Having plants around, from the smallest patch of grass upwards, is great for our environment. It helps absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produces more oxygen; it provides food and homes to tiny creatures which can provide food for other creatures, helping to support the whole ecosystem. Even if you only have a windowsill, grow something on it. Sweet smelling herbs, beautiful flowers, a fern or two, even some salad sprouts for you – it all makes a difference. If you have a big garden, better still! Maybe you could even let a corner of it grow totally wild, to provide a habitat for beneficial wildlife. If you have nothing, there’s always guerilla gardening: growing something on unused land that you don’t own. It doesn’t have to be a big risky thing – you could just sprinkle some wildflower seeds around and see if they come up!