Prompted by the sobering Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report earlier this month warning that we have just 12 years to contain global warming to a maximum rise of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, we decided it was to time to ensure that the team at BURN is doing all it can for the environment.
The primary findings of the climate change scientists were as follows:
- “By 2100, global sea level rise would be 10cm lower with global warming of 1.5C compared with 2C.”
- At global warming of 1.5C, 14% of the global population will experience extreme heatwaves at least once every five years, rising to over a third if temperatures increase by 2C.
- At 1.5C rise, Arctic sea ice would remain throughout most summers, preserving critical habitat for the survival of polar bears, whales, seals and sea birds. Conversely, at a 2C rise, sea ice free summers are 10 times more likely, putting wildlife under immense strain.
- Within our oceans, if global warming is restricted to a 1.5C rise, the famously sensitive coral reefs will tragically decline 70-90%, but if temperatures rise to 2C, 99% of the world’s reefs will disappear.
In light of the above, the whole team got together, did our research and brainstormed what we could do, big or small, to contain global warming. The result? The following ten commitments as ‘Our Pledge to the Planet’.
AS A COMPANY…
- We will always turn off electronics at the end of the day (sleep or stand-by doesn’t count!) e.g. laptops, printers.
According to research from the University of Cambridge, the “energy from devices such as computers left on standby account for 5-10% of the total electricity used in residential homes and accounts for about 1% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions… leaving a computer on overnight for a year creates enough CO2 to fill a double-decker bus.”
- We will reduce the amount of paper we use, printing double-sided and on recycled paper when needed.
In the last 40 years, the use of paper has risen by a staggering 400% – which has had a significant impact on the environment. As well as cutting down the trees that absorb CO2 and produce the oxygen we breathe, it takes an average of 5 litres of water to produce a single piece of A4 paper and paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste.
- We will always recycle paper, plastic, tin, etc.
Recycling an aluminium drinks can is super quick, easy and saves about 95% of the energy it takes to make a new one. Amazingly, the energy saved is enough to power your TV for 3 hours – saving you 95% of the energy required to go to the gym.
- We will use eco-friendly products where possible e.g. washing up liquid, recycle print cartridges, soaps in the bathrooms, recycled loo roll.
Unfortunately, even though almost all UK water is treated, chemicals from household cleaning products still find their way into rivers, lakes and eventually, the sea. One problem for the UK’s waterways is that the phosphates found in laundry and dishwasher detergent help algae grow rapidly, draining the water’s precious oxygen and consequently dramatically reducing biodiversity.
- At least once a year, we will gather and donate unwanted clothes and other products to be re-used g. BHF Bag-a-thon and pre-Christmas homeless charities
In the UK alone, our culture of cheap, disposable fashion results in 300,000 tons, or 235 million items, of clothing being dumped in landfill every year. Adding to the issue, on average, 700,000 microfibres in every single domestic wash contribute to the plastic pollution of the rivers and oceans.
One of the largest, fashion-related environmental disasters to date is the dramatic shrinking of Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea, resulting in a change from a maritime climate to a vast desert with far harsher summers and winters than ever previously experienced. Once a thriving ecosystem of fish and other wildlife, the Aral sea has lost an area of water the size of Ireland in the last 40 years due to the rivers feeding the sea being diverted to the cotton fields. Shockingly, it can take up to 15,500 litres of water to grow enough cotton to make just 1 pair of jeans.
Whilst the above is both depressing and quite shocking, with cotton often portrayed as an environmentally-friendly, natural option,our power as the consumer is huge – recycling 45 million kilos of clothes is the environmental equivalent of removing between 26,000 to 35,000 cars off the road.
- We will try to use company-provided, re-usable coffee-cups instead of purchasing disposable ones
Almost all of us crave that morning, caffeine-hit to get our day started, but it doesn’t have to cost the world. The UK currently throws away 2.5 billion coffee cups every year, recycling less than 1% of them. Sustainability aside, most chains discount your coffee if you’re using a re-useable cup. At the rate I drink them, the cup will pay for itself in no time.
- We will shop with re-usable bags where possible instead of buying single-use plastic ones
Basic but critical. Single-use plastic bags take 1000 years to break down and are widely known to be very harmful to marine wildlife. Before the 5p charge was introduced in 2014, the seven main retailers in the UK (Asda, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, the Co-Operative Group, Tesco and Waitrose) handed out an average of 140 plastic bags per member of the population. This has decreased by a huge 86% to 19 plastic bags per member of the population – equating to 13 million plastic bags being taken out of circulation in the past two years alone. Can we reduce it even further?
- We will try to go meat-free one day a week g. “Meat-Free Mondays”
“Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet”. New research shows that if everyone converted to a vegan diet (no meat, dairy or other animal products), global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world, curbing the current mass extinction of wildlife due to loss of habitat to make way for agriculture. If cutting out meat isn’t a viable option, eating a meat-reduced, or even just a beef-reduced diet would help – “the comparison of beef with plant protein such as peas is stark, with even the lowest impact beef responsible for 6 times more greenhouse gases and 36 times more land”.
- We will be commute-conscious – walking, cycling or using public transport whenever possible rather than driving in. If car is the only option, consider a car-share.
Walking or cycling on your commute to work not only reduces your carbon footprint, but saves you money and gets you healthier. According to research by the British Medical Journal, riding your bike to work every day instead of driving, lowers your risk of heart disease by 46% and cancer by 45%.
- We will use re-useable water bottles where possible instead of buying single-use plastic ones
While the environmental situation can seem overwhelming, if we all do our bit, we’ve just got time to preserve our beautiful home for generations to come – but we need to act now.
“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito”
– African Proverb
We’ll update you in three months on how we’ve got on with ‘Our Pledge to the Planet’. In the meantime, please consider what you’re doing as an individual or business. Could you commit to the above? What could you change to ensure we stay within the critical 1.5C rise?