Individual Actions for a Greener Planet
19 May 2022 | Angela Disney, Queen’s Nurse
In the third and final green blog in 2022, we look at individual actions we can all take to live more sustainably. As well as helping the planet, most of these ideas will save you money.
A friend of Mother Teresa whilst sat talking poured out her frustration that her efforts seemed to make no difference at all to the quality of lives of thousands of poor people.
Mother Teresa placed her strong work worn hands on her and said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if the drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less because of the missing drop.”
Challenged by her friend that there must be bigger and better ways of helping the poor, Mother Teresa answered: “I do not agree with a big way of doing things. What matters is the individual. If we wait till we get numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers and we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person.”
From Stories Told by Mother Teresa
East Midlands Queen’s Nurses have formulated and agreed their Action Plan to help create a greener, cleaner and healthier Planet Earth. Now it’s your turn to consider what you could do, and be one of one the drops in the ocean that protect our world.
- Power your home with renewable energy.
- Invest in energy-efficient appliances.
- Buy better bulbs: LED light bulbs use up to 80 percent less energy than incandescent types.
- Turn off lights when they are not needed.
- Pull the plug(s) – not leaving fully charged devices plugged in, unplugging rarely used devices or plugging them into power strips and timers, adjusting computers and monitors to automatically power down to the lowest power mode when not in use.
- Wash a full load each time you use the washing machine and avoid using the tumble dryer where possible.
- Do not rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
- Avoid preheating the oven.
- Insulate windows and doors, wear more layers, adjust the thermostat for winter and summer, and turn the heating down by 1 degree C.
- Try to use a fuel-efficient vehicle.
- Maintain your vehicle – ensure tyres are properly inflated – 1.2 billion gallons of fuel could be saved by this alone each year.
- Having your car serviced regularly can boost miles per gallon – anywhere from 4% to 40% percent – and a new air filter can improve efficiency by 10%.
- Consider the need to drive to meetings – could the meeting be completed virtually?
- Rethink planes, trains, and automobiles.
- Try Meatless Mondays. Consider eating less meat and buying locally sourced
- If you eat fish, check that it comes from sustainable fisheries and is responsibly caught so as not to harm other marine life.
- Grow your own food – food from your own garden has zero food miles. Flying or shipping fresh food from around the world carries a huge environmental burden compared to local produce. The Royal Horticultural Society says, “dig for victory” “in the battle for the climate and there are some great tips on their website: https://www.rhs.org.uk/press/releases/YOUR-Climate-needs-YOU!%E2%80%9D
- Eat the food you buy – or as much of it as possible. Currently around a third of all food produced goes to waste.
- Be responsible fruit and vegetable consumers by choosing seasonal varieties grown locally where possible.
- Rethink coffee pods and teabags. Around the world we throw away over 7 billion coffee pods a year, or around 13,500 a minute, according to calculations by Halo, the leading British packaging manufacturer. These pods are mostly made of aluminium and plastic, a fact that makes them an obvious enemy of the environment. Legislation does not consider them ‘packaging’ and they must be taken to special collection points, which rarely happens.
- Many teabags are harmful for the planet because they contain nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of petroleum-based plastic. Choose more sustainable alternatives, such as loose tea, or check the label for biodegradable bags.
- Freeze leftovers, takeaway food and fresh products so that they can be saved and used for future meals.
- Compost vegetable waste for the garden.
Reduce water waste
Water is one of the world’s most precious resources – but as the planet’s climate changes and the population rises, up to 5.7 billion people could be living in areas where water is scarce for at least one month a year by 2050. Humans need water to survive – and not just fresh water for drinking. We rely on different kinds of water for a huge range of services and products, from sanitation and healthcare through to growing food crops and making clothes. In our daily lives, we use water for taking showers and washing laundry, and it is also a key ingredient in a wide variety of the products that we buy. Consider recycling water to save resources through reuse for not-for-drinking uses. ‘Grey water’ systems can be installed on domestic properties, or simply use a bucket to save household water to use on the garden later. We should all be using water butts for garden irrigation.
- Set up a recycling bin/bag at home and talk to your family and colleagues about recycling.
- Reuse materials and goods that can be used again, up-cycle items which no longer have a use in their current form into new, usable items.
- Use your own shopping bags.
- Buy food in bio-degradable packaging/ with little or no packaging.
- Stop using make up/ baby/wet wipes.
- Use refill cartons/containers/bags.
- Consider the need for drinking straws, plastic v paper v none.
- Switch to paperless bills; think before you print.
- Pick up litter and recycle.
- Clean like your grandparents did – choose durable cloths over paper or disposable wipes.
Every year, millions of printer cartridges are thrown out of homes and offices, needlessly wasting precious natural resources. By recycling old printer cartridges through companies such as Ink and Toner Recycling Ltd, nurses could help to raise vital funds for breast cancer research as well as helping to protect the environment.
Use reusable water bottles. According to Greenpeace, plastic water bottles take about 500 years to decompose. These bottles, 500 billion of which are manufactured each year worldwide, can affect our health due to the micro particles that they leave in the bottled water. The environmentally responsible option is to drink tap water or use reusable bottles made from a sustainable material.
Rethink paper bags – because they are made of paper we think they are not as harmful as the five billion plastic bags that we use around the world annually. However, the reality is very different: they are rarely reused and tend to end up in the organic waste bin. Reusable cotton bags are a good substitute for paper bag as they are longer-lasting and washable.
Download the poster above: East Midlands Queen’s Nurses Call to Action poster
Angela Disney, Queen’s Nurse