In the last 24 hours alone, I’ve been a mum. A wife. An investor. A consumer. A homeowner. A train user. A friend. It’s easy to forget the power we hold as we navigate these differing roles (and more) each day.
So I’ve pulled together eight broad ‘slices’ of what I call our ‘power doughnut’* where we can enact change each day. They’re in no particular order, as each slice differs based on your personal circumstances.
✓ Quick task—Check if you’re on the global rich list using GiveWhatYouCan’s ‘How Rich Am I?’ tool.
When I learnt via MakeMyMoneyMatter that greening your pension has 21x more impact than giving up flying, going veggie and switching energy provider, it forced me to expand my understanding of what climate action actually is.
Is your pension provider using your money to fund fossil fuel extraction? You can use MYMM’s resources if you’re based in the UK, or sign their petition to call on all UK pension funds to put people and planet on a par with profit. Here’s some other ways to align your money with your values:
- Switch your banking account and mortgage to an ethical bank (e.g. Triodos, or check this resource if you’re in the US)
- Donate to US organisations like the Climate Slate or the Environmental Voter Project
- Redistribute wealth with a strong focus on social justice movements versus traditional philanthropy. Check out Morgan H Curtis’ resource library, the US site Resource Generation and their distribution guidelines or Resource Justice if you’re in the UK.
The real power here is going beyond the obvious things like pushing for recycling bins, reducing waste in the office kitchens and reducing things like pointless plastic swag… although these of course count!
You can amplify your own personal changes in a big way If you manage to convince your employer to switch to renewable energy, or internally advocate for them to more effectively lobby for climate policies.
“Imagine that instead of just switching your own electricity to Green power, you could convince your corporation to switch their entire operations to 100% renewable energy? You just shifted the system, congratulations!” WorkforClimate
✓ Quick task—Is your employer listed in the CDP database? Speak out if they haven’t disclosed their data or provided sufficient responses.
Protesting, striking, marching and are the most recognisable forms of climate and social justice activism. But don’t discount the smaller ‘easier’ actions like signing a petition on Avaaz or #StopRosebank.
I’m embarrassed to say that for all my curiosity about climate action, I didn’t for a second think about my political power until recently. It was only because I happened to make a friend from the local Green Party that I considered contributing my time to help drive political change.
✓ Quick task—Sign up to your local political party with the strongest stance on climate and social justice. Can you donate your time (or money!) to help them compete against political parties with large monetary clout?
How & Where We Live
In 2021 my husband and I left London for a house on the outskirts of a town. We paid for an energy efficiency assessment and undertook extensive insulation and insulating render to improve its energy efficiency.
If you’re in the US, tax credits are also available in the US via WhiteHouse.gov/CleanEnergy as AOC explains below 👇
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What We Eat
With each bite we eat (or waste!), we can choose to support or resist unsustainable and unjust food systems.
“What you eat matters much more for your carbon footprint than where your food has come from. Your local beef emits more than your soy shipped in from South America”–Hannah from
That said, choosing to shop local can still be a powerful grassroots tool to supporting small, sustainable farms via schemes like the UK’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
It’s undeniable that meat and dairy drive comparatively high emissions. One option could be to go “as vegan as possible” (as discussed in my last post á la Dr Melanie Joy) or eat as many plant-based meals as possible.
✓ Quick task—Does your favourite restaurant or takeaway offer plant-based / vegan options? If not, next time you order why not send them a quick suggestion to expand their offering? Or, make like Molly and indulge in some easy activism in the below tweet 🌱
Activism idea: call restaurants and ask to make a reservation for 8-10 people, ask about their nice wines, then ask if they have vegan options and when they say no, say never mind and hang up.
— Molly Elwood (@mollyelwood) November 6, 2022
What We Consume
In rich (aka ‘overdeveloped’) nations, our consumption of goods drives a large proportion of our ecological footprint. Consider going beyond the “reduce, re-use and recycle” to instead: “REFUSE, reduce, re-use, REPURPOSE, recycle, RECOVER”:
Refuse might be bringing your own reusable cutlery and cups when out or refusing pointless company or events swag. It might also be refusing to purchase a low-frequency use item but instead borrowing from a neighbour or via marketplaces like Fat Llama or Library of Things.
✓ Quick task—Consider the last two or three brand-new item purchases you made. What actually drove you to make your last purchases? Were they impulse purchases and could you actually have re-purposed something you already owned?
Last week I was about to order a new painting apron for my toddler. I stopped myself from ordering when I realised I could just give him an old adult’s long-sleeved top instead… which takes me to the next often-neglected layer of the waste hierarchy – repurpose. Get into the habit of assessing other uses for functional but unwanted items.
And lastly, recover. Do you make sure to send your food waste away to be composted by the council, or could you set up your own system at home?
How We Move
Inequality of energy footprints in the UK: the bottom half of energy users are responsible for 20% of total energy use, less than the share of the top 10% who represent 33% of the national energy footprint. pic.twitter.com/I89050EWe2
— Timothée Parrique (@timparrique) February 1, 2023
This distribution of flown miles is severely unequal, with the super-rich such as Kylie Jenner being labelled “climate criminals” for their wasteful use of private jets. Did you know that flying first class on a single round trip emits more greenhouse gases than a year of driving according to Green Car Congress?
Understandably, some of us have family in other countries and the idea of never flying to see them again is unconscionable. George Monbiot calls flights like these love miles:
“When you form relationships with people from other nations, you accumulate what I call “love miles”: the distance you must travel to visit friends and partners and relatives on the other side of the planet”
As Sami Grover explains in We’re All Climate Hypocrites Now, this implies we should stop all non-essential (i.e., non-love related) air travel. Last year I went on a work trip to the States, and so my personal footprint was completely obliterated by the return flight. I’ve decided that this year our trip away will be 3 hours’ drive away and our only planned flight over the next 2+ years is a best friend’s wedding.
But what about cars? Some obvious ideas could be, in order of rough impact:
- Go car-free
- Jog, use a bike or e-bike depending on your needs for each journey
- Use public transport
- Rent rather than buy your own personal car
- Switch to electric (they have a lower carbon footprint over its lifetime than its ICE (internal combustion engine) equivalent, despite higher carbon emissions during manufacture))
With two children and the increased difficulty with mobility that ensues, I choose to rent an electric car but as they get older I’m seriously considering going all in on an e-bike.
As my previous Moral Footprint newsletter post discussed, we have to consider the ripples of impact each of our actions makes through their influence on others and broader social norms.
“The most important thing every single one of us can do about climate change is talk about it—why it matters, and how we can fix it—and use our voices to advocate for change within our spheres of influence”— Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, Saving Us
✓ Quick task—Think of one climate action you’ve recently done. Have you taken the time to actively share this with a friend or discuss it on social media?
The power of social influence can also work against us, as our behaviour is hugely influenced by social pressures of what is “normal” amongst our peers. Here are some ideas for how to maximise the positive impact we can have as social creatures:
- As Katherine Hayhoe suggests in the quote above, we need to talk about climate change with others!
- Social media user? Consider deleting consumer-focused influencer accounts whose focus is on driving us to purchase items we don’t truly need
- Get involved with organisations like Parents for Future, and consider how your actions this decade will be viewed by your own children
In summary, some of the slices of the power doughnut might currently be quite small for you, e.g. if you don’t fly, have a relatively low income or are vegan. What does your power doughnut look like? Let me know in the comments!
*Yep, apparently the “power donut” also refers to the unshaved ring of hair of a balding man. You’ll never forget it now!
This article was originally published on Moral Footprint