Family cycling through the woods.

We are facing a climate emergency. If everybody in the world lived as we live in the developed countries of the West, we would need three planets to sustain us. We only have one planet so we must learn to live within what it can provide.

These days, people are very much aware of the importance of being environmentally friendly. The impacts of climate change are very real, already countries like Bangladesh are feeling the effects.

Businessman holding tiny plant in soil in his hands.
Green Business

Business is playing its part, too. In the future, only companies that take their environmental responsibilities seriously will thrive. In order to achieve this companies must reduce the amount of energy and chemicals they use, increase the efficiency of their operations, minimise the amount of raw materials that serve as inputs to their processes and minimise the amount of waste that they generate.

But what can I really do to help? Little old me. Trying to address the effects of climate change from the perspective of an individual, one of 7.7 billion people on this planet feels like an impossible task. However, we must try. Not to try would be to surrender to the inevitability of rising temperatures and to abrogate responsibility, leaving future generations to fix our mess (assuming such a delayed response would have any effect at all).

Huge flames burning coniferous trees in Canada

Our responsibility to consider the generations that follow us was brought home to me very recently in a conversation I was having with my own children. We had been watching a piece on the news about the record breaking heatwave and wildfires in Canada and they were asking whether climate change really caused this and what I was doing about it. Although my contribution to this problem individually was very small, I had to face up to the fact that my actions were indeed contributing to this serious and existential problem.

My Realization

Caucasian, bearded man is pleasantly surprised by an unexpected surprise, he is happy and in a stupor, holds hands at mouth and looks with big eyes at the camera. Isolated on a yellow background.
Suddenly, I realized how serious this was

Future generations will look back at this time as a crucial moment in human history. History will judge whether my generation succeeded in pulling us all back from the brink or whether we just put our blinkers on and greedily took everything we could without regard for future generations.

This realization made me look very closely at my own habits and lifestyle.

I did some research and concluded that I needed to do better. I was pleasantly surprised that the actions I took not only saved me money, but also improved my health and the relationship with my nearest and dearest.

I involved my kids in developing a plan to be more environmentally friendly. They appreciated what I was trying to do, even adding to my plans with their own suggestions. They could see that I was trying my best to look after the planet and reduce the problems that they and future generations would face.

We decided to focus on three areas: the amount of household waste we generate, our carbon emissions and helping to improve our local environment.


Compost bin in the garden

Recycling is something we have always done, even before government introduced targets and rolled out collection services for plastic, paper and glass, we tried to do our bit. Composting has not been part of our routine and that is an area we have decided to address.

We got hold of a compost bin and started putting all our vegetable waste, egg shells and garden cuttings in there. It’s early days but we’ve already got a maturing stockpile of homemade fertiliser for our garden. This will be put to good use as we are also growing our own vegetables.

Carbon Emissions

The white bike on the road
Cycling is the future

Next up, carbon emissions, which for us is mainly transportation (driving our cars) and heating our home (using fossil fuels – specifically an oil boiler).

We decided to use our bikes more for local journeys and make better use of public transport when travelling further afield.

As for the carbon footprint from heating our home, that has caused us to take a big step. Good timing has also helped – at its last annual service, our engineer suggested we should replace our old oil boiler before the winter. This is an expense nobody wants but we tried to think of it as an opportunity.

The easy option would have been to replace the boiler like-for-like, but we wanted to reduce our carbon footprint, which led us to consider a few options. First, we considered installing a biomass boiler, which burns wood pellets, but we had heard they can be temperamental and don’t offer very responsive control of the temperature in the home.

What we decided to go for in the end was a heat pump. At first I was sceptical about whether heat pumps would even work in our native (and at times rather chilly) Scotland. Some quick research on the internet soon laid those fears to rest – heat pumps do work in Scotland – and there’s no shortage of advice and information available, which helped us get our heads around this relatively new application of a well-established and reliable technology.

Local environment

Team of volunteers picking up litter in park
Litter Picking with a Group of Volunteers

Living in rural Scotland, we are lucky to have fantastic scenery and wildlife on our doorstep. The only problem we have noticed since the pandemic lockdown is an increase in the amount of litter people are dropping.

In response, local individuals and groups have been organising litter picks and we decided to get involved ourselves. I have met lots of new people and thoroughly enjoyed getting out in the fresh air to pick up bags of trash that had been spoiling the countryside.

How has this all improved the quality of my life?

As you can probably tell, I feel much better for having made these simple changes to my life. I have a warm fuzzy feeling that doing the right thing provides. More than that, though, I expect to save money on my heating bills, I choose active travel options such as cycling more often, which is getting me fitter and improving my health.

I have even spent more quality time with my family and extended my network of friends and acquaintances through participating in the local litter picks.

Being environmentally friendly is not only the right thing to do, approached in the right way it truly improves your outlook, mental and physical health. I wholeheartedly recommend it.