Swishing Parties and Windy Laundry Days: 10 Green Leaders on How You Can Fight Climate Change

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and former leader of the Green Party


1. Go to Paris this December

“The climate summit in Paris later this year will see leaders from across the world come together in an attempt to thrash out a deal to cut global carbon emissions. To help put pressure on the ‘men in grey suits’, I’ll be taking part in the mass demonstrations on the Parisian streets that will take place alongside the summit.”

2. U.K citizens: Support nationalization of the railways

“I want to see a reversal of the trend which has seen the cost of travelling by bus and train soar while car travel, which has far higher carbon emissions per mile travelled, has become cheaper. Excellent public transport is possible – and bringing the railways back into public hands is a crucial first step in giving people cheaper, reliable and convenient options that don’t require driving. One bill I’ve put before MPs would bring our railways back into public ownership, with the second reading on 22 January.”

3. U.K. citizens: Push MPs to divest their pensions

“The trustees of the MPs’ pension scheme don’t fully disclose where they invest our retirement funds, but we know that our savings are exposed to oil, coal and gas. I’m going to continue my campaign in parliament to pull our pension money out of fossil fuels.”

Dale Vince, founder of renewable energy company Ecotricity

“I’m reminded of Paul Simon’s song, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. There are lots of options and it’s really quite easy. But there are three things between them that make up the lion’s share, over 80% of carbon emissions – energy, transport and food.”

1. Power your home with green energy

“So all you really have to do is power your home with green energy instead of the brown stuff and you’ll have taken care of the biggest single source of carbon emissions in Britain today.

2. Cycle, bus, train, car share – or drive an electric car

“Next look at how you get about: walk, cycle, bus, train, or car share where you can. But its not all about giving stuff up – electric cars are great fun to drive, far superior to the ones we’re used to, and zero emissions if you power them with green energy.”

3. Go vegan

“Thirdly look at what you eat. The meat and dairy industries are massive polluters. Here (at least on the face of it) it is about giving stuff up. But the good news is it’s stuff that’s killing you. There’s no shortage of scientific evidence for that. And there’s a world of food to discover when you move on from ‘meat and two veg’ - there’s more to gain than lose here.

Asad Rehman, campaigner and spokesperson for Friends of the Earth at the UN’s climate change talks

1. Call for the release of environmental activists

“Each week, about two activists are killed in countries around the world for defending the environment and their rights, with many more imprisoned. You can take action through Friends of the Earth’s international network of groups.”

2. Stand in solidarity with refugees

“It’s the actions of our governments and businesses which are creating this crisis. The International Red Cross says more people are already being made refugees due to environmental issues. We need to open our borders and homes to climate and environmental refugees and you can push your own MP to back support for those fleeing their homes.”

3. Join a local divestment campaign

“Help stop the financing of multinational fossil fuel companies: tell your MP that instead of handing our taxes over to dirty fossil fuel companies through local authority pension fund investments, you want the money to be invested in renewable energy.”

Baroness Bryony Worthington, author of the UK’s Climate Change Act, Labour peer and founder of climate change organisation Sandbag

1. In the EU, buy and cancel a pollution permit

“EU factories and power stations now have their emissions capped – we can remove pollution permits from the hands of would-be polluters by buying and cancelling emissions allowances.”

In the European Union, the emissions from heavy industry and power plants are restricted by the emissions trading scheme (ETS). Permits give emitters the right to release one tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere. But the ETS is widely considered to have failed because there is an oversupply of permits – traded by companies on a market – which has lead to a drop in the price companies must pay for their emissions. Campaigners say that the permits need to be taken out of the system.

2. Do your washing on windy weekends

“The carbon intensity of power tends to be lower at the weekends when demand is less and fewer old power stations have to run. If the wind is also blowing then the electricity is even cleaner. Sandbag’s smart phone app can help you to work out when’s best.”

3. Join a political party

“It doesn’t matter which one. Ask existing and prospective candidates for election to take an ambitious stance on climate change – or stand for election yourself!”

Yeb Saño, Filipino diplomat who led the hunger fast at UN climate change talks

1. Eat more local food. Or, better, eat less meat

Emissions from the global agriculture industry could consume the planet’s entire carbon budget by 2050 if current trends continue, according to recent studies. Health experts say that cutting meat and dairy consumption has significant health and environmental benefits. Although it has been often cited that cutting down on the miles your food has travelled to reach your plate is one of the best ways to save the planet, others dispute that it is as simple as this.

2. Divest your own money from fossil fuels

“Divest your personal investments from fossil fuels and extractive industries, especially the top 50 corporate polluters.”

Unless you have made concerted efforts, it is almost certain that any money you have in savings, current accounts or a pension is invested in fossil fuels. But as public pressure and knowledge increases, investors are starting to wake up to rising demand. Follow the links below to find out more.

3. Walk more

Saño, who shot to fame in 2013 for breaking down in tears and fasting for two weeks at UN climate talks after typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc in his country, is currently walking 1,500km from Rome to this year’s conference in Paris.

“My recommendation would be for people to walk more. Specifically for the People’s Pilgrimage, our wish is for all communities to embark on their own climate pilgrimage by organising one in their own towns or by joining us as we walk from #RomeToParis.”

  • Find out more about walking with the Ramblers

Solitaire Townsend, co-founder of Futerra Sustainability Communications

1. Lose weight: cycle more

“Lose weight. Get cycling rather than driving and cut down on fatty meat. Enjoy that glorious serendipity that a low-carbon lifestyle could be the best way to shift 10 pounds.”

2. Save money: Upgrade your home insulation and go to a swishing party

“Low-carbon often means low cost. Upgrade your home with super-insulation and a smart meter. Buy less unnecessary tat. Have a staycation or go to a swishing party.”

3. Have fun: join your Transition Town group

“Go on a march or join your transition town group. Listen to a climate Ted talk or comment on a blog. Belong to a movement of fantastic, optimistic people making a difference. Get those grey cells active and meet new people.”

Transition Towns are part of a global networko of grassroots groups that organise small-scale projects on food, transport, education, housing, arts and energy to help accelerate the transition to a world run on clean energy.

Mark Lynas, environmental writer and campaigner

1. Boycott the Maldives.

“Not only will you be saving the carbon costs of long-haul international flights, but you will also be showing support for the jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed, whose carbon neutral plan has been ditched by the new dictatorship in favour of a plan for oil drilling under the coral atolls.”

2. U.K. citizens: Ask the chancellor to cut support for the Hinkley C nuclear power station

“Write to George Osborne and ask him to cancel government support for the new nuclear power plant at Hinkley C and instead shift the money into new research into nuclear power that is cheaper, smaller-scale and recycles waste.”

3. Join the ecomodernism movement

“If you feel that many conventional environmentalist campaigns are missing the mark, have a look at ecomodernism.org and read our manifesto.”

The ecomodernism movement is a coalition of scientists, academics, campaigners and citizens. In their 2015 manifesto they argue that by using technology as well as social and economic development, the human population can protect nature by “decoupling human development from environmental impacts”, rather than by “harmonising” with it.

Kumi Naidoo, international executive director, Greenpeace

1. Make your elected representatives work for you

“Make a list of everything that would make the quality of your life better – more public transport, better cycle paths, car-free city centres – then take the list to your local representative and ask them to provide you with a timetable of how they will support things that you care about.”

2. Take back the roads – throw a party!

“Get together with your neighbours, pick a day of the month and let your local authority know that you have decided to take back the road for kids and families and that there will be no cars allowed to use your street on that day – you will be surprised at how good it is to enjoy your space free of cars.

3. Ask your lawmakers to clean up our air

“The world has learned that VW – and possibly other car makers as well – have been lying to the public and regulators about the pollution their diesel oil engines are spewing into the air we breathe. Ask your lawmakers what measures they are supporting to clean up our air, like removing diesel cars from our cities and supporting alternatives from electric cars to hydrogen buses.”

Jeremy Leggett, founder of Solarcentury and SolarAid, chair of Carbon Tracker

1. Go solar, small or big, alone or in the community

“Solar has to be the backbone of the zero carbon world and a solar roof is a brick in the road while saving you money over time. A tiny solar light can do likewise. If you don’t have a roof of your own, communities real and virtual are pooling resources to bring solar to groups and soon they will be bulk-procuring solar lights.”

2. Save money on energy efficiency

“In ‘bangs for the buck’, energy efficiency wins over everything else. You can start in the home. You can go to a fast-mobilising community network like CAG Oxfordshire. If there isn’t such a group in your county, you can start one!”

3. If you must have a car, make it electric or hybrid

May Boeve, executive director, 350.org

1. March on November 29

“Come march with us on November 29 to send a message to leaders around the world that people demand real action on climate change. It’ll help strengthen the agreement that comes out of the December talks in Paris.”

2. Join a local climate action group

“Get involved with a local climate action group pushing for solutions! There’s lots of inspiring, amazing work happening around the world – and a lot of it comes from small, community-based organisations at the forefront of climate solutions.”

3. Vote for candidates who make climate a priority

“Around the world, elections are showing politicians that people demand action on climate change – but we need more of it. Our movement needs to send a clear signal: that it’s unacceptable for someone to hold public office while burying their head in the sand about one of the top threats facing our planet.”

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