Four simple things you can do to minimise your impact on the environment

By Digital Multimedia Producer Elisa Menendez, ITV News


Unsustainable ways of living have unfortunately become part and parcel of modern day life, with many reliant on plastic, fossil fuels and tech.

As the COP26 conference in Glasgow takes place, there's a renewed focus on what governments can do to tackle climate change - but there are some actions individuals can do to help too.

Luckily, there are now many ways we can swap poor habits for more eco-friendly ones to minimise our impact on the environment.

Changing your routine or lifelong habits can often take a while to become second nature – so it may be easier to start small with one or two changes before going bigger.

The COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

Back to top

What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

Back to top

Switch up transport and travel

Cycling is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint Credit: AP

Transport is the biggest source of carbon emissions in the UK.

Instead of driving, try taking public transport more often, or even better – ride a bike or walk. Consider whether you need to fly to your holiday destination, or whether you could instead travel by train, the Eurostar or car. Making the journey in an electric car would emit much less carbon, but even a diesel or petrol-fuelled car pool would be more eco-friendly than a flight. If air travel is your only option, choose to fly economy, fly direct, pack light, and try to choose greener airlines. Skyscanner, for example, highlights the more eco-friendly flights in its search tool.

Consider offsetting flight emissions by donating money to sustainable projects, or use the voluntary offset tool on non-profit Atmosfair.



When you do need to use a car, driving more efficiently can help reduce emissions by going easy on the accelerator and brakes. If you have cruise control, try to use it more to save fuel. Regularly service your car and check tires, cut down on air conditioning and consider doing more car shares with colleagues and friends. If you’re buying a new car, there are more eco-friendly options available such as electric vehicles. Although they are expensive upfront, in the long-term they cost much less to run.

Change your diet

Try incorporating more veg and less meat in your diet

The production of red meat requires a lot of food, water and land, while cows themselves produce methane - a harmful greenhouse gas - via microbes in their stomachs while processing food. Nitrogen in fertiliser can also flow from farming into watercourses. So the more meat you eat, the more nitrogen is going into the environment and harming biodiversity.

More people are now opting for vegan and vegetarian lifestyles - but for many, reducing their meat consumption feels like a huge lifestyle change.

If you don’t want to give up some of your favourite foods, consider swapping a few meals a week to vegan or vegetarian, or try to choose less carbon-intensive meats (e.g. beef and lamb) like chicken.

But be careful with what you replace meat with, as fishing boats that trawl the ocean floor are also big carbon emitters, disturbing or even destroying delicate ecosystems.



Eating locally and seasonably can also help to lower your carbon footprint, so pay a visit to your local green grocers, butchers or fishmongers who can tell you more about where the produce has come from.

Or try subscription delivery services like Farmdrop, which uses food sourced from local farmers, fishermen or other producers, and Oddbox which takes "spare" fruit and veg from farmers that won't sell in the supermarkets.

Think about your rubbish

The UK generated more than 222.2 million tonnes of waste in 2018, while the following year just over 46% of waste from households was recycled, according to the government.

Most understand the importance of recycling but it can be easy to recycle an item incorrectly, in particular many plastics can end up in the wrong bin. For example, plastic bags cannot go in the regular recycling.

Check the packaging for recycling symbols for guidance. The government's recycling symbols explained page breaks down what they mean.

To recycle more efficiently, compress bottles and put the lid back on, rinse out tins and bottles, and keep cardboard and paper clean as grease can damage the cardboard making it too difficult to recycle.

Consider recycling old tech devices through companies like Spring who give you cash back in return.

To minimise packaging waste, consider investing in a re-usable water bottle or coffee flask, along with a tote bag to avoid buying plastic carrier bags, and try taking a packed lunch to work in Tupperware more often.

Around the house, consider swapping regular bin bags for eco-friendly compostable ones, using old spray bottles and filling them with concentrated anti-bacterial cleaner, try a recycled toilet paper delivery service like Who Gives a Crap, or find a local zero waste grocery shop.

The UK produced around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in 2018, with 6.6 million tonnes (70%) coming from households, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

There are many ways to minimise food waste, such as composting food scraps. You could create worm farms from compost which also help towards the UK's soil crisis.

If you really need to get rid of a food item but it is still edible, consider trying apps like Olio which shares food for free with others, or Too Good To Go which offers up discounted prices from local restaurants and bakeries on food that will otherwise go in the bin.

It is also recommended to shop little and often and organise your fridge regularly so you can see exactly what you have. Get creative with how to use up leftovers, google recipes, and freeze food you won't be able to eat before it goes bad.

Think twice about clothes before you buy

Buying vintage is a good place to start

The UK's addiction to fast fashion sends 300,000 tonnes worth of textiles to landfill

Buying less clothes is one option - but it may be too simplistic for some fashionistas. Instead, buying second hand is one of the best ways to reduce the environmental impact. Try buying from vintage and charity shops, or secondhand apps such as Depop and ebay, while Swancy allows people to swap their pre-loved clothes.

There also now a wide range of fashion rental shops across the country.

When buying, stick to sustainable brands and look for eco-friendly materials like bamboo instead of polyster and microfibres. Take better care of the clothes you do have to make them last longer.