What can I do? 

There is so much we can do individually, and if millions of us do it around the world, it will make a huge difference.

We can also influence our friends and neighbours, and amplify our effect still further by influencing politicians and corporations locally nationally and internationally as much as we can.

Changing our personal lifestyles can be viewed as part of our worship, putting prayer into action and loving our worldwide neighbours as ourselves.

Calculate your Carbon Footprint

We can start by making an audit of the carbon footprint of our current lifestyles. Simply go on this web page https://footprintr.me and work through the menu on the top bar, from flying to food.

Meanwhile, here are some quick tips to consider:

1.  In the home

Much of our carbon footprint results from heating our homes. The ideal home is built to Passivhaus standards in which little energy is lost at all. Hot waste air is used to heat cold, fresh incoming air; hot waste water is used to heat incoming water; there are very high levels of insulation. In 5 years time all new houses will be built to this standard and older houses will need to be retrofitted.

You can some easy things for a start:

  • Turn the thermostat down a bit and wear a woolly jumper
  • Draught proof your windows and doors
  • Put lids on saucepans and turn down the gas
  • Heat just the right amount of water in the kettle
  • Keep the fridge door shut as much as possible
  • Only heat your bedroom when you need to
  • Close your curtains as soon as it gets dark.

Think about double or secondary glazing if you can afford it and either buy the most efficient boiler when you need to replace it, or see if an air-source heat pumps might repay the extra cost over the next 5 -10 years.

Check the thickness of insulation in your loft. Nowadays it should be 270mm (nearly 1 foot) thick!

2.  Food and Diet

Perhaps the easiest and biggest effect in reducing our carbon footprint is to cut down the amount of red meat we eat. We eat 65 billion animals per year worldwide and the meat industry produces more greenhouse gas that all our cars, planes, freight and shipping combined.

Red meat is particularly damaging to the environment partly because cows and sheep, being ruminants, emit large quantities of methane when they chew the cud, which is an extremely powerful greenhouse gas.  Vast areas of arable land are required to provide the feed for the cattle and pigs when it could be used to feed humans.

The area of 5 football pitches of Amazon rainforest was cleared every minute last year, with deforestation driven largely by the cattle industry, either for direct grazing or to produce the soya feedstuffs.

Be ethical when buying your food.  Was the cow, sheep or pig reared humanely? As Christians we have a particular duty to be respectful of God’s creatures.  99% of animals in the USA are factory farmed. Factory farming is not so common here yet, but are you sure your bacon comes from a happy pig?  Where did your beefburger, sausage or Sunday roast come from?

So perhaps you could:

  • Reconsider the role meat plays in your diet
  • Try out a few more vegetarian dishes: pasta, dahls, curries, soups, roast vegetables.
  • Try oat milk as an alternative to cows milk
  • Check out the new meat substitutes
  • Regard red meat as a very special treat
  • Check out where your meat comes from. Does the butcher know? Was it free range?
  • Check where the food you buy in the supermarket has come from, especially out-of-season fruit or vegetables. Were air miles involved?
  • Support local producers.

3.  Cars and Transport

Try to cut down on the use of your car.

  • decide to walk or cycle a bit more often
  • share your car whenever you can,
  • drive smoothly to improve your fuel consumption
  • stop your engine when you are waiting at traffic lights and in queues.
  • smell the exhaust of passing traffic and decide that it is not healthy!

But best of all, choose to go electric as soon as you can. If you’ve got a driveway, garage and a roof, you could soon be driving on your own sunshine. Take a test drive just for the fun of it. Electric cars are really fast!

4.  Clothing and ‘stuff’

 The way we design, make and discard clothes has a huge environmental impact. The globalised market for fashion has created a fast fashion phenomenon: cheap clothing, with quick turnover that encourages repurchasing.

The raw materials used to manufacture clothes require land and water, or the extraction of fossil fuels. Production processes require water and energy and use chemical dyes and often toxic finishes.  Large quantities of carbon dioxide are emitted throughout the clothing supply chain. On its current path the global fashion industry could use more than a quarter of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050.

In addition, every time we put on a wash, thousands of plastic fibres wash down the drain and into the oceans. So….

  • love your clothes
  • form a lasting relationship with your sweaters, shirts, dresses, trousers and shoes!
  • revive the skills of darning and repairing
  • go for quality and classic fashions rather than cheaper purchases that won’t survive the first few washes.
  • Cut down on the plastics you buy, whether as packaging or disguised in things like wet-wipes. There are now bio-degradable ones: https://www.twipes.eu

5.  Flying

Cut down the number of times you fly and if you do fly, consider taxing yourself. There is no tax on aviation fuel, so nothing in the cost of your flight goes to clearing up the pollution it causes. How about choosing to tax yourself at 10%, 25% or 50% and sending the money to a charity that specializes in helping poorer parts of the world switch to clean energy? Charities like:  

By paying to clear up your own pollution, you are not asking your children to do it.

6.  Leadership

The science has been clear for decades, but political leaders have been very slow to grasp the enormity of the challenge and the urgency of the crisis. Fine words have been spoken and ambitious targets set, but greenhouse gas emissions are still rising and the dangers are now very real. As Christians shouldn’t we lead by example, as Christ did?

  • Show leadership in your own life choices and amongst your friends and community groups.
  • Get involved in local action groups such as Saffron Walden Action on Climate Change www.swacc.co.uk
  • Get involved in national and international groups such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion
  • Lobby your MP, write to your supermarket, sign petitions

7.   Money and Purchasing Power


Perhaps our greatest power now is as consumers. Consider every purchase as your chance to make the world a better place.
  • Sign up to Ethical Consumer, which will tell you all you need to know about the human rights record, environmental policies and sustainability of the product, restaurant or company. It’ll even tell you whether they pay their taxes! https://www.ethicalconsumer.org
  • St Mary’s has taken out an institutional subscription to Ethical Consumer, which means that up to 40 of us can have free access to their website. If you purchase food or materials on behalf of the church, please contact Dawn for the username and password. If you are keen to be ethical on your own behalf, contact her anyway to see if there are places available: parishofficesaffronwalden@gmail.com
  • Write to your supermarket, and petition them. They keep telling us that they are only responding to ‘customer demand’, so do your share of demanding!
  • If you are in control of your pension, ask your advisor to invest in ethical and carbon-free funds. It's a great feeling to know that you are using your pension fund to help change the world! If you have a company pension, contact the pension providers and put pressure on them to divest from fossil fuel companies. Insist on the highest ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) ratings in their portfolios. Your pension is probably the most powerful form of financial leverage you can use.
  • If you run a group within St.Mary’s Church, please refer to St Mary’s Procurement Guidelines. St Mary’s Church has made a commitment to consider both the ethical and environmental costs of the products it purchases. You can download a copy of the Guidelines here.

Click on the links below to go to our Eco Church pages: