Catherine Mann | What I have done

Catherine Mann reflects on the changes that she has made to her lifestyle because of the Climate Emergency.

I had my Oh No moment about the climate crisis in October 2018, not long after I moved house. Since then I’ve been gradually trying to reduce my carbon footprint and live more sustainably. Some things were easy to do, others took a bit of research or time and a couple were outside my comfort zone. Most of the changes didn’t feel like a big deal once I’d done them, so that’s positive. I honestly didn’t remember how much I’d done until I sat down to write this list, and last month I would probably have said I do very little.

No one can do everything, but everyone can to something and we all need to do more. I work full time and have a toddler, so I don’t have a lot of free time. That said I am fortunate to be doing OK financially and own my home, so that gives me options. What I’ve done won’t work for everyone, but maybe it’ll give a few ideas of changes that can be made. Hopefully this shows how a lot of small changes that don’t feel like much at the time can build up.

 Have done:

·         Switched to LED lightbulbs

·         Got energy efficient dishwasher

·         Buy plastic-free, ethical loo roll from Who Gives A Crap – only available in bulk, very useful when there were shortages in the shops

·         Changed default search engine to Ecosia

·         Composting – reduced the amount of food waste in our black bin bag

·         Growing food – limited success so far, plants in containers do fine ones in the ground less so, but we’re keeping at it


·         Planted wildflower seeds – also limited success as above, but I have more seeds

·         Sponsored a tree with Birmingham Trees for Life

·         Changed to a greener energy supplier

·         Get milk from milkman – also means we’ve had eggs and bread throughout lockdown


·         Replaced drafty doors and letterbox, put curtain over front door, and put seals around badly-fitted windows

·         Bought beeswax wraps, a water flask, bamboo toothbrushes, eco-egg instead of washing detergent, solid deodorant, biodegradable wet wipes, reusable silicon food lids, portable cutlery set – I use some of these more than others and some products were easier to find than others, but most of them have been useful

·         Bought more 2nd hand clothes

·         Signed online petitions asking for government and businesses to be sustainable on a wider scale as this is where change is desperately needed

·         Bought shares in Community Energy Birmingham solar panel project

·         Recycling more carefully, checking what can be recycled and putting as much in the recycling as possible

·         Sent hard-to-recycle good to Terracycle – it helps that my husband’s work place has collection points

recycling guide

·         Using less wrapping paper, replaced this with gift bags and decorated plain paper instead

·         Switched to bar soap (mostly)

·         Responded to Birmingham City Council surveys about climate emergency and sustainable transport plan

·         Went to Eco-fest at the MAC

·         Went to meetings and events with Birmingham Friends of the Earth

·         Attended talks at Sustainable Stirchley

·         Went on a Climate March

·         Deleted thousands of old emails from 2 personal email accounts

·         Not mowed my lawn this year (#NoMowMay) – this wasn’t planned and is mostly due to lockdown, good weather and having guinea pigs who can help keep the grass under control

·         Watched some talks and panels at the Sustainable(ish) Online Festival

 Will do:

·         Only use peat-free compost from now – we bought some with peat before I realised how environmentally disastrous it is

·         Put heat-reflecting foam behind radiators

insulation foam

·         Get a smart energy meter – almost got one but then lockdown happened

·         Get rainwater butt – would already have one, but we need to change external drainpipe to avoid mixing rainwater with greywater

·         Sign more petitions calling for wider positive change

·         Change my pension fund to more ethical investments – tried to get my head round this earlier in the year but need to look into it again

 Plan to do:

·         Explore options for changing bank accounts to more ethical institutions

·         Buy a bike and associated equipment, start cycling again and learn how to cycle safely in the city

·         Look into getting an air source Heat Pump or solar heater/panels

·         Find out about eco/sustainable action I can take in my workplace (if I ever go back to the/an office)



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