What Does it Mean to be ‘Green’?

Following the Climate Change march this weekend in Leeds town centre and this week’s COP21 talks in Paris of leaders from around the world about global warming, The Gryphon explores the issue of climate change, what it means to be ‘green’, and the action that needs to be taken to combat it.

Have you noticed how our winters are more spring-like? And our summers are happening mid-autumn? Often a topic of conversation in Britain, the weather has become more adverse in recent years as more storms, stronger winds and drastic seasonal changes occur. But why does such discussion never seem to extend to why this bad weather is happening more often? Climate change is arguably the biggest global challenge to face our generation, yet whilst some are actively making changes to help combat it, others are not aware of the detrimental changes it will have upon us and our planet.

greenpeace According to the Met Office, this October was averaged the warmest since 2001; they also affirm that 2015 is set to be the first year that global temperatures are one degree over pre-Industrial temperature records. This is alarming as governments and world leaders have aimed to limit global temperatures rising above two degrees over pre-industrial period records: it is measured from this point due to the Industrial Revolution when temperatures massively increased alongside industrial production. After this two degree rise in global temperature we will start to experience severe effects of climate change across the globe.

According to gov.uk, the possible extreme impacts of climate change upon the UK, should we continue at our current rate of resource consumption, would include: temperature rises of over four degrees in England, food supplies affected due to higher chances failed crops and difficult weather conditions, more serious floods, heat waves, and higher sea levels around our coasts. In 2014, the government have also stated that ‘there is clear evidence to show that climate change is happening […] The UK is already affected by rising temperatures’.

It is easy to feel helpless in the face of such a great and threatening issue, but this should be a wake-up call: we are consuming more than we can sustain. The question is: what will we do about it for our generation and for future generations? These terrible possibilities are avoidable; it is clear that a preventative method is sorely needed to tackle climate change. Therefore, how, as an individual, can you help to prevent global warming?

There are several ways you can be ‘green’ and help to protect the environment and as a consumer you have the power to choose what you buy with consideration for the benefit of the planet. You can buy products that are organic, ethical, and fairer to our planet. As a consumer you could also try buying products that have recyclable packaging, do not use chemicals that are harmful to the environment, and come from traceable and sustainable sources.

You can also look at changing what you eat as eating less meat can cut your carbon emissions and switching to vegetarian or vegan options for meals you enjoy can make a difference to environment and even to your health. Buying locally grown produce also supports local businesses and cuts the amount of carbon dioxide produced from transporting or importing the food to your plate. Changing how you travel is another way to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions; using public transport, cycling and walking for shorter distances, can help greatly reduce one of the greatest causes of carbon emissions.

To find out more about helping the environment at a local level, The Gryphon spoke to Christa, from Green Action, about how they are ‘green’, their views on climate change, and what they do as a society to help combat it:

Green is such a broad term, but from being part of green action I have come to think of ‘being green’ as the way we think to consider our impact on the environment both for the land physically and for those living in our world. Another way to put it is to make a conscious effort to impact the environment, the welfare of people and animals with the least amount of negative impact. In our current society it is very difficult to know who produced our food, if they were treated fairly in terms of pay and work hours, if that company is helping or hindering the environment for the future.

As part of Green Action we have a food cooperative (cooperative being we are all volunteers, there is no hierarchy system like normal societies, we all have a say in any decision made), where we look at where we source our products, who sources our products, how the people and the environment is impacted so we do this research before deciding to stock any product. Being green is also a political issue, to support campaign and educate our society into being aware of what we can do support and protect the people who provide our food or clothes, both locally and across the world. Education is also key for becoming a greener world and to protect what resources we have for the future.

bees In regards to the government’s action upon climate change, from the gov.uk website, they say they are reducing UK emissions, adapting the UK to climate change, and working to secure global emissions. However, this week there has been a major discontented reaction to David Cameron’s plans for his speech at the Paris talk this week. After the Prime Minister has made numerous cuts to plans for green energy, Greenpeace have highlighted that he has been sent an open letter from various large companies in the UK, including Tesco, Unilever, M&S, and Ikea, asking him to back green energy measures for the UK, with the letter stating: ‘We would like to see your government commit and put forward policies to support the growth of the UK renewables sector through the 2020s’. As recent government figures show, renewable energy already counts for a quarter of the UK’s electricity.

Taking a look at LUU, The Gryphon spoke to Union Affairs Officer, Toke Dahler, about what the Union is doing to tackle global warming issues:

We run several funded student-led sustainability projects and we have also just sent three students to Student Climate talks in Paris. We are have the highest NUS sustainability rating in the UK, but are always looking to do something better. There are also bee-hives on top of the Laidlaw library and a recent forum passed that there will now be bee-hives on the roof of the Union. And we’ve actually been looking into introduce ‘reverse’ vending machines to the Union which give some change in return for items people recycle.

In addition to this, there are three sustainable gardens on campus, aiming to encourage students to grow their own produce as open to all where you can help garden and are free to eat produce from the gardens.

Perhaps it is a question redefining being ‘green’, because we are all a part of the human race, and we all need to recognise that this is our planet as a whole. It may be necessary to change the mentality surrounding the apparent ‘chore’ of saving the planet for every one of us and for our future generations. By simply being proactive out of respect for each other, and for our natural environment, we may realise that being ‘green’ should not just be a duty, but a measure consciously and collectively taken as a society to help combat climate change. In rethinking what being ‘green’ entails, we may be able to see that in caring for our planet and for each other, we are actually taking care of ourselves.

Stephanie Uwalaka

The Open letter to the Prime Minister on this issue is available on the Greenpeace website- http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/sites/files/gpuk/cameron-business-letter.pdf

[Images: Aurelien Meunier, Greenpeace] 

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