Do Your Bit!

"We can all do something right away.
And if we all do, something will undoubtedly change."
Take action at home - WWF


At the personal level you can help reduce emissions.

Some suggestions:

       Photo: Pierre-Selim CC-BY-SA

1. Make your voice heard

We can stop the damage from air pollution if we want to. The opportunities are there, but the political will has been lacking so far. But this can be changed. In order for politicians to take the necessary decisions they need the support of strong public opinion. Often it already exists, but is not apparent in debate.

The most important thing you can do is therefore to make your voice heard.

You can do this individually, by writing letters, contacting politicians, etc., or by becoming an active member of an environmental organization. (Contact us if you need help finding one.)


       Photo: Quackdave CC-O

2. Walk, cycle or use public transport whenever you can

If you are a frequent car user and want to reduce your impact on the environment then this is probably the area where changing your habits can make the biggest single contribution.

Cycle. Cycling is an excellent alternative for many short journeys - it's quick, cheap, and parking is easy. The only energy you use is your own - it's ideal exercise! A person who cycles 5 km to work instead of driving a car keeps fit, saves money and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by around 700 kg per year at the same time.

Take the bus. Agreed, it often takes longer to travel by bus (or commuter train or tube) than by car - but possibly not as much longer as you think. And while someone else is driving, you can read, sleep or just relax. Try it one day and compare the journey time and your level of relaxation.

But what does it cost, where's the bus stop and what time does the bus go? Call the public transport company and ask, or find the information on the internet. You can pick up a timetable from many local travel companies or ask them to post you a copy.

Take the train. Planning to travel a long distance by car - for work or on holiday? Check out your options for travelling by train next time! If you need a car at your destination then it often makes sense to take the train and hire a car. For trips on the continent, travel by car train can be both economical and comfortable.


       Photo:Thomas Hawk CC-BY-NC

3. Car share to and from work, school or meetings

If you normally take your own car, and start sharing car journeys with a neighbour or workmate, it halves the fuel cost and emissions for every trip. If four people who originally travelled by themselves start sharing their journeys it reduces emissions by 75 per cent - without changing the way you travel!

Talk with workmates and/or neighbours. If you work in a large work place there may be an environmental coordinator who can put you in touch with others who travel the same route at similar times.

Telecommute whenever possible. Advances in technology have made working from home much more feasible. This can significantly reduce your transport costs and increase productivity by not wasting time in traffic. Talk to your employer and negotiate a mutually beneficial deal for working from home for at least some of the time.

       Photo:Install CC-BY-SA

4. Use fuel-efficient cars and drive gently

Choose the right car. There is a big difference between the most fuel-efficient and the thirstiest cars - even in the same size class. If you choose a slightly smaller car and a model that has the most fuel-efficient engine you can reduce fuel consumption, and hence your emissions of carbon dioxide, by 20 per cent or more.
Compare the fuel consumption of different cars:
European countries or USA.

The way you drive is also important. Drive gently, think ahead and stay in the highest gear possible. Most drivers can reduce their fuel consumption by 10-20 per cent by making small changes in their driving style.

Slow down. Your fuel consumption at 110 km/h is about 20 per cent higher than when you drive at 90 km/h. High speed also increases your risk of an accident. You pay a high price for the few minutes you gain.

Check your tyres. This is probably the simplest tip of all: Check your tyre pressures regularly, e.g. every other time you fill up. The correct tyre pressure can reduce fuel consumption by over 5 per cent, as well as making your tyres last longer and improving the handling of your car. It's OK to increase the tyre pressure slightly over the value in the owner's manual (+0.1 to +0.3 bar).

Keep the engine tuned. Save up to 15 per cent of fuel.
Lighten up. By removing unnecessary weight and unused roof racks from the car you'll decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Use air-conditioning sparingly. An air-conditioner set on high can increase fuel consumption by around 10 per cent.


       Photo: Dake CC-BY-SA

5. Take the train instead of flying

Measured per person kilometre, flying is the means of travel that has by far the greatest environmental impact. A 600-kilometre flight generates carbon dioxide emissions of almost 100 kilograms per person.

Emissions per person for a train journey over the same distance (assuming the train uses electricity from wind power or hydroelectric power) are just 4 grams!


       Photos: Chris828 CC-O / Sun Ladder CC-BY-SA

6. Use energy-efficient appliances and low-energy light bulbs

Look at the energy efficiency rating when you buy refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dishwashers, ovens, etc. A low-energy appliance may be more expensive to buy, but is generally cheaper to run. Don't buy a bigger refrigerator or freezer than you need. The larger the capacity, the more energy it uses. Look out for appliances on at

Switch to low-energy light bulbs (CFLs) . They last ten times as long and use a fifth as much electricity as traditional light bulbs. An average household can save a few hundred kilowatt-hours each year by replacing all its light bulbs.

Using appliances sensibly is naturally just as important as buying the right appliances in the first place. Turn off appliances that you are not using - they can use between 10 and 60% of the power they use in standby mode.

A normal washing machine uses as much energy when it is completely full as it does when you just wash a pair of jeans - so always try to wash a full load. And even if your tumble dryer happens to be the most energy-efficient on the market, it's obviously better for the environment to hang your laundry outside to dry.


       Photo: Nicole-Koehler CC-BY-SA

7. Turn down your heating thermostat and save hot water

As a rule of thumb you reduce the energy you use for heating by 5 per cent for every degree you lower the indoor temperature.
If you are going away for more than a couple of days it is worth turning down the thermostat to fifteen degrees. Your bank account and your pot plants will feel the benefit!

Another way of saving energy (and money) is to adapt the way you use hot water, for example by taking a short shower instead of a bath, and/or buying a water-saving shower head. Hot water is often one of the major consumers of energy in the home.


       Photo: BuLService CC-BY-SA

8. Insulate more

There are several ways of reducing the heat loss from buildings. First of all the attic normally has the least protection from heat loss, so you should start there with insulation measures.

Eliminate draughts that lose energy from your home. Plug holes around doors and windows. Arrange for an "energy audit" of your building. Experts will analyze where you're wasting energy and what you can do about it.

And a simple tip: Closing blinds or curtains at night saves almost as much energy as installing modern high-insulation windows.


       Photo: Oxfordian Kissuth CC-BY-SA

9. Check where goods come from when you are shopping

The ingredients in a normal breakfast have often travelled just as widely as we have ourselves. Take a look at where goods come from. In most cases you can reduce environmental impact by choosing locally produced goods.

Shop locally whenever possible, instead of using out-of-town shopping centres. In the worst case your short trip to and from the shopping centre can produce the same carbon dioxide emissions as transporting the same weight of goods 1000 kilometres by lorry!


       Photo: Pierre-Selim CC-BY-SA

10. Buy green electricity

If possible, buy non-polluting "green" electricity. Maybe you can buy it from your electricity company, or there might be the possibility (depending on the country you're living in) to change to a green electricity supplier. 




>> Further reading

What you can do to help switch off global warming. Hints from WWF.

For campaigning advice, see the campaign strategy website.