It’s the challenge of all our lives. The chance to make a real difference to the world. Or risk that by not doing enough, we leave behind a legacy of waste, climate change and a ruined environment.
Scotland has set ambitious targets aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2020, and 80 per cent by 2050.
According to the Scottish Government, 77 per cent of Scotland’s consumption emissions are accounted for by individuals and households. While government, local authorities, businesses and community groups are doing their bit to make Scotland greener, it warns that we all must join in to make Scotland much greener.
To get there, a major nationwide campaign is underway aimed at encouraging Scots to do a little bit more across five key areas – home energy, food waste, travel, reducing what we consume and reusing and recycling what we have.
According to Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Aileen McLeod, every one has a part to play in ensuring Scotland’s future is green and clean.
“I want future generations to be able to enjoy the same quality of life as we do,” she says. “The Scottish Government is committed to creating a cleaner, greener Scotland and we take the issue of climate change very seriously.”
I want future generations to be able to enjoy the same quality of life as we doAileen McLeod
The campaign focuses on the small behaviour changes we can all achieve. If, for example, everyone drove just five miles a week less than they do now together we’d save around £89 million a year, our communities would be cleaner and less polluted and we’d remove 190,000 tonnes of CO2 annually from the air we breathe.
It also points out that those tweaks to our lifestyle add up to massive benefits.
“Green living doesn’t have to mean massive changes – little actions each day can make a huge difference to the environment around you,” adds Ms McLeod.
“Indeed, many Scots are already taking action – as a country we are recycling more, driving less and using energy efficient light bulbs.
“Together by making small changes to the way we lead our everyday lives we can become more environmentally friendly and do our bit – locally and globally – for the planet.”
But what can we do? And anyway, aren’t we all doing enough already?
Starting today and over the next five weeks, we’ll take a look at what can help Scotland become greener.
We’ll bring you tips and ideas to make the move to becoming even more environmentally aware.
And we’ll look at what ordinary families are doing now to help the environment and look at how the tiniest of changes can all add up to make the greatest – and greenest impact.
Barbara and Nick Armstrong, both 54, live in Inverleith, Edinburgh. They have two sons, Elliott, 19, who is at Glasgow University and Ivan, 15.
On the surface, Barbara and Nick, a teacher at Edinburgh Academy, appear to be hitting all the right ‘green’ targets. They hardly ever throw out food, take care to recycle, and energy-conscious Nick pays particular attention to making sure little things – like only boiling the amount of water he needs for his mug of tea – are second nature.
“We try to do what we can to be environmentally aware but sometimes it is a balance between what we can do and what becomes too inconvenient or expensive,” says Barbara, who runs personal property search firm Edinburgh Property Finders.
“We have zero food waste, thanks to two typical teenage boys and us being hungry parents.
“Any small amounts of leftovers or peelings are put on the compost heap in the garden. The food waste box never gets used.
“I think that’s a habit that’s handed down from our parents. They were the war generation and very conscious about making sure they used what they had.”
Nick’s vegetable patch in the garden provides a regular source of vegetables, while the couple tend to shop savvy, buying seasonal fruit and vegetables most – but not all of the time.
“I admit it’s not a priority of mine to check something’s air miles when I’m shopping,” adds Barbara. “Hopefully what Nick grows balances that up a bit.”
It’s the packaging that comes with food and products that she finds most challenging. “Producers need to be forced by the government to avoid so much packaging.
“Anything from Amazon arrives with boxes inside boxes. I don’t think there’s much we can do to stop that.
“I recycle the boys’ clothes, we give things to charity shops and take books to the recycling points. But clothes are so cheap to buy new that I wouldn’t buy second hand or sit down and darn a pair of socks.
“I’m not good on ink cartridges, it’s one of those things that I put to one side and then don’t get done. They go in the bin.”
While Nick walks to work, the family Mercedes C Class estate diesel clocks up a few miles every week taking Ivan to school and athletics training at Meadowbank. “Convenience and time are the issue,” says Barbara.
“If I’m working near to home, I will walk. Otherwise I’d use the car because buses don’t necessarily run to where I want to go.
“I’ve never been on a tram – they don’t go where I need to go. Even if we are travelling to the airport to go on holiday, we wouldn’t take the tram, it would be easier to just get a taxi.”
Flying to Spain once a year is a treat they wouldn’t want to lose. And while Barbara knows using the tumble drier to fluff up her towels is probably not the ‘greenest’ choice, she’s unwilling to give it up.
“I could do less washing, the machine is on quite a lot but on a low temperature. It annoys me that the fastest cycle takes 50 minutes and I can’t imagine why clothes need a two hour wash cycle. But that’s not something I can control.
“I think if I’m managing not to have any food waste, I’m entitled to soft towels.”
There are certain things, adds Barbara, that the family can’t do anything about. Such as the thick stone walls of their four bedroom ground floor conversion, which aren’t suitable for cavity wall insulation or their windows which conservation rules don’t allow to be double glazed.
“As a family we’re quite good at switching off things like lights. My husband is the worst and the best – he’s good at turning things off but he’ll switch off lights in the room where I am sitting. He’s extreme.
“Working in property, a lot of clients look carefully at a home report and are quite specific about wanting a home that’s at level C or better. I think we’re probably D or E. It costs us about £160 a month for gas and electricity for four bedrooms and three reception rooms.
“We try to do what we can to be environmentally aware but sometimes it is a balance between what we can do and what becomes too inconvenient or expensive.”