Louisa Pearson: ‘If we must fly, we’ll be savouring fewer, but longer trips’

THIS week, we’re talking about small steps, big results. Or maybe saving the planet, one token gesture at a time. That’s right.

In this self-help aisle we call life, we will come together to share simple lifestyle changes that have a measurable impact on our carbon footprint. At least that was the idea. Things began to go wrong when I looked at an online carbon calculator. How much do you pay each month for electricity? According to the calculator, £22 is average. I want to know who that tariff is with and how tiny an insulated box it supplies. I almost never switch anything on, yet pay £36 a month. Then there was the car fuel. Average? £30 a month. What universe is the carbon calculator living in? I do a teensy number of miles and still manage to spent closer to £100 a month on petrol. Am I really consuming so much more than the ‘average’ person? Before long, my mental state had plummeted into: “What’s the point? We’re all doomed.”

This is no way for the Goddess to start 2012, so I picked myself up, dusted myself down and clicked on a far more helpful section of the 10:10 website (www.1010global.org). Have you heard of 10:10? The idea was for people to take a pledge to reduce their carbon footprint by ten per cent in 2010. I missed the boat but luckily the project is ongoing, swept along by a deep-rooted belief that “big tasks are easier if broken up into smaller, manageable pieces”. Exactly how I feel about a family-sized pizza. Cut it into eight slices, pace yourself and you’ll be amazed how much you can pack away.

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So where are the key areas we can make meaningful changes? Top of the 10:10 list is: fly less, holiday more. We’ll be staycationing, using the train rather than the plane, and if we must fly we’ll be savouring fewer but longer trips. Another challenge is saving on heating by turning down the thermostat and insulating our houses and ourselves. Woolly jumpers all round. Another ten per cent on electricity might be achievable by investing in low-energy everything (from lightbulbs to freezers) and turning things off at the socket. I know, you’re doing it already. Me too.

Walking, cycling and public transport get the thumbs up as carbon-saving alternatives to the car, or if that’s not feasible then what about lift-sharing? Yes, you’ll have to listen to their incessant small talk, but if it protects us from the ravages of climate change then surely it’s worth it.

Moving on to diet, ours should ideally be full of local and seasonal produce, and with one day a week declared meat-free. Other consumption following 10:10 guidelines will involve buying high-quality things that last and repairing broken stuff rather than succumbing to fast fashion and shoddy goods.

Are you getting all this? And don’t forget that we need to reduce waste. – ideally at source rather than by investing in a can-crusher.

I’m starting to wonder about the danger of putting too many small steps on the list. It’s like a New Year’s resolutions list with so many ambitions that you never achieve any of them. Take it from me, for ten years in a row I’ve failed to learn Mandarin because of such foolhardy optimism. Still, I’m feeling more positive, having recovered from the carbon calculator debacle. Ten per cent in 2012 isn’t quite as catchy as the original slogan, but I just might give it a go. Together we can make it happen.