What are the top 5 environmental concerns? And how can we make a difference and reduce our impact on the environment? Part of changing to an eco-friendly lifestyle is learning about the top environmental concerns. Coronavirus impacted the environment and some side effects were good, such as the reduction of air pollution. Some were bad like the disposable masks clogging up our oceans and threatening sea life. What can we do as individuals, to reduce our impact on the environment? Here is our list of the top 5 environmental concerns in the UK:
Table of Contents
The first environmental concern that affects the UK is air pollution. According to the UK government website, air pollution is a contributory factor to asthma, lung disease, heart disease and stroke. The most damaging toxins in air pollution are nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is produced by cars and other forms of transport so the toxin is higher in towns and cities across the UK. Unfortunately, the UK is failing to meet targets for reducing these toxins in the air and our health is suffering as a result. Both toxins also contribute to climate change.
The toxins in our air come from fossil fuels but particularly from cars and lorries using diesel. Until recently, we relied on car companies to tell us which cars are the least polluting. However, the media revealed that some car companies adjusted emissions figures. Unfortunately, this type of behaviour damages consumer trust and puts any emissions data into doubt.
Other gas emissions increase the impact of air pollutants because they trap toxins in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Nitrous Oxide absorb heat and trap these toxins, creating smogs, particularly in cities.
Individually, we can reduce our contribution to air pollution by opting for fossil-free alternatives such as walking or cycling.
Other alternatives include public transport. Many bus companies are now switching to electric vehicles. Of course, there are also transport alternatives such as e-bikes and for those that can afford them, electric vehicles.
Plastic pollution is also an environmental concern. Somehow 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans every day:
Plastic is already in our food and our water (we consume around 70,00 micro-plastics each year). Unfortunately, we have also added to the pollution during the Covid-19 pandemic with disposable masks and PPE.
We need to address plastic pollution because it kills millions of animals each year. We are also exposing ourselves and our families to chemicals that leech from plastic. The chemicals can have an adverse effect on our bodies.
Avoid disposable items and opt for re-usable versions of containers instead. Everything from water bottles to bags can be re-used in some form or another. Our use of plastics is based on our assumption that we can use something and then throw it away – out of sight, out of mind. In reality, it is never thrown away.
Planning our time more effectively can also help us avoid using plastic. For example, preparing our own lunch before leaving the house for work. By preparing our food, we can also avoid wasting money on buying a sandwich wrapped in plastic.
We should be concerned about the environmental damage involving water. The fashion industry consumes a ridiculous amount of water and significantly damages local water supplies. According to the Conscious Club, 3,000 litres of water are used to produce one t-shirt! Our fashion consumption and in particular for fast fashion is clearly unsustainable.
Water is fundamental to life on this planet but pollution and global warming are causing water temperature to rise. Higher levels of Carbon Dioxide is also causing ocean acidification. These factors are impacting the biodiversity of our oceans, particularly coral reefs that become weakened and die.
Water is an environmental concern that we need to address now. In the UK, our weather is often breaking records. For example, May 2020 was one of the warmest months on record. With temperatures rising, coastal erosion and a decrease in groundwater levels, water is becoming a precious resource. And whilst generally, we don’t have a problem with water across the UK, we are expected to have water shortages by 2050.
We have to find ways to reduce our water consumption – plain and simple. At home, there are a range of measures we can take. Actions such as buying water-efficient goods, turning off taps when brushing our teeth, taking shorter showers and installing water butts in our gardens all help to reduce our water consumption.
The fourth environmental concern is Deforestation. Forests account for about 30% of the earth’s landmass. It is being destroyed at an astronomical rate for the benefit of our consumption. Deforestation occurs to make way for agriculture. It also contributes significantly to climate change and the warming of the planet. Our forests help to regulate temperatures, lock carbon into the ground and provide a habitat for our bio-diversity. No trees mean higher temperatures, less bio-diversity and an inability to grow food due to soil erosion.
We need to replace and plant more trees to maintain our eco-systems. We can also reduce or avoid eating foods that rely on destroying forests such as meat and palm oil. There are plenty of alternatives to palm oil that come from sustainable sources and do not rely on deforestation.
We can also reduce our consumption of wood and paper products. Alternatively, we need to source wood products made from sustainable forests or buy recycled paper products.
Climate change has been a major environmental concern for some time. Many activists no longer use the term climate change but use the term ‘climate crisis’ instead. The climate crisis has occurred due to the interrelationship between all the different environmental factors. Burning fossil fuels for heat, light, food production and clothing production together with our over consumption of finite resources, all affect the climate.
Industrial processes that burn fossil fuelsalso add CO2 to the atmosphere and raise climate temperatures. As temperatures rise and sea levels rise, our climate and weather patterns are becoming unpredictable and unstable. For example, in the UK, unpredictable weather causes issues such as flooding. In fact, 1 in 6 properties are at risk of flooding. Flooding also affects farmland so our ability to grow food will be affected as summers get warmer and drier and winters become wetter.
Climate change causes other environmental problems including flash floods, droughts and polar ice caps melting. The climate continues to degrade despite political efforts at COP26 and the previous Paris Agreement which attempted to reducing the global temperature increase to 1.5 Celsius.
We need to look for sustainable alternatives that help us generate heat, light and food. But most of all, we need to stop consuming. Consuming too many resources from a finite planet is simply not sustainable.
Another action we can take is reducing our consumption of clothing. We all need clothes but do we need to regularly change our wardrobe? Perhaps we need to look more closely at the reasons why we consume so much. Quite often, our consumption relates to our anxiety about our place in the world – status anxiety. We work to feel productive and we shop to feel good. We need to work on finding other ways to define our value and place in the world.
Choosing utilities that generate energy from sustainable alternatives helps the environment. Other measures such as using led lights, fixing things (not throwing them away), reducing meat consumption and avoiding wasting food can reduce our impact on the climate.
We have significant biodiversity loss in the UK. Current estimates indicate that we have lost around 50% of our biodiversity . The State of Nature Report 2019 revealed that 41% of “..bird, mammal butterfly and moth species” have seen a drop in numbers. 1 in 5 British wildflowers is also at risk. Without wildflowers, we miss out on wildlife.
The urban sprawl of new housing developments into greenbelt land is also affecting our biodiversity. We, therefore need to find sustainable housing solutions that do not impact the environment.
There are plenty of ways to add biodiversity to your garden. For example, planting trees and shrubs can help insects can thrive. Choosing native plants species from your local area also provide a habitat for animals and insects.
Creating healthy soil is vital for both plants and insects. For preference, creating your own compost from organic waste will help to add nutrients to the soil.
We need to start taking care of our natural resources to avoid making environmental problems worse.
We’ll be looking at each of these environmental issues and look at ways that we can implement changes to live a more eco-friendly life. Have you made any changes? Why not comment below and share your tips, we’d love to hear from you!