Christian Arno

Your less really is more: how employees can help the UK reach Net Zero

3 min Read
Orange life ring hanging on a white wall

Budgets. Not a word many of us get fired up about, is it? But there’s certainly the odd exception. If we’re talking about carbon reduction, the release of the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget has – dare I say it – caused a pretty positive collective stir amongst us Pawprinters.

UK reduction demand figures don’t beat around the bush; the report calls for a 78% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2035. It’ll be a world-leading commitment for our relatively small island. And, provided widescale leadership commits across all industries, the UK will be firmly on the path to becoming Net-Zero by 2050.

Now that’s something I’m willing to leap out of my seat for. Especially when you consider that achieving these targets helps us stay on the same carbon-neutral trajectory as the Paris Agreement.

So now we know where we need to go, what are some of the key action steps that you, me and the powers-that-be can actually commit to, to get us there? What, in our working and personal lives, can we do right now to get us to carbon-neutral quicker than you can say “plant-based”? (The first clue is free!).

Second, how do you widen your circle of influence to inspire other people and even key decision-makers in your organisation? After all, inspiring stakeholders and leaders to act is where your ripples really start to have a wider impact.

That’s where Pawprint for Business can lend a hand. It offers easy reporting and measuring on the collective efforts of any teams’ footprint reduction, making it a strong weapon in a sustainability manager’s armoury. We help businesses turn words into action and make carbon reduction a company-wide effort.  

Table showing the CCC's demand reduction requirements from 2019 to 2035
The CCC's demand reduction recommendations

Easy action steps to help the UK get to Net Zero

Ready to get stuck in? Good. First up is…drumroll…meat. Specifically, to reduce meat consumption in the average UK diet by 180g by 2025. Depending on your portion sizes, that’s typically between two to three veggie lunches when you’d normally have something meaty.  

But how does eating less meat help the environment, exactly?

I’ll cut to the chase on this one: one of the unfortunate by-products of raising cattle for intensive agriculture is methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s impact is 34 times greater than carbon over a 100-year period. So, the less meat we eat, the less demand there will be for it; fewer cows mean less methane.  

The good news is, lots of Brits are already cutting cow (and other meat) from their diet; according to research, the proportion of meat-eaters in the UK that reduced or limited their intake rose 11% from 2017 to 2019. Holy cow!

Question is, how can this dietary shift trickle into business and company culture? Start by uniting your work colleagues over a common challenge or dare; invite them to try Meat Free Mondays, sign up to Pawprint and collectively try a new challenge each week, or speak to HR about more veggie options in your company’s café or canteen.

A latte’s not a lot

The next big hitter on the list also involves cows, specifically a reduction in weekly dairy consumption by 180g before 2025. That’s the equivalent of one average-sized dairy milk latte—one. When there’s such an array of fantastic milk alternatives out there (I’m a fan of Sproud’s pea milk myself), this feels like an easy swap.

Why not make Friday a bit of fun with a (virtual for now) ‘cow-free coffee break’ challenge? At Pawprint, we’ve been building more mini moments of fun into our busy online work agendas, and the team has reported back that sharing more of our lives beyond work helps them feel connected and supported.

Low carbon commutes – giving travel a healthy Net Zero makeover

Another suspect on the high carbon hit list to reduce is, you guessed it, travel. The CCC outline a need to reduce the average carbon footprint of flying by 700km in the next four years, which is the equivalent of a return flight from Edinburgh to the Midlands. For drivers, shaving off 300km is also a key reduction demand. Of course, some of us don’t fly 700km or drive 300km in a year; if that’s you, you can still do your bit by reducing your travel kilometres by a relative amount.  

A disclaimer here: while the pandemic has brought some positive temporary global reductions in air travel and driving, we doubt this will always be the case. But it could be the pause we’ve needed to reconsider our travel needs and make smarter decisions in future

When travelling to work does make sense, why not get inspired by healthier bike-friendly options like the Dutch, and take advantage of the UK’s Government supported Bike to Work Scheme? I also love figuring out walking routes through my home city of Edinburgh if I’m heading to team or investor meetings. If cycling and walking really isn’t an option for you, why not explore your carpooling options through apps like BlaBlaCar or Tango App – which allows you to be the passenger, driver, or both.

Waste Not, Want Not: making throw-away items a thing of the past

Last (but absolutely not least), let’s talk about the need to reduce the amount of waste we produce. By 2025 we all need to reduce individual waste by 90kg a year after prevention and recycling. This makes me think of that quote from musician Will. I. Am: “waste isn’t waste until we waste it”. Or put differently, how can we view what we buy and consume in a more circular framework? What gets binned in your workplace or home that’s waiting to have new life breathed into it elsewhere? Easy wins include mixing old coffee grounds with water as a plant fertiliser or freezing food to eat later so it doesn’t sit in the fridge going off. On an organisational level, encourage your employer to introduce an e-waste policy that prevents electronics and electrical equipment from going to landfill. I’ve written an article on e-waste if you’d like to learn more.

I believe there’s an opportunity afoot right now. For businesses and employees like you to get really creative and vocal in the pursuit to smash these ambitious CCC Net Zero goals. And here’s the thing, in our experience working with businesses it’s in the process of creating an intentionally carbon-neutral workplace that we see some really massive positive offshoots—entire organisations are able to come together over a shared goal; one that’s bigger than themselves and anything we’ve ever faced. We’ve seen morale rise, creativity soar, and team players feel fired up to be part of a company that cares. Ripples on a pond, right?

To steal a line from that wise guy Aristotle, when it comes to lasting impactful change, “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

Have a great week,

Christian

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