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READER INSIGHTS

Seven steps: How to reduce your climate impact as an international resident

It's often especially difficult for those who live their lives across borders, but there are still ways in which we can all minimise our climate impact. Here are a few practical tips from The Local's readers.

Seven steps: How to reduce your climate impact as an international resident
The bulk of responsibility perhaps lies with governments, but we can all contribute to a greener world. Photo: Alexandr Podvalny/Pexels

We asked The Local’s readers to share their best tips for living an environmentally-friendly life. The points below are all based on the tips that they gave us. We’re all different, so some of them may work for you, others won’t. But every little helps, so here are a few ideas.

Carefully plan your trips home

There have been several campaigns in recent years to get people to cut down on their flying, but avoiding it completely is near-impossible for many international residents, who may have have family and friends in several different countries or need to travel for business reasons.

But are there ways of flying more sensibly? Many of our readers said they had made efforts to plan their visits home better, for example by making longer and fewer trips. Some suggested trying to combine for example work and leisure trips if possible.

Use other means of transport

If the option is available to you, can you take the train instead of a short-haul flight? Or are you able to travel directly to your destination instead of using connecting flights?

One reader who has to fly outside Europe said that when they return to Europe they would normally have to take a connecting flight, but have changed the way they travel in recent years to fly only the first leg into Europe, then take a train to their final destination.

For some, perhaps it’s not so much about giving up a convenience, but rather about investing in other benefits. Another reader said about taking the train: “It can be more expensive than flying, but I look at it as time to work or read in a comfortable setting.”

That goes for your commute, too

Public transport is very good and efficient in many European cities, often even more efficient than being stuck in a car on your way to work during the morning rush hour.

Can you cycle to work? It may seem unnecessarily strenuous for an early-morning commute, but many of The Local’s readers said they had found it fun and rewarding once they got into it. There are bike schemes available in several cities, if you don’t have your own bike.

Can your employer help?

Not everyone has the time to spend an extra few hours on the train, or indeed the extra cash – and neither public transport nor biking is a viable option for every single person.

Are there other ways? Some employers, although we realised they are probably rare, offer extra days of vacation to allow employees to travel to their home country in a more environmentally-friendly way, for example by train. Or can you ask your employer for a salary bonus if you cycle to work, or use public transport, instead of driving? The answer may be no, but it’s always worth asking.

Two people cycling through Gothenburg, Sweden. Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se

Work from home

While working from home has not been possible for everyone during the pandemic, for some workers and businesses it has opened up a whole new approach to the work day.

Even if it was difficult from the start, perhaps you and your company have even adapted to home working so much by now that you may want to continue. Video meetings may help you stay in touch with colleagues and avoid that daily commute at the same time.

Of course, being present in the office has its benefits too, not just in terms of work efficiency but also your own mental health, if home working gets too lonely for you – perhaps a work-from-home-and-occasionally-office hybrid option would work best for you.

Eat less meat

Livestock production is one of several major sources of methane emissions, which according to the IPCC’s latest report have contributed significantly to global warming. Cutting down on your meat consumption is an easy way of reducing your own carbon footprint. 

It doesn’t have to be boring! Many readers found that changing their food habits had given them an opportunity to try out new cuisines, and several Indian readers got in touch to recommend the variety of vegetarian food in recipes from their home country.

Cut down on your waste

Whether you’re a meat eater, vegan or something in between, being more mindful about your food consumption is a way of reducing your personal impact on climate change.

Think about what works best for you. One reader recommended doing a larger grocery run that will keep you going for a week or two to save fuel. Another suggested the opposite: go grocery shopping more often to avoid the risk of food items being left in the fridge because they’ve gone bad or you’re no longer in the mood for them.

In any case, try not to let food go to waste. You could pick one or two days a week when you make a meal consisting entirely of leftovers or food close to its shelf life. Slightly lifeless vegetables can still be frozen and tossed into a soup or a stew at a later stage.

Or, failing that, compost what you have to throw out.

What would your grandma do?

Finally, are there any “old” tips from your home country that could be revamped and used today? Many of our grandparents in fact lived more sustainably than we do today. Can you mend your clothes instead of throwing them away and buying new ones?

One reader in Sweden suggesting adapting sustainable customs you remember from your home country to your new situation. They said: “For example: in India, we try to dry clothes outside instead of using the dryer. As it is usually very dry in winters in Swedish apartments, you can dry clothes effectively by keeping them near the radiator.”

Member comments

  1. Until the elephant in the room of population growth is addressed, drying your clothes on the radiator, or even a few electric cars is a waste of time…
    Each person born is a lifetime’s consumption, and a child born in a rich country is more so.
    Educating women around the world seems to reduce the birth rate, which is what is really needed to reduce emissions and human encroachment on the natural world.
    An ageing population is a problem for one generation, but pensions are a luxury only afforded to a few rich countries anyhow.
    And do the unborn future generations have a moral right to be born if exponential birth rates will cause poverty, despair and damage to natural diversity?
    Anyhow, evolution doesn’t care… if humans destroy themselves, another creature will take over – and my bet is on crows. They seem to survive everywhere!

    1. Thank you. I have been saying this for decades, but it means lots of people must stop having kids, and there don’t seem to be enough who are willing. Even lots of highly educated women choose cognitive dissonance instead. And now the Italian government wants to raise the birth rate! Are they nuts?

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CLIMATE CRISIS

EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

From deadly wildfires to catastrophic floods, Europe is seeing the impact of the climate crisis with episodes of extreme weather only likely to increase in the coming years as average temperatures rise.

EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

Europe endured record extreme weather in 2021, from the hottest day and the warmest summer to deadly wildfires and
flooding, the European Union’s climate monitoring service reported Friday.

While Earth’s surface was nearly 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels last year, Europe saw an average increase of more than two degrees, a threshold beyond which dangerous extreme weather events become
more likely and intense, the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said.

The warmest summer on record featured a heatwave along the Mediterranean rim lasting weeks and the hottest day ever registered in Europe, a blistering 48.8C (120 degrees Fahrenheit) in Italy’s Sicily.

In Greece, high temperatures fuelled deadly wildfires described by the prime minister as the country’s “greatest ecological disaster in decades”.

Forests and homes across more than 8,000 square kilometres (3,000 square miles) were burned to the ground.

Front loaders work to move branches and uprooted trees near a bridge over the Ahr river in Insul, Ahrweiler district, western Germany, on July 28, 2021, weeks after heavy rain and floods caused major damage in the Ahr region. – At least 180 people died when severe floods pummelled western Germany over two days in mid-July, raising questions about whether enough was done to warn residents ahead of time. (Photo by Sascha Schuermann / AFP)

A slow-moving, low-pressure system over Germany, meanwhile, broke the record in mid-July for the most rain dumped in a single day.

The downpour was nourished by another unprecedented weather extreme, surface water temperatures over part of the Baltic Sea more than 5C above average.

Flooding in Germany and Belgium caused by the heavy rain — made far more likely by climate change, according to peer-reviewed studies — killed scores and caused billions of euros in damage.

As the climate continues to warm, flooding on this scale will become more frequent, the EU climate monitor has warned.

“2021 was a year of extremes including the hottest summer in Europe, heatwaves in the Mediterranean, flooding and wind droughts in western Europe,” C3S director Carlo Buontempo said in a statement.

“This shows that the understanding of weather and climate extremes is becoming increasingly relevant for key sectors of society.”     

A picture taken on July 15, 2021 shows damaged cars on a flooded street in the Belgian city of Verviers, after heavy rains and floods lashed western Europe, killing at least two people in Belgium. (Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP)

‘Running out of time’

The annual report, in its fifth edition, also detailed weather extremes in the Arctic, which has warmed 3C above the 19th-century benchmark — nearly three times the global average.

Carbon emissions from Arctic wildfires, mostly in eastern Siberia, topped 16 million tonnes of CO2, roughly equivalent to the total annual carbon pollution of Bolivia.

Greenland’s ice sheet — which along with the West Antarctic ice sheet has become the main driver of sea level rise — shed some 400 billion tonnes in mass in 2021.

The pace at which the world’s ice sheets are disintegrating has accelerated more than three-fold in the last 30 years.

“Scientific experts like the IPCC have warned us we are running out of time to limit global warming to 1.5C,” said Mauro Facchini, head of Earth observation at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space, referring to the UN’s science advisory panel.

“This report stresses the urgent necessity to act as climate-related extreme events are already occurring.”

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