Building A Better Future With Earth By Helena

by Helena Bennett

earthbyhelena is a Climate and Human rights activist, public speaker and environmental columnist. 

We caught up with Helena in line with our April theme of Environmentalism to gain a deeper understanding of how fossil fuels are impacting the environment around us and what we can do as consumers to phase this out. 

Fossil fuels are everywhere.

They are part of everything we do. They’re in the clothes we wear, they package the food we eat, they’re even in the air we breathe.

Our use of oil gas and coal in daily life has permeated so deeply that turning the tap off today wouldn’t be possible. So deep is our reliance on fossil fuels that we wouldn’t be able to offer medical care, distribute food, or heat our homes without them. I dream of a tomorrow without oil and gas, but tomorrow is a while away.

And while of course it is not the responsibility of you or I to remove these fossil fuels from everybody’s lives, there are things we can be doing to phase them out of our own usage, reducing our personal reliance on fossil fuels, thus reducing the wider reliance on fossil fuels.

It’s imperative to remember that we all have influence, not only over our own lives, but over the lives of people around us, without even really knowing it. So though any small, individual changes you might make might not feel as though they’re adding up to much, you are probably having more of an impact than you know. And the more people on board with living in a fossil free world, the more likely it is to become a reality sooner.

With that in mind, here are some ideas I have that you can adopt today, which can help build a better, brighter, cleaner, greener future for us all.

Conscious consumerism

Shopping sustainably might appear hard from the outside (endless hours of thrifting, eBay bidding, DIY fashion), but that is far from today’s truth. There are a plethora of brilliant brands out there today who are excluding fossil fuels not only from the clothes they make, but from their entire value chain. Whether that be locally sourced materials delivered through electric vans or plastic-free, regenerative packaging, some brands are making incredibly innovative headway, leading the charge against ingrained fossil fuel culture.

Moving your money 

Since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016, banks have invested over $3.8 trillion in fossil fuel projects globally. It’s an astonishing number. And without you realising, your money has likely gone unwittingly towards funding these investments simply because of who you bank with, and who your pension savings are with. Luckily there are a variety of banks and pension funds out there who are committed to ethically sound and morally robust investments. In fact, moving your pension can save you 21 times more carbon than going veggie, giving up flying and switching energy provider, according to MakeMyMoneyMatter - that is truly mind boggling!

Changing travel habits

Transport is the highest polluting sector in the UK, responsible for a whopping 32% of emissions, as well as contributing to poor air quality. I’m all about not making life harder, or burdening people who are struggling to make ends meet with demanding tasks to tackle the climate crisis. But if you’re privileged enough to be in a position in which you can, to an extent, choose how you travel, listen up: walking, cycling and public transport options can reduce your reliance on fossil fuels to almost nothing. Low carbon journeys are really powerful in reducing emissions from the wider transport system, and it’s a choice you can make today. Of course there are caveats to that - the train is more expensive than flying, there’s nowhere to store your bike. Government policy needs to support people to choose sustainably, but if and where you can, opt for fossil free transport.

The deep-rooted chokehold that fossil fuels have on us was born from decades of Big Oil misleading the public and diverting real, scientific fact towards non-reality. It’s no wonder removing it from the very fabric of our being is one of the biggest challenges of a generation. And while we continue to push for systemic level changes in the coming months and years, I encourage us all to continue utilising our circles of influence, however big or small, to paint a picture of a future world in which oil and gas cease to exist; taking steps to remove fossil fuels from your life today is the first step towards making that future a reality.