Been feeling the heat this week? 

With the weather cooling down this weekend we will no longer have to talk to strangers on the bus to confirm with each other just how hot it really is. You have, we are sure, reached your limit of how many times you can hear “I’ve just never seen anything like it”. 

BUT GUESS WHAT. 

We’ve never seen anything like it. This week has been a heatwave reaching temperatures we have never seen in Europe. It has literally never been this hot before across much of the continent and in the UK we recorded our hottest day ever. While lots of sun starved Brits are celebrating the hotter temperatures, this heatwave is part of a scary precedent; Europe’s five hottest summers in the past 500 years have all occurred in the last 15 years - not including this summer.

There is no doubt about it, the earth is getting hotter and it’s getting hotter because of things humans are doing; the way we eat, dress, heat (or cool) our homes and get around all have an impact. 

So what should we be learning from this heatwave to keep the planet and us cool?

1) The trouble with keeping cool

Okay, so you know what the craziest thing about this heatwave is, as hot weather becomes more normal more of us are scrabbling for ways to keep ourselves cool by installing air conditioning (which of us didn’t linger in a coffee shop/office/bar yesterday just because it was cooler than our house?). But air con uses a huge amount of energy and the more aircon we install the more fossil fuels we need to burn to keep ourselves cool which will make the planet even hotter. If paradoxes like this make you want to hide in a freezer until it’s all over, we hear you, but there is something we can do today to make a difference. Switch to renewable energy sources and increased demand globally for more sustainable energy and the end of burning fossil fuels. It’s easy, it might save you money and you’ll be saving the planet.

2) Green spaces are good for the earth - who knew?

Urban green spaces have declined by about 7% in England in recent years which is a problem because green spaces are great for keeping cities cool. As record-breaking temperatures and heatwaves become the new normal, urban green areas play a critical role in cooling cities. Open soils in parks, on lawns, in cemeteries and urban gardens, as well as green roofs, rooftop rain gardens or green walls, help buffer heat. In fact, studies comparing green sites with non-green sites found that on average temperatures were 0.94°C lower in green spaces during the day and 1.15°C lower during the night.

As well as reducing the urban heat island effect which is caused by concrete and tarmac retaining heat, trees capture carbon helping to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases in the first place. Planting more trees and green patches = happier, healthier, cooler cities. Pass the shovel, it’s time to get growing.

3) Eating and heating

What we eat is a big deal for the planet and it’s not just a meaty issue... we also need to think about where our food comes from, how it’s grown, how it gets to us and what we do with it. Importing thirsty vegetables that need lots of water to grow like cucumbers and tomatoes from foreign climbs, isn’t a more sustainable alternative to meat. It’s time to start thinking about how your whole plate can be sustainable and get clued up on how to eat a climate friendly diet.

We can also make a big difference just by making the most of the food we have, with better planning of what we need, storing of food and getting creative with cooking odds and ends to reduce waste. On average a third of the food we buy gets thrown away and that’s not just the food, but the energy, water and miles it’s taken to get it to us in the first place.

4) Water, water everywhere?

We think of water as a natural resource that will never disappear and in Britain we are used to an abundance of clean, cheap water that flows straight into our homes. But drought is a serious problem across huge parts of the world, and it’s becoming an increasing risk for us with parts of London receiving less rainfall on average than Barcelona! Water conservation can’t just happen when there is a problem, we need to start thinking about the water we use and how we can be more efficient before we end up in drought.

5) Our wardrobes and the climate

The last thing you want to wear in a heatwave is plastic...but why are we wearing it for the rest of the year. Synthetic materials like polyester make up most of the clothes that we own and they release tiny bits of plastic called microfibres which are bad news for the oceans and us. That isn’t to say going out and buying a whole new wardrobe of cotton staples will solve the problem. Cotton, like most things, comes with its own issues as it needs so much water to produce and there is a wider problem of us just buying too much stuff in the first place. Our advice? Buy less, when you do buy something, choose it wisely, look after it as best you can and love it for as long as possible. 

There are loads more things we can do this year to protect the planet and ourselves, but first up we need to climb out of the freezer, the basement or the sand where we have been burying our heads, get in the know and take action. Start by subscribing to our YouTube channel to be the first to receive our latest videos and tips.

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