Campaigns Climate Sustainability

Make 2020 Your Year for Low-Impact Living

Low -impact living 2020: a reusable bamboo coffee cup on a wooden bench.

We’re in a climate emergency. The Earth is dangerously close to its tipping point in terms of being able to come back from the damage humans are causing to our ecosystems. The devastating bushfires in Australia are merely a taste of what countries may face in the coming decades if we don’t take steps to lessen the damage we are causing to the planet.

The climate emergency is a borderless issue – its effects will not be limited to the countries that don’t take it seriously. Global efforts are necessary to combat this global problem, and change needs to happen at every level. Countries need to be working together, governments need to be putting policies in place for their own countries, businesses need to commit to sustainability, and individuals need to make changes to their lifestyle to lessen their impact on the planet.

We’re starting at the bottom, with a campaign to get as many people as possible trying low-impact living in 2020.

What is low-impact living?

A low-impact lifestyle, or low-impact living, is pretty much what it says on the tin. You try to reduce the impact your lifestyle has on the environment. It’s fundamentally “reduce, reuse, recycle”.

Reduce what you take from the environment and the waste you produce.

Reuse as much as possible

Recycle what you can’t use any more.

Nobody lives a completely impact-free life, and nobody should expect perfection. But your lifestyle choices may have more of an impact on the environment than you realise. You can check your personal environmental footprint here.

Why do I personally need to try low-impact living?

Low-impact living shouldn't cost the Earth - and it might save you money in the long run.
Low-impact living shouldn’t cost the Earth – and it might save you money in the long run.

The UK government has committed to reducing emissions by at least 100% of 1990 levels by 2050, and to limit global temperature rise to as little as possible above 2°C. To do this, they’ve set 5-year carbon budgets that will run until 2032. Currently, we’re in the third budget, which runs from 2018-2022.

We’re doing OK at the moment. We’ve hit both our previous budgets and we’re likely to beat our target in this one. But we’re not going to hit the fourth target if we don’t make some major changes. The government has not put enough firm policies in place to reduce carbon emissions. Many of these policies involve changing the way individuals live their lives to reduce their impact on the environment. Everybody needs to get involved if we’re to have any hope of meeting our emissions targets.

We’re going to take a massive hit to our way of life if we don’t take more action now. The wildfires we’ve seen in recent years are just a fraction of what we can expect. More weather events like extended droughts will reduce the availability of food. Rising sea levels will flood low-lying coastal areas, forcing communities to surge inland. Sure, in the short term areas like the UK may see higher yields of food crops – but we don’t have the capacity to feed the parts of the world that would have been producing food had we not fried the Earth. And that period of productivity won’t last forever.

But you know all this. The question is: are you prepared to do something about it?

So how do I go low-impact?

Low-impact living might be as simple as changing the type of soap you use.
Low-impact living might be as simple as changing the type of soap you use.

It doesn’t have to be much to start with. Cut down on your plastic use, eat those leftovers instead of heading out for a meal, walk or take public transport rather than drive if you can. Nobody lives a truly impact-free lifestyle and it’s better to make small changes where you can than not doing anything at all.

The goal with low-impact living is to reach a circular economy:

Not depleting finite resources.

Recycling products at the end of their life cycle rather than throwing them away.

Extending the lives of those products to reduce the amount of energy needed to process them.

Most of the things that we can do to achieve low-impact living are easy enough, and come with the added bonus of saving you money in the long term. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Buy your produce loose and take a reusable shopping bag with you. Less packaging means less plastic to throw away. You can also choose exactly how much of something to buy if you can get it loose.
  • Switch to bar soap over liquid soap. Bar soaps use far less packaging and waste far less product per use than liquid soaps. They aren’t always as convenient, but they last longer and smell just as good!
  • Ditch the single-use bathroom products. Makeup wipes and cotton pads for skincare products are things you might use every day. You can get reusable cloths and use your hands to apply your skincare and you’ll cut down on waste in a big way. If you’re prepared to take the extra step, reusable menstrual products are widely available and easy to use.
  • Buy your electronics secondhand. Got your eye on a new phone? Check sites like eBay and Gumtree to see if there’s one on there – all too often people buy one new, don’t like it and sell it on at a hefty discount. It’s true you won’t get to pay it off monthly, but you’ll pay less than full price and your contract will be cheaper if it’s SIM-only. Plus, you’ll save one perfectly usable device from ending up in landfill and avoid the extra packaging you’d be dealing with buying it new.
  • Own a reusable cup – and use it. Single-use plastics and paper are everywhere. And while paper cups actually have a lower carbon footprint than ceramic mugs or reusable cups on a per-use basis, they still create waste that goes into landfill or takes energy to recycle. You need to use a reusable plastic or metal cup 20 times before it becomes more environmentally friendly than a paper cup – but we’d guess students will have reached that number of coffees by about Wednesday of every week anyway.
  • Switch to an eco-friendly search engine like Ecosia. We’ve posted before about Ecosia, and we’re going to keep plugging them because of the reforestation work they do. The campaign Royal Holloway on Ecosia has more information in case you need persuading.
  • Take public transport where you can, or walk. Public transport is better than cars, Walking or cycling is better than public transport. Some places may not have the best infrastructure in place for getting around in not-a-car, but if it’s available to you, use it. Oh, and take the train for long-distance domestic travel instead of an internal flight. Please.
Low-impact living: take public transport where you can.

We’ll be posting regularly about how you can change your lifestyle to reduce your impact on the Earth, so keep an eye out. And let us know your favourite ways to go low-impact in the comments below, on Facebook, or Twitter!

Climate Events Royal Holloway

Event: Taking Action

When: 7-8.30pm, Wednesday 12 February 2020

Where: Boilerhouse Auditorium, Royal Holloway, University of London

The second of RHUL Climate Action’s seminars on the climate emergency, this one focuses on the practicalities of tackling climate change. From grassroots direct action to academic and institutional transformation – what is required to transition to a sustainable world? With speakers from Extinction Rebellion, the Planetary Health Alliance and the Citizens Climate Lobby.

View the event on Facebook here.

Climate Events Royal Holloway

Event: Climate Crisis 101

When: 7-8.30pm, Wednesday 5 February 2020

Where: Boilerhouse Auditorium, Royal Holloway University of London

RHUL Climate Action are holding the first of their seminar sessions on the climate emergency. An introduction to the issue, it’s everything you need to know about the biggest threat of the 21st Century.

Reserve your seat here – tickets are free! You can also check out the event on Facebook and let them know you’re going.


Searching on Ecosia Today Will Plant Trees in Australia

The world has been devastated by the news of the recent Australian wildfires. The fires this year are much, much worse than in previous years and this is due to human-induced climate change.

Ecosia are using revenue from 100% of searches made on their engine today to go towards reforestation of an area in New South Wales. More details on the project can be found here. It takes less than a minute to switch to using Ecosia as a search engine, so if you’ve been considering switching today’s the day.

Remember, Royal Holloway students and staff should use this link to download Ecosia – this will count towards the Royal Holloway on Ecosia campaign and help keep track of how many trees Royal Holloway searches have helped to fund.

Get searching!

Events Planetary Health Alliance

InVIVO Planetary Health Meeting 2020

How does a low-carbon trip to Amsterdam to get involved with all things Planetary Health sound?

The 9th annual InVIVO Planetary Health Meeting will take place in Amsterdam from 18-20 June 2020. Pre-conference workshops will run from the 17th, and the Meeting is followed by a Public Planetary Health Festival from 19-21 June.

As the coordinating institution for Planetary Health Northern Europe, Royal Holloway is organising a group of students to attend the conference. Places are limited, so get in touch with us via email ASAP if you’d like to go!

RHUL students will have their travel, accommodation, and conference fees covered by travel grants (requires application). We’re aiming for this to be as environmentally low-impact as possible, so we’ll travel out by either train or minibus and will be staying at a campsite close to Amsterdam’s city centre.

We will be coordinating with students from other universities around the UK as well, so don’t worry if you’re not an RHUL student – get in touch anyway.

If you’re interested in sustainability, climate change, and the global impact humans are having this is an event you don’t want to miss!

Planetary Health Alliance Royal Holloway

Announcing the Launch of the Planetary Health Alliance Regional Hubs: Northern Europe

This week at Royal Holloway is packed with activities and talks focused around sustainability (you can find them on our Events page). As part of the College’s commitment to improving sustainability and reducing its impact on the environment, we’re pleased to announce the launch of the Planetary Health Alliance North European Hub.

The hub is coordinated by Dr Jennifer Cole, research fellow in the Department of Geography. She specialises in biological anthropology; specifically how humans influence and adapt to changing environmental conditions, especially those changes caused by humans. She’s written a brief outline of the hub’s aims and scope below.

The Planetary Health Northern Europe regional hub focuses on bringing social science into the Planetary Health field, focusing on PESTLE/STEEPLE (political, economic, social, technical, legal and ethical) approaches to addressing challenges and implementing solutions, recognising that successful implementation will be context specific. 

The hub’s activities include: hosting workshops, seminars, and meetings focusing on the role of social action in transforming societies; organizing and leading social action on environmental and health issues; influencing policy; building public awareness of planetary health challenges and solutions; and developing educational curricula and learning resources. Active student networks are developing youth engagement and leadership. The hub aims to act as a centre of networking opportunities across Europe and with partners from across the world.

– Dr Jennifer Cole, Planetary Health Northern Europe Coordinator
Dr Jennifer Cole

Email the hub at to join the mailing list, get involved, or to find out more information about the Planetary Health Alliance in Northern Europe.

Royal Holloway Sustainability

Ecosia: Save the Planet While You Search

This article is a guest post written by Rhiannon Morey, founder of Royal Holloway on Ecosia. Download Ecosia using this link to support the Royal Holloway on Ecosia campaign.

In case you haven’t heard of Royal Holloway on Ecosia…

We are a group of five first year students aiming to promote Ecosia – a search engine that plants trees. We want to inspire Royal Holloway, University of London to make environmentally friendly changes on campus, starting with setting Ecosia as the default search engine.

I first heard of Ecosia in 2018 whilst on holiday in Germany and I have been an avid user ever since. The more I read about the company, the more I was impressed at how much good they do on huge scales around the world, as well as offering individual benefits for the user. When I started at University, I knew it was something I wanted to bring to campus. Four other students joined me and Royal Holloway on Ecosia launched on 18th November 2019. The difference we can make could be huge if the 10,000 students and over 1,500 staff at Royal Holloway used Ecosia every day!

We are part of the officially recognised Ecosia on Campus campaign. It originally started with just 3 students at Sussex University but has now spread around the world with campaigners in Spain, France, America and Brazil, just to name a few. At the end of 2019, campaigners managed to finance the planting of over 85,000 trees! This is an incredible figure illustrating how much environmental impact students can have when working together. Here at Royal Holloway, we are so proud to be part of this international community.

The Royal Holloway on Ecosia team, on the steps of the Founder's Building at Royal Holloway, University of London.
The Royal Holloway on Ecosia campaign team

What is Ecosia, we hear you ask…

Like Google, Ecosia is a search engine that makes its money through advertisements. But instead of being a for-profit business, Ecosia donates 80% of its surplus income to tree planting projects across the globe. They have planted over 80 million trees so far and we want Royal Holloway to contribute to its goal of 1 billion trees!

The benefits of this search engine reach far beyond the environmental aspect, supporting livelihoods, habitats and restoring landscapes amongst others. For instance, Ecosia’s servers are running from their own solar energy plant meaning that Ecosia is carbon-neutral (something many companies could only dream of achieving). Not only does Ecosia use renewable energy, the planting of trees helps to remove 1 kg of CO2 from the air. Incredibly, this means that Ecosia is an almost unheard-of carbon-negative search engine. On average, trees will each remove 50 kg of CO2 during an expected 15-year lifetime. With a tree planted every second at Ecosia, the search engine could absorb 15% of all global CO2 emissions if it was as big as Google which is enough to offset vehicle emissions worldwide! What a difference that would make to the current climate crisis!

There is also a tree counter on the right side of your browser allowing users to track the number of trees you personally have contributed to.

Ecosia runs tree-planting projects where they're needed most.

As well as using profits to plant trees, the company constantly strive to help their users make environmentally friendly choices in their daily lives. One of the ways they do this is by placing a green leaf icon next to websites that are eco-friendly like those that sell sustainable products.

Last Summer, Ecosia launched their travel service (in partnership with HotelsCombined). Ecosia plants 25 trees each time a holiday is booked! To use this service, just enter “hotel” in the search bar or directly access Ecosia Travel via the “more” button on their search results page.

Ecosia also has an online shop selling t-shirts and hoodies all made with organic cotton. Each one sold plants 20 trees!

Berlin based founder of Ecosia, Christian Kroll has also made a legal commitment to protect the future of the company, ensuring that shares can’t be sold at a profit nor owned by people outside of the company and that no profits can be taken.

Ecosia is also completely financially transparent, publishing monthly financial reports so users can see exactly how and where profits are being spent. Along with this, users can stay updated on tree planting projects in areas such as Burkina Faso, Peru and Madagascar (mainly biodiversity hotspots) through regular video and blog updates so you can see for yourselves the good they achieve. Ecosia also protects your privacy. They don’t sell your data to advertisers, have no 3rd party trackers and anonymize all data within a week. What more could you want from a search engine?

Here are just some of the ways trees benefit our world…

  • The most powerful CO2 absorbers are trees
  • Trees help mitigate climate change
  • Water cycles can be restored by trees
  • Trees stop the spread of deserts
  • Barren land is transformed back into productive forests and farmland by tree planting
  • Trees grow fresh produce
  • Trees help shape landscapes and build up deforested areas
  • The strong roots can stabilize shorelines and mountain sides
  • Trees help restore degraded lands and allow people to flourish off their land instead of moving in search of better living conditions
  • Trees provide us with clean oxygen
  • Local men and women are able to find stable jobs and earn their own income to help stabilize political and economic conditions in developing countries. As a result of this money, parents can afford to send their children to school, buy medicine and build houses
  • Trees provide a habitat for endangered animal species around the world, supporting biodiversity

How Royal Holloway can help…

As a campaign, we will endeavor to spread the word about Ecosia and try to persuade the University to make the switch by setting Ecosia as the default search engine on campus.

While the business is truly remarkable, they can only make a difference because of people like you. The good news is that by just searching the internet, you can actually help the environment from the comfort of your own home for free! Use our campaign’s unique URL to download Ecosia TODAY on your devices here. This URL allows our team to track the number of trees planted by our University and we look forward to seeing the number of trees grow!

Like our Facebook page and follow our Instagram for updates on events and for more information about Ecosia.

Please tell all your friends and family about this initiative – with the help and support of everyone at Royal Holloway, we can make it the default search engine. Show our University that its students care about the future of our planet.

The urgency of the climate crisis is something that cannot be ignored. This is something tangible that we can do to make a difference, as individuals and as a University.

Thank you and Happy Tree Planting!

Royal Holloway on Ecosia official campaign logo
Events Planetary Health Alliance

Event: Social Science for Planetary Health

Interested in this event but can’t attend in person? Watch the livestream here. The session will begin at 15.00 GMT, Friday 24 January 2020.

To launch the Planetary Health Alliance’s new Regional Hubs there will be a panel discussion on Friday 24th January 2020, hosted by Royal Holloway. The theme is Social Action for Planetary Health, and the panel will discuss the importance of social science in addressing the challenges we face from environmental change and what will be required to enact the societal transformation needed to safeguard Earth through the 21st century.

Panellists include leading academics and student activists from several universities, and the Chair is Dr Jennifer Cole, the Coordinator for the North European Hub. Come along to the Shilling Auditorium at Royal Holloway’s Egham campus to be part of the discussion.