It’s Time to Tweak Yourself to Save the Planet

By Dawn McGregor 23 December, 2021

CWR's McGregor gives a sneak peek into CWR's upcoming report that shows how simple tweaks to our habits matter for the climate

It's easy to feel low these days with the pandemic dragging on, Omicron and a lacklustre COP26 but it's not time to wallow, instead it's time to tweak yourself
As shown in CWR's upcoming report, by making small changes ('tweaks') to our habits from transport to food and shopping to streaming, we can massively reduce emissions
2GtCO2e/ year (combined emissions of Japan & South Korea) can be saved from tweaking our habits across 8 areas; so stay tuned for the report in 1Q2022 to see what tweaks you want to make!

It’s easy to feel low these days, the pandemic is dragging on for the second year, there is the new variant, Omicron (think it’s cosmic Santa telling us we’ve been bad?) and then there is COP26, which felt like the last hope for the world to get its s*** together. Well “we” didn’t, so our climate future is dire and instead of a 1.5°C – 2°C rise in temperatures by 2100 we are on track for best case 2.4-2.7°C.

It’s easy to feel low these days but we don’t have the time for that, instead we need to tweak our habits…

But despite all that, my greatest Christmas gift to myself is not to wallow but instead do my part, which is why I will be tweaking my habits, so they are better for the climate. CWR has been working on a new report to show the climate impacts of tweaks to our everyday habits and encouragingly we have found that indeed our habits do matter for the climate, especially when enough of us change them. And as we have written about many times, what is good for the climate is usually good for water, and since we will feel most climate impacts through water (floods, droughts, storm surges etc.) we must do more.

So, the main takeaway from this article and the December newsletter is it’s not the time to wallow or to give up but instead to double down and do more, take your climate footprint into your own hands, because if we as a collective do this – which is easy with the small habit tweaks we showcase in our upcoming report – we will reduce future climate impacts.

…we can save 2GtCO2e every year if we enough of us do

Just from tweaking habits across 8 areas in life from transport to food and shopping to streaming movies, we can save 2GtCO2e every year, which is the equivalent of the 2015 GHG emissions of Japan & South Korea, combined.

A little about the report that will help tweak your habits to help save our planet

Why did we write this report? To help you, help us, make positive climate impact

Many people want to take action, to do better for the climate but maybe aren’t sure where to start – why hasn’t there been an easy guide to follow? Or if they do, can be disheartened by thinking that it doesn’t matter as they are one of 7.9 billion people on the planet and there is still so much coal, oil and gas being burned and all the other horrible stuff?  Fair enough. People want to know what they do matters, and our upcoming report shows that if enough of us make small changes to our habits we may stand a chance of staying below a 2°C rise.

And staying below 2°C matters incredibly. We need to limit the global temperature rise as much as possible – thinking “oh it’s just 0.5°C or 1°C” is absolutely the wrong mindset. A third World War may be unimaginable but the death toll from air pollution alone if our world warms by 2°C instead of 1.5°C by 2100 is estimated at 150 million people – twice the number of those who perished in World War II.

Using it as a “guide” – 8 lifestyle habit tweaks

The report can be used as a loose “guide” to help people make small habit changes or “tweaks” that can be done today. It is by no means exhaustive and while we have used science-based evidence there are still data gaps (that should be filled) and so we have had to make logical estimates.

Our upcoming report can be used as a loose “guide” to tweak your habits across 8 areas

We chose these 8 action areas as there is sufficient existing research on their impacts and they are relatively achievable. You can see the electricity action teaser below and other teasers on flying, streaming & social media and online shopping.

 Habit tweak: Watch electricity bills

Our daily electricity use at home may seem insignificant (except when the electricity bill arrives) but the lights, air conditioning, shower, washing machine, dishwasher etc. all add to the climate crisis, especially if not powered by renewables. The residential sector represents 17% of global CO2 emissions.

Daily electricity use at home may seem insignificant…

…but the residential sector = 17% of global CO2 emissions..

…can have big saves from small habit tweaks

So, what can we do? A good place to start is to change household activities that use the most electricity – we have selected using air conditioning (more relevant in Asia) and taking showers (everyone does) in the report.

Below gives you a sneak peek at how tweaking your shower habit – if you shorten your shower from six to three minutes for a year-, you can save 135kg of CO2 emissions and 5.8m³ of water – see infographic below.

And that is just one person doing it. In the report we used surveys and other available data to determine if people are willing to make these habit tweaks – and just those willing to do so in the US, Europe and China could save almost 260 million tonnes of CO2 every year, which is the equivalent to the combined emissions of the United Arab Emirates in 2015 (which is just less than a third of Germany’s emissions that year).

What we do matters – stay tuned for the report in 1Q2022!

See, what you do and what we do as a collective matter. So, stay tuned by subscribing to our newsletter and lookout for our report on 8 habits tweaks to help us stay below 2°C to be released early next year!

Further reading

  • Are You A Responsible Consumer? – With waste levels already sky high and set to grow China Water Risk’s Dawn McGregor mulls over the challenges of being a responsible consumer from fashion to food to plastic. Be it as an individual or corporate, see what action you can take
  • 8 Planet-Friendly Gifting Tips – Make this Christmas your best one yet for you but also the planet with China Water Risk’s McGregor & Thieriot’s 8 planet-friendly gift & lifestyle tips that Santa & Rudolph will approve of
  • Climate Change – Never Too Late Too Start – From YOLO to deeply concerned, CWR’s Ronald Leung, the latest CWR team addition, shares how his work at CWR has woken him up to the imminent climate risks & how Hong Kongers must act now
  • Treasure8 – Deploying Nutrition For Humanity – Hear from Treasure8 Co-CEOs Derk Hendrikson & Timothy Childs on how they are taking food waste and upcycling it into nutritious food resources for people
  • 3 People-Green-Tech Chinese Initiatives – To win its War on Pollution, China is also turning to technology to engage the public. China Water Risk’s Dawn McGregor & Yuanchao Xu share three such technologies & their success so far

More on latest

  • High Flying Carbon Emissions – Rethink Your Next Trip– With no real alternatives to decarbonise, aviation is and will remain carbon intensive. CWR’s Xu makes the case to not just pile back into planes but adjust our flying habits for the better of the climate
  • Tis The Season To Be Worried: Our Online Habits– Did you know your social media and streaming are exacerbating the climate crises? CWR’s intern Lam shines a light on how we need to change our online habits & cultivate a sustainable digital lifestyle
  • Fast & Furious: Online Shopping’s Toxic Ways – It’s so easy to hit that ‘buy’ button, especially with it being the second year of the pandemic but CWR’s Park reminds us why we need to re-think doing that with hidden toxic costs
  • Takeout Packaging – 3 Wishes For The New Year– Choking on F&B plastic packaging, Hong Kong needs to implement solutions asap. ADMCF’s Vanthournout shares key findings of their research on the most viable options
  • Will MTR Sink With The Polar Express?– Is the MTR prepared enough to avoid going underwater given rising sea levels & stronger typhoons? CWR’s Leung asks 6 questions for the railway to ponder
Dawn McGregor
Author: Dawn McGregor
Dawn leads CWR’s work to help corporates navigate increasingly disruptive & material risks from water & climate threats, as well as transitional risks in the supply chain arising from new regulations in China. Here, Dawn engages extensively with the global fashion industry delivering on-ground workshops in China to keynotes and strategic input at European HQs. She has written at length on the end of dirty and thirsty fast fashion and her report to overcome gaps between brands and manufacturers for a clean and circular future inspired the industry to create a new wastewater tool. Dawn also works closely with the property and tourism sectors where she not only conducts strategic assessments of their exposure but builds collective action toward resilience via closed door working groups and invite-only events. Having helped build CWR, Dawn is a frequent keynote, panellist & moderator at events, including being twice selected as the lead-rapporteur at World Water Week. Her articles are cited in various industry publications including the UN’s ‘World Without Water’. Dawn previously worked in a global investment bank assessing geo-political risk, crisis management and business resiliency. She was born and bred in Hong Kong and has lived in France, England, Singapore and Beijing.
Read more from Dawn McGregor →