10 ways to improve the environment locally

Charlotte Cassedanne 2 August 2022

Worried about the climate? Small local actions with neighbours, local businesses and politicians can make a difference. Here are 10 examples to get you started

From sharing leftover food to swapping clothes, taking part in citizen science projects to reducing traffic pollution, there’s plenty to do to help your local environment. And there are lots of national campaigns that can give you more ideas and link you up with other people and groups across the UK. For example, Great Big Green Week in September or Plastic Free July. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.

1. Count the birds and the bees

a bee hovers by a bunch of flowers on a garden table
Photo by Yasin Hoşgör

Get closer to nature by becoming a citizen scientist. You could be counting birds in your garden, butterflies, insects and flowers, or even reptiles and hedgehogs.

There are lots of citizen science projects to take part in. It’s a fun group activity, and your data can help scientists better understand the impact of human behaviour on natural habitats.

2. Go litter picking

litter pickers on a beach front
Photo by OCG Saving The Ocean 

Essential to life on earth, soil and water are some of the most important resources on our planet. By organising regular litter picks in your area, you can prevent plastics and other non-biodegradable materials from polluting the land, from hedgerows to parks, beaches to waterways.

CleanUp UK can help you find a local group and Keep Britain Tidy has a great guide on organising your own litter pick.

3. Share leftovers in a community fridge

placemat and cutlery laid out on a table
Photo by Hannah Busing

The average UK family wastes eight meals weekly, and supermarkets frequently send surplus produce to landfill sites. Community fridges are a good, local solution to avoiding food waste by redistributing leftovers for free.

Start your own or join one of the 300 community fridges in the UK. Love Food Hate Waste also has some fab resources year-round to diminish food waste.

4. Host a climate and nature discussion

local meeting
Photo by Antenna

Media headlines can be alarming when it comes to the climate and nature crisis or ignore the issues completely. Hosting a local discussion can allow space for reflection, debate, ideas and collaboration to take action on global issues at a local level.

If you’d like some inspiration, Greenpeace has a roster of speakers who can start the conversation.

5. Grow local to eat local

family growing vegetables

Planting more fruit and nut trees, edible plants and vegetables can create a local food supply and support insects. Eating locally can reduce carbon emitted by importing food from abroad.

Find out more about urban growers like the Incredible Edible network, the Orchard Project or how to plant a community garden.

6. Get involved in your local plan

a woman smiles as she cleans up her local park

Local plans set out how a borough will be developed. By engaging with your local authority, you can help influence the plan to include climate change mitigation, from improving public transport around the borough, asking for more green spaces to reduce urban heat, or improving waterways to reduce the risk of flooding.

Check out your local authority’s website for more information.

7. Set up a library of things

Library of Things man uses a drill

Internet shopping has made it too easy to buy new stuff at the click of a button. But where is it all going to end up? First it’ll clutter your house, then it’ll clutter the planet.

Setting up a library of things can encourage local people to share everything from tools to instruments, cooking gadgets to toys.

8. Swish for treasure

woman browsing a thrift store

Every second, the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of clothes is burnt or buried in landfill, according to the Ellen McArthur Foundation.

Instead of buying new clothes, try swishing—an event where clothes are swapped. Better for the purse and earth. And try not to buy any polyester or man-made fabrics. Even recycled ones are made from fossil fuels.

9. Reclaim the streets

mother and son playing with skateboard in the street

Reducing car pollution is one of the ways we can reduce CO2 emissions and improve air quality. Contact your MP to ask for a permanent parklet on your street. Or apply to close your street for kids to play on the road safely for three hours a week.

Getting more people cycling is also a great way to reduce pollution. Start a community cycle club in your area to help people gain confidence. And talk to your council about making cycling safer in your area too. Cycling UK has existing data and campaigns.

10. Start a climate emergency centre

woman writes on a whiteboard

The climate and nature crisis isn’t going away. That’s why more and more climate emergency centres are popping up in derelict shops on high streets and in shopping centres.

A climate emergency centre can be a space for events such as an exhibition on plastic waste or a workshop to learn how to make eco-cleaning products. It can also be a way to mobilise more people to influence the council and local businesses to take action.

Read more: 9 Surprising things affected by climate change

Read more: Why climate activism needs to decolonise

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter