New Year, New You: How much change can one person really make?

As the new year rolled around, many of us would have been reflecting upon the past year and setting intentions for the year ahead. A lot can change in a year and reflection can help us understand where our priorities now lay for 2020, helping us set new year's resolutions that align with our values.

Given the spotlight that climate change has had in the past year in the news, it would be unsurprising that many of us would have set eco New Year’s resolutions. However, this can also be quite a daunting aspect, with many people reporting feelings of ‘climate anxiety’, it’s easy to wonder how much change can one person really make?

We get it, we feel it too! Reading the news can easily evoke feelings of hopelessness. So it is important to strike a balance between staying informed and looking after your mental health. Therefore, we wanted to take this opportunity at the start of a new decade to showcase some environmental movers-and-shakers. They began just like you and me, only they believed they as an individual could make a difference and didn’t stop until they did. To round off the blog post we’ve put in a collection of our own empowering tips to help you feel like you’re taking steps towards your environmentally friendly new year's resolutions!

Greta Thunberg, Teen Activist:

Greta Thunberg, of course. The 16-year-old who has taken the world by storm inspired thousands of people and advised the world on climate change through her speeches at the UN and COPs. Thunberg has a humble but inspiring story. Shaken by a lesson at school on climate change when she was 11 years old, she fell into a deep depression. She couldn’t understand how the world didn’t prioritise a crisis like the one we are facing. But with the help of environmental lifestyle changes taken by her family, her hopelessness transformed into action, fuelled by anger. In 2018, Greta sat for the first time outside the Swedish parliament. The school and her parents had advised against the protest, worried about her missing out on her education but Greta was determined. Without any formal backing or even anybody to keep her company that day, she peacefully protested. The next day, someone else joined, and then another… eventually leading to the Schools Strike to Climate (a.k.a Fridays for Future) which is now a global movement.

This is only a snippet of Greta’s inspiring journey, for the whole story - so far! - check out Time’s Person of the Year article

Greta protest


Polly Higgins, “The Earth Lawyer” (1968-2019):

Polly Higgins, who died earlier this year, has dedicated the majority of her career as a lawyer campaigning for the implementation of “ecocide” as an international crime. Originally specialising in corporate and employment law, Higgins risked her successful career in court to defend one client, the Earth. Drawing from her professional experience and working with various lawyers, experts and judges, she created a proposal for ecocide which she presented to the United Nations in 2010. Ecocide would be an internationally recognised crime that would hold corporations and countries responsible for crimes against the Earth. This could be in the form of dangerous industrial activity or literal damage or destruction of ecosystems through projects such as the Athabasca Tar Sands.

Higgins could have continued her thriving career path conventionally, but instead she took something she was passionate about and combined it with her skillset and the community she had around her. On a personal achievement, this led to her being awarded ‘One of the world’s top ten visionary thinkers’ by the Ecologist Magazine. On a global achievement, she has captured the intellectual imagination of many who wish for a better future, where we all work together to protect the planet and are held accountable if we don’t - a future that Higgins’ team still campaign tirelessly for.



Natalie Fee, City to Sea founder:

Natalie Fee is the founder of the award-winning not-for-profit organisation City to Sea. The organisation focuses on tackling single-use plastic, most commonly found in the seas and on the coastline. City to Sea has been the brains and passion behind some of the most successful environmental campaigns over the last few years. These include #SwitchTheStick which persuaded all the UK retailers to switch from plastic to paper cotton buds, and Refill, an app that tells people where they can refill their water bottles in shops for free in a bid to reduce single-use plastic - something we at FourState are proud to be a part of.

Before City to Sea, Fee was a single mum surviving on benefits. It would be understandable that many people in her position would have left environmental campaigning to somebody else. Yet her drive and her passion propelled her forward to get something done, anything. It started with local beach cleans, pub meetings and now has grown into an award-winning organisation.

For a more in-depth interview of Natalie’s story, go to positivenews - it’s an inspiring read!

City to sea logo

You, the reader:

Hopefully so far from this article you’ve seen that change really does start with one person. One person who is passionate and determined enough to say enough is enough. How do their stories relate to yours, are you really that different?

What is obvious from all three stories is that these people marry their unique skills and talents with their passions, and that’s what makes them so successful. By realising what we, ourselves, can offer the world, we recognise the power of the individual to make a difference. So what passions and skills do you bring to the world? How can you combine this with your desire for environmental change? Who around you could help? It starts off small at first, but a little passion goes a long way.

Everyday practicalities:

Making a difference also doesn’t have to mean starting a campaign, striking or taking on the big co-operations! The power also lays with the choices you and your household make every day. Here are a view practicalities that although small, are mighty in their effect.

  • Avoiding palm oil: palm oil is found in household items, food products and toiletries. The production of this oil, which is the biggest cause of deforestation in Asia, releases staggering amounts of co2 whilst contributing to the loss of animal habitats - making orangutans critically endangered. Although in many products, it is easy to stop funding these practices as we are so lucky to have many other options in supermarkets (or your local grocers!) that do not contain unsustainable palm oil. Next time you do your food shop, opt for one of those instead!

  • Eating less meat: it’s nobody's favourite topic of conversation, but it is a topic that cannot be avoided when talking about environmentally friendly habits. Researchers on the topic suggest that a plant-based diet is the biggest way to reduce your environmental impact. This is because it is not only the CO2 emissions from meat production that are harmful to the Earth but also the masses of land and water needed in the process, the deforestation and illegal logging involved, as well as the resulting pollution of the local environment. If you do choose to include meat in your diet, the best you can buy for the environment is grass-fed and as local as possible.

  • Opting for refills: extend the life of plastic or other containers as much as possible by opting for food, shampoo and cleaning product refills! Not only are you producing less waste, but you’re also helping combat the masses of co2 in the production of plastic itself.
    At FourState Marlow we have refills for all your cleaning needs. Wahoo!

  • Writing emails to your local council with ideas and suggestions for a more sustainable town. Marlow has a sustainable initiative set up - use it! Working together to produce change is essential. For Marlow:

  • Flying less, if not at all. Flying is a fossil fuels industry which accounts for 2.5% of ALL carbon emissions, set to rise to 22% by 2050. Although this number seems low, a single round trip can increase your carbon footprint by 50%! When possible, go for alternative transport options. The Earth will thank you for it, plus you might get some beautiful views along the way.

  • Looking after YOU: you can’t help anybody or anything if you’re all burnt out! Make sure you’re taking good care of your mental health by having YOU time, taking walks in Nature and getting a good dose of positive news too!

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