19 / 11 / 2021
The climate emergency - what we can do to help!
This blog is written by Issy Walker, Zoology BSc student at the University of Reading, currently on a placement year at Bristol Zoological Society studying Field Conservation Science. 

The climate emergency is more prevalent in the news and our ecosystems than ever before. The recent COP26 meeting in Glasgow has brought the world’s leaders together to deliberate and accelerate action towards the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, and other climate action by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Increases in greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere, leading to rising global temperatures. This is caused by burning fossil fuels for energy in higher quantities to meet demands for flights and cars, and the release of gases like methane, for example through beef production, which also reduces the absorption of carbon dioxide through large-scale forest loss for growing animal feed. As a result of all this, greenhouse gas production is surging. A recent UN report found the richest 1% of the world’s population account for 15% of annual emissions, demonstrating the huge effect that consumption has on the planet.

It is vital that we as individuals play our part in making better choices to safeguard our planet, as collective change is a powerful force for improvement. For Bristol Zoological Society, working to decrease our contribution to climate change is imperative to conserving biodiversity and landscapes. This is because rapid changes in habitat and fluctuations in climate can have devastating effects on species populations worldwide, as they cannot adapt at the same rate.

So, what is Bristol Zoological Soceity doing to help? We are committed to preserving biodiversity and environments and have created our own Sustainability Plan, with the goal of becoming net zero by 2030. This means the Society would be carbon neutral, alongside further aims to reduce consumption of water and waste production. We are also a member of British & Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (BIAZA) Environmental Impact and Sustainability Working Group as well as Bristol’s Climate Leaders group. These provide forums to discuss and develop a framework to work in the most environmentally sustainable way possible, while maintaining the highest standards in welfare for our animals.

In addition, our colleague-led Sustainability Working Group has regular meetings to discuss both small and large differences that we can make. This includes everything from planning the practical steps we need to take to achieve our sustainability targets and putting them into action, to using sustainable and environmentally friendly substitutes for resources such as paper, tea, coffee, and cleaning supplies.

These are small changes that you can also make within your home and day-to-day routine to move toward more sustainable living which can preserve the future of our planet and its wildlife. Some pro-environmental actions are more costly than others, such as installing renewable infrastructure, but others, such as moving to a renewable energy tariff, may even save you money. Here are some things that we are doing that you can do too:

· Switching to a renewable energy tariff. 

· Using cycling, public transport or walking to get about as opposed to a car. 

· Travelling more sustainably. 

· Reducing plastic consumption, and recycling waste responsibly.

· Reducing paper usage and using recycled paper where possible. 

· Having a compost pile for food waste.

· Purchasing reusable alternatives to single-use items which are disposable (e.g. using your own flask at a coffee shop, or purchasing a reusable water bottle).

· Changing to LED lightbulbs to save energy.

· Switching to electric or hybrid vehicles.

· Installing solar panels to create your own electricity.

It is also important to recognise that not all these changes are an option for everyone. When faced with our current climate emergency, it is not a time to strive for perfection but to increase awareness and improve what is realistic and sustainable for each of us. By making small changes, together we can take care of the natural world for a brighter, greener future.

Links to further resources:

The Paris Agreement (UNFCC, 2015): 

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: 

The UN report on consumption: 

Information on choosing a renewable energy tariff: 

Information on more environmentally friendly local transport: 

Advice on travelling more sustainably: 

Information on why incorrect recycling is harmful: 

The Eden Project’s tips on making a compost heap: 

Information on electric car purchases, grants, and help to buy schemes: 

Information on generating your own electricity at home and the government’s feed-in tariffs: 

Are you interested in studying with Bristol Zoological Society? You can find out more about our higher education opportunities on the Bristol Zoo website.

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