Skip to content

Do your bit - Help the environment

Updated Tuesday 24th August 2004

Tiny steps can shrink your carbon footprint. We've some ideas.

Reducing the waste you create can ease pressure on landfill sites Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC

Think before you buy

The products we buy often have unnecessary packaging.

Do fruit and vegetables have to be bought in plastic wrapping or can you buy them loose?

Do meat and fish have to be pre-packed?

Before buying disposable plastic razors, think about buying a metal one that lasts longer.

Consider biodegradable nappies, which decompose much faster.

When you come to taking your shopping home, why not use a string or fabric bag, instead of lots of plastic ones?

So before you reach for that item on the shelf - think! Is there a better alternative?

Recycling Centres in your area

Most local authorities run recycling centres, where you can take almost anything for recycling.

Batteries, cans, electronic equipment, computers, fluorescent tubes, furniture, glass, household appliances, metals, oils, paper, glass, plastic and textiles can often be taken to recycling centres.

For more on recycling, have a look at the Waste Watch website. The telephone number is given on the site, so give them a call first to make sure that your local site takes the items you wish to recycle.

The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee is the leading national local authority organisation promoting waste reduction and recycling. They have lots of information on recycling with links to useful sites.


There are often bottle banks and recycling bins at the big supermarkets situated in the car parks. These sites sometimes also take paper and textiles, so next time you're at your supermarket, keep your eye out for them.

Inside some supermarkets there are also recycle bins for plastic bags, so rather than throwing that pile of bags in the rubbish, pop them in the recycling bin instead.

Charity Shops

You can do your bit for the environment and help others by taking your unwanted items like clothes, shoes, books, etc. to your local charity shop. The Red Cross, RSPCA, Help the Aged, Salvation Army, Cancer Research and Oxfam all have charity shops, which will take your unwanted items. The Association of Charity shops has a shop finder to locate charity shops in your postcode area.

Get Composting

You can compost your vegetable peelings, grass and all manner of things in a composting bin, which can be used to enrich your garden. The Open University has advice on how you can get involved with a Community Composting project.

Get Active

Is there something you feel strongly about which is damaging the environment in your area? Do you think recycling could be improved? Act locally.

Contact your local Councillor, MP or your newspaper to get your views heard. Most local councils can be found on the Web and will provide you with the name of your Councillor or MP.

Alternatively you can find out from your local Council Office or Local Authority Library.

Get browsing

If you want to know more about recycling and doing your bit for the environment here are some great sites to visit. Recyclemore
has more on how to reduce your waste; recycledproducts hosts a guide to products available in the UK which contain recycled materials. Hate junk mail? You can stop it by registering with the Mailing Preference Service.

The Environmental Services Association is a non-profit making trade association for companies providing waste management.

What choices do we have with waste? Explore OpenLearn's guide to waste.

Save energy

The Energy Savings Trust has much useful information on energy efficiency, cleaner fuel and solar grants.

There's more about choosing energy options in Openlearn's guide to energy.


If you are interested in an organic lifestyle discover the advice and services of the Soil Association.

Sustainweb is the alliance for better food and farming.

Here on OpenLearn, you can watch the impact your diet has on the environment.



Find out about ways even small companies can improve their transport polices at the EST Fleet project.

OpenLearn invites you to discover the difference small changes to your holiday plans can make to your trip's environmental costs.

Climate change

Get involved in monitoring climate change.

And have a look at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website.

Sustainable living

Find out more ways to balance what you take and what you give at Action for Sustainable Living

Protect the Environment

The Environment Agency is responsible for protecting and improving the environment in England and Wales. What's in Your Backyard? gives you on-line information about nearby landfill sites, river quality and industrial pollution and other quality of life measures.

In Scotland contact the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and in Northern Ireland, the Environment and Heritage Service.

Join in

There are many groups actively campaigning to improve our environment. Here is a selection:

Friends of the Earth (and Freinds of the Earth Scotland) is the largest international network of environmental groups in the world, with over 200 campaigning groups in the UK. Find out more at: or:
Greenpeace exposes global environmental problems, their causes and solutions.

The RSPB is Europe's largest wildlife conservation charity and campaigns on a range of local and global issues. Visit them at:

The National Trust is developing its environmental and conservation work.

WWF campaigns to save endangered species and protect our natural environment. Panda Passport keeps you up to date with news and campaigning information.

The BBC and the Open University is not responsible for the content of external websites; this material is provided for information only and does not constitute an endorsement for any organisations aims or methods.



For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

In my backyard: How can I help the environment? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

Nature & Environment 

In my backyard: How can I help the environment?

The environment may be a global issue, but there are many ways you can act locally. Here are a few ways in which you can ‘do your bit’ to really make a difference

Waste choices Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Nature & Environment 

Waste choices

Stephen Burnley discusses how the questions about what we do with what we no longer want are for everyone to consider - and suggests action you might take

Recycling: Putting consumers to work Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Jupiter Images article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Recycling: Putting consumers to work

The role of consumers play a vital part in waste management; Dr Katy Wheeler explores how in this article. 

China diaries: Ding Pingjun Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University video icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

China diaries: Ding Pingjun

Living in Beijing, Ding Pingjun not only works in environmental protection, she also makes documentary films. She talks about the importance of capturing how other communities live their lives when they are faced with issues, such as eco-migration

5 mins

Society, Politics & Law 

Innovation: The Environment

With global warming and climate change increasing, what can we do to tackle this problem? This album explores the economics of lowering carbon emissions and how Britain is tackling this problem, through expert analysis and opinions on carbon taxes, carbon reduction, renewable energy and environmental damage. This material forms part of The Open University course DD309 Doing economics: people, markets and policy.

30 mins
Eva's story Creative commons image Icon Balance Scales (Ethics) / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Eva's story

Explore the personal side of climate change with Eva's diary entry.

Lindela R. Ndlovu's story Creative commons image Icon Point Lobos Researcher / CC BY-NC 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

Nature & Environment 

Lindela R. Ndlovu's story

Explore the personal side of climate change with Lindela R. Ndlovu's diary entry.


Science, Maths & Technology 

Using and managing waste

Do you know what happens to the things you throw away? Sustainable management of municipal and industrial waste is essential in any society, but is particularly crucial for a future in which we face diminishing resources and a growing population. This album considers the issues that are driving the waste management industry across the EU, looking in depth at processes of recycling, landfill, incineration, obtaining energy from waste, and composting. In the bonus audio tracks Professor Andrew Porteous of The Open University explains why the case studies were chosen, and Dr Suresh Nesaratnam gives an overview of the academic context in which waste management is studied. The material forms part of The Open University course T210 Environmental control and public health.

1 hr 30 mins
Nuclear power - yes please? Creative commons image Icon JohnGreyTurner under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Nature & Environment 

Nuclear power - yes please?

Are we coming to terms with nuclear power - or is a push for reactors masking a need to reduce consumption?