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In my backyard: How can I help the environment?

Updated Monday, 31st July 2006

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

This page was published over 16 years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see how we deal with older content.

Computers dumped in a skip

  1. 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?
  2. 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. To find the nearest one to you, put your postcode into the Recycle Now website. For more on recycling, have a look at the Waste Watch website.
    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.
  3. Supermarkets
    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.
  4. 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. You can use the Association of Charity Shops' website to find charity shops in your postcode area.
  5. 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. You can find out how to get one started by going to the Composting Association website where Alan Titchmarsh has a guide on how to get started. Local Authorities can also provide advice on composting and some sell composting bins.
  6. 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.
  7. Get browsing
    If you want to know more about recycling and doing your bit for the environment here are some great sites to visit:
  8. Save energy
    You can find simple energy saving tips, money saving ideas and a directory of energy efficient products at the Energy Saving Trust website.
    Get a Home Energy Check from your local Energy Efficiency Advice Centre, call free on 0800 512 012.
    For articles on choosing energy options visit the energy section on the Choices website.
    Children will enjoy this interactive site:
  9. Food
    If you are interested in an organic lifestyle contact the Soil Association.
    Learn more about seasonal food at's Food section.
    Sustain is the alliance for better food and farming.
  10. Transport
    Environmental Information Exchange tells you about cleaner fuels and grants to convert your car.
  11. Climate change
    Get involved in monitoring climate change with the UK Phenology Network.
    And have a look at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website.
  12. Protect the Environment
    Measure your environmental impact and how to cut it with our Postcards from the future interactive.
    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 an other quality of life measures.
    In Scotland contact the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
    In Northern Ireland contact the Environment and Heritage Service.
  13. Join in
    There are a number of groups actively campaigning to improve our environment. Here are a selection.
    • Friends of the Earth is the largest international network of environmental groups in the world, with over 200 campaigning groups in the UK.
    • Greenpeace exposes global environmental problems, their causes and solutions
    • RSPB is Europe’s largest wildlife conservation charity and campaigns on a range of local and global issues.
    • The National Trust is developing its environmental and conservation work.
    • WWF campaigns to save endangered species and protect our natural environment.

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