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2023 in Review: 10 Sustainable Initiatives in the UK

We take a look back through 2023 at some of the sustainable initiatives that were introduced in the UK this year.

Net zero week

Whilst we have a long journey ahead, and there are many issues to tackle, 2023 has seen promising signs that we are beginning to challenge the effects of climate change on a global scale.  

In the UK and beyond, many sustainable initiatives have been set up outside the world of EVs this year that show promising improvements in our fight against climate destruction.

In this blog, we look at a few sustainable milestones from the past year, including: 

  • How rewilding projects are helping combat biodiversity loss 
  • How plastic pollution is being tackled 
  • How music events are becoming more environmentally friendly 

 

Rewilding

The problem

  • In Britain, one in six species are in danger of local extinction.  
  • In Scotland, there has been a strong decrease in plant and lichen distribution. Since 1970 in Scotland, the distributions of 47% of flowering plants and 57% of lichens have decreased. 
  • Of 3,897 species, 18% are threatened with extinction from Wales. 
  • England has seen a 32% average decline in species’ abundance since 1970. 

Rewilding Britain awarded £100k to support Kent Wildlife Trust’s rewilding project

The Rewilding Challenge Fund, given to one large-scale rewilding project every year, was this year awarded in support of the Trust’s aim to rewild 8,300 hectares, and its long-term goal to rewild tens of thousands of hectares across Southeast England.  

New legislation announced that will aid nature recovery in England’s Protected Landscapes

This new legislation through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will support the recovery of nature in England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is hoped that with these new measures, Protected Landscapes will help us meet the target of protecting 30% of land for biodiversity by 2030. 

Plastic

The problem

  • We produce over 430 million tonnes of plastic every year. 
  • 46% of plastic waste is landfilled. 
  • 22% becomes litter.  
  • In 2019, plastics generated 1.8 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. 

New Zealand became the first country to expand its ban on plastic bags in supermarkets to thin bags

As part of a wider government campaign against single-use plastics, the ban on thin bags aims to encourage use of reusable bags for fruits and vegetables.  

Ban on single-use plastics for businesses in England

Following the 2022 ban on single-use straws, stirrers and cotton buds containing plastic, businesses are now no longer able to supply, sell or offer certain single-use plastic items in England. This includes single-use plastic cutlery, polystyrene cups, balloon sticks, and food containers. 

Deforestation

The problem

  • Forests are essential to carbon capture – tropical forests hold over 228 to 247 gigatons of carbon, more than seven times the amount emitted by human activities every year.  
  • 1.25 billion people globally rely on forests for water, water, and food security, whilst 750 million people live in forests. 
  • However, in 2022, global deforestation hit 16.3 million acres. 
  • An area larger than the European Union was lost to deforestation between 1990 and 2020. 
  • Rainforests cover less than 1% of Britain. 

EU Regulation on deforestation-free supply chains came into force

Companies are only allowed to sell products in the EU if the supplier can confirm the product does not come from deforested land or has led to forest degradation. 

Devon Wildlife Trust began creating Atlantic rainforest at a new nature reserve

The Trust has secured a 105-year lease to plant two-thirds of the land at Bowden Pillars near Totnes in the Southwest of England with native species trees to create new rainforest. This project is funded by Aviva, and is part of a larger programme to remove carbon from the atmosphere and help nature recovery. 

Hospitality and Tourism

The problem

  • Whilst not a common feature of climate discourse, the tourism sector does have a footprint.  
  • Between 2009 to 2013, tourism accounted for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Projections show that by 2025, tourism emissions could reach 6.5 billion metric tons, a 44% increase from 2013. 

Premier Inn opens a hotel powered by renewable energy

The new hotel in Swindon, is partially powered by solar panels and, when not using these, will be powered by the grid. 

The building will be a test bed for Premier Inn’s hotels across the UK and Ireland for reducing carbon emissions. 

Their target is to remove mains gas connections from their estate by 2040. 

It will also have low energy LED lighting, re-use heat generated by electrical equipment, and air source heat pumps. 

The world’s first transatlantic flight using sustainable aviation fuels takes place

The flight was operated by Virgin Atlantic and flew from London Heathrow to JFK airport in New York. 

The Music Industry

The problem

  • Though not as carbon intensive as some other industries, the music industry is a contributor to climate change.  
  • In 2018, it was reported that approximately 23,500 tonnes of waste are produced annually at UK music festivals, for example, only a third of which is recycled. 

Music events make sustainable changes

  • Glastonbury Festival 2023 was run entirely by renewable energy. All production areas were either powered by electricity from ‘fossil fuel-free sources’ or run on battery hybrid systems and solar panels. 
  • Single-use plastic was banned in the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 fan zone. All vendors in the Eurovision village pledged to provide recyclable materials only, and water stations were provided so visitors could refill their bottles. 

Around 100 stars put their name to Green Rider sustainability pledge

Equity, a UK arts union, drew up the rider (a set of requests performers make at the venue or location where they’re working), which includes eco-friendly clauses including avoiding private jets and bringing water bottles/coffee cups to set. 

Stars who have put their name to the pledge include Dame Harriet Walter, Paapa Essiedu, David Harewood, Bill Nighy, Tom Burke and Adrian Dunbar. 

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