Column: John Hall MBE is a former chief executive of the Essex Wildlife Trust. Since retiring, his family have built an eco-house in Lawford and he is a founder member of PACE Manningtree (Practical Actions for Climate and the Environment). Here he talks about the importance of making the right decisions, to help protect our planet

A COMMON question from youngsters as they become aware of climate change and biodiversity loss is how these will impact their futures.

Councils, Governments and international treaties seek to address these massive issues with their rules and regulations.

Tendring Council has its climate emergency, Essex County Council has its climate commission and the UN has its climate conference in Glasgow, later this year.

However, they are powerless to act without the support of us all being prepared to do our bit.

Most of us know there is a serious problem.

We want to do our bit, but we are not sure what best to do.

We all have different abilities, support and money.

We can’t do everything, but each of us can do something which will help the planet.

What will you and your family do?

Of the many things we can choose to do, some will be more worthwhile than others.

To help us understand what benefit the planet gets from our efforts, I will refer to the carbon footprint schedule developed by Prof Jules Pretty, of the University of Essex.

This explains that the carbon footprint of an average person in Essex is 7.7 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

This includes the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from your food, powering your home, getting around by car or other transport and providing your clothes etc.

The internationally accepted target is to reduce carbon emissions by 2050 and to do this the UK accepts we must half our emissions in the next ten years.

The aim is to reduce our average footprint from 7.7 tonnes to 3.85 tonnes in ten years and to reduce it further to about one tonne in 30 years.

This is an average, so some Essex people will already be below the 7.7 tonnes and others will be much higher.

However, for most of us a massive reduction is required.

Some may argue there is little point us doing anything in the UK unless India and China and others also act, but we must remember the great majority of people in these developing countries are currently at two tonnes emissions per person or less.

We have a lot to do in Essex and we need to show leadership.

Let's look at the impact of food choices.

If you choose to go vegan or vegetarian, this would reduce your average carbon emissions by about 0.9 tonnes or 0.7 tonnes respectively.

This is because rearing animals results in much greater carbon emissions than growing plants.

Not all of us will choose to go veggie, but we can achieve a similar reduction of 0.9 tonnes by eating less meat and ensuring we eat meat and vegetables which are grown or produced locally or at least in the UK.

To achieve this, you will have to buy direct from local farms or check the labels carefully in the supermarket or grow some food yourself in your garden or allotment.

Buying local food may well cost you a bit more and growing food will take a bit more of your time, but they are both very satisfying and very good choices to help the planet.

There is a big difference between buying food grown locally and buying those from Spain, Kenya or Peru, which then must be transported by air freight.

If you choose to eat fish, look out for the Marine Stewardship Council blue tick label (MSC) or check the Good Fish Guide online (this is kept up to date by Marine Conservation Society).

Both will show you which fish are sustainably sourced with minimal damage to fish stocks and the environment – good choices for the planet.

The other main way you can reduce your carbon emissions in relation to food is to improve your cooking equipment.

When the time comes to change your pans or cooker, think about the planet.

If you invest in an induction hob and good pans with good lids, these can reduce your electricity use and hence your carbon emissions by up to 0.7 tonnes within one year.

With those choices relating to food, you can reduce your carbon footprint by about one and a half to two tonnes. That is a good start.