7 ways we're committing to a more sustainable future

7 ways we're committing to a more sustainable future

We're passionate animal lovers here at the RSPCA and our committed animal rescuers, HQ team and volunteers (to name a few!) continue to work hard every day to help create a world that's kinder to animals...

A big part of achieving a kinder world is working towards our goals in a more conscious way. By striving to be more environmentally conscious each day, we can do our bit to reduce humans' damaging impact on our planet and our wildlife.

We're far from perfect and we have a way to go yet but we're committed to making the necessary changes and to doing everything that we can to make a difference. We've been making small and big changes to our materials and ways of working and we aren't planning on stopping. Here's what our sustainability efforts look like so far...

1. Our charity shops continue to fight fast-fashion

Our charity shops aren't new but they are one of the biggest ways we can help save the environment. As well as fighting animal cruelty, our nationwide charity shops are working hard to fight fast fashion!

In 2019, we also put on our Charity Shop Challenge to support our recommerce mission and stand up against the environmental impact of fast fashion. Why? It's estimated that each charity shop saves 29 tonnes of textiles from ending up in landfill each year. With over 300 RSPCA charity shops, that's around 8,700 tonnes saved - the equivalent weight of over 1,200 African elephants!

It's also estimated that a 10% increase in second-hand sales could save 3% carbon waste, 4% water waste and 1% waste per tonne of clothing. Shopping second hand really can make a difference!

Plus, in 2019 we launched the introduction of our paper bags into charity shops making us one of the first charities to move away from plastic carrier bags! Our retail specialist, Jenny Eden, explains:

We wanted to replace our existing plastic carrier bags with something easily recyclable, and being a charity that cares for wildlife, we wanted to make sure that no wild animal could be harmed by one of our bags if it accidentally got discarded.

2. We're swapping to recyclable materials

As well as our new paper bags for our charity shops, we've also rolled out our fully biodegradable disposable gloves, which are now available to all of our national sites and branches.

We've also decided to stop sending our magazines in polythene wrapping and instead started using a more environmentally friendly potato starch wrap (which is 100% biodegradable and compostable!).

In addition to this, we've also made the move to remove glitter and foil from our FSC-certified Christmas cards making them more environmentally friendly and joining the effort against microplastics in order to reduce our impact on the environment and animals. Oh, and we've also started offering a plastic-free eco option for Christmas crackers!

This pledge to reduce waste and non-recyclable materials goes hand in hand with our campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of plastic to wildlife, together we can make a difference! Sign our #EndSkyLitter petition today.

3. Our canteen is officially plastic-free!

Often change starts with the individual and the small habits. In a bid to be more environmentally conscious we've officially gone 'plastic-free' at our HQ canteen... So when a coffee break calls we have to bring our own mug as there are no disposable cups left in the building. We've swapped all plastic for glass jam jars and metal cutlery that we can return once we've scoffed our lunch and it's time to get back to work - no waste necessary!

4. We're introducing new sustainable fundraising materials

We're so grateful for our fundraisers, and they truly make a world of difference to animals in need. We're also trying to provide as much material to help get fundraisers started and to help them throw a successful event.

We've been sure to include information and materials that will help support more environmentally friendly events, such as our, currently, digital-only fundraising pack (for reasons relating to Covid-19) which will be printed on recyclable materials going forward (including the envelope and any other materials).

We're also creating new advice such as 'how to organise an environmentally friendly event' and continue to offer advice including hints and tips, such as encouraging fundraisers to use an app called Ziffit to raise money for charity by getting rid of unwanted goods. Fundraisers can also raise vital funds in an environmentally conscious way by selling items for us on eBay. Of course, simply donating your old unwanted items to your local charity shop is a great way to support a charity while also helping the environment.

Finally, our brand new #TeamAnimal kit is made from recycled plastic bottles. All charity-place challenge eventers and anyone who has their own place in an event, and raises more than £50 can get hold of our kit for free! 

5. We're progressing our international work with a focus on sustainability

Although we mainly work with needy animals in England and Wales, we also have a dedicated team who focus on improving animal welfare overseas in the most sustainable way possible. Paul Littlefair, head of our international department, explains what that involves:

In our work with international partners, we're very mindful of the United Nations' set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs provide a vital framework for all UN member countries to ensure that as they work towards ending poverty and improving human health, food security and education, they do so in ways that minimise negative impacts on the planet and nature...

For us, the broad context for many of these issues are the concepts of 'One Health' and 'One Welfare', which emphasise the interconnected nature of the health and welfare of humans, animals and the environment.

Many of the SDGs have direct or indirect connections with animal welfare. Goals 1 and 2 are concerned with ending hunger and poverty, and Goal 12; responsible consumption and production. All of these are very relevant to our work on farm animal welfare! Goal 3 focuses on human health. How does that connect with animal welfare? An important strand of our programme on humane stray animal management is reducing rabies transmission from dogs to humans - so this is something we're often working on too.

Our long-term work on tackling the illegal wildlife trade directly relates to Goal 15, which aims to protect the terrestrial environment, biodiversity and ecosystems, and protect species threatened by extinction.

Finally, Goal 17 describes the manner in which we work towards achieving all of these goals, and that's through global partnership and close cooperation, and that really sums up our team's ethos.

Our international work is definitely more complex and long-term but we're committed to progressing towards a unified approach to environmental consciousness in line with animal welfare. Watch this space!

6. We're continuing to petition for higher-welfare chicken

We've long petitioned for supermarkets and restaurants to commit to higher-welfare chicken - doing so would mean a better quality of life for meat chicken and it would also mean a more sustainable meat industry. While there are people who choose to eat meat, we believe that we can best help by improving the conditions, the treatment and the systems currently in place while they continue to run. According to our chicken welfare specialist, Kate Parkes:

It has often been argued that intensive systems used to produce chicken meat are more sustainable than higher welfare systems. However, new, independent research shows that conventional production with fast-growing breeds is potentially very wasteful with farmers facing the loss of up to nearly half of their flock due to increased mortality and culling for poor leg health.

In addition, our research shows that fast-growing birds are significantly more likely to produce poorer quality meat, through conditions known as white striping and wooden breast.

Our campaigning efforts not only fight for animal welfare but for the welfare of our planet. Find out more and sign our chicken petition today.

7. We're making operational changes to reduce our carbon footprint

We're not where we want to be but we're moving forward when it comes to our operational environmental footprint. We've been working for several years to reduce energy consumption across our centres, for example, through our LED deployments and insulation investments. While, our LED deployment into the car park at HQ is currently saving us several hundred KWH of energy consumption every month. We have also operated separated waste recycling for almost 10 years now.

Another positive change related to our transportation updates... Our animal rescuers cover the entirety of England and Wales (and travel many miles every day to help animals in need). Considering this, we have successfully reduced engine sizes of our frontline vehicles between 20 and 50%. We have also improved our vehicles to further improve fuel efficiency by reducing the weight and by encouraging more economic driving.

We're not there yet but we're making progress!

We're a long way from where we want to be but we're making progress. From removing glitter from our christmas cards, to bigger projects overseas, we're heading in the right direction!

Find out more about our work...

If you haven't already, please do keep in touch by signing up to our email newsletter where you'll find all of our latest news! Remember, you can donate at any time to our coronavirus appeal to help us keep fighting for animals.

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