Column: Jill Bruce is Lead Climate Ambassador for the Federation of Essex Women’s Institutes

AUTUMN has brought us spectacular colours and pleasantly mild days to get outside and enjoy the views, but sadly there is a downside.

The extent of Arctic sea ice is currently the lowest for this time of year, for at least a thousand years.

Climate change marches on and can sometimes feel overwhelming, so I’d like to share some easy ways we can cut our emissions and help save the world from the comfort of our homes.

It’s great to read in Wednesday’s Gazette that motorists are now being encouraged to cut their engines when stationary, cutting pollution and carbon emissions, and that Colchester Council has a plan to cut its emissions by changing its fleet to all electric vehicles and increasing tree planting.

However, there’s a lot we can all do, even if we don’t drive.

Emissions from food production will rise to a cumulative 1,356 gigatons by the end of the century if trends continue, according to a study in the journal Science.

That would be enough in itself to heat the world by more than 1.5°C by the 2060s, compared to pre-industrial temperatures.

We all know not to waste food and to try to eat less meat and dairy, as livestock burp methane and are responsible for so much deforestation just to feed them.

However, when you’re trying to provide tempting meals, what can you use instead?

If you have a main meal of the day, and a second, smaller meal, it can be easier to experiment at first with the smaller meal, so that at least one meal a day is meat and dairy free.

As we head into winter, soups, chilli and baked potatoes are more appealing than salad.

Vegetable soups are easy to make, extremely cheap, use fresh, local seasonal ingredients, and making your own means bringing less plastic into your home. Another bonus.

Recipes are available online and our favourites include leek and potato soup (I miss out the milk and cream and just use vegetable stock, it’s still yummy) and Cranks Russian vegetable soup, which is surprisingly good considering the ingredients all seem very ordinary.

There’s a big choice of good vegetarian chilli recipes too, which are great with pitta bread, or as a baked potato topping, or lentil dhal as an alternative to soup.

For your main meal, you can easily cut the meat content to a fraction of what it would usually be by making a curry, biryani, risotto or pie with a few bits of meat and lots of your favourite vegetables.

Lentil shepherds pie is a very satisfying meal and if you’re trying to convert the carnivore in your family you can smother their portion in gravy made from beef granules.

My apologies to the purists. I know meat-free would be the best option, but cutting down is a good start and, as well as saving our habitat, you will save a lot of housekeeping money.

Finally, as you slump replete on your sofa, full of inexpensive, tasty, healthy, planet friendly food, there’s one more easy way to cut those carbon emissions.

Take out your phone, tablet or laptop and clear out all the old stuff you don’t want.

The Cloud sounds ethereal, the reality is racks and racks in huge warehouses storing all our electronic photos, videos, documents and emails, using lots of electricity from the grid, half of which is coming from fossil fuels.

Now that we’ve all made a good start on clearing out our cupboards in lockdown, we could try clearing out all the unwanted stuff on our devices too.

It’s an easy way to save energy and, just like the cupboards, it will be a lot easier afterwards to find what you want!