Going Green: Countryfile presenter Tom Heap on saving the planet

Nick OldridgeNick Oldridge
Nick Oldridge
Tom Heap is a broadcaster with both the BBC and Sky. Author of ’39 Ways to Save the Planet’ having reported on the environment for 25 years, I caught up with him last week to talk climate change, Princess Anne eating horses and why the best thing we can all do is buy a battery powered thermal waistcoat – yes, really.

The Countryfile presenter who is a regular on screens across the country says he’s seen some big changes when it comes to tackling the issue of climate change – especially when it comes to viewers and listeners being engaged. “The rise of awareness of climate change alongside technical innovations to combat it is quite something,” he says. “Finding and holding the audience of stories on climate change is hard as it can make them feel guilty and powerless. The emphasis has to be on revelation and innovation – what are communities or engineers doing that is new and inspiring. Solutions stories help to show that it can be done and they are often accompanied by great personal triumphs too. A seasoning of celebrity can help because the core story of rising temperature is no longer new.”

Having dedicated his career to educating the public and covering stories on the environment, net zero and climate change, Tom says the one change we can all make is to invest in a waistcoat: “Buy a battery powered thermal waistcoat for yourself and your oldest relative and turn the heating down by a degree or two,” he says frankly.

While turning the heating down by one degree will save money on heating bills, Tom says wrong information in the public domain could be one of the biggest issues when it comes to getting the public on board more with green issues. “The greatest current misinformation is that political action to tackle climate change or improve the environment is politically unpopular,” he says. “Twenty years from now, we’ll be hotter and wetter and frost free in the winter but with rapidly declining CO2 emissions. I don’t know if we’ve reached tipping point. An interesting one to watch is whether we might have reached peak CO2 emissions – 2024 was a fraction lower than 2023. It’s far from ‘job done’ but does show ‘job can be done’.”

Tom HeapTom Heap
Tom Heap

While Tom drives an electric car, has solar panels, uses thermal underwear and does his best to cut fossil fuels his own climate hero is David Mackay, author of ‘Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air’. “He was passionate about our low carbon destination and rigorous with the figures of how to get there,” says Tom.

You can download David’s book for free from www.withouthotair.com

Confessing to a love of the cinema on his down time, Tom, a father of three has some life lessons which all parents can employ to make sure their children grow up with the environment at the fore of their thinking too: “Don’t waste food. Don’t give them a car for a big birthday and avoid patio heaters,” he says honestly.

While Countryfile will have its 26th birthday this year, Tom says of all his memorable moments, it’s the King’s sister who made him laugh the most. “I remember seeing one of Princess Anne’s thoroughbreds whinny in horror when she told me on camera that she had eaten horse meat and it tasted ‘quite good actually’,” he laughs.

Cotton pantsCotton pants
Cotton pants

Tom presents ‘The Climate Show’ on Sky News and ‘Rare Earth’ – BBC Radio 4’s new flagship environment series. His podcast ClimateCast is downloadable now. A recent edition featured One Home’s work on coastal erosion [and an interview with me].

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