Climate change is a literal hot topic right now, with seemingly endless media coverage and discussions about governmental and international policy. It may seem like a somewhat overwhelming subject for the individual concerned citizen of our shared planet.
Despite an urgent need for corporations and governments to enact significant policy changes, there is still much we can do as individuals through small, simple steps that can positively impact the fight to save our environment.
Be aware of your carbon footprint
Your carbon footprint is the sum of all the greenhouse gasses emitted as a result of the products and services you use. This includes carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases, and more.
While the topic is rooted in complex scientific understanding, there are simple tools you can use which will provide an estimate of your carbon footprint, which can make recommendations about what you could cut back on to reduce your carbon footprint.
During the COVID pandemic, we’ve witnessed a dramatic reduction in transportation use, with road journeys cut by 19% and air travel by 68% throughout 2020 compared with the previous year. In addition, scientists have detected declines in both NO2 and CO2 levels globally, which is a trend we should make efforts to continue.
Whenever possible, take public transport over driving a car.
If you’re flying somewhere, see if you can take the train instead.
Ask yourself if you really need to make that business trip. Can you have an online meeting instead?
Seek out environmentally-conscious hotels and destinations for your holidays.
Consume less meat
Consuming meat isn’t only bad news for those creatures headed to the slaughterhouse; it’s also bad news for the planet. Rearing animals requires deforestation to make way for farmland, and the animals reared produce significant amounts of methane gas. According to the United Nations, this contributes as much greenhouse gas as all the airplanes, trains, ships, and road vehicles combined.
Lower your waste output and recycle more
There are many influencers and websites out there which espouse a wonderfully zero-waste lifestyle. Still, this may seem like an ideological step too far for the average person with busy lives, jobs, and children. However, while it may not be possible to eliminate waste entirely, simple lifestyle changes can still make a difference. For example, you could:
- Avoid single-use plastics, taking reusable bags with you to buy groceries
- Use reusable cups rather than paper or plastic takeaway ones
- Switch to energy-efficient lightbulbs
- Wash your clothes at a lower temperature and avoid the dryer
Buy less, by buying better
The inconvenient truth is that all consumption will come at a cost to the environment. Consumption is, however, unavoidable, so the best we can do is aim to reduce it as much as possible. Of course, we’re not suggesting that everyone live as monks, with only basic robes and the absolute necessities of life, but a few smart choices and aiming for quality over quantity can significantly impact our planet’s future.
Consider clothing, for example. Fast fashion is responsible for around 10% of global greenhouse pollution. It generates an estimated 92 million tonnes of waste and uses 79 trillion liters of water annually. By buying cheap, seasonal clothing, we’re inflicting significant damage on the planet. Each item of clothing we buy is worn an average of just seven times before being discarded. It’s far better to buy less clothing, but of higher quality. This doesn’t mean supporting ultra-luxurious brands but rather seeking out smaller, artisanal companies that focus on sustainable, organic materials and offer lifetime repair services.
You can also support organizations working on the front line to tackle the effects of overconsumption. These organizations, working to fight climate change, need our support. Small donations through platforms such as Milkywire can help to offset some of the effects of our lifestyles and create a better environment for our children and all inhabitants of our planet.
We understand that reports of rising sea levels and raging wildfires may seem overwhelming and that our little individual habits can’t possibly help avoid a catastrophic future for our planet, but they really can make a difference.
Remember, our habits as individuals have led to human-driven climate change, and so our choices from here on have the power to reverse those effects, too. Beyond our consumption and lifestyle choices, we can also vote with the environment in mind and pressure our politicians to legislate against excessively polluting industries.
Published December 18th, 2021