The climate crisis is well underway. Some scientists argue that the warming of the planet has reached a point beyond return, and the full impact that we will see from this crisis has been underestimated. Reversing the damage that has been caused by human activity, if even possible, will require unprecedented effort and coordination from governments, businesses, citizens and scientists. Many people are unaware of the impact that individual actions can have on the environment, and would prefer someone else to do something about it- namely their government. As is currently visible around the globe, the government won’t solve the problem of climate change, at least not without pressure from the public. It is normal to feel powerless, inundated daily with bad news of worsening carbon levels, biodiversity loss, melting ice, floods, forest fires, plastic oceans… the list goes on. Preventing these disasters from exacerbating requires radical transformations in the transportation, energy, industrial, commercial and agricultural sectors. As a citizen and a consumer there are two ways in which you can take action:
1. Every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want
2. If you are fortunate to live in a democracy, you can vote to have a say as to what your country is doing for climate change
In addition to pushing for systematic change, there is a lot that you can do at your own will. It might not be possible to do everything at once, but over time you can integrate many of the following practices as part of your daily life:
Reducing your energy consumption can reduce your carbon footprint. You can save energy by:
· Using energy-efficient lighting
· Switching to energy-efficient appliances
· Better insulating your home
· Using renewable energy such as solar, or geothermal technologies
· Switching to green electricity when choosing your electricity supplier.
Transportation-related emissions make up a huge chunk of worldwide emissions. Depending on what is available to you and feasible, you can decrease your transportation-related footprint by:
· Walking or riding a bike
· Car sharing
· Using public transport
· Buying an electric vehicle if you need your own car
· Avoiding air travel, which is by far the most polluting mode of transport.
Animal agriculture is a huge source of greenhouse gases. Raising animals for food is highly un-efficient, unsustainable and damaging. Thus, drastically lowering the amount of animal products you eat or eliminating them from your diet completely is one of the single biggest ways that you can help mitigate climate change. Switching to plant based sources of protein instead of meat and incorporating more local and seasonal produce into your diet is not only is better for your health, but better for the earth. Food waste also contributes a lot to emissions, so plan your shopping in advance so that you don’t buy more than you need to. To ensure nothing goes to waste, freeze leftovers, unused vegetables and bread at the end of the week for later use.
Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot (“The Five R’s of Zero Waste Living”)
Make simple zero waste swaps such as keeping a reusable water bottle and coffee cup on hand for daily use, have an extra bag with you to carry shopping, use cloth towels instead of paper, and wash and reuse containers, boxes, and jars for storage. Together, these drastically reduce the amount of waste that you end up sending to landfill, which can help lower carbon emissions.
Talk about it!
Many fail to recognize the urgency and gravity of the crisis in which we are living, and others simply ignore the crisis altogether. By bringing up the subject to the people around you, it raises greater awareness and concern. This, in turn, leads to motivation and encouragement towards individual actions for progressive change. Taking part in marches, peaceful protests and activism around the cause has the possibility of developing government policy that matches the scale of the challenges we face.
It can be overwhelming to tackle an issue of this magnitude. It’s hard to know which sources to trust, where to start, and it gets you to wonder if we really need to do something if no one else (like the government) seems to give a crap. The ideology of consumerism blinds us to the real drivers of destruction- government and big corporations- and traps us within a narrow circle of decision making. We need to utilize the power that we do have as individuals. As more people affirm their customer power by supporting sustainable businesses, significant changes can occur. Of course, the real drivers of destruction must be addressed, but this will require systemic and structural changes. Nevertheless, fundamental changes in personal behavior are urgently needed. Begin with the small, simple steps outlined above and eventually, it will lead us to more far-reaching and environmentally significant changes. You can’t do everything, but you can do something.
Is working as an intern for Zero Waste Club, writing blog posts on all things zero waste, from cooking tips to travelling hacks. She is passionate about encouraging others to adopt low waste habits in any and every aspect of their lives.