Updated: Mar 18
This beautiful planet and all the beings that call it home need our help. Here are five easy things you can do to help the environment.
By the end of the 21st century, if current trends in greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, our planet could be 4°C warmer. This means a rise in sea levels and in extreme weather and climate events such as tropical cyclones, droughts, heavy precipitation and floods. The heartbreaking thing is, it is pretty much all due to human activities.
"Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the Northern Hemisphere, 1983–2012 was likely the warmest 30 year period of the last 1400 years."
Source: The 2013 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report.
So What Exactly is Climate Change?
In a nutshell, it is the change in land and sea temperature, weather conditions, sea levels and acidity, arctic ice levels and anything else pertaining to our climatic conditions. Climate change, and specifically global warming, is caused by the ‘greenhouse effect.’ This warming is the result of heat radiating from the Earth toward space, where it gets trapped in the atmosphere by a blanket of greenhouse gasses, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
The levels of these gasses in the atmosphere are the highest they have been in 800,000 years. There is a steady rise in the volume of atmospheric greenhouse gasses since the industrial revolution in 1880, as over this time we have been churning them out at a rate of billions of tons per year.
According to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute, animal agriculture is responsible for 51% or more of global greenhouse gas emissions. That is compared to 13% for all of the world's transport put together. Aeroplanes. trains, ships, cars, busses, vans, bikes, everything. Shocking or what?
How Can Individuals Make a Difference?
The statistics are extremely scary and sometimes it can feel as if we are so insignificant that we cannot make any difference to this crisis. But that way of thinking is incorrect. Yes, we are individuals, but when we stand together and make changes collectively, we are extremely powerful.
Here are five things you can do at home and at work to help make a difference:
1. Go Vegan
As the statistic on greenhouse gas emissions above shows, the meat and dairy industries are hugely damaging to the planet. If you care about the planet and you only make one change to your lifestyle to help this year, go vegan.
This change to your daily consumer habits is the single biggest thing you can do to reduce your personal impact on planet earth. You can reduce your personal carbon footprint by up to a whopping 73% by cutting out meat and dairy. Additionally, you will be reducing needless animal suffering, and benefitting your health. A WIN-WIN all round!
2. Refuse Single-Use Plastic
Since the 1950s, when plastic began to be manufactured on a commercial scale, we have produced approximately 8.3 billion metric tons of the stuff. And every single piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists somewhere. Think recycling is the answer? Think again. Only around 9% of plastic is recycled.
By far the best thing you can do to help is to refuse single use plastic. Take reusable cups with you when you get takeaway coffee. Use wooden or better still, reusable cutlery when you eat takeaway food out and about. Demand paper or washable straws in bars and cafes - or - and this might be a radical concept - don't use a straw! Buy loose produce rather than items packed in plastic. Remember your reusable shopping bags when you go to the supermarket. Do as many things as you can to reduce your personal disposable plastic usage.
3. Become a Conscious Shopper
Shopping makes up 16% of our personal carbon footprint. This figure includes everything we buy, including clothing and of course food. Try not to indulge in the 'disposable fashion' mindset, instead think 'reduce, reuse and recycle.' Upcycling is a fun way to repurpose old, unloved clothing into something unique and fun.
When you want to buy new clothes, why not browse vintage and second-hand stores? You'd be surprised at the treasures you can find hidden within. When you do need to buy brand new clothing, opt for the best quality you can (note: this doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive) with the aim of making them last and getting good use out of them.
Food-wise, instead of choosing supermarket produce that has been flown halfway around the world, opt for shopping at your local farmers market, greengrocer or veg box scheme. Not only will you be supporting local businesses and small scale producers, but you will also be reducing your carbon footprint as well. Oh, and if you choose to buy locally grown, seasonal produce, it will taste better and be more nutritious too.
4. Use Public Transport, Cycle or Walk
According to the United States Federal Transit Administration, private vehicles such as cars and vans make up 57% of all US transportation carbon emissions. To put that into perspective, aviation is responsible for just 12% and cargo/freight lorries 20%.
Switching to public transport can greatly reduce your personal carbon footprint. By replacing your personal vehicle with public transport, you can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 30%. Replacing some of your public transport journies with walking or cycling will reduce your impact even more. Plus, the extra exercise will do wonders for your health and wellbeing.
5. Stop Wasting Electricity
A quarter of the UK's carbon emissions come from domestic electricity and gas usage. You can make a huge difference by switching to a renewable energy supplier such as Ecotricity or Good Energy.
Regardless of which company supplies your energy, you can make a difference every day by not wasting precious resources.
Turn lights off when you leave the room
Don't keep devices and appliances on standby all the time - switch them off
Only boil the amount of water you need when you make a cup of tea
Switch to LED light bulbs
Wash your clothes at a lower temperature
Use lids when you boil water on the stove for things like rice and pasta
Keep a jug of water in your refrigerator - this helps the fridge to use less energy because the internal temperature stays lower
There you have it, five easy ways to help save the planet. Hopefully, this post shows you that there are so many things that each of us can do to make a difference. It's just a case of living more mindfully and making conscious decisions rather than operating on autopilot.
We have gotten into bad habits, but it is worth taking the time to make some changes to your routine. And pretty soon, those positive changes will become your new habits and you'll be making a difference without even trying.