Updated: Jan 24, 2021
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There’s a ton of information out there about the environment and climate change. You may wonder - is giving up straws really going to bring the change we need? What can make the biggest difference the fastest? Here are the facts, short and sweet, and what you can do now.
Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere, trapping heat. Then sunlight strikes the Earth and radiates this extra heat. Many of these gasses come from transportation, power plants, agriculture, and forestry. They produce heat waves, wildfires and mass bleaching of coral reefs.
2019 was the second warmest year on record, and it closed out the hottest recorded decade.
Our world is warming dangerously, it’s our fault, and if we don’t do something to change now the future of the Earth is at risk. Global warming’s effects (severe storms, heat waves, melting glaciers) are impacting countries everywhere, and the effects are accelerating. Because the world has deferred climate action for so long, scientists estimate global emissions must be cut by half in the next 10 years in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming.
What Can We Do?
Although it can often seem like the small changes we can make as individuals won't make that much of a difference, they truly can. Radically reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require government, corporation, and individual buy-in. Many of our choices have large implications - which car we get impacts the emissions in our city, what we eat impacts food waste and greenhouse emissions, and reusing products decreases the waste in landfills and the gasses they create.
Eat Less Meat
Meat eaters contribute to twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as vegans. Going meatless just one day a week can save you money and help the earth. About 24 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture or the cultivation of crops and livestock. Additionally, food waste accounts for nearly 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Eating less meat can have a huge positive difference on the environment.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
This is such an easy maxim, but it’s still one of my favorites.
Reduce: For the planet, for yourself, and for your home and money, buy less stuff and reduce waste. Cutting down on purchases can help reduce your carbon footprint. It's one of the simplest ways to help the environment.
Reuse: Plastic grocery bags take forever to decompose, so I always have reusable bags in my car and folded up in my purse. Reusable water bottles help reduce plastic waste and save you money. Keep one at your desk, at the gym, around the house, and with you at all times! Invest in a good reusable water bottle and a water purifier.
Recycle: Recycling is SO easy; there’s no excuse not to do it. Check in with your garbage disposal company to see if they can send you a recycling bin, and make a point to take extra steps to locate recycling cans around your workplace.
Save Electricity & Water
Small moves over time can make a difference when it comes to electricity and water. Use energy-efficient light bulbs instead of regular bulbs. Turn off lights, the TV, and other appliances when you are not using them. Lower your air conditioning or heat when it’s not necessary. Turn off the faucet as you are brushing your teeth. Limit your water usage as you wash dishes. Changing old habits will be good for both the environment and your wallet!
Go Electric (Where you Can)
Clean electricity is better for our environment than fossil fuels. Electric vehicles are better than traditional cars, electric heat is better than gas, and reducing our energy usage overall could make a huge impact. We can also invest in new technologies to innovate and make a positive change.
Garden & Compost
Garden: Planting a simple backyard or container garden is an awesome way to save money, know where your food is coming from, and reduce waste. You can grow herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and many other fruits and vegetables in containers on the balcony or in a small raised bed.
Compost: If you have kitchen waste, make good use of it by creating compost for your garden. Food scraps and yard waste (fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags, grass clippings, leaves, and more) can be composted in a compost pile or bin instead of going to the landfill. Composting is beneficial to the soil, reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, and reduces methane emissions from landfills, which helps to reduce your personal carbon footprint.
Walk or Bike Instead of Drive (or Carpool)
Walking and biking are great for your physical and mental health, your finances, and the environment if you can find a different way to commute and get around. Shop less, eat at home more, and find a place to live in a walkable community. You’ll feel amazing if you can reduce your commute and walk to your local coffeeshop, museum, and favorite restaurant. Finding a new home can be a big lifestyle change for some, but if you’re in an apartment, think about moving somewhere closer to work. Even if it’s a bit pricier, you’ll save money from saved gas, eating at home more, and you’ll live a healthier and more satisfying life.
Share What You Know
Individual behavior can influence others. One house with solar panels can lead to others in the neighborhood installing solar panels of their own. Likewise, we tend to conserve our electricity consumption when our utility bills tell us how our usage compares with our neighbors. Speak up, do your research, and share your knowledge. Educating others and supporting positive environmental change can have a bigger impact than you realize.
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