The power of one person to create change is a mighty thing. Just look at Greta Thunberg and her ability to galvanise a global movement. The climate strikes have been incredible; hundreds of thousands of people from at least 98 countries, gathering to demand more from our leaders.
And while more does need to be done at a government and corporate level, let’s not lose sight of our individual power to influence change and be part of a climate action revolution. No, it’s not up to individuals to go it alone, but there are habits we can adopt that will make a difference. And for anyone who doubts the power of one, compare that picture of Greta Thunberg sitting in solo protest outside the Swedish Parliament in August 2018 to the images broadcast around the world last week. All this in less than a year!
Here are 25 changes you can make in your daily life.
Adopt a Climate Friendly Diet
1. Eat less meat and dairy. Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on earth. Some of the environmental effects associated with animal agriculture include pollution through fossil fuel, effluent waste, animal methane, biodiversity loss, deforestation and water consumption. Research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% and we could still feed the world. If you’re not already plant based, start with Meat Free Mondays, then increase this to a couple of days a week as you make the transition.
2. Shop local and eat seasonally. Buying and eating produce grown and made locally reduces your carbon footprint as less travel = fewer transmissions.
3. Reduce food waste. It’s crazy to think while 815 million people in the world go hungry, roughly one third of all food production for human consumption goes to waste. Making meal plans, sticking to a shopping list, creating meals around leftover food or food soon to expire will soon have your waste down to next to nothing.
4. Grow your own food. Plant your own vegie garden or join a local community garden.
5. Start composting. Throwing food in the bin seems harmless enough yet rotting food waste that decomposes in landfill releases methane, a greenhouse gas at least 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Instead, use composting to turn your waste into a valuable resource – nutrient rich earth – that can be used to promote growth in your garden or vegie patch. Done correctly, a homemade compost will create zero methane!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
6. Buy less stuff. This has been a growing trend in recent years that’s gaining traction, with good reason. Clothes, fashion, gadgets, household items – everything that is manufactured uses the earth’s resources. By buying less, you’ll not only reduce your environmental impact, but also save money.
7. Resist ‘fast fashion’ and wear what you have for longer. Fashion is one of the biggest polluting industries in the world. When next shopping, commit to buying higher quality pieces that are sustainably and ethically made.
8. Recycle your clothes and upcycle your furniture. Time to get creative by using you’ve got in new ways, or simply pass what you no longer love back into the world. If donating, your local charity shop isn’t a dumping ground for items that are no longer usable, so make sure everything’s in good condition.
9. Buy second hand. We all love new things, yet if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, become friends with second hand clothes, appliances, furniture and cars. When you think about it, while it may have once belonged to someone else, it’s new for you.
10. Say no to plastic. Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans and by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish. Plastic pollution is an environmental disaster and is killing our oceans. Steps you can take include not using single use water bottles, saying no to plastic straws (bring your own stainless steel), reusing containers for storage, using a reusable bag when shopping (not just for food, but fashion too), packing your lunch in reusable containers, switching to a bamboo toothbrush and using a razor with replaceable blades.
11. Be water efficient. Start with your home – make sure your shower head is water efficient and reduce how long you spend in the shower. You’ll not only save water, but also energy which is used to heat the water. Other habits such as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth and using a bucket to catch water (in the shower or outside) to use on indoor plants can make a big difference over time.
12. BYO – water that is. Take your own portable water bottle and refill rather than buy bottled water. This works for coffee cups too. In doing so, you’re saying ‘no’ to single use plastics.
13. Love cold water and sunshine. Wash your clothes in cold water and hang them out to dry. Studies show washing in cold water is just as effective as hot and given that 75% of the energy used in a load of laundry is from heating up the hot water, why are we using hot water to wash our clothes? And ditch the dryer whenever possible. Not only are they energy suckers, they don’t offer any of the anti-bacterial properties of the sun.
14. Unplug devices. A simple way to reduce your energy consumption is to switch off and unplug devices when not in use (even when switched off, they still draw power if plugged in).
15. Change lightbulbs to LED. They can last 25 times longer and use at least 75 per cent less energy than other bulbs.
Green Your Commute
16. Fly less and when you do, offset your carbon emission. We all love to travel yet of all modes of transport, flying has a greater climate impact per passenger, per kilometre than any other. To give you an idea of what this looks like, flying economy from Sydney to London return produces the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as running the average air conditioner in a loungeroom for 297 days. While flying is a part of modern life, you can still do your bit. Most airlines offer carbon offsets as part of the booking process with your money donated to projects designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as developing renewable energy, restoring and protecting forests.
17. Use public transport. Trains, busses and trams – use them for your daily commute as well as when travelling on holiday. Not only does this reduce greenhouse gases, but public transport also reduces our reliance on resources such as oil and the land we use for road infrastructure and car parks.
18. Car pool. Fewer cars on the road means we use less petrol and emit less carbon dioxide. In addition to sharing with friends, you can think more broadly to car sharing services such as GoGet or Zipcar.
19. Ride a bike. A bit like with car sharing, you don’t need your own bike to get around. Most cities offer bike-sharing services and search of Google will tell you all you need to know. It might feel a little strange the first time, but try it out and before you know it, you’ll be releasing your inner greenie.
20. Work from home. If this is an option, even for one day a week, take it. Not only will you save on travel emissions, but the resources needed for everything in between from your takeaway coffee to lunch.
21. Be educated on climate change. There’s so much information available to all of us, from reading books, blogs and news sites, through to listening to podcasts and watching documentaries, there’s a communication style for all of us. Just make sure your source is credible.
22. Start conversations with friends, families and work colleagues. Knowing your facts and being open to share what you know is a great start. Just remember, no one likes to be lectured!
23. Get politically active. Whether it’s writing letters, to taking part in a protest or even starting your own movement, these actions all have a domino effect.
24. Volunteer. Most groups are resource poor and rely on volunteers to help promote campaigns, organise events, assist with fundraising and generally require a broad range of skills to get their work done. If you have time, then put your skills to good use with a local environment group.
25. Use social media to connect with others all around the world. Not only is it a great way to spread awareness and information on climate change, it’s also great to feel part of something bigger and to find your ‘tribe’.
Images courtesy of Greta Thunberg/Facebook.