By Charish Badzinski
October 18, 2018
When your bank account runs low, chances are you make moves to “tighten your belt”; well, it turns out our planetary bank account is in the red. According to a recent report from a team of scientists convened by the United Nations, it’s time to start tightening our belts when it comes to our use of the planet, and the situation is emergent. The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says dire consequences of climate change are likely to show at catastrophic levels within our lifetimes: if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate of production, we can expect to live in a world with mass coral-reef die-offs, food shortages, wildfires, powerful storms and other crises within the next 22 years.
This could be our planet’s last desperate plea for help.
The problems related to human-caused climate change are complex, and the data can be overwhelming. So if you feel like checking out of the issue altogether, that’s for good reason.
But there is no one else who can mitigate this crisis—this problem belongs to us.
And the good news is, not all is lost. Every single one of us can take practical steps toward a more earth-friendly existence, by starting at home.
Here are five easy steps you can take to reduce your impact on the planet:
1. Vote like the survival of your planet depends on it, because it does.
One of the best ways to ensure the health of the planet is by electing officials who believe in science, who support legislation that works toward a greener planet and sustainability, and who are dedicated to preserving the precious and limited resources we have. In addition, be aware of and vote in favor of climate-related measures that appear on the ballot. In Arizona, for example, we’ll be considering Arizona proposition 127, which requires utilities to get a minimum amount of electricity from renewable sources (50% by 2030). As someone who just survived her first Arizona summer, I can tell you there is plenty of sun just waiting to be harvested here—why we aren’t currently doing that to a greater degree is confounding. Of course opposition is strong, particularly from those who stand to profit from our continued dependence on fossil fuels. Did I mention congressional elections are coming up? Vote.
2. Reduce your use of fossil fuels.
Did you know 87 percent of carbon emissions from humans, come from the burning of fossil fuels? Sounds like a big problem to change, right? In reality, it can be easy at the household level. Reducing your individual and household use can be as simple as biking to work, backing off air travel, and regulating your home energy use by buying energy efficient appliances, caulking windows, or turning off lights that aren’t in use. I haven’t owned a car in more than 10 years, and while it has been an inconvenience at times, we’ve found ways to work around it. In the meantime, I’ve gotten more exercise by walking or biking, I’ve had more time with friends, and I’ve made better use of public transportation while also saving money.
Want more ideas? Read this article on 25+ Ways to Reduce your Carbon Footprint.
3. Buy less stuff.
In a society built on a premise of consumerism, it’s hard to see that there’s another way to live. Have you ever considered simplifying? Not buying things in the first place is a huge step in that direction! It takes effort, but you can actually live a more meaningful, mindful life if you step off the consumerism treadmill and find other ways toward fulfillment. Whenever you do make a purchase, buy only what you need, buy used, buy items with less packaging, and/or try to buy local and organic which saves on fossil fuels and supports your local economy. Did you know you can even make your own household cleaners and beauty products? This is a great way to buy less stuff. I do it all the time! It saves on plastic (which uses fossil fuels) and reduces the toxins in my home. (Ready to get started? Check out tip #5!)
4. Eat primarily plant-based food.
Animal agriculture is extremely resource heavy, and migrating to a plant-based or vegan diet greatly reduces your household’s carbon footprint. In fact, avoiding meat and dairy is actually the single best way to reduce your impact on the planet! Livestock are huge users of our freshwater supplies and farmland, and livestock agriculture is a major producer of greenhouse gasses. Think of it. From raising and feeding livestock, then slaughtering and shipping the meat to your grocer, the impact on the planet is enormous. In fact, a 6 ounce steak uses 24x the fossil fuels as the same amount of veggies and rice! (Bonus points if you shop at the local farmers market or join a CSA.) Read more about the science behind this in this recent report on reducing food’s environmental impacts. If you are new to plant-based eating, and don’t know where to start, it’s natural to feel dazed. But I promise, you don’t have to stress out about it! The good news is there are more vegan convenience products at the grocery store and plant-based meal delivery services than ever before, but even better, the internet is flooded with amazing resources. Oh, and did you know there are even vegan butcher shops now? So if you miss the texture and chew of meat as you are transitioning, you can still get your fix with planet-friendly vegan steaks, bacon and more. There’s a great vegan butcher in Minneapolis, known as Herbivorous Butcher, and they ship.
If you’re stumped on what to cook, go to Pinterest and search for vegan recipes, and I guarantee you’ll have a wealth of options. And if you love cookbooks, as I do, you might like recent works from Gaz Oakley, who also has some amazing YouTube videos; The Kind Diet, a great vegan cookbook from Alicia Silverstone; and Thug Kitchen, which has awesome plant-based recipes on their site as well as some amazing vegan cookbooks, all peppered with deliciously salty language.
5. Check out Recipe for A Green Life, a comprehensive guide full of practical sustainability tips that you can put into place in your household today.
The book includes plant-based recipes, tips on reducing your carbon footprint and dependence on single-use plastics, how-to guides for making your own household cleaning products, and so much more. I edited this book because I love it, and I use it all the time! Trust me, if you’re committed to making changes toward sustainable living, this will be your favorite guide.
The solution to climate change is US.
The Earth my nieces inherit will be a direct reflection of what my generation does now to strengthen and preserve it.
The IPCC Climate Report is the strongest call to action to date, and the time to make changes in our homes and lives is now. With these five steps, you’ll help all of us move in the right direction, toward improved sustainability and a healthier planet.
To greener days ahead!
Featured image by Cocoparisienne on Pixabay