3 Things You Can Do Today to Help Reduce Climate Change
There’s no denying us humans have contributed to the devastation of the planet, more so than ever in the past 30 years. As author of the chilling book The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, David Wallace-Wells, puts it: “We have now done more damage to the environment knowingly than we ever managed in ignorance.”
But it’s not all gloom and doom. The conversation about climate change and concerns of the health of the planet are becoming more mainstream. There is much technological innovation that is happening, new certifications, such as B Corp and Regenerative Organic Certification, are emerging, the Green New Deal and other recent clean-energy ballot initiatives are moving and young leaders are saying enough is enough. There is hope.
Though there is much more work that needs to be done, it all starts with educating ourselves, spreading that knowledge with each other and taking both individual and collective action towards a healthier planet.
Here’s what we know about climate change right now
Unfortunately, not only have we not stopped emitting greenhouse gases, but we’re releasing them faster than ever before.
According to the UN Environment Programme, CO2 emissions rose in 2017 for the first time in four years. A recent Forbes article stated that one major contributor is the rise in Amazon deforestation. Tropical forests in these regions are essential for keeping carbon in the ground and maintaining the climate; however, the rate at which we’re clearing out these rainforests is greatly contributing to the rapid warming of the planet. Agriculture and livestock also continues to be one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by the burning of fossil fuels for power, heat and transportation.
The United Nations Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report looks at how much we need to reduce our emissions, and then how big the gap is between the promises made so far and what's actually necessary. Right now, we’re seeing the largest gap yet — nations of the world will have to triple their current efforts to keep climate change to the ‘safe’ level of 2°C by 2030.
So what can we do today to drastically reduce climate change?
The next few years are going to be crucial in order to change the course of our future and future generations. Many argue that it doesn’t matter how personally “green” your lifestyle is — collectively taking on industrial and corporate power is the way to go.
An interesting article in The Guardian points out this very issue with individual versus collective action when it comes to climate change: “If we want to bring down emissions fast, we will need to overcome all of its free-market mantras: take railways and utilities and energy grids back into public control; regulate corporations to phase out fossil fuels; and raise taxes to pay for massive investment in climate-ready infrastructure and renewable energy.”
While social action and collective efforts are key to reversing climate change, reducing our carbon footprint as individuals still does matter. The choices we make as individuals and thoughtful acts of conservation we make in our everyday lives can not only help in carbon savings, but it can also encourage and inspire others to make the same changes.
Research in social behaviour suggests that lifestyle change can build momentum for systemic change. “People taking action in their personal lives is actually one of the best ways to get to a society that implements the policy-level change that is truly needed,” this Slate article suggests. It’s all about individual efforts and spreading the attitude, paired with wide-ranging action, that would inspire social norms and, hopefully, snowball into large-scale impacts — social norms that can spark collective action, move the needle on policy and change the way corporations and companies run their business.
Here are the top four things you can do today to help reduce the effects of climate change.
1. Practice Mindful Shopping
In general, consume less and waste less. Find and support brands that share this shopping mantra and that are coming up with innovative ways to create useful products without causing further devastation to the planet.
For those looking to become more socially responsible shoppers, here’s a quick checklist of questions for every product you decide to buy — for starters, know exactly what it is you’re buying:
❏ What ingredients does it have? (Safe and natural vs synthetic chemicals)
❏ How is it made? (Where does it get its materials and ingredients, who are the workers that source them)
❏ Does it practice sustainability in an effective and measurable way? (Does it use recyclable packaging and try to minimize as much waste as possible)
❏ What certifications does it have? (B Corp, Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Leaping Bunny Certification)
❏ Does it support people, animals and the planet in some way? (Does the company give back to communities or offer a portion of their sales to charitable or environmental organizations)
As an online wellness store for socially-conscious shoppers, we are constantly on the hunt for brands and products that meet our four pillars — pure, green, safe and fair — in order to make it easier for people to practice mindful shopping. Not only are these brands doing their part to minimize their impact on the environment, but their products are healthier for us and of higher quality — meaning less consumption and less money spent on more items to meet our needs. Here are some of our favorite brands that are a making a difference:
A Certified B Corporation, The Unscented Company creates fragrance-free home and body care products designed for eco-conscious living. Their sustainable packaging allows customers the ability to reuse, recycle or refill their bottles, either at home or in-store, helping to significantly reduce our collective plastic footprint. The Unscented Company hopes to disrupt the current excessive consumption habits and change the way we shop in bulk.
Another Certified B Corp and rightfully so (they scored in the top 10% out of all 1,200+ B Corporations for creating the most positive overall environmental impact), Preserve makes everyday items from 100% recycled plastic. We’re talking toothbrushes made from yogurt cups and throwaway takeout containers into stylish tableware. Standing by their slogan “Nothing wasted. Everything gained” for over 20 years, Preserve continues to find ways to divert even more plastic from the landfills, even developing their own takeback program called Gimme 5 and expanding into plant-based compostables.
It’s a striking stat — approximately 20 billion pads, tampons and plastic applicators are being sent to North American landfills every year. These products take hundreds of years to biodegrade, especially if wrapped in the plastic packaging it comes with. In addition to the solid waste from disposables, pads and tampons are also usually made with powerful bleaching agents and other toxic chemicals to enhance absorbency or add scent. Aisle, a women-owned, B Corporation based in Vancouver, Canada, is hoping to bring more awareness to these issues by creating safe, reusable and comfortable sanitary products, encouraging more women to make the switch.
2. Eat Less Meat
The Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan offers words to live by for those striving for a more climate-stable planet: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
It’s a big, individual lifestyle change for many meat-loving diners. But you don’t have to go cold tofurkey straight away to make a difference. Even gradually cutting down and becoming a “flexitarian” — a semi-vegetarian diet that is plant-based with the occasional inclusion of meat — can cut your carbon footprint significantly. According to Project Drawdown, adopting a more plant rich-diet and eating less beef could cut more than 66 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 30 years!
And the good news is there are much more (and tastier) meat substitutes and plant-based food companies emerging in the market today. The continuous success of Beyond Meat — first debuted at Whole Foods May 2016, now sold in thousands of supermarkets, restaurants and hotels and worth over $550 million — only goes to show that consumer attitudes are changing and more people are craving solutions to better the planet.
3. Lessen Your Energy Consumption
Dramatic reductions in energy use are crucial in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, not only in our homes but in the buildings we work in.
One of the biggest culprits? Air conditioners. Not only do they consume a ton of energy, air conditioners also run on hydroflurocarbons (HFCs), which are potent greenhouse gases and can trap thousands of times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. According to an article in Science magazine, HFCs are now the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in every country on earth.
It’s a big paradox — the more the earth warms from climate change, the more air conditioning we need. But there are many ways to make cooling more efficient without having to blast the AC. For starters, don’t leave the air conditioning running when you’re not home. Other tips: shading windows to block off the heat coming in, using fans instead and limit the use of cooking on the stovetop or oven on hot days — time to get creative with more fresh veggies and salad recipes.
Being mindful of how you consume and how you leave a footprint on this earth will have a direct impact on the state of the future. Every little bit of change in your lifestyle counts!
~The Vitarock Team