Today (22 April) is Earth Day, which each year marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. It’s now an international campaign with the core belief that, when we come together, the impact can be monumental. So on this day in 2019, what can we do in our daily lives to make a real, genuine difference to the world, instead of kidding ourselves with greenwash?
Though still important, recycling and changing our light bulbs are actually the least effective things to do, researchers have found, and yet they are sometimes the only things mentioned on a regular basis by teachers, influencers and other leaders. More important and genuine changes to behaviour are sometimes not even mentioned at all by governments, for fear of offending voters or established industries.
But time is running out, and we need to stop the grand but empty gestures. With 7.7 billion people on our planet, each of us – from children to adults – has a chance to make a difference and start a massive chain reaction. Here’s 15 ways to limit our carbon footprint, support our local economies, conserve energy, protect oceans and generally help shore up our planet’s fragile resources:
1. Have fewer children. The single most effective means of reducing emissions is having one less child.
2. Avoid all non-essential flights. And if you must fly, offset your carbon.
3. Eat less red meat. Though don’t be under any illusions that veganism is the answer. How about swapping meat for insect superfood?
4. Grow your own food, but if not possible, just buy local.
5. Buy less stuff. Re-use as much as you can, make do and mend, don’t throw away what others could use.
6. Shop with a conscience. Buy natural, top quality products that last from brands that care, buy second hand, buy local.
7. Ban single use plastics from your life. Here’s how.
8. Use less water. Take shorter showers, only start a dishwasher when it’s full, don’t leaving taps running when brushing teeth or washing dishes, water your lawn with grey water, reduce your water footprint.
9. Live with just one car. Make it electric. Walk or cycle when you can. Use car shares, buses and trains more. Avoid cruises, most of which are massively unsustainable.
10. Conserve electricity by using solar panels, LED light bulbs, rechargeable batteries and switching off the air con.
11. Recycle almost everything, from computers and mobile phones to clothes and paper. Remember that fast fashion is not recyclable and creates an environmental crisis.
12. Think before you trip. Go to places that aren’t suffering from over-tourism where your visit will make a positive difference. Ask hotels tough questions before you book and only choose hotels with a conscience Read more: Also view – 10 top tips for travellers overwhelmed by Climate Change .
13. Put up a fight. Start a petition, donate to bona fide charities, organize fundraisers and support campaigns to end poverty, war, injustice, sexism, racism and corruption in the world, join an organized protest on climate change. Children worldwide are putting up a fight with Strike 4 Climate, and when they tell us that we are burning their future, let us overcome our shame at having failed them – and listen. Read more.
14. Sue your government if they are doing nothing. In Columbia, plaintiffs age 7 to 26 sued the Colombian government for failing to protect the Amazon, which in turn contribute to climate change and won. Take a look here. In November 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request from the Trump administration to stop a novel lawsuit filed by 21 young Americans that aims to force the federal government to take action on climate change. Read more
15. Be an advocate for the kind of world you want to see. Don’t hurt others on purpose, pick up rubbish when you see it, volunteer with appropriate organisations, get a climate education and be a part of the solution. Be kind, be helpful, spread love, smile and make a difference.
To see how screwed up climate education is in the developed world, watch this clever video.