Climate change is one of the most important issues of our lifetime. At the current rate global temperatures are rising, in the coming years our planet (and us, and our children) will see rising sea levels, threats to wildlife, lands, and agriculture, and more frequent, stronger natural disasters like hurricanes and droughts.
But climate change also can feel like a big, daunting problem. After all, it effects the entire Earth. So what can the average person do to help prevent it?
While we do all need to work together to fight climate change, the good news is there are many easy things you, your family and your friends can do to reduce your personal carbon footprint. Best of all, many of them are easy, small changes.
Here’s a list of 17 ways you can fight climate change in your own life, home, school and community:
1. Only buy and use white garbage bags
Black garbage bags can’t be recycled due to their dark pigment; white garbage bags can.
2. Speaking of which, remember to recycle and compost
Well-run recycling and composting programs cost less to operate than waste collection, landfilling, and incineration, and they have a big positive impact on our environment. When just one college, Stanford University, increased student recycling, it saved the equivalent of 33,913 trees in the first year. Recycling and composting diverts over 100 million tons of waste away from incinerators and landfills every year, preventing that waste from becoming air and water pollutants that harm the Earth and contribute to global warming.
Remember: if you have to choose one, be sure to compost – it’s a lot more environmentally friendly than recycling. We recommend putting a small bag in your freezer, storing compost there, then using it to garden or take it to a local farm, farmer’s market, or drop-off point.
3. Stop using plastic bags; bring your own bag to the grocery store (or, if you must, use paper bags and re-use or recycle them)
An estimated 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic bags, and plastic bags contain harmful additives like dioxins that can harm our health and the environment.
4. Try to limit your use of plastic water bottles
Next time, skip the Dasani or disposable Poland Springs bottle and use a re-usable drinking container. In a single year, the production, transportation and consumption of plastic water bottles produces 46 billion tonnes of carbon pollution, so every bottle not created and conserved is a plus for fighting climate change.
5. Buy and eat local food
Buy local, sustainably-grown and produced food. Yes, it may cost more, but it’s better for you and reduces your carbon footprint.
6. Eat less meat (especially lamb and beef)
Meat – particularly red meat – are the highest carbon footprint foods in our diet. Not only does livestock use more land than any other human activity (and often treats animals cruelly and unethically), the meat industry is also a major source of water pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions. One study estimates that if Americans went meatless one night a week, it would be equivalent to taking 30 to 40 million cars off the road for a year. And if you do choose to eat meat, consider substituting red meat for fish, chicken and eggs. One kilogram of consumed lamb creates 39.2 kg of carbon emissions, versus 27 kg of CO2 for beef. By comparison, chicken contributes 6.9 kg of CO2 per kg of food, tuna 6.1 kg, and eggs 4.8 kg. If you’re serious about reducing your own carbon footprint, lowering your meat consumption is one of the biggest bang-for-your-buck things you can do.