“Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” ~ Greta Thunberg
Climate change is the greatest challenge of our times.
We must take urgent action to cut global emissions in half by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050. This demands the phasing out of fossil fuel emissions, along with adopting efficient, renewable energies.
Achieving net-zero carbon emissions won’t be easy, but it is still possible. It will require the collaboration of public and government leaders, along with regular citizens, as well as education and heightened awareness of what we must do, individually and collectively, to protect and conserve our precious planet.
Here are nine logical, eco practices we can integrate into our lives to help us take a stand against climate change:
1. Avoid microplastics.
These tiny pieces of plastic, measuring less than 5mm long, have been found in our oceans, rivers, air, food, bottled water, and tap water. Up to eight million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean annually. This amount is projected to double within the next decade unless there is a radical change in human behavior.
Ban glitter from your life. Avoid buying it or products that contain it. If you really must have glitter, opt for a biodegradable version.
Choose non-synthetic clothes made of natural materials, like cotton. Use a laundry ball to catch microfibers shedding off clothes in the washing machine. Air dry instead of using the dryer. Support organizations addressing plastic pollution, such as Plastic Pollution Coalition.
2. Don’t eat fake food.
Avoid foods that contain chemicals, artificial colorants and preservatives, palm oil, or hydrogenated corn oil. Eat fruits and vegetables harvested locally. Grow some herbs and edibles in your own garden.
3. Go vegetarian.
Avoid factory-farmed meat. Mainstream meat production is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions that uses an incredible amount of land and water and tortures animals.
Incorporate a variety of whole grains, fresh and dried fruits, and fresh vegetables and beans into your daily diet. Boost your vegetable intake by adding them to soup, pasta, or rice dishes.
Invest in a good vegetarian cookbook or search online for recipes and meal ideas. Expand your repertoire to encompass international cuisines—like Thai, Japanese, Indian, and Middle Eastern—that boast tons of colorful vegetarian options.
If you don’t already, start reading food labels, since some seemingly vegetarian foods may contain lard, chicken broth, or gelatin. Don’t buy into the myth that vegetarians can’t get enough protein in their diets. Most people’s protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant proteins (whole grains, beans, lentils, and nuts) and consuming enough calories.
Cook with healthy fats such as coconut and olive oil, which are rich in good fats.
4. Go car-free.
Is it really necessary to have our own private car? Or is it just a luxury that many of us have become accustomed to?
Instead of driving and creating more pollution, consider making a radical life change: walk, bike, or take public transportation. As a bonus of not owning a car, you will get into better shape from walking more and you won’t have to deal with car payments, insurance, flat tires, oil changes, and upkeep or accidents—or any other stresses related to vehicle ownership. You will no longer need to buy gasoline or worry about finding parking.
What’s more, you don’t need a car, thanks to bicycles, buses, carpools, Uber, and other options for transportation. Reduce your carbon footprint by choosing more conscious, ecological ways of getting around. Take advantage of your commuting time: read an enlightening book while you are on the bus or subway, or get some extra work done. Not driving reduces your stress level and helps set the foundation for a healthier, more balanced life.
By being car-less, you contribute to a greener environment. Although there are electric cars and hybrid cars with good gas mileage, it’s much more eco-friendly not to drive at all. Anyone truly concerned about the environment can make a statement by giving up their car.
5. Flat out refuse.
Choose to say no and not accept the status quo when it comes to plastic packaging and single-use items that quickly turn into trash. Refusing is a way to reflect on our habits as consumers and stop the demand for disposable products.
Refuse plastic bags for your purchases. Bring your own canvas bags when you go shopping or at least opt for a paper bag. Refuse waste-generating products unnecessarily wrapped in plastic. Whenever possible, buy from the bulk and produce sections of the grocery store instead of buying processed food. Use your own bags and containers.
Refuse plastic straws and plastic lids or styrofoam cups when ordering drinks from a cafe or restaurant. Bring your own reusable mug to the coffee shop. Refuse to buy drinking water or other beverages sold in plastic bottles. Carry a reusable water bottle wherever you go.
Refuse plastic or styrofoam to-go boxes for take-out or leftovers. Bring your own reusable containers to restaurants. Politely refuse unnecessary things such as advertising leaflets, free samples, paper receipts, and single-use plastics when a business or individual offers them to you.
Refuse disposable feminine health products (pantiliners, pads, tampons with plastic applicators) and instead opt for reusable feminine products like a menstrual cup or washable cotton cloth pads.
6. Reduce consumption.
Buy less stuff. Make gifts instead of purchasing them.
Think twice before you buy any product. Do you really need it? How did the production of this product impact the environment and when and how will you dispose of it? To eliminate impulse buying, wait a month after deciding you want a product to make your purchase.
Simplify your life by only keeping belongings that you use regularly. Reducing what you own naturally leads to buying less and creating less waste in the future.
Observe an eco-Sabbath. Choose one day a week to not buy anything, not use electricity, turn off your phone, and avoid using a car.
Reduce the amount of groceries you buy to avoid letting food spoil.
Get off junk mailing lists to lessen paper and plastic waste.
Reduce the usage of your heating and air conditioning system and use less electricity in general.
Organize swaps between friends to avoid having to buy new clothes. Use hand-me-downs for your children. Shop at flea markets and thrift stores.
Buy used products whenever possible. Shop in real life rather than online; this generates less waste by avoiding shipping. Repair things when possible instead of buying replacements.
8. Recycle and compost.
Separate trash into categories: paper, plastic, aluminum, glass, and organic food waste. Reuse what you can and recycle the rest. Keep a compost bin in the garden to create rich soil that will help your garden grow.
Stay aware of the latest developments with regard to climate change and the state of our planet, and talk with friends and family about these important issues.