We’ve had some crazy weather this year; one of the most powerful hurricane seasons on record, massive effects from sea level rise in Miami, and the infamous ‘bomb cyclone’ hitting the East Coast. Where I live, we’ve gone from -31 degrees Fahrenheit, to 50 degrees, and back down to 14 again, all in the span of one week. With all of these erratic (and often dangerous) weather patterns in the past year, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could dispute the fact that our climate is changing.
Despite all the crazy weather, what can we do to help stop the effect of climate change? The easiest way is to enact small changes in your daily life. A few little changes can go a long way; here are four great ways to alter your lifestyle to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change!
1) Eat Less Meat
Everyone knows the stereotypes about vegans and vegetarians preaching about how meat is bad for your health and the planet. According to recent environmental studies, they’re right about the harmful effects that over-consumption of meat has on Earth. Raising animals for consumption not only requires a lot of resources in terms of land, water, and animal feed, but it also produces tons of greenhouse gases. In fact, cattle alone are thought to produce 20% of methane emissions in the US. Raising so many animals for meat also contributes to massive deforestation, especially in the Amazon rainforest, right when we need those trees the most. Even the processing and transportation of all this food is costly, making up 25% of the emissions related to food production.
All this information is scary, but it doesn’t mean that you have to give up meat for good. Monitoring your meat consumption and cutting back can also have huge effects on your personal carbon emissions try opting for meatless days a few times a week. Your body and the planet will thank you!
2) Reduce the Amount of Stuff You Buy
Everything we buy can affect the planet. In 2002, 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted from general manufacturing in the US alone, and that’s not accounting for all the goods we import as well. In addition to the cost of producing all the stuff we need, there’s also the cost of disposing it;. Americans throw out about 4.4 lbs of trash per day – that’s almost double the global average.
The good news is that we’re getting better; more efficient technology and better recycling facilities have eased the burden from all of our consumption. Recycling plants take the cast off plastics, paper, and glass to turn them into new products, but even that requires a ton of energy input. The best thing consumers can do is limit consumption instead of relying on manufacturing efficiency and recycling alone.
3) Find Alternative Transportation
In the US, transportation emission make up about 27% of yearly greenhouse gas emissions, or 1778 million tonnes of greenhouse gases emitted in 2015 alone. Of that 1778 million tonnes, 60% (1067 million tonnes) of it comes from light duty passenger vehicles. Part of the reason cars and trucks are having such a huge impact on our greenhouse gas emission is that we’re using them super inefficiently. 38% of trips taken are single occupancy, meaning there’s only one person in the car.
There’s no way to avoid it, driving cars has a huge impact on the environment. However, there are a ton of ways to get around that are a lot more environmentally friendly. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that has public transit service, you can rest easy on the train or the bus. Not only are you getting around in a more sustainable way, you get to avoid the stress of traffic and enjoy some much deserved leisure time. When the weather is good, biking is another great way to get around. You can get a workout in, and still get where you need to go without the worry of greenhouse gas production. If you have to drive, there’s still some great solutions for making your commute more environmentally friendly. Carpooling, for one, is a great way to up the occupancy of your vehicle and reduce the number of cars on the road. You can also make sure you next vehicle is more sustainable such as a hybrid or electric car.
4) Reach Out To Your Local Representatives
This part is probably the most important. The reality is, making lifestyle changes is great for reducing your personal carbon footprint, but it won’t have a huge effect on national greenhouse gas emissions. You cannot single-handedly hold corporations accountable for their greenhouse gas emissions, or push for stricter environmental regulations; collectively, a bunch of people can make a huge impact. One of the best ways to make a real change is to hold your local local representatives accountable for upholding and furthering environmental protections. Federal and state legislatures have the power to enact regulations like California’s ban on single use plastic bags, or the carbon tax in the Canadian province of British Columbia.
As we’ve seen in the past year, every vote counts, and speaking to your senators, house representatives, and governors can have a huge impact. Taking just a few minutes to call or email them about your environmental concerns is potentially one of most powerful things your can do to help the planet this year. You can find your representatives (and their contact info) in the US house here, the senate here, and you can contact your state representatives by searching on your state’s website.
There are a ton more ways that you can just make small changes to help reduce your carbon footprint and take action to reduce the effects of climate change. Being more intentional about the products you buy, food you eat, and the way you get around is a great place to start. Instead of letting yourself dissociate from the true cost of a product (monetary and environmental), ask yourself if you really need it. If you do, first try and find out if you can borrow or rent it before purchasing. If you absolutely need to buy it, try and find a reusable version. If we’re all all eating, buying and purchasing more consciously, we can help make a big difference.
Featured image via Pexels