Climate change has become one of the most pressing global issues.
It is well-known that humans are the primary driver of climate change through our actions and activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels for energy, manufacturing and more.
Climate change has already impacted ecosystems, economies, and communities around the world.
While tackling climate change might seem like a daunting task, there are a lot of small actions that can be taken at an individual level that can help fight climate change.
What is Climate Change?
Climate change is the long-term shift in temperature and weather patterns, including changes in the average conditions and changes in variability.
Since the early 20th century, changes in the Earth’s climate have been caused primarily by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels.
Human activities release heat-trapping greenhouse gases that continue to drive climate change.
The biggest challenge associated with climate change is that these heat-trapping gases, such as Carbon Dioxide, linger in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. That means that even if we stopped emitting all greenhouse gases today, climate change would continue to affect future generations.
Responding to climate change requires both mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation refers to the efforts to reduce or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases, while adaptation involves adjusting or adapting to life or projected life in a changing climate.
Mitigation often refers to new technologies and renewable energies at a global scale, but it can also be applied at a local/individual level. By changing daily habits or your consumer behaviors, you can help fight climate change! Continue reading to find out how.
10 Ways You Can Do to Help Fight Climate Change
1. Reduce Transportation Emissions
Transportation is a major contributor to climate change, which includes cars, trucks, commercial aircraft and railroads.
In the United States, it is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 29% of total emissions. Nearly three-quarters of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation originate from road vehicles, e.g., cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes.
This is not surprising given that many people commute to and from work daily. Although it might seem challenging to act on your transportation emissions, there are several minor adjustments that can be made on various journeys you take (e.g., to the grocery store) that can help make a difference.
Tips to help you reduce your transportation emissions:
- Drive less
- Avoid Idling
- Walk or bike
- Use bike-share or car-share programs
- Take public transportation whenever possible
- Carpool or ride-share
- Switch to a hybrid or electric vehicle
- Work from home occasionally if possible
- Plan your journey ahead of time
Learn more on how to reduce car pollution.
2. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Reduce, reuse and recycle are often referred to as the 3 R’s of the environment. It refers to reducing the amount of waste generated, reusing things that otherwise would be thrown away, and recycling old useless things into something useful.
Tips on how to reduce, reuse and recycle:
- Think before you shop – ask yourself “do I really need that”?
- Repurpose items (e.g., old clothing, cloth grocery bags, and containers)
- Shop at thrift stores and buy used items
- Donate or sell unwanted items
- Research your local recycling program to know what is collected
- Research where electronics, batteries or other larger items can be recycled
- Maintain products, appliances and cars to ensure the lifespan is maximized
- Repair products instead of just throwing them out
- Borrow, rent or share items you don’t use frequently (e.g., party decorations or tools)
3. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint When Flying
Flying is responsible for 12% of transportation emissions annually. If it were a country, flying would be among the top 10 global emitters. Flying has a massive impact on the environment, as it is energy-intensive and dependent on fossil fuels.
Flying produces a large amount of CO2 emissions, air pollutants, and greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. The main concern with the emissions produced from flying is that they remain in the atmosphere for centuries.
One way to reduce your carbon footprint when flying is to purchase carbon offsets. A carbon offset is a credit for emissions reductions that can be sold as compensation for an individual to offset the environmental cost of their air travel.
They are usually measured in tonnes of CO2 equivalent and are bought and sold through international brokers, online retailers, and trading platforms.
Tips to help you reduce your carbon footprint when flying:
- Fly economy to improve efficiency
- Take direct, non-stop flights to avoid high emissions during takeoff and landing
- Take the train, if that is an option
- Take daytime flights
- Choose airlines that have policies related to energy efficiency and passenger capacity
- Purchase carbon offsets
4. Boost Your Energy-efficiency
Globally, energy usage is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions are linked to the burning of fossil fuels for things such as heating and electricity.
Adopting more energy-efficient practices can have a huge impact on the environment and your pocketbook. For example, LED lightbulbs use an average of 50% less power than fluorescent or high-intensity bulbs and 80% less power than incandescent lighting.
Energy efficiency is an effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Tips to help you boost your energy efficiency:
- Install a programmable thermostat that allows you to reduce cooling and heating when you’re not home
- Lower your thermostat by a few degrees in the winter and raise it a few degrees in the summer
- Unplug computers, TVs and other electronics when you’re not using them
- Wash clothes in cold water
- Hang-dry your clothes
- Use dryer balls when you are drying clothes in the dryer
- Look for the Energy Star label when buying new appliances
- Change to energy-efficient (LED) light bulbs
- Turn off any lights when they are not in use
5. Reduce Food Waste
In North America, food waste costs the economy more than $28 million dollars and the wasted food could have fed over 260 million people. Food is wasted both at home and in stores because it spoils before it can be consumed.
When food is wasted, not only does it end up in a landfill creating methane (greenhouse gas), but all the resources (e.g., land, water, energy) that went into producing it are also wasted.
Tips to help you eliminate food waste
- Plan your meals ahead of time
- Go to the grocery store with a list and stick to the list
- Avoid impulse shopping (stick to the list)
- Check the “best-before” and “packaged on” dates
- Store perishable food in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as you get home from the grocery store
- Organize your refrigerator and freezer in such a way that food doesn’t get “lost”
- Make sure that leftovers are always near the front of the fridge
- Anything that you are storing in the freezer should be dated
6. Switch to Reusable Cups, Water Bottles and Containers
Single-use plastics and other disposable materials have become increasingly popular in our fast-paced society. These plastic bottles or paper coffee cups often find their way to our oceans or waterways, harming wildlife and the environment along the way.
For example, in the United States, an average of 50 billion water bottles are disposed of each year, of which 23% are properly recycled.
Plastic bottles take centuries to break down and release toxic chemicals during that process. Making the switch to reusable reduces waste and saves resources.
Tips to help you make the switch to reusable:
- Put your cup, bottle or container somewhere that you will remember (e.g., in your bag)
- Use your cup, bottle or container whenever possible (e.g., at the coffee shop or for takeout)
- Find no-waste stores where you can bring your own containers
7. Make Changes to Your Diet
Agriculture and forestry activities associated with food production account for over one-quarter of greenhouse gases emitted from human activities. More than half of agricultural emissions are associated with animal products, such as livestock and the production of methane gas.
Believe it or not, what you eat impacts the environment and making small changes to your diet can help tackle climate change. For example, some studies have suggested that adopting a vegan diet can reduce the number of greenhouse gases your diet contributes to climate change by up to 60%.
Tips to help you make your diet more climate-friendly:
- Eat less meat (e.g., meatless Mondays)
- Reduce beef consumption (e.g., once or twice per week)
- Try new recipes
- Adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet
- Eat more vegetables
- Buy more organic and local foods
- Grow your own produce or herbs
8. Invest Responsibly
Responsible investment is an approach that acknowledges environmental and social factors. Making responsible investments requires an individual to find out where their money is going. For example, if you have a financial advisor or investor, they guide you on what to invest in.
However, what many people cannot realize is that their investments are in oil companies or multinational corporations. Most banks, pension funds and big corporations often hold investments in fossil fuel companies.
It is important to ask your financial advisor or investor where your money is going and how to make responsible investments.
Tips for Investing responsibly:
- Ask your financial advisor or investor if you can opt out of funds with investments in fossil fuels
- Invest in renewable energy, green tech or other sustainable industries
9. Plant Local Flowers and Wildflowers
If you are planning to do some landscaping, it is important to do your research. Planting native plants are important as it provides nectar, pollen and seeds that help native species (e.g., butterflies, birds, bees, and other animals) thrive.
Native plants do not require harmful fertilizers or pesticides that are toxic to the environment and native species.
Planting native species helps reduce the threat of invasive species, reduces water consumption, helps reduce your carbon footprint, and creates natural habitats for native species.
Tips for planting local flowers and wildflowers:
- Determine plants that are native to your area
- Find the right location in your yard (e.g., shade, full sun)
- Use a rain barrel to capture water for your plants
10. Reduce Your Fashion Impact
The fashion industry is responsible for around 2-4% of greenhouse gas emissions as its production requires a significant amount of energy, water, and additional resources.
For example, the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water annually, which is enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people.
One of the major problems with the fashion industry is that there is a significant amount of energy required for the manufacturing, transportation, packaging, and selling of the clothes, while only 15% of clothes get recycled. Meaning that most clothes produced end up in a landfill or get incinerated.
Consumerism is another problem, as we are buying more than ever, especially for cheap fast fashion.
Tips to help reduce your fashion impact:
- Buy less
- Buy clothes from sustainable brands
- Shop local
- Shop at thrift stores or online re-sale apps
- Rent items (e.g., a dress for an upcoming event)
- Spend the extra money on better quality
- Try to repair clothes
- Donate old clothes
- Sell clothes on re-sale apps
- Find shops that buy clothing items
- Recycle clothes in textile bins
Final Thoughts on Ways You Can Do to Help Fight Climate Change
Climate change is a complex global issue that requires action at all levels – global, local, and individual. Climate change mitigation can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions being released into the atmosphere.
When it comes to climate action, small individual actions can lead to a big impact. For example, even if only ten people switched to a reusable water bottle, imagine how many plastic water bottles that would save. Start making small changes to help fight climate change!
Related content: Ways to Make Your Home Appliances More Energy-Efficient
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