The Climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wasn’t a huge surprise. Stable weather patterns we’ve enjoyed for generations have now grown turbulent. Drought and heat, floods and fire are bound to become more frequent.
The report sites: “Since the pre-industrial period, the land surface air temperature has risen nearly twice as much as the global average temperature.” Our changing climate will increase in the frequency and intensity of these extreme events.
Is there any hope to be had?
Yes! Rather than moping around glum or feeling doomed, I’ve decided there are things I can do to lower my footprint.
Here are 5 simple things I’ve embraced to generate hope and cut my environmental impact.
Switch to a Plant-Based Diet
It is no longer a secret: plant-based diets and lifestyles are by far the most sustainable for the environment and for our health. If you embrace more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lentils, and beans, you can immediately reduce your environmental impact. This diet saves thousands of liters of water and reduces nitrogen pollution without supporting the inhumane conditions of factory farming.
Be aware of new plant-based foods engineered to look, taste and feel like animal products.
In my past blog, GMO products in our food, I highlight the explosion of modified materials bioengineering our food. A technique called “Synthetic Biology” genetically modifies algae, yeast or bacteria to produce high-value products such as flavors, fragrances, supplements, and many “plant-based” products. They make sustainable claims about their “fermentation” process, and the end-product is almost identical to the real thing, making them impossible to detect.
Burgers that bleed, egg whites without the chickens, shrimp made from algae, even mothers’ milk!
Do your homework about how these plant-based foods are made. There are plenty of real food options.
Think about the clothes on your back
I used to be such a fashion monger, always concerned about the dress or suit I wore in my professional life. I naively believed the more clothes cost, the better they were made. However, the fast fashion industry is one of the culprits of today’s climate crises because of the ocean and landfill pollution it creates, unsustainable working conditions, and the use of synthetic dies and materials.
Fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. What’s more, 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year.
Stop buying synthetic clothes. Almost 50% of our clothing is made from plastic, and up to 700,000 fibers can come off our synthetic clothes in a typical wash. As a result, if the fashion industry continues as it is, between the years 2015 and 2050, 22 million tons of microfibers will enter our oceans.
Choose organic cotton. As the Organic Center points out, one of the most important choices you can make for the environment is organic. Organic cotton alleviates the environmental impacts of conventionally grown cotton.
The most sustainable fashion option is the ones you have waiting for you in your closet.
Move your body with sustainable transportation
Ditching your car altogether is a great way to reduce your environmental impact and cut down on your greenhouse gas emissions. But unless you live in a big city well connected through public transport, it can be extremely difficult to face the commute or daily hauls without a vehicle.
At the same time, a car is not the only option! Buy an electric bike or, if the incentives are in place, an electric car.
Take the bus or train, and advocate for clean, sustainable transportation policies that will move us towards fewer GHG emissions.
Avoid Single-Use Plastics
There are plenty of green products for everyday life that are also a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic products.
I reuse glass containers for food storage and buy compostable bags for garbage. I always use my cloth totes to shop at the store.
Reuse, recycle and think about how you’ve contributed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This gyre of debris in the North Pacific Ocean is twice the size of Texas today. Eighty percent of the plastic in the ocean comes from land-based sources, with the remaining 20 percent coming from boats and other marine sources.
An excellent article that tackles Overfishing and Sustainability explains a term called ghost fishing, which is abandoned man-made fishing gear left behind after the catch. It’s believed that an estimated 25,000 nets float throughout the Northeast Atlantic.
Go visit your landfill
We don’t often stop to think about where the waste we produce ends up, but it must go somewhere. This “somewhere” is in the ocean and landfills, polluting great parts of natural reserves and destroying thousands of ecosystems. Most county landfills offer tours, so I dare you to make the time—think of it as a field trip to improve your wasteful habits.
The only way we are going to get out of this climate mess is to take personal action. To do that, we need hope, and we need to generate hope in every person we touch. Every communication, every conversation or email, can help regenerate the conviction and confidence to create the change we need.
What are you doing to mitigate our warming planet?
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