Climate change is arguably the biggest issue of the twenty first century. Whilst companies and governments have the ability to make the largest difference, there are a lot of things you the individual citizen can do to take a lead on climate change and make a difference. We all know installing solar panels and buying an electric car are ways we can help but these are not affordable to all. Below we have listed 11 things you can do today to help the planet. Even if you are able to incorporate just a couple of these into your daily life you will be making a difference.
1. Hang clothes out on the line
Electric dryers generate on average 1.8kg of Co2 per load. If you tumble dry 4 loads a week that is 468kg of Co2 every year. You can also make some huge Co2 savings washing clothes on the cold wash. On average 90% of a washing machine’s energy is used on heating up the water. Washing 4 out of 5 of your loads of clothes in cold water can save up to 32kg of Co2 emissions every MONTH. Another area you can reduce your environmental impact with a dirty load is by using a fragrance-free laundry product. The University of Tasmania conducted a study and found that one load of washing using fragrance-free laundry products reduced some air pollutants by up to 99.7%.
2. Plant trees
Trees are not only just great way to offset emissions, they also provide cleaner air for us to breathe. Getting outside and doing some gardening is also great exercise and good for mental health. One option is to join a Green Gym.
3. Ask your local cafe to close the door
Why, you might ask? An open door to an air-conditioned shop or building can produce up to 2.2 tons of extra carbon emissions over summer. That simple conversation will save more Co2 emissions than canceling that overseas return flight. Then when you get home making sure you don’t leave the fridge door open will save a lot of energy and Co2.
4. Eat seasonally
We can be forgiven for forgetting some food are seasonal these days with the ability to buy some fruits and vegetables such as strawberries all year round. However if it’s out of season chances are it has traveled a long distance to get to you, racking up food miles. It’s normal for non seasonal food to travel upwards of 21,073 km or more. Also, do you ever wonder why out of season fruit often doesn’t taste as good? It’s often picked early to survive the long plane or truck journey to your local supermarket. Buying fresh, in-season and locally grown food not only tastes better and promotes local employment, it is also better for our planet too.
5. Reduce plastic usage
It’s no secret that plastic is a leading contributor to global emissions. In America 2.5million plastic bottles are thrown out every hour. Plastic is everywhere we go, but there are some simple things you can do to reduce its use and impact:
- Take your own reusable water bottle with you instead of buying bottled water.
- BYO coffee cup to your local cafe instead of a take away cup.
- Use reusable shopping and produce bags.
- Opt for buying loose bulk items such as nuts, washing powder etc instead of items packaged in plastic.
- Support brands that used recycled or plant based plastics over virgin plastics.
- Make sure you put recycle items in your recycling bin rather than the trash. Most major supermarkets also offer soft plastic recycling these days.
6. Switch banks & retirement funds
Companies need to lend money or raise capital from selling shares in order to expand their operations. Companies wanting to expand old polluting industries are no different, however there is a new gatekeeper. The consumer. You probably have more sway over your local bank or investment fund than you may think. More and more customers have been switching from their old bank or retirement/super fund (depending where in the world you live) to ethical banks and funds that refuse to fund certain industries or activities. This has had the flow on effect of a large number of traditional banks gradually refusing to fund dirty projects which encourages companies to switch to greener alternatives.
7. Don’t go to the supermarket when hungry
Food waste is a massive contributor to climate change, Australians throw away around 20% of the food they buy. That equals around 3.3 billion tons of Co2 every year. In fact if global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest Co2 emitter in the world. But what does this have to do with going to the supermarket when hungry, I hear you ask? Multiple studies has confirmed people buy much more if they shop whilst they are hungry. One study actually found people spend up to 60% more on their shop when their stomachs are empty.
8. Switch to a plant-based diet
It is estimated that 23% of the world Co2 emissions are from the animal agriculture industry with a staggering 7.1 Gigatonnes of emissions emitted every year. In fact a study by Oxford university found that by going plant-based you could cut your personal Co2 emissions by up to 73%. A great starting point is committing to Meat Free Mondays which will still cut your Co2 emissions by up to 8.4%.
9. Switch to green power
Not all electricity is created equally, there are traditional forms of electricity generation such as coal, which generates the most Co2 emissions and then there are cleaner renewable forms. Some of the leading renewable forms are; Solar, wind and hydro electricity. Most electricity companies now give you the choice to buy green power from one of these sources. If you can afford to pay a little more for green power it is a great way to show power companies there is the demand for them to invest in cleaner renewable forms instead of building new coal power plants.
10. Use green transport options
According to a recent study living without a car is the single biggest change an individual living in countries such as America and Australia can do to reduce climate change. The average car will emit 4.6 tonnes of Co2 every year. Even if you can’t completely ditch the car riding your bike to school or work and taking public transport and just using your car on weekends is a really great way to make a difference.
11. Be vocalEmbed from Getty Images
Whilst we have outlined some great ways you can personally make a difference it is still a fact that for the world to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees to prevent some of the worst effects we need government and corporate action. This is why arguably the single greatest thing the individual can do is to be vocal about the environment and climate change. Companies care about profits; if these are threatened because of a fear of losing customers they will change their practices. Or if an MP thinks they’ll lose votes they will be more likely to change their policies. Some ways you can be vocal include:
- Write to your local MP
- Sign petitions
- Talk about climate change with friends and family
- Share this post and others like it