With each IPCC report more urgent and terrifying than the last, it’s easy to feel helpless in the face of impending climate disaster. As politicians around the world struggle to take meaningful action, the global momentum we need to avert the crisis can often seem impossibly out of reach.
But we aren’t helpless. Far from it.
We make decisions every day about the food we eat, the clothes we buy, and where our money is saved. All of these choices add up - in fact, 72% of global emissions come from household consumption. We’re part of the problem, which means we can act now to be part of the solution.
Over a lifetime, the lifestyle changes we start now could save hundreds of tonnes of greenhouse gases from entering our atmosphere. And crucially, it’s not only our emissions we can impact - our actions have an untold influence on our friends, families, and acquaintances. Our choices have a ripple effect that could influence immeasurable numbers of people to live more sustainable lives and halt the climate crisis.
From raising your voice about the issues, to balancing out the emissions from your car, here are ten things we can all do right now to fight climate change.
1. POLITICAL PRESSURE
We urgently need stronger regulation around climate change.
But as individuals, we don’t have the power to implement these changes. We need politicians on our side, but too many of those in power are opposed to policies that would counter the climate crisis - so we need to pressure them into doing so.
Don’t just act alone, be a vocal advocate for climate action. Write to your MP, vote and campaign for representatives that have strong stances on cutting emissions, and attend protests when you can.
You can also look into the issues affecting your local community - is there a group you can join that campaigns for more bike lanes or better recycling facilities? Taking action, even in a small way, could help you feel more empowered and optimistic.
2. CHOOSE ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORT
Transport accounts for a huge 18% of Australia’s total emissions. We won’t be able to reach net zero without seriously cutting down on the number of fossil fuel-based cars on the road, either through drivers switching to electric vehicles or using public transport.
Even if you only ditch your car for one trip a week, the greenhouse gases you’ve saved will add up significantly over time. As well as being kinder to the planet, commuting on public transport can be cheaper and more relaxing than driving, and as more people switch, services will likely improve and become more convenient.
For short trips, try walking or cycling, which can both save you money and help you lead a healthier lifestyle.
3. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR EMISSIONS
The carbon emissions of people in Australia are among the highest in the world. An Australian resident has an average carbon footprint of 22.4 tonnes, compared to 0.8 tonnes for people in Sub-Saharan Africa - painting a stark picture of global inequality.
But as well as taking steps to limit our carbon footprints, we can balance out the emissions we can’t avoid by offsetting.
Carbon credits from Go Neutral fund projects that regenerate and protect Australia’s native forests and bushland. These incredible natural resources take the carbon out of the air, and store it in the earth, effectively neutralising your emissions. Buying a Go Neutral car sticker for example, balances the amount of emissions that an average Australian car would emit in a year.
Buying carbon credits is a simple but powerful way we can clean up after ourselves, and do our part to protect our planet.
4. SWITCH TO CLEAN ENERGY
Our natural resources provide an abundant means of generating clean energy - the sun that touches the earth in a single hour could power the whole world for a full year.
By switching to a clean energy supplier, your bills will no longer fund the burning of fossil fuels. It’s often incredibly easy to make the change, but can reap huge benefits by reducing our dependence on polluting forms of energy that are damaging the planet.
If you’re able, you can go even further and join the 30% of Australians who have installed solar panels on their property. As well as giving you a sustainable, non-emitting source of clean power, this will save you money on - or can even eliminate - your energy bills.
5. CHANGE YOUR DIET
Set yourself an achievable goal such as Meat Free Monday or Veganuary. Any small adjustments to move towards a more plant based diet can have a significant effect in the long run, but you don’t need to entirely swear off animal products. Many farmers and moving to more sustainable farming methods and the work they do to deliver land regeneration projects is incredibly important in tackling climate change.
6. PLANET FRIENDLY INVESTMENTS
If you have an investment portfolio, switching to a sustainable investment fund with an Environmental, Social Governance (ESG) overlay is a way you can ensure your money is being used in ways that align with your values.
This kind of investing works much in the same way as traditional investing, but rather than your money being used to spur climate breakdown, it enables you to support the growth of companies that are tackling the crisis. For example, a sustainable investment fund might invest in a project that builds renewable energy farms in low income countries. And in 2020, ESG funds provided better returns than their non-ESG peers, and were also overall cheaper.
7. VOTE WITH YOUR WALLET
From choosing brands with recyclable packaging, to those using sustainable materials in their goods, choosing the companies you buy from based on their values is an effective way of putting your money where your mouth is.
Where you choose to spend your cash matters - the more people that demand companies prioritise the environment, the more they will do so. Supporting eco-friendly brands helps them prove that sustainable models can be successful.
You can also shop local to reduce your carbon footprint. Supporting businesses in your area reduces emissions and pollution from the transport of goods, and buying food at farmers markets helps protect local land as well as jobs.
8. DON’T WASTE FOOD
Globally, a shocking 30% of all food produced goes uneaten. In landfill, this waste produces the harmful greenhouse gas methane, while the production process itself wastes substantial amounts of water. Food waste accounts for 8% of the global total of emissions.
This happens throughout the supply chain - from when food rots on the vine to when you throw out uneaten leftovers. We can’t change what happens to food before it arrives on our plate, but we do have a say in what happens to the food in our kitchens.
To cut down on your personal food waste, try to plan your meals ahead of time and keep track of what you’ve used. Make sure you only buy food you’ll be able to eat before its use-by date, and when making a big meal, be sure to save some portions in the freezer.
9. REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE, REPURPOSE, RECYCLE
And, crucially, do so in that order.
The most effective first step to cut down waste is to simply stop buying single-use plastics or non-recyclable products at all, and learn how to properly dispose of those you do.
Next, try to reduce your level of consumption. Before you buy something, ask yourself whether that purchase is totally necessary, and try to ensure the items you purchase are high quality and long lasting.
Then, say no to our throwaway culture by reusing where you can, and upcycling the things you can’t, for example by turning tin cans into pencil holders or reupholstering an old piece of furniture.
Finally, recycle as a last resort, when you can’t use the materials in any other way. Many of the things we buy are not able to be recycled, and recycling itself is an energy intensive process, so it’s important we do all we can to make use of them in other ways first.
10. USE YOUR VOICE
The choices we make in our everyday lives matter. But no one can tackle this crisis alone.
As many of us as possible need to come together to move the dial on climate change. By making any of the changes outlined above, and speaking up about why, you might spark a chain reaction that will go a long way.
Share on social media that you’re doing Veganuary, host clothes swaps with your friends, or put a Go Neutral sticker on your car. By spreading the word about small choices we can all make to help stop climate change, you will help build the momentum we need to stop this crisis.
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