I’m a climate optimist – but don’t be confused, extending the time before our planet experiences an unrecoverable climate catastrophe is a matter that relies heavily on all of us.
The New York City Climate Clock was unveiled last month in Manhattan’s Union Square. Andrew Boyd and Gan Golan of Climate Week conceived of the project with the help of artists and scientists to deliver a damning message: we have approximately seven years before our current rate of carbon emissions causes irreversible damage. A global temperature increase of only 1.5 degrees celsius could spell disaster if we do not act now.
The clock is made up of two parts; the first panel counts down how much time we have left. This is the part that mainstream media tends to talk about the most. When major new outlets are only talking about the problem, it is easy to feel discouraged about there being any chance for improvement. However, the second side of the installation, “our lifeline”, measures the percentage of active renewable energy sources around the world. At the time I am writing this article, over a quarter of the earth’s energy is now renewable! What can you do in your everyday life to keep disaster at bay? You are more in control than you think:
1. Vote for climate champions!
One of my favorite YouTubers, Sustainably Shelbi (better known as Shelbizlee) likes to say “you can’t do all the good in the world, but the world needs all the good you can do” at the end of each of her videos. The world’s biggest polluters are often major corporations, so supporting political candidates that will stand up to these businesses and set restrictions on how much nonrenewable energy they use is extremely useful. Every election, big or small, has the potential to set a precedent for new and improved environmental protections.
2. Go vegan!
Did you know that if all of the world’s population went vegan today, it would reverse sixteen years worth of Co2 emissions? While you can’t choose to take that step for everyone else, you can choose to take it for yourself. Assess what foods your diet mainly consists of now, and find recipes and products that could replace meat, eggs, fish, and dairy in your meals. Not everyone is able to go completely vegan or plant-based overnight, but taking small steps such as trying pesca or vegetarianism first, can make a considerable impact over time. You may even inspire someone close to you to reduce the animal products in their diet!
3. Use public transport as much as possible!
Not only is walking or riding a bike better for your body, it is also better for the planet! If you have access to a train or bus system in your area, using these modes of transportation for longer distances is a great choice as well. If you must drive, driving on cruise control will help you get better fuel mileage.
4. Reduce your waste, don’t just recycle!
We are taught the three R’s in elementary school (reduce, reuse, and recycle), but we often only remember to do the last part. Unfortunately, making good use of our trash isn’t as simple as an empty plastic bottle into the recycling bin. Recycling is only one piece of the sustainability puzzle that could save us all, a very small one at that. A better alternative to recycling would be to avoid items that cannot be reused. Before you buy something, ask yourself the following questions:
-Do I really need this?
-Do I already own or could borrow something like this?
-Can I invest in a reusable version of this item to avoid future waste?
5. Educate yourself and spread the word!
Reputable sources (such as the ones in this EarthShare article) are a great place to find information on environmentalism around the world. The more you know, the better you will understand how you can make sustainable changes in your own life. Understanding the logic behind what you are doing is key for encouraging others to do the same.
6. Donate to worthy organizations!
Finding authentic organizations to financially support will help them fund important projects. Charities and research initiatives like the ones mentioned in the link for the last tip are a great place to start. You want to know where your donation is going and why the cause is worth supporting. Few people are willing to “put their money where their mouth is”, but a contribution of only five dollars a month can make a difference over time.
7. Thrift instead of buying from fast fashion
The kind of clothing brands you can find at most malls makes up the world’s second largest source of pollution. In addition to this, the fast fashion industry has had its fair share of human rights violations throughout the years. A good way to combat these major issues is to purchase clothes second hand. Thrift and consignment shops are common even in small towns, and are a great option for students that may not have access to much disposable income. Since the items sold in these stores have already been created, the need to buy new clothes from unsustainable brands is greatly diminished.