Updated: May 12, 2020
'There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.'
- Barack Obama, 2014
2019. A time where the climate crisis and threat of global warming are at the forefront of global conversation.
The figurehead central to these conversations is Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist. Through her speeches and actions in the past year alone, she's inspired millions of children and adults to 'strike for the climate,' and has sparked remarkable levels of media attention as a result.
Likewise, the climate group Extinction Rebellion have been launching similar protests around the world, with demonstrators calling for their governments to take urgent action against carbon emissions.
Protesters have literally been painting the town red with fake blood, in a symbolic move to represent the destruction of our planet, it's natural habitats and our wildlife.
These ever-growing actions from protesters have sparked endless political and media discussion about our planet and what can be done to save it.
Much of the responsibility to implement change lies with governments, big businesses and corporations. There must be a systemic overhaul of the way society tackles these issues, and this will not be actioned instantly.
In the meantime, as citizens of the world, we have a duty to ensure we are doing all we can to lessen harm on an individual level.
There are a number of simple, yet effective ways you can take steps to live a more sustainable life, and we've included our favourite ten below!
1. Public Transport
Take public transport wherever you can! Cars for personal use are a major polluter and account for 60% of total road transport CO2 emissions in Europe.
Take buses, trains or bikes if possible, and if you have to use a car, make sure that it's filled up with multiple passengers.
2. Eat Less Meat
The agricultural industry uses 70% of all fresh water, and 40% of the land’s surface is consumed by farmland for animals. If cows were a country, they'd be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter. (There's 1.5 billion on the planet!)
The immensely damaging impact of these agricultural systems are all an indicator that we should drastically cut back our meat consumption. But don't worry, there are plenty of alternatives out there that are tasty, nutritious, and full of meat-free protein! Insects anyone?
Find out more about how edible insects could be a fantastic high protein alternative to meat:
3. Contact your local government representative
Discuss with your local government what sustainability strategies are in place in your area to reduce carbon emissions. Proceed to raise awareness within your local community about the steps people can take to positively contribute.
When election time comes calling, make sure you vote for the candidate with the most impactful green policies. Politicians are key figures in working to find solutions to the issues surrounding sustainability, so make sure the right ones are in office, and use your vote wisely.
4. Buy Local Produce
In instances where you have the option, buying locally sourced produce is ideal. Food that comes from far away, whether it be plane, boat or truck, uses vast quantities of fuel to transport it and energy to keep it cool.
Also, remember to buy seasonal produce. Yes, mangos are delicious, but during European winter, sourcing these fruits grown in warmer and tropical climates has a damaging impact and is unsustainable.
5. Water Use
Water security is a pressing global issue surrounding climate change. Already, 11% of the world's population do not have access to a filtered and constant water supply, and this is only going to get worse.
Ensure that you limit your shower time where you can, turn on taps only when completely necessary, and be cautious with washing machine or dishwasher use. In terms of drinking water, stop using single-use plastic bottles and buy a water filter that you can implement at home.
6. 'Fast Fashion'
People tend to think that buying a new coat will make them happy. That dopamine hit upon purchase is fantastic, and we're not denying that. However, clothing production has doubled in the past 15 years, and so-called 'fast fashion' has risen to combat growing demands. Fast Fashion = cheap materials and cheap labour.
Instead, invest in good quality clothes & take good care of them, buy second hand or vintage clothing, learn how to properly mend your items - oh, and wash everything less!
7. Plant a Tree
Scientists have said that planting billions of trees is the single most effective and quickest way of tackling the climate crisis. Trees absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions we are producing, expelling oxygen as a byproduct.
Trees improve our air quality, reduce urban heat and make our communities a much more beautiful place. Planting a tree also creates further habitats for our wildlife, and who doesn't love climbing one?
8. Limit Air Travel
Take a leaf out of Greta's book - instead of flying to the UN Climate Summit in New York, the young activist chose to travel from the UK via a zero-emissions yacht.
A return economy flight from London to New York emits an estimated 0.67 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. The equivalent is produced by someone living in Ghana over an entire year.
Now, New York is amazing (don't get me wrong), but we're not that desperate to see The Statue of Liberty! If you're going to travel, make it close to home, and support the beautiful sights near to your own country.
9. Actions at Home
It may sound incredibly simple, but when everyone is implementing small actions such as turning off a light-switch, unplugging appliances that aren't in use, or taking reusable bags to the shops, it can be incredibly powerful.
Many people are in the habit of these behaviours already, but it is beneficial to reiterate their importance.
10. Have Conversations
Never underestimate the power of an insightful and informative conversation, whether it be with a friend, colleague or family member. Pass on any information you have about steps to sustainable living, and you will no doubt see change begin to transpire around you.
We look to others for inspiration in all aspects of our behaviour. In California, for example, people were far more likely to install solar panels if their neighbour's homes already had them in place.
An individual trying to make a difference is a start, but when everyone is on the same page, positive results are inevitable.
Want to make a change? Join the sustainable food revolution:
by Erin Banks