6 things you can do now to help the environment

These tips from the experts at Earth Day Network will help you start making a positive change today.

Our world needs transformational change. It’s time for the world to hold sectors accountable for their role in our environmental crisis while also calling for bold, creative and innovative solutions. This will require action at all levels, from business and investment to city and national government. 

That’s where you come in. As an individual, you yield real power and influence as a consumer, a voter and a member of a community that can unite for change.

Don’t underestimate your power. When your voice and your actions are united with thousands or millions of others around the world, we create a movement that is inclusive, impactful and impossible to ignore.

As the 50th anniversary of Earth Day approaches, the time is long overdue for a global outpouring of energy, enthusiasm and commitment to create a new plan of action for our planet. Earth Day 2020 can be the catalyst that galvanizes an unparalleled global collaboration.

Concept about plastic pollution

1. Ditch plastic

The prolific use of plastic in our world is staggering. Humans have created some 8.3 billion metric tons of the stuff, the equivalent of 800,000 Eiffel Towers. Plastic pollution is a problem because of its long-lasting effects — this petroleum-based, man-made material never fully degrades. According to estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one plastic bottle takes at least 450 years to break down.

Waste Management estimates that each year we use 4 trillion plastic bags worldwide, bags that have a lifespan of only 15-20 minutes. And recycling is not a silver-bullet solution to our problems: Only 1% of those bags get properly recycled, and a recent study finds that only 9% of all the world’s plastic is even recycled. Find additional ways to reduce your plastic waste and more at Earth Day Network’s End Plastic Pollution campaign.

Blue and Purple ingredients

2. Eat a plant-based diet

Transitioning to a plant-based diet is one of the most significant actions we can take to reduce our individual carbon footprint. Animal agriculture accounts for at least 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, and is one of the largest sources of methane emissions, an extremely potent greenhouse gas.

A recent special report on agriculture land use by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that “a shift toward plant-based diets” is one of the most significant ways to reduce greenhouse gases from the agriculture sector. Check out Earth Day Network’s campaign Foodprints for the Future for some plant-based tips.

Artwork decoration. White passenger plane ready to taking off from airport runway. Silhouette of Aircraft during night time.

3. Travel smarter

The transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For every mile you don’t drive, you reduce your carbon footprint by one pound. Flying is also extremely carbon intensive — though it makes up only about 2% of global human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, its hour-for-hour carbon footprint for every individual is unmatched. (It’s also an emitter typically reserved for the global elite, raising the issues of climate justice and inequality.)

As David Wallace-Wells writes in his long-form essay “Uninhabitable Earth,” published last year in New York Magazine, “Every round-trip ticket on flights from New York to London, keep in mind, costs the Arctic three more square meters of ice.” Unlike cars, which are slowly transitioning to electricity, airplanes are far from the transition away from jet fuel.

Plastic Pollution In Ocean - Turtle Eat Plastic Bag - Environmental Problem

4. Register for an Earth Day event

The power of mobilization in civil society cannot be overstated. Just look at the first Earth Day, when 20 million individuals came together to demand increased protections for our planet. History was made on April 22, 1970, and it’s a history that we have marked every year since.

The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is going to be another historic moment. Take your action to the next level on Earth Day by joining the global EARTHRISE mobilization for our planet on April 22. Check out the confirmed events for Earth Day 2020 and register your own events.

Couple Planting Young Tree

5. Plant a tree

Trees filter the air and stave off the effects of climate change. Trees also reverse the impacts of land degradation; provide food, energy and income to communities; and act as one of the world’s most natural carbon sinks.

Check out Earth Day Network’s tree-planting campaign, The Canopy Project. Each dollar donated to The Canopy Project supports the planting of one tree, and every dollar spent on reforestation generates US$2.50 in local downstream income and benefits.

stock photo of little boy posing with trash bags that he picked up on earth day

6. Participate in a cleanup

Cleanups are a great way to see the extent of our waste problem. Spend 10 minutes cleaning up your favorite park and discover how much waste is right in front of us.

Because our consumption and waste management choices know no boundaries, cleanups can be very diverse, with volunteers from any background, age and country. Plus, cleanups are a great way to give back to your community and meet your fellow community members.  

Learn more about all these ideas and how to engage with Earth Day by visiting earthday.org.

This story originally appeared in the April/May 2020 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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