The greatest threat faced by this generation is climate change. Because without a habitable earth to live on, what do we have left? But what can we do to tackle the problem? Wait for politicians to act and hope that they’ll make the right decisions before it’s too late? Waiting certainly hasn’t proved to be an effective solution, with words so far being followed with little – if any – effective action. So it’s more important than ever to take matters into our own hands.
Many people feel that the issue of climate change is just too vast for individual actions to really make a difference. But is that really the case?
We don’t agree, and have come up with 12 simple tips on how you can not only reduce your own carbon footprint by making both small and big changes, but also put pressure on politicians to step up and do the right thing.
1. Switch to 100% green power
Still haven’t switched to a green energy provider? Then now’s the time! Throughout the world, the use of energy represents by far the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. Around two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to burning fossil fuels for energy to be used for heating, electricity, transport and industry. And in Europe too, energy production and use, including the energy used in transport, accounts for some 80 percent of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Switching to renewables has a multiple positive impacts: by converting to green electricity you support the phase-out of coal, do your bit to accelerate the move to renewable sources and directly reduce CO2 emissions.
2. Save energy
It might sound like the most original-sounding tip around, but it’s as relevant as ever. Saving energy not only saves you money – it also helps to cut emissions too. Check out the following article to see how you shape up when it comes to your own daily energy-efficiency: 11 Tips for Saving Energy at Home
3. Optimise your diet
In the EU, meat and dairy production is estimated to be responsible for 12-17% of total greenhouse gas emissions, while throughout the world, the global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to become vegan or vegetarian – even a small shift in diets, with a reduction in meat and dairy products, and more plant-based foods instead, could reduce the pressure that agriculture places on the environment.
When buying fruits and vegetables, try to buy organic wherever the options (and the price) will allow. Organic foods are usually not only healthier because they contain fewer harmful substances, but growing them also protects the environment and the climate. You could even go one step further and help support local organic farmers by signing up to receive a veggie box directly from people who grow the food nearby, thus also helping cut down on the emissions caused by transporting produce throughout the world.
4. Avoid plastic wherever you can
Plastic is the all-round material par excellence and is therefore present in pretty much every aspect of our lives. But the durability of the material (which also makes it so popular) is of course also it’s most drastic disadvantage: we’re struggling to get rid of it. Plastic has found its way pretty much everywhere – on streets, in rivers, on the beach, in cosmetics, in waste water, in our clothing, even in the air we breathe. And there’s also a close connection between climate change and our massive global plastic problem. Almost every plastic is produced from fossil fuels – and in every single phase of its life cycle, plastic emits greenhouse gases. But there are already a lot of alternatives available: 7 Quick and Easy Ways to Cut Down on Plastic
5. Sharing is caring!
If we own less and use more things collectively, we need to produce fewer things – and that saves on resources. Sharing cars, exchanging clothes, lending and borrowing tools – there are multiple different possibilities for collective consumption are they’re being used by millions of people worldwide. You can find some examples right here: Get Involved in the Sharing Economy
6. Shrink your digital footprint
Every search query we type, every email we send or receive, and every song we stream causes CO2 emissions. Why? Because energy is needed for all the data we’re producing – and a lot of it! By 2018, the use of digital technologies had overtaken even the aviation industry in terms of CO2 emissions. It’s time to tackle the root of the problem. Let’s start with the number one power-guzzler in the digital world: streaming video services. In order to flicker across our screens on-demand, streaming video services they need a lot of bits and bytes. One single provider (Netflix) currently consumes 15 percent of the world’s internet bandwidth. So if you’re a fan of a certain playlist or show – maybe try downloading them rather than streaming them anew each time you go back to them? You can also help by doing something as simple as switching to a “green” search engine such as Ecosia that plants trees, avoiding purchasing electronic devices that you don’t need, and even just cleaning up your email inbox.
7. Avoid flying
There is of course, no other means of transport that gets us from A to B as fast as the plane. But at the same time there is hardly any other activity in which a single person can emit such large quantities of CO2 in such a short time. Not that that fact is at all reflected in the prices of aeroplane tickets! And so, the simple solution is simply to avoid air travel as much as possible. And by doing so, avoid that icky feeling you get when you do take unnecessary flights because you know how bad it is for the environment. (The Swedes even have a word for it: flygskam.) But what does sustainable travel actually look like? Here you can find out more: Tips for sustainable travel
And for those few flights that you simply cannot avoid, there is of course always the chance to offset your emissions. It doesn’t cancel out the damage done, but at least it goes some way towards neutralising flying’s negative impact. The Swiss non-profit Myclimate and the company Atmosfair are just two options.
8. Make sustainable investments
You take your money to a bank and they look after it until you need it? Wrong! Your bank works with the money – and perhaps even supports the arms trade and environmental destruction. But there are also sustainable alternatives, banks who are transparent about what happens with your money and where you can even decide where your money should work – for example in renewable energies or reforestation projects. To find your local sustainable bank, check out the list of member banks of the GABV (the Global Alliance for Banking on Values). Sustainable investments consider social, ethical and ecological aspects as well as financial aspects – and that pays off, both for you and in the fight against climate change.
9. Get on your bike!
Still the number one form of sustainable transportation – the bicycle. In the age of electric scooters, electric mopeds and whatever else may come – when it comes to protecting the climate, the humble pedal-powered bicycle is still way ahead. In most cities, on a bike you can travel faster than by car, bus or train. And to make the whole thing even more fun: whether you’re looking for a nice new cycle route to work, want to do some sports or discover nature – here you’ll find a whole host of suitable apps: Tyres Pumped, Phone Charged? Our Top 10 Cycling Apps
10. Protect our forests and plant more trees
It has long been known how important forests are both for the microclimate in individual regions and for the global climate as a whole. They “feed” on CO2 and convert the climate-damaging gas into oxygen, which is vital for our survival. A research team at ETH Zurich has compiled some fascinating figures: Two thirds of man-made CO2 emissions could be removed from our atmosphere if we were to reforest 900 million hectares of forests worldwide. Forest restoration “isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said the lead scientist, climate change ecologist Tom Crowther. On the website of the Crowther Lab you will find lists of forest restoration organisations that you can support.
But we should not only focus on reforestation measures, but also stop the deforestation of huge areas at the same time. European meat production also plays a decisive role in this context. Poultry, pigs and cattle are mostly fed with soya, which has grown on Brazilian soil – and tropical rainforest was previously found on these areas. So you can make a contribution by limiting your meat consumption. Beyond that, you can also support international organisations that promote the rights of indigenous people living in the Amazon (such as Amazon Watch), who are the ones best placed to protect forested areas by monitoring and reporting on illegal logging.
11. Make informed decisions as a consumer and as a citizen
The 100 largest companies in the world are responsible for over 70 percent of global emissions. At first glance those huge corporations might seem quite far away from you. But we can still reach them and affect them – by exercising our rights as consumers and as citizens. We can consume more carefully and consciously, giving preference to companies that act responsibly, supporting organisations that hold companies to account for the environmental practices – and we can use our cross on the ballot paper to decide who should set the political course in the future. Find out who is committed to climate protection in your city, region and country and make your cross in the right place!
12. Go out on the street and make your voice heard!
Countless reports have stressed the urgency of taking action now if we are to stand a change of halting the most devastating consequences of climate change. Far too little has happened so far. But the voices from civil society are getting louder. Fridays for Future has become a huge movement in which people regularly take to the streets to demonstrate for more political action to protect the climate. And Extinction Rebellion is using civil disobedience and non-violent resistance, setting up blockades in cities across Europe. Join them and take a stand for the climate today!