September 2019 will go down in history as the month when individuals in every city around the world stood up and courageously denounced global governments’ inaction on climate change. This can also be attributed to the emergence of a new global icon. Greta Thumberg, a teenage environmental activist from Sweden, has stirred passions on every corner of the globe for invigorating the eco-conscious masses.
Most of those who took to the streets (everywhere from Sydney, Australia to Bogota, Colombia) were regular individuals, not rich and powerful oligarchs. They were mostly students but also teachers, waitresses and accountants, and although there’s no shame in blaming those who wield the most power, there are plenty of things we can do as individuals to save this planet for generations to come. Here are the easiest and most effective ones.
Ditch meat and embrace plant-based foods.
This may sound counter-intuitive to some. How could a cheeseburger have a negative impact on the environment? For one, there are currently over 7.5 billion people on the planet. Meanwhile, each year there are approximately 70 billion land animals that have been bred into existence by human beings, destined to be killed for human consumption. These animals require lots of land for food, the reason livestock systems occupy up to 45% of the Earth’s ice-free land.
All that land needed to make food for cows, chickens, and pigs means lots of forests have to be chopped down or burned, releasing enormous amounts of C02 into the atmosphere. In fact, animal agriculture is the leading cause of Amazon rainforest destruction (that’s right, remember the fires?) and contributes approximately 18% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, which are warming the planet at an unprecedented rate. This is more than the entire global transportation system.
If you’re concerned about health, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of health professionals, explicitly states that “appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”
To learn about the health benefits of plant-based diets and how to make the transition, we at Sustainable Brilliance recommend the New York Times bestselling books How Not to Die, and Forks Over Knives, The Cookbook, which are currently available on Amazon, one of our affiliate companies.
Learn to love the sun.
No, I don’t mean lay out and get a tan. Well, you can do that too. But it’s also an excellent idea to invest in solar energy. Not everyone can afford solar panels for their roof, and not all of us are homeowners. But every little step counts, and you don’t have to be wealthy to lower your carbon footprint. Simple steps like using solar powered chargers for your iPhone (especially handy when hiking or camping) can definitely help.
For those able to take that extra step, solar energy lighting systems are among the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and they’ll save you lots of money in the long run. In the U.S, different states offer different tax incentives for using solar energy. Sustainable Brilliance has recently partnered with Sunway Lighting LLC to bring you the best outdoor solar energy lighting systems on the market. From solar powered flood lights to solar butterfly lights and everything in between.
Go as paperless as possible:
As you may already know, paper comes from trees. Trees produce oxygen, store carbon, conserve soil and help prevent flooding. They also help to cool the atmosphere and, eerily enough, studies have shown a correlation between abundance of trees and lower crime rates in a given area.
But even with the seemingly ubiquitous availability of the internet, which enables a whole new world of file sharing, a large percentage of the globe, including the United States, continues to rely on traditional snail mail, and too many people are still paying their bills with paper instead of online, the latter of which helps save those oxygen producing, crime fighting trees. So please, embrace new technologies and save yourself a trip to the post office.
Start reusing more and recycling less.
Since 1992, about 45 percent of the world’s recyclable plastic has been sent to China, to get recycled. That’s a good 106 million metric tons of plastic. For one, this requires gas guzzling tankers filled with plastic that must cross the ocean, which pollutes the air and all too often, the ocean itself. But the biggest and most recent problem is that China stopped accepting all this trash after passing the National Sword policy, which aims to protect the environment and people’s health.
Now most of our recyclables are either staying home or getting shipped to other developing countries, many of which are plagued with lax environmental laws and are ill equipped to handle the demand, hence much of that trash in your recycle bin is going into landfills or into the ocean.
Instead of buying plastic bottles, which are used once and then trashed or “recycled”, get yourself a thermos. The most sustainable way to obtain one is at a secondhand thrift shop. Otherwise you can purchase a new one from Amazon, and hold onto it for as long as possible.
So there you have it, some of the best ways to reduce your impact on our planet.