Climate change is somehow both subtle and overtly obvious—you can see it a little bit everywhere you go. Shifts in seasons begin to feel a little different. Many areas around the world are experiencing unprecedented flooding, fires, droughts and more. As these relatively regular occurrences continue to grow more drastic, it’s becoming clearer that soon the bubble will burst. What’s ahead is a full-on, global climate crisis.
Since climate change occurs in small, incremental steps, individual actions often taking place at home can be beneficial. Reducing, reusing, and recycling are helpful programs happening on individually modest scales around the world. Buying secondhand items versus new, using public transportation when possible, opting for non-motorized modes of travel, planting sustainable gardens at home—all are wonderful ways to address the symptoms of climate change you can see around you.
However, it’s not enough. While each of these actions are useful, they can only chip away at the larger problem. Unfortunately, small scale actions aren’t enough to make an overwhelming, impactful change. More needs to be done to exert a systemic, collective change in global behavior that will be lasting and impactful.
How Can You Take Climate Action?
Currently, the best climate action we can take is to gather more of the people in our lives to come together to fight climate change. This can occur with a group effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work together to change the world. Collective climate action is the best defense we have against the behaviors that are quickly killing our planet.
A collective climate action plan should include the following things: reduction of food waste, restoration and protection of forests, renewable energy, encouraging plant rich diets, joining environmental action groups, realizing how travel influences the environment, and working to stop fossil fuel pipelines.
Here’s how you can take action now:
Reduce Food Waste
Purchased food contributes up to 23% of our ecological footprint.1 Worse, not all this food is even eaten—much of it goes to waste and creates a continuing demand for more food. There are 2 major areas of food waste: avoidable and unavoidable. Avoidable food waste is anything that could have been used or eaten, such as apple slices. Unavoidable food waste are those things that are not edible under normal conditions, such as meat bones or eggshells. Some experts recognize a third category of possibly avoidable food waste, consisting of things that some people could consume, but do not, such as bread crusts.
The fact that food waste often ends up in a landfill is not the only negative impact. In the United States alone, food waste accounts for at least 25% of all freshwater usage. It also is responsible for consuming enough energy to provide the whole country with power for more than a week. And, in another startling statistic, food waste accounts for enough land to provide food for all the world’s hungry citizens.2 These are large, scary numbers. Fortunately, there are ways we can work together collectively to change our contribution to the food consumption and waste problem.
As an individual, you can begin by purchasing less food at a time and trying to shop more often, thereby reducing your chances for food spoilage. Then, pay attention to using the food you do purchase before it becomes waste. For example, if you buy lots of fruits and vegetables, be sure to freeze what you might not eat before it goes bad. In addition, pay attention to the distance your food must travel before it gets to your store—do your best to purchase locally whenever possible.
On a community scale, you can support local composting centers by bringing in appropriate food scraps. You can also volunteer your time and donate to these centers.
On a more impactful and global scale, research legislative proposals that would reduce the food waste that happens in supply chains and support these initiatives. Call, write, or email your senators and representatives in support of these initiatives.
Restore and Protect Forests
As of 2017, an estimated 31% of the Earth is covered by forests.3 These forests are not only home to hundreds of thousands of species of animals, they’re also one of our primary lines of defense against climate change. However, anyone who has seen the movie Fern Gully has experienced the horrifying realization of what can happen when all the trees are gone. Unfortunately, our Earth is inching closer and closer to this reality.
Roughly 25% of the total greenhouse gas production worldwide is because of deforestation.3 The increase of greenhouse gasses creates a warming effect, which in turn leads to climate change. A few of the reasons we’re losing our forests at an alarming rate include agriculture, mining, and infrastructure advancements.
If you must purchase products that aren’t produced locally, try to purchase Rainforest Alliance Certified products. When you see the little green frog on your banana sticker or coffee label, you can be sure that the farms growing the product use sustainable practices. Responsible farming practices maximize production levels in safe ways for the available land.
On a community level, you can support local reforestation projects, as well as responsible land stewardship. Supporting agroforestry can lead to a great impact on your community. Agroforestry is the purposeful usage of shrubs and trees in animal and crop agriculture, leading to positive social, environmental, and economic benefits.4
On a global level, we should all be working together in an endeavor to support indigenous and local land rights around the world. Indigenous communities historically provide the best land stewardship.5 Supporting these communities with purchases, legislation, and global climate action can have a powerful effect on the world’s forests—and, by extension, the climate.
Utilize Renewable Energy
Renewable energy is energy that is gathered from renewable, natural sources. Popular examples of renewable energy include solar power, wind power, hydropower, and geothermal power. In recent years, the world has seen an increase in the use of renewable energy sources. For example, in 2020, there was a 3% increase in renewable energy use; moving forward, wind is set to see the most drastic increases in renewable energy usage.6
While 3% doesn’t seem like a significant number, increased renewable use does aid in offsetting the use of non-renewable energy sources. Fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource and also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Due to population increases, energy usage is growing exponentially, and with that, so are greenhouse gas emissions. Conversely, renewable energy is not only sustainable, but also clean.7 By replacing energy from fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, both major contributing factors to climate change are mitigated. With attention to both, we have the potential to reduce some of the damage.
In your household, try converting to renewable energy sources where possible. If you live in an area that would benefit from solar panels, research your options, and consider installing them in your home. Consider switching to a hybrid vehicle or investing in an electric vehicle to stem your use of gasoline.
If you’d like to focus on your local community, support businesses that focus on green energy. Voting with your hard-earned dollars shows local businesses what is important to the consumers they serve. If you’re looking to make a larger impact, promote and encourage renewable energy on a national or global level. Write to representatives and let them know that you support initiatives that will promote renewable energy conversion in large factories and industries.
Engage In and Encourage Plant Rich Diets
Animal agriculture is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014, it was estimated that livestock created nearly 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.8 Surprisingly, this number is higher than the emissions caused by transportation. With the growth in the world’s population, demand for livestock and dairy is also increasing, further contributing to the climate change crisis.
In fact, livestock are a major drain on resources, especially the energy necessary to house, feed, and transport them. When they eat and process grasses and feed, they produce a high quantity of methane. Subsequently, manure and its leftovers found in pastures produces excess methane and nitrous oxide. Methane and nitrous oxide are among the 5 primary greenhouse gasses, which also include water vapor, carbon dioxide, and fluorinated gasses.
By reducing our overall consumption of animal products and instead eating a more plant rich diet, we can work to lower the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Talking to friends and family, engaging in educating those around you, is an excellent way to begin this process. With costs and supply issues on the rise, meat and dairy will become even more expensive as well. Therefore, the benefits of eating a plant-rich diet are threefold, positively impacting your health, the environment, and your finances.
Join Environmental Organizations
As climate change becomes more obvious in our daily lives, it’s increasingly important to consider climate action we can take. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to renewable energy resources or can afford every option available to reduce their carbon footprint. It is also important to remember that individual households are not the largest contributing factor to climate change, though living sustainably certainly makes an important impact.
In fact, one of the most important climate action ideas is joining a local chapter of an environmental organization. The Climate Reality Project, The Sierra Club, 350.org, Sunrise Movement, Carbon180 and many more have chapters across the country. These organizations are always in need of more support, whether you prefer to give a donation or begin volunteering. This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are many other important organizations doing the hard work by leading protests, advocating for policy change, helping to support sustainability, and promoting renewable energies to reduce the effects of global warming.
Spend a little time investigating which groups are available locally, as well as which would best suit your volunteer style and climate concerns. Whether they’re working on a local scale encouraging the reduction of fossil fuel usage, or a national scale by lobbying government officials, every effort can be useful.
Promote Pipeline Closure and Reduction
The use of fossil fuels is a major contributing factor to climate change.9 The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gasses into the air at an alarming rate. These greenhouse gasses serve to trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing global warming and along with it, many negative effects on wildlife and vegetation.
Pipelines themselves are prone to leaking and causing major damage to a number of ecosystems. While the overall number of oil spills has decreased in recent years, the impact of even one minor spill can be dramatic. In fact, the first image that comes to mind for most people when it comes to oil spills involves cleaning up ducks and other wildlife who have been coated in the oil. This image represents a very harsh reality regarding the risks our pipelines pose to the environment.
Several initiatives have been effective in encouraging the closure of particularly dangerous pipelines and preventing oil spills. For example, there is currently a group working towards the closure of Enbridge Line 3. By joining and supporting efforts to stop the addition of even more pipelines, your effort may help to reduce the use of fossil fuels and create a more sustainable business.
It’s Time to Take Action, Save the Planet
We’re already experiencing the negative effects of climate change. Left unchecked, this planet will become uninhabitable. Working collectively to make the planet a healthier place to live by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is one of the best places to start. And, we have to try!
- Chapagain, A., & James, K. (2013). Accounting for the impact of food waste on water resources and climate change. Food Industry Wastes: Assessment and Recuperation of Commodities. San Diego: Academic Press, Elsevier, 217-36.
- US Environmental Protection Agency. (2021). Food: Too Good to Waste Implementation Guide and Toolkit | US EPA. Retrieved March 17, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-too-good-waste-implementation-guide-and-toolkit
- Bennett, L. (2017). Deforestation and climate change. A publication of climate institute, 1400. Retrieved March 17, 2022, from http://climate.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/deforestation-final_r1.pdf
- United States Department of Agriculture. (2021). Agroforestry. (n.d.). USDA. Retrieved March 17, 2022, from https://www.usda.gov/topics/forestry/agroforestry
- Williams T., Hardison P. (2013) Culture, law, risk and governance: contexts of traditional knowledge in climate change adaptation. In: Maldonado J.K., Colombi B., Pandya R. (eds) Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States. Springer, Cham.
- International Energy Agency. Renewables – Global Energy Review 2021, Analysis. IEA. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2022, from https://www.iea.org/reports/global-energy-review-2021/renewables
- Owusu, P. A., & Asumadu-Sarkodie, S. (2016). A review of renewable energy sources, sustainability issues and climate change mitigation. Cogent Engineering, 3(1), 1167990.
- Bailey, R., Froggatt, A., & Wellesley, L. (2014). Livestock–climate change’s forgotten sector. Chatham House.
- US Environmental Protection Agency. (2021). Causes of Climate Change. US EPA. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/climatechange-science/causes-climate-change
I’m a kid at heart disguised as a cannabis researcher and business owner. I’ve always enjoyed providing insight in the form of reviews (anime, video games, etc.) So, when the cannabis industry took off, it sparked my interest in researching, reviewing, and chronicling all things within. When I’m not researching, I’m spending time with my family, riding my motorcycle, and finding new entrepreneurial pursuits.