The world is running out of time to address the effects of the climate crisis, according to the latest United Nations climate report. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Experts say there’s still time to make a difference.
“We know the status quo is not good enough,” Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry said April 14. “We know we have to do more and do it faster.”
While governments will play the lead role, individuals can contribute to a solution. Here are eight changes people can consider in their daily lives. Not every change works for every person, but every little bit helps!
Experts agree that substituting a vegetarian meal for one featuring meat each week would save 3.6 kilograms of carbon per person.
The U.N. estimates one-third of all food produced around the world is never eaten and 11% of the contents of the average family’s refrigerator gets thrown out. You can cut back on food loss by planning meals in advance.
And, if you have the chance, don’t forget to compost your fruit and vegetable scraps. Food waste — such as fruits and vegetables tossed in the garbage — accounts for 8% of carbon emissions each year, too.
Learn how to best dispose of waste
In addition to food waste, learning how and what to recycle can minimize plastic pollution in the environment and reduce the production of virgin plastics, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Each year, the world produces about 400 million tonnes of plastic waste. Only 10% is recycled.
If your community publishes a recycling guide, learn to identify what goes in the trash and what gets recycled — and make sure it’s properly rinsed or otherwise prepared. Can it be composted? Even better!
Reusing or repurposing older materials reduces the need for new ones.
Buying vintage clothes instead of shopping for new threads is one way. Used copies of your favorite novel read just as well as new.
Look for products in easily recyclable glass containers rather than plastic, and substitute reusable canvas or tote bags for disposable plastic at the grocery store.
Consider solar or wind power
Some local energy distributors can connect your home to a solar or wind-powered grid.
If that’s not an option in your community, consider switching your traditional lightbulbs to LEDs to save on electricity usage. Simply turning off lights and other electronic devices when not in use helps. Some draw “phantom power,” which means the appliances still use energy even when you’re not using them.
Good news: Solar and wind power are projected to grow globally over the next decade. In the United States alone, solar energy could provide up to 1.5 million jobs by 2035 and constitute 40% of the nation’s energy by then, too, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Walk or bike more
Depending where you live, a car may be a necessity. But if you live where public transport or carpooling is an option, consider that a typical passenger vehicle emits 4.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. That’s nearly half of all transportation-related carbon emissions.
If you live near where you work, biking and walking are even better for the environment, and for your health!
Volunteer in your community
Does your town have a group that plants trees on the weekend or organizes beach cleanups nearby? If your community doesn’t have a cleanup, organize one yourself!
Adjust your thermostat
Setting your thermostat to warmer (25 degrees Celsius) in the summer and cooler (20 degrees Celsius) in the winter can save on energy resources and costs. It’s good for the planet and good for your wallet.
Water-smart appliances can save between 30% and 50% of your water usage each year.
And when you’re showering or using the tap, run it only for as long as needed.
“The fact is, we still do have time to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” Kerry said April 13. “And we can still reach a cleaner, safer, less polluted planet for all of us.”