Every year we hear more and more about the growing threat of climate change. Well, newsflash, world: it’s no longer a threat. We know global warming is real and it’s taking its toll on our oceans, forests, animals, plants, and even on us human beings. Good Millennials always want to wake up and save the world, but sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. If the world’s sea levels have been steadily on the rise since 1870, does recycling my empty mac and cheese boxes really make a difference?
The answer is YES. And there’s even more we can do. Here are 8 ways we can all prevent climate change even from our own backyards.
1. Know More
We all know that the first step to power is knowledge, so here’s a quick lesson in Climate Change 101.
The world is almost 90% reliant on fossil fuels (remains of once-living things that have decomposed for millions of years) – even though they are a non-renewable resource. Meaning they will eventually run out. The burning of fossil fuels emits carbon, which, when combined with oxygen, creates carbon dioxide. When there becomes too much carbon dioxide and not enough oxygen in our air, the carbon dioxide creates a blanket in our atmosphere, trapping heat and causing the Earth to warm. Because the Earth’s natural cooling processes can’t occur, ecosystems suffer. Plants and animals go extinct. Food and water become polluted and natural disasters occur more rapidly and at deadlier rates. For some more Global Warming basics, visit the Natural Resource Defense Council website here.
2. Waste Less
In 2012, Americans produced over 250 million tons of waste and recycled only 34.5 million. Reduce your waste first by simply buying less. Buy secondhand clothes, check out books from the library, use energy efficient appliances, and try to shop for items that are made out of recycled and recyclable materials. Only buy what you need and then really use it – and reuse it. Recycle your paper, cans, and bottles; compost; and cut down on the 100 billion (that’s with a b) plastic shopping bags Americans throw out every year by BYOB – bringing your own bag. Check out this great resource from the American Repertory Theatre from their new play O.P.C.
3. Toss Less
Expiration dates were made for the grocery stores and manufacturers to simply indicate freshness – not whether or not the food is safe to eat. According to analysis by the Natural Resource Defense Council and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, more than 90% of Americans throw out food prematurely, and 40% of the U.S. food supply is tossed–unused–every year simply because of food dating. Check out this great series by photographer Gregg Segal called 7 Days of Garbage. “I’m concerned not by how much we throw away, but by how blithe we are to the problem.”
4. Plant More
A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. Planting your own fruits and vegetables and eating seasonally is better for your body, your wallet, and your world. (The average meal in the United States travels 1,200 miles from the farm to the plate – just think of that takeout delivery fee!) Want to know when your fave fruits and veggies are in season? Click here.
5. Drive Less
Our vehicles make up 1/5 of the United States’ carbon emissions, emitting 24 pounds of carbon emissions for every ONE gallon of gas. As we learned in science class, oil is a fossil fuel – a natural substance created over millions of years from decomposing remains of once-living things. When those fuels (coal and natural gas, too) are burned, energy (and greenhouse gases) are produced. Do your part to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by walking and riding your bike as often as you can. Use public transit or carpool with others. And unless you really need that Hummer or 4×4 truck, try to use smaller cars that get higher gas mileage or even cars that don’t use gasoline at all! Click here for more.
6. Vote More
Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence proving the realities of global warming, there are still people – including 56 congress people—who “don’t believe” in climate change. To affect broad and sweeping change, Congress needs to act. So when election season comes around, VOTE. And don’t just vote for the President. Vote in your local and state elections and vote for candidates who not only believe in global warming, but who have plans to stop it in its tracks. This is a great article detailing the 56 members of congress who “deny or question” the science of climate change. (Could it have something to do with the 63.8 million dollars 170 representatives have taken from the fossil fuels industry?) Call your congress people TODAY and urge them to accept global warming and work to change it.
7. Donate More
In 10th grade, two friends and I created an Earth Club at our high school with the goal of building a wind turbine for the district. 3 years later, that dream became a reality. Here I am (right) pictured with a friend picking up trash at a weekly meeting in 2008.
If you can, giving financial support to organizations that work to halt global warming can make a big difference. Check out this link to see some organizations dedicated to protecting the environment. If your budget is tight this month (or year), you can also donate your time – and your stuff. If you volunteer with organizations like 350.org, Greenpeace, or the National Wildlife Foundation, you can take a hands-on, active role in controlling climate change. Give your used but still functioning clothes, books, appliances, and more to resale shops. Or, start your own organization at school, work, or in your community!
8. Share More
We can all work very hard at not using plastic bags and carpooling to work, but when it comes down to it, widespread reform will come when we share our knowledge with as many people as possible. So what can you do? Start a club, join a march, or write an editorial to your local paper. Make sure your apartment building or workplace recycles. Follow causes you love on Twitter and share articles on Facebook. Maybe you could even drop some knowledge bombs on your loud, denier uncle at the next family gathering. Shout it from the rooftops: climate change is real and we can work to stop it!
Reversing climate change is not someone else’s responsibility. It’s OUR job to protect the future of our planet by being responsible, active, caring citizens. Don’t wait for change to happen: be the change.