“We already have all of the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.” Greta Thunberg

There is an urgent need to save our planet. It’s easy to feel helpless in the current political climate, but we can individually work to reduce our carbon footprint. I’ll be blunt: excusing inaction with, “How will anything I do actually make a difference?” is pathetic. Not voting because you don’t think your vote matters and/or you don’t love any of the candidates is atrocious. Our predecessors risked their lives to give us this right to vote and have a voice. Inaction is egregious; action is the only answer for change. Our generation has so many opinions, but how many of us actually does anything about them? Posting a selfie to Instagram does not count.

Every positive action you take matters! That one action will lead to greater change. You may inspire family, friends and coworkers. Just because you don’t think you’ll get a 100% on an exam doesn’t mean you don’t study. You may not make it to the NFL, but you still work your butt off . Don’t you want your children live in a world in which they can securely play, eat and spend time outside, let alone breathe? To see the nature you have been so lucky to experience? When we kill our Earth’s biodiversity and species, this means killing us, too.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Jane Goodall

Facts:

  • 85% of the world’s wetlands have vanished since the 18th century
    • Wetlands clean and purify water
  • 200 species go extinct every day (a rate 1,000-10,000 times higher than what is deemed normal)
    • 1 million species face extinction, many w/in decades — ½-million land-based species & 1/3 of marine mammals and corals
    • Bees & other threatened insects pollinate fruits and vegetables
    • 559 of our 6,190 domesticated mammal breeds used in agriculture have gone extinct. 1,000 more are threatened — this leads to a food system that is less resilient against pests and disease
    • More than 500,000 land species do not have enough natural habitat left to ensure their long-term survival
  • Loss of mangrove forests and coral reefs along coasts could expose up to 300 million people to increased risk of flooding
    • Mangroves protect us from floods made worse by rising seas
    • Coral reefs have been tasked with absorbing excess carbon dioxide, leading to warmer and more acidic oceans. Coral reefs nourish vast fish populations that feed the world.
  • Our biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history
    • The clearing of forests and wetlands for farms to feed the world is the main culprit
    • World’s natural forests are home to 2/3rds of world’s species
    • Organic matter in the soil nourishes crops
  • We use 100 million barrels of oil every day and there are no politics to change this

So, what can we actually do? 

  • The world’s food system is responsible for ~ 1/4 of human-generated greenhouses gases.
  • Eat more locally sourced food that is in season — fossil fuels are used to ship food around the world
    • Farmers markets!
  • Cut back on meat and dairy products (these have the largest environmental impact)
    • Livestock requires immense amounts of land — much of this land is created by deforestation
    • Methane is a greenhouse gas that is a byproduct of burping/farting cows, sheep and goats upon digesting food
      • Beef and lamb have the biggest climate footprint per gram of protein
    • Farm machinery uses fossil fuels as does fertilizers
  • Check whether seafood is sustainable
    • Wild shrimp and lobster can have a larger impact than chicken or pork
    • Incorporate more mollusks into your diet
  • Focus on a diet richer in plant-based foods
    • You can shrink your food-carbon-footprint by more than 1/3 by moving to a more vegetarian diet
  • Cheeses like mozzarella & cheddar can have a bigger impact than chicken or pork
  • Organic milk is better for the climate – cows spend less time grazing
  • Non-dairy milks:
    • Almond milk uses the most water to produce, but generates the least carbon dioxide emissions and does not require much land
    • Both soy and oat milk require very little water, minimal land, but greater (only minimally) carbon dioxide emissions than almond milk
  • REDUCE FOOD WASTE!
    • Americans tend to throw away 20% of the food we buy — this is not only wasting the food, but the energy that went into producing this food
  • Carry around a reusable water bottle
    • The average American can save $6,180 after 5 years of using a $20 reusable water bottle
  • Throw a tote bag in your backpack or purse for that impromptu trip to the grocery store
  • Lastly, but most importantly – use public transportation and ride-sharing when you can…limit flying if possible
  • Ride bikes, walk, roller blade, scooter, run… HUMAN-POWERED TRANSPORT
  • When recycling:
    • Wash food waste out of takeout containers, but don’t use too much water
    • You cannot recycle #3 & 7 plastics (like yogurt containers) – the number is on the bottom of your plastics
    • You cannot recycle reusable coffee cups – they’re usually coated
    • You cannot recycle greasy pizza boxes
    • You cannot recycle plastic bags, but click here to learn where you can bring them

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” George Bernard Shaw

Sources:

Life As We Know It

Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040

The Species Act, Endangered: ‘Like a Plan From a Cartoon Villain’

Greta Thunberg, TedTalk

Plastic vs. Reusable Water Bottles

Your Questions About Food and Climate Change, Answered

6 Things You’re Recycling Wrong

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