You recycle your plastics, sub oat milk in your iced vanilla lattes and turn the water off when you brush your teeth. But unfortunately, your efforts may be in vain. Seventy-one percent of the world’s greenhouse emissions are due to one hundred fossil fuel companies. Normal people can easily feel helpless knowing their actions aren’t causing much of a dent in the climate change crises. However, many climate change experts warn against pessimism. If we hone our efforts towards the roots of our climate change problems, we can make widespread change.
1. Make your home energy efficient.
An energy-efficient home reduces CO2 emissions and saves money in the long run. Be on the lookout for labels on products that indicate their efficiency. In products such as showerheads, faucets and toilets seek out WaterSense approval, a label designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure water efficiency. WaterSense products save 100 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. For other household appliances such as AC’s, light bulbs, and refrigerators, opt for those with an Energy Star label. Energy Star is another program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by inefficient energy usage. About 2.3 billion tons of CO2 have been prevented from entering the air since efficiency standards were set in 1987 by the U.S. Department of Energy. In making your home more energy-efficient you can not only reduce your CO2 production but also your monthly bills.
If most of our climate change is caused by big corporations then the best way to hold them accountable would be voting people into power who care about climate change. Be informed on the environmental stances of candidates as well as their track record of voting for environmentally friendly policies. Additionally, voting in your local elections is just as important as voting in federal elections. If everyone held their community accountable the results would be paramount. Send letters and call your local representatives to create and support policies that mitigate environmental impact. Additionally, encourage those in your community to do the same.
3. Be responsible with your food consumption.
The process of growing, processing, packaging, and shipping food makes up 10% of all US energy with 40% of all food ending up in landfills. On that note, reducing food waste is third on the list of 100 most substantive solutions to climate change. What we can do individually to combat this problem is to shop mindfully for groceries, remember the food we have in the fridge, and compost leftovers (which can be done in homes without gardens as well!). Additionally, buying produce and meat in season from local farms can help offset carbon emissions from transportation. Just make sure the produce is in season, the animals are local, and avoid produce kept in greenhouses and cold storage. Note that beef and pork are not required by law to disclose their country of origin ever since congress repealed the COOL (Country-of-origin-labelling) law, so shop smart and take some time to figure out where your food is sourced from before hitting the grocery store.
4. Invest in responsible and sustainable fashion.
Before, the main issue in the fashion world was the improper conditions of exploited workers in third world countries. Now, more awareness is brought to another issue plaguing the consumption of clothing – pollution and waste. Fashion production contributes to 10% of all man-made carbon emissions and 20% of industrial water pollution. This problem is exacerbated by “fast fashion”, the rapid production of clothing by brands to give consumers a new fashion cycle every few weeks. Compared to the traditional two seasons each year, brands such as Zara, H&M, and Uniqlo have 52 mini-seasons per year.
The first way we can combat this is by buying less clothing overall. Consider the fact that consumers bought 60% more clothing in 2014 compared to 2000. Second, buy higher quality pieces that last, in the long run, you’ll save more money than you spend. Last, boycott fast fashion brands as much as possible. Purchase your clothing from thrift stores, second-hand consignments or sustainable brands like Patagonia and Reformation. Most importantly, don’t be the victim of greenwashing, or the false impression clothing companies perpetuate to make their products seem environmentally friendly. Take for instance H&M’s Conscious Collection which launched in 2010 as a way to sell sustainable fashion. However, their claims of sustainability were very vague and often false, tricking consumers to purchase products that weren’t that much different from their normal line.
5. Put your money where your mouth is.
Put your money toward companies and causes that you want to support. One example is JP Morgan Chase, who funneled 196 billion dollars into the fossil fuel sector from 2016 to 2018. If you can, choose a community development bank or credit union so that your money can go back into your community rather than fossil fuel companies. Additionally, donating your money to foundations that help young girls finance their education is a great way to help combat climate change. UNESCO estimates that 130 million girls from the ages of 6 to 17 are out of school and 15 million girls will never step food inside a classroom. This is concerning as educated women help populations become more resilient overall by reducing pressure for resources and increasing developmental success in their countries in regards to resources. Their families are healthier, smaller and they are more likely to fund their children’s education. Studies have shown that having more educated women could reduce 51.48 gigaton of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Despite the fact that ordinary people are not solely responsible for climate change, we are not exempt from doing our part if only from a moral standpoint. There are many different ways we can combat climate change oftentimes in the form of lifestyle changes. Besides, switching banks and composting seem like pretty good alternatives to a dying planet.