Thousands of young people from across Europe, including teen activist Greta Thunberg, are expected to march on the streets of Brussels on Friday (March 6), calling for greater climate action. As more and more people feel inspired to act in the fight against climate change, what actions can individuals take in their daily lives to bring about change?
Why we need to act
Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent and people are already experiencing significant impacts, including extreme weather events and rising sea levels. Greenhouse gas emissions are at their highest levels in history. And by 2050, the world’s population may reach as many as 10 billion people, bringing an increased demand for food, fashion, travel and related aspirations.
At an individual level, our largest contribution to climate change and biodiversity loss lies in our choice of food (more than 50%), material goods, and transportation. Our future now depends on how we choose to live, work and play as global consumers.
Everyday swaps for sustainable living
We all eat, buy items, spend money, move around and like to dream about the future. The Anatomy of Action site, developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UnSchool of Disruptive Design, offers tips on how to swap your daily actions in these areas so they can have a positive planetary impact.
With food, for example, you can adopt a more plant-based diet; opt for locally produced foods and compost food waste. When moving around, can you walk or cycle to work, or opt for public and shared transport instead of driving? Or swap to electric vehicles, cleaner fuels, and shorter distances to reduce your transport footprint.
When purchasing items, buy fewer and better clothes, avoid fast fashion, and refuse everyday products which cannot be reused such as single-use bags, straws and coffee cups. Can you invest your money more ethically, asking your bank about their sustainable investment policy?
“The information around climate change can be both overwhelming and daunting. However, as individuals we can and will make a difference,” Garrette Clark, Sustainable Lifestyles Programme Officer at UNEP told UNRIC.
“Our daily decisions on what we eat, how we move and how we choose to spend our time and money directly affects the world around us. Collectively- if we take targeted actions- we can make a difference to fight climate change.”
Offset your carbon
Do you know what your carbon footprint is? The UNFCCC secretariat (UN Climate Change) has developed an online calculator that can help you find out. Once calculated, you can then choose to offset your carbon footprint by supporting a UN-certified project from their website.
Offsetting is a climate action that enables individuals and organisations to compensate for the emissions they cannot avoid, by supporting worthy projects that reduce emissions somewhere else.
Projects can, among other approaches, replace the use of dirty fossil fuels with clean renewable energy, or involve reforestation to capture already released carbon in trees. Examples of projects you can support include a renewable energy project to use rice husk as biomass fuel for electricity generation in Cambodia; a wind farm in Mongolia or the largest fleet of hybrid and electric buses worldwide in China.
“When we blame companies for polluting we forget a simple fact with profound consequences – companies consist of individuals. When we recognise that change at all levels starts with us, the individuals, we can accept our personal responsibility to take action and drive change,” the UNFCCC website writes.
A race we can win
The pace of change in the fight against climate change is quickening as more people are turning to renewable energy and a range of other measures that will reduce emissions and increase adaptation efforts.
If enough people swap their lifestyle actions, it has the potential to support the global changes we need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Now more than ever, is a time to make our decisions count. Not only for us and our communities, but for those already facing the effects of climate change struggling to survive. Take action and embrace the changes you see!” concluded UNEP’s Clark.