9 Things You MUST Do in Osaka, Japan
9 Things You Can Do To Fight Climate Change Right Now
Saving the planet can seem depressing and insurmountable—you might be tempted to wonder what one person could possibly do. But small changes, done en masse, can translate into big results. Read on for nine real ways to make a difference in our environment, starting today.
Eat earth-friendly foods.
Growing, producing, shipping, and packing the food we eat contributes about one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions. To lighten the load, eat locally and seasonally, and cut back on meat, especially beef. Animals are far more energy-intensive to raise than plants, and cows are a huge contributor to greenhouse gases because they release so much methane. (Yes, by farting.) Fighting food waste is also crucial: approximately 32 percent of food worldwide doesn't get consumed, which means the resources that went into it were wasted. Make one "clean out the fridge" meal weekly, like a soup or frittata.
Related: You're Probably Tossing Out These 8 Food Parts, But You Should Actually Be Eating Them
"[Buying environmentally friendly products] has a much larger impact [than you'd think] because it sends a powerful signal to the business community that more people are looking for alternatives," says former vice president and climate activist Al Gore, author ofAn Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. Likewise, green your banking. The Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy offer Visa credit cards; a percentage of interest payments supports environmental activism.
Ride a bike.
The average car emits about a pound of carbon dioxide per mile, so identify one local trip per week you can bike to instead of driving. Make use of a bike-share program. (Google a local one; there are at least 119 systems across the country.) Nervous about sharing the road? REI offers urban-biking classes.
Make efforts at your office.
Form a "climate team" with representatives from each department or business in the building and encourage sustainable behavior. Some ideas: Install bike racks (to inspire people to ride to work, curbing auto emissions), print double-sided, turn down the AC, and swap single-use cups for reusable bottles.
Bonus: your reusable bottle can help you stay properly hydrated. Here's how:
Related: Is It Better to Leave Your A/C on All Day or Turn It Off?
Support women globally.
Data from the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization, suggests that increasing education for girls and access to family planning would have the largest overall impact on reducing carbon emissions. "When women are educated and are free to make decisions about their reproductive health, they tend to have fewer children," says A. Tianna Scozzaro, director of Gender Equity & Environment at the Sierra Club. And fewer people means fewer emissions. Give to groups that expand access to education for girls, such as the United Nations Girls Education Initiative; those that support access to family-planning information and birth control, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and ones that fund microloans for women entrepreneurs in developing countries, like the Women's Microfinance Initiative.
(Kick-start your new, healthy routine with Women's Health's !)
Create your own Paris accord.
Calculate your energy usage (examine your utility bills and use the EPA's Carbon Footprint Calculator), then set goals to reduce it—for example, 10 percent in six months. If big projects like rooftop solar panels aren't in the cards, see if your utility company offers an option for selecting electricity from 100 percent renewable sources. "Generally, it does cost a bit more," says Jay Orfield, a renewable-energy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "But quite often, the rate is set and will not go up even when the utility's prices do." So you might wind up saving money in the long run.
Fax state reps.
We said it: fax. It's old school but one of the best ways to get through to reps, because paper is especially tangible. You don't even need a machine—online fax services like HelloFax or FaxZero will send the message (for scripts, visit climaterealityproject.org) for you. Of course, phone calls, e-mails, and tweeting your state congressional representatives are also great ways to make your voice heard. "Communicating to your elected officials lets them know [climate issues are] a priority for you," says Gore. "If enough people do that, it really does change the positions of policy makers."
Hit up a town hall.
Local governments can lead the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions because they control a lot in terms of transportation, infrastructure, and building codes. "A number of cities such as Boulder, Colorado, and Vancouver in Canada have made their own commitments to going carbon-neutral," says Audrey Depault, who manages the Canadian branch of the Climate Reality Project, a program started by Gore that promotes effective communication and teaching around climate issues. If your city doesn't have a greenhouse gas target (check its website), e-mail your mayor and elected reps or show up at a town hall meeting. "Say, 'I want to identify an emissions target and gather citizen solutions,'" says Depault.
Related: This Could Happen In Your Hometown—Here's Why You Should Care
Elect more women—or run yourself!
"Participation and leadership of women in this process can dramatically improve outcomes," says Gore. Check out EMILY's List, a resource for supporting women candidates, and She Should Run, a nonpartisan group that offers training for newbies interested in running for office.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, by Al Gore, is published by Rodale Inc., publisher of Women's Health. Available at wherever books and e-books are sold.
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Women's Health. For more great advice, pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands now!
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