Have you ever wondered if all the efforts you’re putting into living sustainably is actually making as big a difference? The truth is every action can most definitely take the credit for fighting climate change in some form or the other. This is because, in every part of our lifestyle, there is always some form of energy or fuel consumption which also means a lot of CO2 emissions. This dreadful thought has certainly propelled people into choosing to change their habits so they can at the very least step away from the contribution themselves.
So what are the big impact changes you can make to fight climate change, and know for sure it’s worthy of its effort?
As per the IPCC report, each individual is only allowed a carbon footprint of 1 tonne CO2 per year. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Let’s put this into perspective now. Currently, an average urban dweller emits between 15-20 tonne CO2 per year. And even if you do your very best at every sustainable habit, chances are you are still around 4-5 tonnes CO2 per year. Use THIS CALCULATOR to estimate your own carbon footprint in terms of the number of earths needed to sustain your lifestyle, the goal is to reach 1 earth.
But are we at least succeeding in reducing it to that much? Or are we getting addicted to the fossil-fueled economy that forces us into lifestyle choices that are high carbon. Here are the top 4 things you can do to ensure that you step away from contributing to the most Carbon-Heavy lifestyle choice.
Avoiding Air Travel
Air Travel is an extremely emission heavy activity that globally accounts for 3% of the carbon emission in the atmosphere. This may not sound like much. But the people who choose to travel by air frequently, are usually the ones who can afford to. This means it’s mostly the middle class and elite sections of the society that are flying at all times. This is nearly 20% of the global population that is contributing to the 3% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, only via air travel. Your contribution gets worse as you get higher up the economic ladder, as it increases your affinity towards air travel. Private jets are the worst as it doesn’t even get split between several passengers. Now that 3% doesn’t sound so small does it?
How to get started:
Think about all the air travel you did in just one year. How many of these were work-related or for family, and how many were for vacations? Can you think of ways you can reduce the dependency on flights? Can you plan overland trips to destinations for a vacation? An upcoming trend has been #SlowTravel,
It promotes the idea of traveling to multiple destinations via land. This also promotes the economic activity of your own country. Sweden has already seen a phenomenon of “flight shame” reducing the number of flight tickets booked. This opens the door to vacation ideas you never thought about before!
Watch this video to learn more:
Similar to air travel, taking a car has become a necessity in many scenarios. Most of us use a car for daily commute to work. And those with the most fuel heavy automobiles are the ones who can afford to do so purely for status quo. With the emerging car-share services like Uber & Ola, the idea of owning a car as a symbol of success is slowly eroding among the millennial generation. But can you imagine going a step further and taking public transportation at all times?
This privilege may not be accessible to those who live in cities that are not well connected by public transport systems. But the idea of living car-free and taking long walks has already been done before. Barcelona created car-free zones that block the roads, forcing people to walk more. This led to opening small eatery shops and businesses, thus leading to healthy economic activity in those zones. But as an individual, we don’t need to wait for these policies!
How to get started:
Walking may sound like a burden, but if you find yourself in a position where you don’t have heavy luggage and you’re feeling healthy enough to walk, opt-out of booking cabs or taking your vehicle out! Let’s save those wheels for emergencies only. If you absolutely need a vehicle, try opting for an electric vehicle. The electricity may not be generated from 100% renewables as of now, but it is subject to change easily once we opt for the right technologies.
Watch this video to learn more about Barcelona’s car-free zones:
A beefsteak consumes 1000 times more water than plant-based food items. It takes more land to grow animal food products and 1/3rd of the landmass is used for animal agriculture. Methane emitted by corn & soy-fed cows is a Greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. It’s not only animal agriculture that’s to blame but it’s also the pesticides and energy used for plant agriculture. The land used for growing plants that ultimately go to animals which could be put to better use if humans chose to consume the plants directly. Of all lifestyle changes you can make, why does plant-based diet make the most impact? It’s because we eat 3 times a day! No matter what the situation, the need to eat is certain. And making this switch can reduce nearly 0.8t of CO2 from your carbon footprint alone (also depends on how frequently you eat meat). Even a vegetarian diet with occasional dairy has 1/3rd of an impact a meat-eater creates.
How to get started:
Despite these facts, animal agriculture is here to stay for a while, since meat, eggs and dairy products have become part of our traditional and social culture. Getting ourselves to understand we need to quit or reduce animal products means coming to terms with this in the presence of our friends and family. Declaring to yourself that you will go plant-based may not be enough. Ensure those around you are also able to respectfully let you make this change. Look up plant-based alternative recipes, vegan restaurants, and dessert products to treat yourself on special days. Look for the items you enjoy within these parameters, and focus on them whenever a craving hits you. You can also be flexitarian for a while before you decide to fully commit to a plant-based diet.
Watch this video to learn more:
Having Smaller families
If you’re someone who already had children and now you are done making a family, this may not apply to you. But if you’re young and yet to plan your future, listen up! Imagine all the carbon footprint our existence has added to on this earth (nearly 15 tonnes of CO2 every year) and now imagine raising a brand new human being that will bring its own consumer demands and needs. Planning a big family may become a thing of the past (unless you’re a rural family that lives off-grid and have minimal carbon footprint). Family planning by urban dwellers can determine how many mouths we will have to feed going forward in the future, as they are the biggest consumers of the society. Stick to keeping your family as small as possible. We need a bright future for our planet and potential problem-solvers may come from today’s children. But first we must also understand the values and habits with which we need to raise them. Will they become people with a heavy carbon footprint or will they be sustainable leaders inspiring more people to change their ways for the planet?
How to get started:
If you’re someone who dreamed of having a big family, try educating yourself about the kind of future your kids may live in this climate crisis. If we actually begin to understand the full extent of the ecological breakdown we are about to face in just a decade, it’s even acceptable in today’s time to say that our fear surpasses our urge to have a big family. We must prepare and raise them with the lifestyle tools and habits that fight this crisis.
Raising children is the ultimate act of hope & climate optimism.
Watch this video to hear more on this topic:
We understand the above 4 points may sound very difficult to think about. Many of these choices are deeply personal and it’s easier said than done. But the climate crisis is harsher than any discomfort we may face now. Based on your location, your nature of work, & where your family lives you may not be able to give a 100% commitment to making this change. But we can start by being more accountable with our choices when we find an option to opt-out. Humans make great decisions when they find themselves in the mood to do something good. And that is enough reason to learn the big impact changes you can make to fight climate change!
Sources: https://phys.org/news/2017-07-effective-individual-tackle-climate-discussed.html https://timeforchange.org/eat-less-meat-co2-emission-of-our-food/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUnJQWO4YJY https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms6012 https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2019/08/09/ipcc-report-on-climate-change-and-land-experts-react.html https://news.yahoo.com/flight-shame-swedes-rethinking-air-travel-032414475.html