Climate change is real, and it’s a problem. While there are still plenty of climate change deniers, including the President of the United States, it’s difficult to dispute concrete facts and evidence. According to NASA, the rate of Antarctic ice mass loss has tripled in the last decade. Global sea levels have risen about eight inches in the last century, with the rate in the last two decades nearly doubling that of the last century. The acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent, and the amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed into the upper layer of our oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year. Although our president may disagree, climate change is an issue that affects all of us. It is time to take personal responsibility for the environment and take steps towards leading a more sustainable lifestyle.
One of the biggest things you can do to live sustainably is to avoid consuming meat and dairy. A recent study published in the journal “Science” suggests that the meat and dairy industry is the most significant factor driving climate change. The industry also makes a considerable negative impact on air and water pollution, land use, deforestation and fresh water use. In fact, the livestock industry generates more carbon emissions than the entire transportation sector combined, and it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef. While going vegan or vegetarian is a major lifestyle change that many are not yet willing to make, just consuming less animal products and more plant-based foods is the best way to make a positive impact on the environment. Consider “meatless mondays,” in which you choose not to eat meat for one day each week. Choosing a plant-based diet for just one day a week makes a significant impact when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint and conserving natural resources.
Aside from avoiding animal products, there are several other actions you can take to reduce your impact on the environment. You can choose to walk, bike or take public transportation to work or school. You can reduce plastic waste by using reusable bags, bottles and straws. About 18 million pounds of plastic waste flows into our oceans from coastal regions each year, and by using reusable items you can help to reduce this number. Be conscious of packaging waste, especially when it comes to food, and choose products with minimal packaging. About 40 percent of plastic produced goes towards packaging, which is used just once and then discarded. Conserve water by taking shorter showers, and turn off the tap when brushing your teeth- this alone can save about five gallons of water per day, which is the equivalent of 1.5 billion gallons of water across the U.S. if each person participates.
Save electricity by turning off lights and unplugging devices when they’re not in use, and swap out regular light bulbs in your household for energy efficient bulbs. Recycle whenever possible and start a compost bin. You can also choose to buy local products, which will help to eliminate the carbon emissions that come from the transportation of goods, and pick items and foods that are sustainably sourced when you go grocery shopping.
The best thing you can do to help the environment is to stay informed and be vocal. Don’t be afraid to educate others about the impacts that they are making on the planet and what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint. If we as a society want to make moves towards environmental conservation and sustainable living, the change needs to start with you.