Eleven thousand scientists declared a climate emergency in an open letter to the journal BioScience last November. That should stop anyone in their tracks, but you can find a way to make a difference. The scientists identified key factors that contribute to climate change, including overpopulation, meat production, tree loss, fossil fuel consumption, and airplane travel.
I am assuming you are as concerned about climate change as I am and often feel powerless. But each of us makes a difference. This list is to inspire you, not depress you. Any change in the right direction helps.
Eat Less Beef and Dairy
If cows were a country, their emissions would be greater than those of the European Union; they’re responsible for 14.5% of global emissions, according to a recent report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Four pounds of beef contribute to global warming as much as a flight between New York and London. This is what the average American eats every month.
A third of all agricultural water use goes toward raising livestock. One-third of arable land is used to grow feed, and forests are destroyed for grazing.
Science magazine says the most powerful act you can do is to give up beef and dairy. I love my yogurt and cheese, but will try to cut down. I am too weak to give up dairy entirely.
If you’re like me, you love the bargains of rummage sales. Wearing used clothing is a sign of economic pride. It’s not like third grade, when you had to wear your sibling’s hand-me-downs.
The clothing and shoe industry contributes 8% of global climate impact, greater than all international flights and maritime shipping trips, according to CBS News. The World Wildlife Federation reports that a cotton t-shirt takes thousands of gallons of water to produce. France has outlawed destruction of unsold non-food stock, and requires environmental and human rights concerns be addressed in the manufacturing, according to Forbes.
Waste Less Food
Take a look in your refrigerator, and make sure to use leftovers before they become unappetizing. The UN FAO says that 1.3 metric gigatons of edible food is wasted every year, while 795 million people suffer from malnutrition.
Luckily, some landfills are capturing methane emissions to use for energy. Beginning in January 2020, Philadelphia residents will be able to purchase renewable natural gas from landfills. Go to the Natural Gas Shopping website or to Philly’s own The Energy Co-op to apply.
Cut Back on Airline Travel
If you want to do your part to dial back climate change, reduce your airline travel. As I mentioned in a previous article, a flight from New York to Los Angeles shrinks the Arctic ice by three square meters, or 32 square feet for one person.
Traveling by cruise ships is worse; they emit three or four times more carbon dioxide per passenger mile than planes, according to the Daily Telegraph. Traveling by train is your best option, using 90% less energy than planes.
Usually it is more expensive to repair an appliance than to buy a new one. Still, try to repair when possible. Unfortunately, planned obsolescence is common in the United States.
As of 2021, EU manufacturers will have to improve the repairability and service life of appliances; laptops and smart phones will be covered later. The EU estimates that up to 167 terawatts (167 trillion watts) of power would be saved annually by 2030 by making this change, according to BBC News.
Plant More Trees
Researchers conclude that the most effective solution to mitigate climate crisis is to plant trees. According to a study in Science magazine, planting 500 billion trees could remove about 25% of carbon from the atmosphere.
Finally, here’s an action you can take that makes a difference! Alternately, you can volunteer to plant trees with a Tree Tenders group. Contact Mindy Maslin of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society at firstname.lastname@example.org
Another option is to volunteer or donate to the Philadelphia Orchard Project, which supports 62 community orchards and has planted over 1,200 fruit trees. Contact them at www.phillyorchards.org.
Do what you can. Mother Earth desperately needs your help.