12 Ways to Help Save the Planet Today
In a perfect world, the planet we live on would be thriving. There would be low carbon emissions, a lack of fossil fuels, and global warming wouldn’t exist. However, our current reality exists on the other end of the spectrum. As a global population, we’re currently living through a climate crisis, from heatwaves caused by extreme weather changes — as clearly seen by the worst wildfire season Canada’s ever seen this year — to the destruction of coral reefs due to changes in ocean temperature. The climate crisis, coupled with plastic materials becoming ubiquitous and causing microplastics to embed themselves everywhere, leaves us feeling more like Jake Gyllenhaal in Bubble Boy, surrounded by a giant ball of bubble wrap, facing the world. But we can do a lot to save the planet today!
While the urgency of what needs to be done to save our planet can make individual contributions seem menial, the truth is that every contribution from each individual who intentionally makes an effort to reduce their footprint on this earth counts. The global population is currently at eight billion and counting, and if even half of us take a gander at saving our planet, the effect will be powerful.
12 Ways to Save the Planet Today:
1. Reduce Plastic Waste
United Nations reports that on average, the world is producing 430 million tonnes of plastic per year; an equivalent of over 2,000 garbage trucks full of plastic are dumped into our oceans, rivers, and lakes. Plastic waste also accounts for 85% of marine litter — a plastic bag was found in the Marianas Trench, the deepest point in the ocean.
Things such as reducing plastic waste can come in many forms. You can switch out plastic straws to paper ones, bring your own (cloth) bags to the grocery store, buy re-useable cutlery to bring with you to work every day, and invest in re-useable food storage bags — beeswax is a great alternative!
2. Reduce Red Meat Consumption
Since the consumption of food is such a universal ritual, it makes sense that no human activity has a bigger impact on the planet than the production of food (). As it turns out, the production of animal-based products — particularly beef — is responsible for about half of the food system’s greenhouse gas emissions. The land gets used for pastures and there is an increase in the industrial production of grains to feed the cattle, both diverting resources away from direct food production. Also, reports show that excessive red meat consumption can lead to an increased risk of cancer, gout, heart disease, and diabetes.
With this in mind, try “meat-less” days 1-3 times a week – it’s easier and tastier than you may think! Almost all of the nutrients in animal proteins can be obtained through nutrient-rich plants, and whole grains, fruits, and vegetables also have the least environmental impact. There are some great plant-based recipes on the internet, and local farmers’ markets are a good way to buy fresh produce and support local farmers at the same time.
3. Buy Secondhand Clothing
In North America alone, more than 21 billion pounds of clothing and other textiles got dumped into landfills in 2015 alone. Out of the 146 million tons that got put into the landfill in 2018, 11% of that were textiles, including discarded clothing, footwear, and more. Fast fashion also accounts for water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, with a 2017 report by the Global Fashion Agenda showing that the global fashion industry used 21 trillion tons of water in 2015 alone.
The good news is that being sustainable about clothing choices is a lot easier than we think. There are thrift stores everywhere that offer a diverse selection of secondhand clothing (some even with proceeds going towards charity!), as well as buy-nothing groups on Facebook that are available to peruse through to see if something catches your eye. You can exchange clothes with friends or people in your local community, and even donate clothing items you don’t need or use any longer! The environmental benefits of secondhand clothing include lowering your carbon footprint, keeping clothing out of landfills, and not supporting fast fashion industries. Plus it’s a great way to find your own sense of style on a budget!
4. Socially Responsible Banking
Socially responsible banking, otherwise known as ethical banking, is banking that has financial activities that support society and the environment, rather than just generating revenue. Ethical banking aims to help the environmental crisis and help save the planet by being completely transparent in what they have a stake in or invest into both their investors and consumers; something that is not necessary for traditional banking.
Ethical banking can help improve overall accessibility to banking, helping people from marginalized communities feel more comfortable about joining banks, which in turn not only creates a stronger sense of community but allows for more accessibility of resources. Socially responsible banking can also help consumers invest in opportunities that aid against current, rising problems against the environment, ensuring that consumers’ investments are being put to a good cause.
5. Take Public Transport
It’s a well-known fact that gasoline engine automobiles are a source of air pollution. Air pollution is not only affecting our environment, but also ourselves; approximately 14,600 premature deaths each year from heart disease, strokes, and lung cancer can be attributed to outdoor air pollution. Not only that, but people from lower-income neighborhoods, minority groups, or those with pre-existing health conditions are more vulnerable to air pollution since they already experience higher rates of illness and chronic disease due to a lack of resources and social disadvantages
This is why carpooling, biking, or taking public transit whenever possible are great alternatives. A report by the Medical Officers of Health in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area found that public transit also produces less air pollution per passenger-kilometer travelled than private vehicles. Transit not only helps save the planet, but it’s also affordable, with the Canadian Public Health Association stating that “on average, households can save about $10,000 annually by using public transit.”
6. Stay Glass Aware
When recycling, glass always feels like one of those items that you’re a bit unsure of where to put it. But it’s crucial to remember to recycle all glass items — did you know glass takes more than one million years to decompose?
Recycling glass has several advantages. Glass produced from recycled glass, in the landfill or bin.). It reduces the space in landfills that would otherwise be taken up by glass-based items, glass produced from recycled glass reduces related air pollution by 20% and related water pollution by 50%, and on top of that, recycled glass melts at a lower temperature, meaning less energy is used to reconstruct it. Look into recycling programs in your community today or donate any bottles or jars you no longer use.
7. Repair Items Instead of Buying New
It’s true that when an item or piece of clothing breaks, it’s usually easier to just replace it instead of having to repair and maintain it. However, making new products harms the environment through the emission of greenhouse gasses, materials being extracted from the earth, and energy consumption due to the creation and transportation of the final item.
Doing things such as using the Energy Star website to see a product (and appliance) rating based on their annual water and energy usage, double checking product warranty, and even looking into refurbished appliances, so that you can trade in your old appliance and it can be reused. Websites such as fixitclub.com (that provide handy repair manuals for just about everything) allow for self-repair, which on its own can provide a sense of gratification. Community Facebook groups also offer repair — there’s a movement called repair cafes in the UK that hold expert volunteers and the materials needed to help anybody fix anything. You can look up a repair cafe near you here.
8. Conserve Water
The United Nations reports that only 0.5% of water on Earth is useable and available freshwater, with climate change dangerously affecting that supply. The UN goes on to state that over the past twenty years, terrestrial water storage — including soil moisture, snow, and ice — has dropped at a rate of one centimeter per year, with high ramifications for water security.
Small, doable ways to save water in the household include taking shorter showers, turning off the tap when brushing your teeth or washing your face, and checking for toilet leaks. Other household water conservation tips include waiting until the dishwasher is completely full before running it, thawing foods in the fridge instead of running it under hot water, and keeping oils and fats out of the drain (it can back up the pipes and lead to flooding).
9. Avoid Pesticides
Synthetic pesticides are used to protect crops against insects, weeds, fungi, and other pests. The World Health Organization states that there are over 1000 pesticides used around the world to help with food production, with many of the older, less costly pesticides having the ability to remain in soil and water for years. Pesticides are actually among the leading causes of death by self-poisoning, especially in low and middle-income countries. Pesticides have also been shown to have long-term health effects on the human body, including having an effect on both the nervous and endocrine systems.
Try using natural methods of insect control, such as using yeast traps to attract slugs, or creating a mixture of peppermint, thyme, and rosemary oil to create a bug spray. Vinegar is a great way to get rid of weeds, and adding salt to outside areas where you don’t want weeds to grow will ensure that you’re able to get rid of invasive plants in a safe way.
10. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk allows for fewer trips to the grocery store, less food waste, and less packaging waste. Places like The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver are dedicated packaging-free refill stores, stocked with items for bulk cleaning and hygiene products — all you have to do is bring your own jar! The Soap Dispensary also expanded to include a bulk food store called Kitchen Staples, which stocks 400 bulk food products, with locally-made and organic ingredients.
11. Reduce Paper Waste
Canada is one of the biggest exporters of recyclable paper to India, with one of the paper mills importing up to 500 tonnes of Canadian waste a month. Between this year alone, between January and April, Canada exported 83,748 tonnes of waste paper worth more than $19 million to India. Statistics Canada reports that in 2018, paper and organics accounted for 65% of total solid waste diverted and paper diversion represents the majority of materials diverted from landfill in Canada.
Easy ways to reduce paper waste are by digitizing your bills, re-using envelopes, printing double-sided when possible, and buying re-useable coffee filters and paper towels. Other ideas include using online storage (such as the cloud or Dropbox) for your files and documents, saving brown paper shreds to use in compost, unsubscribing from junk mail and flyers, and bringing your own re-useable mug to coffee shops. Recycling is the final destination for all paper products.
12. Conserve Energy
In 2022, the electrical power sector accounted for about 96% of total United States utility-scale electricity generation. The country with the highest consumption in North America was the United States, accounting for over 80% of North America’s total primary energy consumption. Primary energy sources are fossil fuels (natural gas and petroleum), renewable sources of energy and nuclear energy, whereas secondary energy sources are things like electricity that is generated from the primary energy sources.
Easy energy conservation ideas include air-drying your clothes, unplugging devices (and chargers) that aren’t being used, switching out incandescent lightbulbs for energy-efficient lighting instead, and turning off lights whenever you leave a room.
Saving The Planet Starts with Us
It just takes a few weeks to be environmentally conscious and follow the tips we’ve provided to make being eco-friendly a habit. Once we realize we’re making incremental changes both individually and in our community, steps can be taken to act on a bigger scale once we feel like we’re ready. Saving the planet can start with each one of us.
If you’re looking for more enlightening reads on food waste awareness or making a positive impact on our planet: