This past year has been a whirlwind for the United States, and the entire world, if we are being honest. In times like these, when turmoil is high and climate change is more evident than ever —and climate change denial among leading officials is strong— it gets people thinking about what they can do to help. At least, it gets me thinking. What got me worked up all over again about the state of our planet was something called Earth Overshoot Day. We hit it the second day of August. Yet, not many people even seemed to care. At least, not the people I know. But for those who do care, this is for you.
Today, I’d like to delve into ways in which we can help our Earth. Some things we have no control over, but there are little things we can do every day that can go a long way. A long way to bettering ourselves and our environment. It’s a win-win. So, let’s stop wasting time and get into it, shall we?
- You Can’t Be an Environmentalist and Eat Animal Products
Image courtesy of GreenMonday.org
That may sound harsh but I have good reason for feeling this way. The first way in which you can save the planet is a big one. Cut down on meat and dairy in your diet. I know, I know, this is scary to a lot of people but hear me out. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation of the Amazon, and pollution to our oceans. There have been several studies done on livestock production and roughly 18-30% of greenhouse emissions are directly attributable to animal agriculture. That’s more than the entire transportation sector combined! And as populations increase, this will only get worse.
Earth is finite and there is only so much usable land. Clearing out the rain forests to raise livestock for consumption strips away native animal habitats and completely devastates the forest biodiversity. Factory farms also create a lot of waste. This waste runs off into water supplies and creates dead zones. This in turn wipes out fish populations. Those factory farms also use A LOT of water. We are talking about nearly half of the water used in the U.S. That’s right. If you want to save water, don’t skip showering, skip the cheeseburger! A vegan diet alone requires only 300 gallons of water whereas a meat and dairy filled diet requires 4,000 gallons.
If none of the above has persuaded you, then maybe consider this:
It takes roughly 10 pounds of wheat to produce 1 pound of beef. So much viable energy is lost to produce meat that would not be lost if we ate the wheat itself instead of trying to convert it to a less efficient food source. Think about it. We need land to raise the animals. We need land for crops to feed the animals. We also need land to grow crops for human consumption. That’s a lot of land that could be used solely for crops for human consumption. So why is that important? Well, as populations increase, less and less space will be available. This means that the more meat we eat the less room for other foods. Figured the problem out yet? That’s right, this means many people will starve.
Here’s a nice infographic showing just how much of our nation is devoted to crops for animals over humans.
Image courtesy of The Huffington Post, created by Joe Satran using USDA, NASS, and HuffPost Calculations
I could go on and on about the devastating effects of animal agriculture but I won’t. Instead I will provide some interesting links for you in case you feel strongly enough about the environment to start acting. Feel free to do your own research as well.
2. You’ve Ditched Meat and Dairy, What Next?
Now, I’m not telling you to completely wipe out all animal products overnight. If you can, then great! But, for most people its not that simple. Starting with one meal a week and then working from there is a GREAT start. From personal experience I can say that cutting out meat and dairy have been life changing in such wonderful ways and I urge everyone, especially those with particular interest in saving the world, to give it a shot.
But, what can you do after that?
The other leading contributor to greenhouse emissions is of course transportation. We all know that. So cutting down on your car usage by carpooling or combining trips is a fantastic way to lessen your impact. Walk when you can (its also great exercise and a nice way to relax!) or bike if you have one. If you’re thinking about purchasing a new car, look into more fuel efficient models. Many manufacturers are making them these days so they’re more affordable than ever.
3. Other Small Ways to Make an Impact
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Reduce your consumption, buy used when you can, re-purpose your old stuff, learn to fix your broken toaster instead of tossing it. Recycle as much as you can. Even your cellphone can be recycled. These are small steps in the right direction. If you can’t recycle it but it’s still in good condition, try donating!
- Turn off lights when you leave rooms, reduce the water you use when showering or washing dishes, shop online. (Yep, your Amazon Prime addiction is good for the environment. Okay, maybe not good, but it does actually help.)
- Use eco-friendly chemicals to clean your home, opt for paperless billing, use reusable cups, plates, silverware, and straws. Seriously, those plastic water bottles and disposable straws are atrocious. Get rid of them!
- Use your own reusable bags at the grocery store and buy more fruits and vegetables that aren’t sealed in plastic. Buy in bulk and bring your own glass jars to fill. Most stores will let you bring your own containers for purchasing bulk items like rice and beans and nuts.
- Learn to garden and compost or at least support your local farmer’s markets, shop local, plant trees, and don’t waste napkins. Wash your clothes on the cold or warm cycle, turn your thermostat down, and shut off your computer at night.
Image courtesy of easyfinance.com
For the full inforgraphic, click here.
Our ultimate goal is to reduce our carbon footprint. Think before you buy. Learn how your food and consumables are made. Decide whether those are companies you wish to continue funding. Chances are, they’re not. There are plenty of ways to save the planet and the biggest of all is to share information. The more people are aware of their consumption and what it does to the planet and the people (and animals) on it, the more likely we are to fight global warming and planet devastation. It’s better for the planet, the animals, and us!
I hope you found this informational and inspirational. Go out and do something today that betters the planet. Make that first step and the rest comes easily.
Before I end this, I’d like to share one more thing:
Click that link above and find out what your impact is. Then play around and see what real differences you can make.
Now, go on, and be the super hero the world needs!
Until next time,