Global average temperatures have been rising steadily since the Industrial revolution - along with the concentration of greenhouse gases. The vast majority of the climate scientists agree that the current warming trend is a direct result of human activity - burning fossil fuels, land use changes and deforestation to name a few.
The evidence of rapid climate change is right in front of our eyes - global average temperatures are increasing, oceans are warming, ice sheets are shrinking, sea levels are rising, oceans are being acidified and the occurrence of the extreme events such as the recent bushfire crisis in Australia is unprecedented. Australian Department for the Environment and Energy has came with the environment friendly recommendations such as installing solar panels as a renewable energy alternative, citizen science activities like monitoring the condition of the Great Barrier Reef, buying fuel efficient cars and appliances, and supporting businesses that have cut greenhouse gas emissions. But can we - as individuals - do anything more to mitigate the effects of climate change? If you are looking for an answer to this question, continue to read! We have put together for you 20 different ideas that can assist you in your inspiring goal to save the environment.
#1. Take a walk or ride a bike
Due to heavy reliance on cars to get around, big distances and a lack of suitable public transport options, the transport sector is Australia’s second largest source of greenhouse gas pollution, right after electricity. According to the recent report published by Climate Council of Australia road-related transport (cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles) make up around 3/4 of global transport greenhouse gas pollution levels, rising by about 2.5% each year. The forecast for Australia is not so optimistic either - by 2030 greenhouse gas pollution levels from transport is expected to increase by 12% above current levels.
So, maybe we should all take an inspiration in Greta Thunberg and in “zero-carbon” choices she is making when traveling such as avoiding flights, preferring public transport and trains to cars and taking a walk or riding a bike when possible.
#2. Make your own cleaning products
The problem with cleaning products is that they are all (or nearly all) packaged in plastic. Ew! The good news is that you can easily make your own cleaning solutions - Internet is full of recipes for DIY detergents, window, toilet or floor cleaners and dish washing liquids. And they are not that complicated to make. For example such things as lemon juice, baking soda or white vinegar do wonders when mixed together. They are also cheap, easily accessible and not harming the environment.
#3. Be an influencer
Have an opinion about global warming? Have you thought about what we can do to prevent climate change? Why don’t you share your thoughts and related facts with people you know? You can persuade people who seemingly don’t care about the issue to change their behaviour. And the more people taking action, the better.
#4. Opt for eco-friendly gifts
Whenever there is an occasion, go for gifts that are kind to Mother Nature. And there is so much to choose from - beautifully patterned beeswax or vegan wraps instead of plastic cling wraps, stainless steel lunch boxes to replace old school plastic ones, bamboo cutlery, slow fashion items as an alternative of fast fashion, reusable items to reduce your waste and the list goes on and on. Don’t forget to pack your gift in an eco-friendly and zero waste way - reuse old newspapers or magazines, use beautiful fabric to wrap it into or utilise your children’s artwork!
#5. Use soaps
Same as cleaning products for household, most of the cosmetic products are coming in the plastic packaging (at least partly). The solution here is easy - ditch such products and switch to soap bars instead - those often come without any packaging at all. There are different kind of soaps on the market - replacements for facial wash, shower gels, but also shampoos and conditioners. Unlike goodies packed in plastic they also tend to contain fewer ingredients that are more natural.
#6. Shop locally and seasonally
Whatever you are buying - be it groceries, clothing or furniture - buy locally and in case of food - also seasonally. Not only this will boost local economy and employment, it will also minimise emissions associated with transportation. Fewer miles travelled mean less pollution associated with climate change. You can also have a greater positive impact by growing your own produce - seasonal herbs for instance do not require you to have a garden, you can easily grow them in the city apartment’s balcony.
#8. Use reusable alternatives
Zero waste undoubtedly reduces our climate impact. For that reason reusable products are the way to go. Think reusable straws, reusable cups, water bottles, shopping or produce bags, reusable coffee pods and nappies. The latest addition to the reusable family is TOMbag, the world’s first functional reusable garbage bag.
By switching to reusables you are helping to combat the problem of single-use plastic which according to a recently published report contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its life-cycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product. The authors of the report warn that our addiction to disposable plastic threatens attempts to meet the Paris agreement. It is predicted that by 2050 plastic will account for up to 13% of the total “carbon budget” which equates to 615 coal-fired power plants.
#9. Support Eco-friendly businesses
Recently the market in Australia (as well as many other countries) is flooded with businesses that genuinely care about sustainability and the environment. The number of businesses out there gives you as a consumer plenty of choice. So why not to support someone who is in line with your thinking by switching to their products or services? The power is in your hands!
#10. Let your voice be heard
Student climate strikes are taking place since 2018 thanks to the Swedish activist and environmentalist Greta Thunberg (do we even have to introduce this girl??). They are organised on a global scale and are happening on a weekly basis. Global climate strikes attract not only students, but all of us caring about our future and the environment. Joining one of them is a good idea if you want your voice be heard. It is also a good opportunity to meet like-minded people and become a part of the “green” community.
If you are not OK with being silent, another way is to email manufacturers, big corporations and companies, but also policy makers requesting a change in whatever you seek it.
#11. Stop smoking (in case you do)
In its International Coastal Cleanup report Ocean Conservancy reports that cigarette butts are number 1 item that litters beaches and waterways. Six out of 10 Australian smokers litter cigarette butts outdoors. The problem with littered cigarette butts are two-fold. First of all, improperly disposed cigarette butts are easily washed into waterways through storm-water drains where they leach toxic chemicals such as cadmium, zinc and lead. Secondly, when ending up in oceans cigarette butts are commonly mistaken for food by marine life and sea birds that get poisoned from toxic chemicals. It's time to quit smoking - if not for your own health, then for the sake of other beings.
#12. Join a local clean up community
If you want to contribute to the problem of litter, why not to join one of the cleanup events organised across the country. Click here to find the nearby location. You can participate either as an individual, or create a special cleanup event as a business and gather with your team-mates for a meaningful team-building action.
Recycling is a powerful way to fight climate change and reduce global warming. It is because manufacturing processes where recycled materials are used utilise less energy. And then, of course, you are helping to decrease the need of using virgin raw materials and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Similarly as recycling, upcycling can help to reach your zero waste goals. When upcycling you are utilising something that would normally be thrown away to create something of a greater worth. One of the examples would be using old surf board as a table top or a towel rack. It’s important to add, that upcycling reduces our carbon footprint, so it is definitely helping in preventing climate change.
#15. Search for swap events
Swapping books, clothes and toys for your kids can be another wonderful way on how to reduce your carbon footprint. Such events are organised regularly and there are many swap groups on both Facebook and Meetup. Alternatively, you can also try second-hand or vintage stores.
#16. Go vegan
Going vegan or at least reducing your animal foods consumption can help the environment in many ways. Globally, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation systems combined.
Farmed animals consume enormous amounts of grain and water, but that’s not the whole story. Killing and processing animals, transporting, and storing their flesh burns a lot of fossil fuels which leads to carbon dioxide emissions. On average it takes about 11 times as much fossil fuel to produce a calorie of animal protein as it does to produce a calorie of plant-based protein. During digestion processes factory farms livestock also produce enormous amounts of methane - another greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to the global warming. Methane is also emitted from huge cesspools filled with the pigs, cows, and other farm animal feces. Finally, as reported by the U.N., the meat, egg and dairy industries are responsible for 65% of worldwide nitrous-oxide emissions.
Apart from greenhouse gas emissions animal farming is accountable for the large-scale deforestation that is required in order to grow crops that would be later fed to the livestock, but also to supply pastureland.
#17. Say “no” to fast fashion
The fashion industry is responsible for producing 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping. So if you are thinking what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and help stop global warming, it’s time to revise your fashion choices by switching from fast to slow fashion where you are buying less clothes with timeless design and superior quality. It would be ideal if you purchase pieces that are made from Eco-friendly materials since nowadays many manufacturers are using plastics in their clothing.
#18. Buy your food “naked”
Buying your food without any packaging helps to reduce waste and thus also helps to prevent climate change. Unfortunately, all three leading retailers in Australia - Coles, Woolworths and Aldi - are still using unnecessary high amount of plastic packaging which clog aisles, especially in the fresh produce section. Retailers representatives defend usage of plastic saying that it helps to extend shelf life and keep the produce fresh, but should we really put profit and convenience before the environment? Some Asian supermarkets are recently coming up with some amazing ideas such as replacing clingfilm and other plastic packaging with banana leaves.
Until we get eco-friendly wrapping in Australian supermarkets, you have to take action as a consumer. The solution on how to reduce single-use plastic would be using your own produce bags and purchasing only loose veggies and fruits. There are also reusable bags on the market designed for bread and grains. Shopping “naked” food is possible!
#19. Stop food waste
According to the World Health Organization the world has 800 million chronically hungry people, but it also has countries where more than 70% of the adult population is obese or overweight. Sadly, Australia generates more waste than the average Western economy, in addition it also recycles less than the average. A big chunk of waste in Australia is food where it fills approximately 35% of an average household bin.
It is estimated that Australian economy looses $20 billion each year due to food waste. Apart from what it costs to our economy, food waste has a negative impacts on the environment - it uses resources such as land, energy, water and fuel to produce, manufacture, package, prepare and distribute food that is then goes to waste.
#20. Renewable energy options such as solar panels
Australia’s households produce around 12% of greenhouse gas emissions. The biggest part of the households pollution is associated with heating, air conditioning and ventilation, lightning and hot water systems. In order to decrease climate change Australian Department for the Environment and Energy recommends to use more energy efficient home appliances and installation of rooftop solar systems as a renewable energy source. With a little effort and planning it is definitely doable!
We have an enormous amount of work ahead of us if we want to reverse climate change in the next 10 years to safe levels for human kind. Here at TOMbag, we don't believe in perfect. Whether you decide to quit single-use plastic garbage bags, or any of the other ways listed above, every step you can towards zero waste living today will count.