The lungs of Mother Earth are burning. In addition to the Amazon in South America, many other places are burning.
Since the beginning of June (the hottest June on record in the Arctic), over 100 wildfires have burned in the Arctic circle, in Greenland, Siberia and Alaska. Arctic wildfires emitted as much CO2 just in the month of June as Sweden does in an entire year.
The fires are not merely the result of surface ignition of dry vegetation. The fires appear to be further north than usual, and some seem to have ignited peat soils. Peat fires burn deeper in the ground, enabling them to last for weeks or months while producing vast quantities of greenhouse gases.
Climate change is the greatest challenge of our times. We, the citizens of Earth, must take urgent action to cut global emissions in half by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050. This demands the phasing out of fossil fuel emissions, along with adopting efficient, renewable energies.
Achieving net zero carbon emissions won’t be easy, but it is still possible. It will require the collaboration of the public and government leaders as well as education and heightened awareness of what we must do, individually and collectively, to protect and conserve our precious planet.
JUST SAY NO
These tiny pieces of plastic measuring less than 5mm (0.2 in.) long have been found in oceans, rivers, and even air, as well as in food, bottled water, and tap water. Microplastics are in tap water and in 93% of all bottled drinking water on Earth. Up to 12 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean annually. This amount is projected double within the next decade unless there is a radical change in human behavior.
Ban glitter from your life. Avoid buying it or products that contain it. If you really must have glitter, opt for a biodegradable version, several of which are now available on the market.
Microfibers are produced through the washing, drying and regular wear and tear of synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon. Microbeads are extra small bits of plastic—less than 1mm in width. They are used in the cosmetic industry, particularly in exfoliating soaps, toothpaste and other products. According to the BBC, a single shower can lead to 100,000 microplastic particles entering the ocean.
Microbeads are intentionally manufactured to be small bits of plastic. Avoid buying or using products containing plastic microbeads by looking for “polythelene” and “polypropylene” on the ingredient labels of cosmetic products. Choose non-synthetic clothes made of natural materials like cotton.
Use a laundry ball to catch microfibers shedding off clothes in the washing machine. Air dry instead of using the dryer. Support organizations addressing plastic pollution, such as Oceanic Society and Plastic Pollution Coalition.
MINDFUL EATING MATTERS
Don’t eat fake food. Avoid foods that contain chemicals, artificial colorants and preservatives, palm oil or hydrogenated corn oil. Eat fruits and vegetables harvested locally. Grow some herbs and edibles in your own garden.
Go vegetarian! Quit eating seafood. Avoid factory-farmed meat. Mainstream meat production is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions that uses an incredible amount of land and water and tortures animals.
Review your current diet by jotting down a list of vegetarian foods that you regularly eat and enjoy. Incorporate these foods as well as a variety of whole grains, fresh and dried fruits, and fresh vegetables and beans into your daily diet. Boost your vegetable intake by adding them to soup, pasta or rice dishes.
Invest in a good vegetarian cookbook or search online for recipes and meal ideas. Expand your repertoire to encompass international cuisines like Thai, Japanese Indian and Middle Eastern that boast tons of colorful vegetarian options.
If you don’t already, start reading food labels since some seemingly vegetarian foods may contain lard, chicken broth or gelatin. Don’t buy into the myth that vegetarians can’t get enough protein in their diets. Most people’s protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant proteins (whole grains, beans, lentils and nuts) and consuming enough calories.
Cook with healthy fats such as coconut and olive oil, which are rich in good fats. Experiment with marinating, sauteing, baking or grilling soy-based foods such as tofu and tempeh.
Try one new vegetarian recipe a week. If you like it, add it to your rotation. If not, experiment with another new dish the following week. Soon, you’ll have several great recipes that you love to cook and eat.
WALK, DON’T DRIVE
Go car-less. Is it really necessary to have our own private car? Or is it just a luxury that many of us have become accustomed to?
Instead of driving and creating pollution, consider making a radical life change: walk, bike or take public transportation. As a bonus of not owning a car, you will get into better shape from walking more and you won’t have to deal with car payments, insurance, flat tires, oil changes and upkeep, accidents—or any other stresses related to vehicle ownership. You will no longer need to buy gasoline or worry about finding parking. No more road rage or caring about traffic. Speeding tickets will be a thing of the past.
What’s more, you don’t need a car, thanks to bicycles, buses, carpools, Uber and all the other options for transportation. Reduce your carbon footprint by choosing more conscious, ecological ways of getting around. Take advantage of your commuting time: read an enlightening book while you are on the bus or subway or get some extra work done. Not driving reduces your stress level and helps set the foundation for a healthier, more balanced life.
Being car-less, you contribute to a greener environment. Although there are electric cars and hybrid cars with good gas mileage, it’s much more eco-friendly not to drive at all. Anyone truly concerned about the environment should make a statement by giving up their car. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.” There are over 300 million cars in the US alone. Imagine your life without a car. Then, go out and live it!
Choose to say no and not accept the status quo when it comes to plastic packaging and single-use items that quickly turn into trash. Refusing is a way to reflect on our habits as consumers and stop the demand for disposable products.
Refuse plastic bags for your purchases. Bring your own canvas bags when you go shopping or at least opt for a paper bag. Refuse waste-generating products unnecessarily wrapped in plastic. Whenever possible, buy from the bulk and produce sections of the grocery store instead of buying processed food. Use your own bags and containers.
Refuse plastic straws and plastic lids or styrofoam cups when ordering drinks from a cafe or restaurant, Bring your own reusable mug to the coffee shop. Refuse to buy drinking water or other beverages sold in plastic bottles. Carry a reusable water bottle wherever you go.
Refuse plastic or styrofoam to-go boxes for take-out or leftovers. Bring your own reusable containers to restaurants. Politely refuse unnecessary things such as advertising leaflets, free samples, paper receipts and single-use plastics when a business or individual offers them to you.
Refuse disposable feminine health products (pantiliners, pads, tampons with plastic applicators) and instead opt for reusable feminine products like a moon cup or washable cotton cloth pads.
Buy less stuff overall. Make gifts instead of purchasing them.
Think twice before you buy any product. Do you really need it? How did the production of this product impact the environment and when/how will you dispose of it? To eliminate impulse buying, wait a month after deciding you want a product to make your purchase.
Simplify your life; only keep belongings that you use regularly. Reducing what you own naturally leads to buying less and creating less waste in the future.
Observe an eco Sabbath. Choose one day a week to not buy anything, not use electricity, turn off your phone and avoid using a car.
Reduce the amount of groceries you buy to avoid letting food spoil.
Get off junk mailing lists to lessen paper and plastic waste. See Stop Junk Mail at Work and Home (and switch the rest to paperless!) for guidance.
Reduce the usage of your heating and air conditioning system and use less electricity in general.
Organize swaps between friends to avoid having to buy new clothes. Use hand-me-downs for your children. Shop at flea markets and thrift stores.
Buy used products whenever possible. Shop in real life rather than online; this generates less waste by avoiding shipping. Repair things when possible instead of buying replacements.
Recycle and Compost. Separate trash into categories: paper, plastic, aluminum, glass, and organic food waste. Reuse what you can and recycle the rest. Keep a compost bin in the garden to create rich soil that will help your garden grow.
Research. Stay aware of the latest developments with regard to climate change and planet Earth, and talk with friends and family about these important issues.
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