While we normally set goals to better ourselves at the turn of the new year, Earth Day gives us a chance to reflect on the goals we must set to preserve our planet for current and future generations.
The global movement necessary to affect large-scale carbon emission reduction is powered by our individual actions. By reducing our carbon footprint — the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions we create in our everyday lives — we can do our part to bring the world closer to the international goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Start by calculating your current carbon footprint here.
Here are five Earth Day resolutions you should make today:
Go meatless (or eat less)
It’s estimated that livestock is responsible for 14.5 percent of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions. The main culprit is red meat, whose farming results in five times more carbon emissions than poultry and pork.
Some omnivores simply love their burgers and sirloin too much to part ways with them for good, but making a conscious effort to limit meat consumption can still make a difference. Consider substituting an evening out at the steakhouse for pasta night at home, and designate one night a week for a lighter salad or vegetable casserole.
More people eating lower on the food chain would mean less demand for meat and, in turn, decreased meat production.
Reduce your power usage
Unsurprisingly, electricity usage is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for one-fourth of them in 2019. Doing an energy audit can be useful in determining which habits you need to change at home to reduce your light and heat intake.
To start simply, turn the lights off and unplug electronic devices in rooms you’re not using. When it comes to H2O, wash your clothing in full loads on the cold water cycle, do the dishes with cold water, and cut down on hot showers. Installing a programmable thermostat which will shut off heat when you’re not home can also help reduce unneeded heating.
Of course, if you live in a house, one of the biggest long term investments you can make is going solar, which will not only cut your dependence on fossil fuels but potentially save you significant money in the long run.
The next time it’s time to go food shopping, forego a trip to the supermarket and head to a nearby farmer’s market instead. Buying groceries that are locally grown not only helps support small farms, but reduces the carbon footprint created by shipping food from elsewhere.
Transporting food long distances takes a significant toll on the environment from fumes created from petroleum as well as the power needed to refrigerate produce. Many fertilizers that major agro-businesses employ are also fossil fuel-based, while local producers often eschew their use.
Follow the ‘Five R’s’
Eliminating waste is a key way of reducing your impact on the environment; the less wasteful you are, the less unnecessary trash ends up in overcrowded landfills and oceans. Remembering the five R’s can guide you in acting more sustainably day to day.
Refuse: Say no to wasteful items, including single use utensils, paper plates, plastic bags and paper receipts.
Reduce: Evaluate your spending habits so you decrease your overall consumption by only purchasing the products you need.
Reuse: Avoid disposable items in favor of reusable options, from grocery bags and towels to razors and travel mugs.
Rot: Start a compost pile and make your food waste work for the earth, rather than against it.
Recycle: Give your trash new life, whether it’s disposing paper, plastic, glass and metal properly or donating clothing you no longer wear.
As you make changes to your everyday practices, combine forces with like minded folks to take your efforts from micro and macro. Joining environmental groups can not only channel your efforts, but educate you on new ways you can contribute to sustainability.
And when it comes to affecting change, don’t forget the ballot box. Research candidates for local and federal government to see their stances on climate policy and vote for individuals who share your values and are most likely to bring about effective environmental legislation.
Earth Day is a time to educate ourselves about environmental protection and celebrate the planet we all share, but it should also be a checkpoint to commit ourselves to concrete action. Setting these simple resolutions and sticking to them can go a long way in reducing your carbon footprint, and encouraging others to do the same will power the movement to preserve our home.