Environmental advocacy is presenting information on ecological issues as a way to encourage audiences to adopt more environmentally sensitive practices and biocentric worldviews. Considering the unsustainable rise in global population, rampant environmental degradation, and unbridled consumption, our planet can use all the environmental advocates it can get.
You can start living a more environmentally friendly life by taking many different actions — some more surprising than others. If you’re curious about how you can do your part, here are some options.
Well-Known Ways to Help the Environment
Environmental advocates have been telling the public to recycle, reduce, and reuse for decades now, and that advice is still relevant today. Although systemic change is necessary to alter our current trajectory, small day-to-day actions can still help spread a more sustainable and biocentric worldview. Together, thought and action can add up to make a real difference.
The United States alone generated 292.4 million tons of solid waste in 2018, which amounts to nearly five pounds per person every day. That waste includes everything from food and electronics to bottles, boxes, and furniture. A lot of that waste can be diverted through recycling, donating, and energy recovery.
In 2018, 69 million tons of that waste was recycled and 25 million tons were composted, diverting a sizable chunk from the landfill. Recycling simultaneously reduces waste and enables us to get a second use out of our precious resources.
2. Conserving Water
In the United States, average household water use works out to 80-100 gallons per person every day. According to the UN, people really only need between 5.3-13.2 gallons a day. Potable water is perhaps the most precious resource we have because we can’t survive without it. Consider cutting back on the amount of water you use by decreasing the frequency you shower, wash your car, do the laundry, wash the dishes, and perform other water-intensive activities. You could also switch to appliances that use little to no water, such as a composting toilet.
3. Choosing Alternatives to Driving
The average passenger vehicle emits approximately 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to the EPA. More cars roll off production lines every day, and the combined emissions of vehicles on the road is alarming to consider. If driving isn’t absolutely necessary for you, consider biking, walking, or taking public transportation to your destination instead.
4. Saving Electricity
The average American household consumed about 10,649 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As the economies of developing nations continue to improve, their per capita energy use will rise as well. Individuals can help conserve electricity by turning off lights and appliances when not in use, buying energy-efficient appliances, and switching to renewable energy.
5. Buying Used
The fashion industry alone contributes 10% of global emissions, and 85% of textiles end up in the dump every year, according to the World Economic Forum. If more people opted to buy used clothing, furniture, homes, and appliances, we could divert a significant amount of waste from landfills and save energy on the production of new products.
6. Using Reusable Containers
Humans create 300 million tons of plastic waste each year, according to the UN. Not only does plastic production contribute to emissions, but a lot of that plastic ends up in waterways and oceans, harming wildlife and polluting our water. Consider making a switch to reusable water bottles, Tupperware, biodegradable packaging, paper straws, mason jars, beeswax wraps, and other more sustainable options.
Surprising Ways to Help the Environment
In addition to the more obvious ways to help the environment, there are several less obvious options to consider. Here are just a few of the more surprising ways to create a healthier planet.
1. Eating a Plant-Based Diet
Food production accounts for 37% of the world’s carbon emissions. Meat and dairy alone are responsible for 14.5%, according to FAO. Beef production specifically creates 20 times more emissions per edible gram than most plant-based proteins. If more people adopted plant-based diets, global emissions could be significantly reduced.
2. Working Remotely
Commutes to the office contribute substantial carbon emissions, considering the transportation sector is responsible for approximately 25% of global emissions. Perhaps one silver lining of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the realization that many people are capable of working remotely. With more professionals working from home, we may see a decrease in commuter traffic and fewer emissions as a result.
3. Planning for a Small Family
When you consider the number of resources each individual consumes, it’s actually not all that surprising that smaller families are more sustainable. According to research, having one less child can reduce your footprint by 58.6 tons per year, which far outweighs every other action listed above. By comparison, the same study calculated that foregoing air travel would reduce emissions by 1.6 tons Co2 equivalent (tCO2e) per each round-trip transatlantic flight, and switching to a plant-based diet by 0.8 tCO2e. Based on these numbers, if you’re only going to do one thing to help the planet, you should consider having one fewer child or adopting, if possible.
4. Increasing Access to Education for Girls Worldwide
One way to have a more widespread impact on the planet is to work to increase access to education for girls worldwide. Increasing female education has been proven to reduce fertility rates, which in turn, helps to stem the wildly unsustainable population increases we’re currently witnessing. Educating girls also has a wide range of cascading benefits, such as improving the health of women and their families and increasing the agency of girls to advocate for themselves when it comes to their own sexual and reproductive health.
How to Partner with PMC to Help the Environment
At Population Media Center, we’ve seen firsthand the connection between promoting positive behavior change and creating a more sustainable planet with equal rights for all. Every one of the actions listed above is important for realizing this vision, but in order to create the level of change needed to avert environmental disaster, it’s crucial to tackle issues on a larger scale. PMC shows have reached over 500 million people in more than 50 countries with educational entertainment, resulting in measurable behavior change related to family planning and environmental conservation. Check out our blog to read more.