5 Individual Actions Against Climate Change
Vidvatta Sharma, August 20, 2019
“It’s the individual effort of everybody working together towards a collective goal that causes real, effective change”.
Climate change is no longer a thing of the distant future. It is happening as we speak and is reflected in the increasingly frequent droughts and hurricanes, in the heatwaves scorching some areas and in the snowstorms muffling others. It is not a reality we can afford to ignore any more. We must act against climate change starting right now because the choices we make today impact the lives we will lead in the future.
Climate change is largely a product of the heavy doses of carbon we are releasing into the atmosphere on a daily basis. These carbon emissions create a heat trap that causes the earth to warm at an alarming rate.
While our industries are undoubtedly responsible for a large amount of carbon that goes into the atmosphere, individuals are not exempt from responsibility. There are approximately 7 billion people on the earth today. Were every individual to become conscious of the emissions they produce and take actions to curb these emissions, a lot could be accomplished in terms of reducing individual carbon footprints. Individual action against climate change does benefit the environment, it does have impact, and were every person to undertake it, the collective action would radically improve the current climate conditions and make our world a more climate-friendly place again.
Taking individual action against climate change does not have to involve inconvenience. It is simply a matter of making a few small alterations to our ways of living that collectively will create a big impact. Some of the many individual actions that help in the fight against climate change include:
1. Use public transport
Using your own vehicle is no doubt a great convenience. But not only does using private vehicles add significantly to the congestion on our roads, it also results in a lot of carbon emissions. Typical emissions from passenger vehicles include CO2 emissions along with the release of other gases like methane, carbon monoxide and HFCs.
How this helps
Not only do you help by cutting down on traffic and congestion, you also help by significantly cutting down on GHG emissions. Public transport can help cut down these emissions by almost half. By using public transport whenever you can instead of passenger vehicles, you are taking a very strong individual action against climate change.
2. Replace your lights
If your homes still run on CFL bulbs, you could consider replacing them with LED bulbs. LED lighting is one of the most cost-effective ways in which you can take individual climate action because it lasts long and consumes very little electricity. Not only would you increase your home’s energy efficiency, you will also see a cut in your electricity bills.
How This helps
Our electricity supply is still heavily dependent on coal. An LED bulb uses 70-90 percent less energy than a standard bulb, limiting the need to burn that much more coal. LED bulbs also last longer than CFL bulbs, which means a lower rate of manufacturing, which is another source of carbon emission. So, by replacing old bulbs with LEDs, you help reduce air pollution and prevent a good amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Invest in Energy-Efficient Appliances
We use an increasingly higher number of electric items in our day-to-day lives. Refrigerators, air conditioners, water heaters, lighters, washing machines and dryers, induction heaters apart from other electrical items we may use at home or in our workplaces,all contribute to our electricity use. These appliances put great pressure on our energy systems and cause our energy resources to be depleted at a faster rate. The energy used to run these appliances is also a cause of greenhouse gas emissions since the energy they use comes from fossil-fuel run electricity plants.
How This Helps
By investing in energy-efficient appliances, you contribute greatly towards reducing your carbon footprint.
Invest in appliances which are highest rated on their energy efficiency. And look at buying appliances according to your household needs. For example, if your house can be cooled with a 1-ton air conditioner, do not buy a 1.5-ton appliance. It is also important to note that while energy-efficient appliances may have greater upfront costs, they will eventually lead to lower expenditure on your electricity bills. This in turn will cost you less in the longer run.
4. Reduce plastic waste
Plastics are made from fossil fuels- 4% of the world’s annual petroleum production is converted directly into making plastics, and another four percent gets burned to fuel the process. This year, global will equal the pollution output of nearly 200 coal-fired power plants with a 500-megawatt capacity, according to a Center for International Environmental Law report.
How This helps
Over 90% of plastics are not recycled. Most plastic waste is land-filled, and only 12% is incinerated. In addition, millions of tons of plastic trash end up in the ocean each year. Throwaway plastics we use include straws, containers and disposable plastic cutlery etc. These alone make up 40% of the demand for plastic.
Plastic production has ballooned to over 8.3 billion metric tonnes and most of it ends up as disposable waste. Since plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, all this plastic is simply sitting in our landfills and choking our oceans. Cutting out on plastics is one of the best individual climate actions you can take to help the planet.
5. Plant a Tree. Or two.
According to a report by The Nature Conservancy, trees might be our greatest allies in the fight against climate change. When carbon dioxide is released into the air, it tends to hang around in the atmosphere for a very long time. Cutting our emissions, while absolutely necessary, will prove ineffective unless we also remove the existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We can create technologies for this. But this is most easily and inexpensively accomplished by simply planting trees.
How this helps
Trees breathe in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. The more trees we have, the more carbon dioxide they will take out of the atmosphere. Lower the amount of CO2 in the air, the slower our planet will warm. A tree sapling hardly costs anything, but were everybody to plant at least one tree, the environmental cost of our carbon emissions would reduce.
Individual actions against climate change do not have to be big, time-consuming tasks. Small changes can make a big difference when done consistently. We’re responsible for warming the planet beyond sustainable levels; it’s time we helped save it.
Vidvatta Sharma is Assistant Communications Manager, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation.