10 Ways to Be a Better Environmental Steward in 2018
Protecting the natural environment may seem overwhelming with increased natural disasters, melting sea ice, and threatened wildlife. But your choices can truly go a long way for your community and your health. Here are ten ways to be a better steward in 2018 and help others do the same!
1. Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Your Food
Reducing your carbon footprint can seem daunting when learning about the many ways in which humans contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions. But there are a few things you can do to directly cut back on your own influence. Start by looking at your consumables, especially your food. When you factor in transportation, land use, pesticides and waste, food produces up to twice as much pollution as all of the cars on the planet. Being mindful of where your food comes from and how it was produced is the easiest way to cut back.
2. Reduce your Meat Consumption
jlastras / Wikimedia Commons
In addition to knowing where and how your food was produced, it is also wise to cut back on meat. Livestock take up 49 percent of all agricultural emissions on the planet, according to a 2017 study. Although going vegan may not be the best option for you, reducing your meat consumption to just once a week, or even once a day, can make a world of difference. Try healthy alternative proteins such as pea protein or vitamin-rich vegetables such as beets. Your body and the planet will thank you.
3. Buy From Local Farms or Start Your Own
Fort Vancouver National Historic SiteNPS / Troy Wayrynen
Buying from local farms is a great way to ensure that your food stays close to home and cuts back on the transportation costs or "food miles" of delivering food across the country, which can account for up to 11 percent of agricultural emissions. If locally-sourced food is scarce in your neck of the woods, consider starting your own community farm project. This is a great way to pull your town together toward a common goal and even solve social issues like poverty, hunger, mental illness and more.
4. Compost your Natural Waste
Another great way to spare the environment from your waste is to compost. This simple technique would put a major dent into the 60 billion pounds of food materials that unnecessarily go to U.S. landfills each year. Many cities offer fairly cheap composting services and will make the entire process hands-off for you. You can also do it yourself and end up with rich soil for your own garden!
5. Change Your Mode of Transportation
U.S. Air Force / Senior Airman Chad Strohmeyer
Despite the surge of electric and hybrid vehicles in 2017, fossil fuel transportation still accounts for 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Electric cars are more affordable and accessible than ever before, but there are plenty of ways to get from point A to point B in 2018 that will spare your wallet and the environment. Bicycling has grown tremendously in popularity, with more than 66 million bicyclists on the road as of 2017. Public transportation and ridesharing are also great ways to cut down on your fossil fuel consumption in 2018.
6. Cut Down On Single-Use Plastics and Microplastics
Humans have created 8.3 billion tons of plastic in the past 67 years—6.3 billion tons of which have become waste in our landfills and natural environment, especially the ocean. Though these numbers may seem insurmountable, the simple decision to not buy single-use plastics, such as plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic straws and any products containing microplastics such as exfoliators and glitter, would help tremendously.
7. Stop Buying Fast Fashion
Fast Fashion is the term used for clothing that is produced quickly and inexpensively, usually at the cost of the environment. The items are thrown away almost as fast as they are bought, and are filling up landfills at an alarming rate of 12.8 million tons of textiles annually in the U.S. alone—that's about 80 pounds of clothing per person per year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. You can drastically reduce these numbers by making smart, long-lasting decisions about what you choose to wear. There are also several companies doing their part to slow down fashion and create clothes that don't harm the planet.
8. Volunteer and Educate Yourself
Bureau of Land Management / Flickr
Volunteering is a great way to educate yourself on environmental issues. Try volunteering for a community garden, a clean up crew, or even joining national service organizations like AmeriCorps. Working with others toward environmentally sound goals makes a real and lasting difference in a community.
9. Learn About and Vote for Climate-Friendly Policies
The Blue Diamond
Exercising your rights as a citizen is a meaningful way to make a difference not just for yourself, but for your entire community. In recent years, several cities and states have made climate progress by banning fracking, plastic bags and certain harmful pesticides through the polls. Having conversations and reading current issues is the best way to stay updated on what is happening to the environment. You can also subscribe to the EcoWatch newsletter for email updates.
10. Participate in Public Events
People's Climate MarchWikimedia Commons
In April 2017, the People's Climate March drew massive crowds of more than 200,000 people in Washington, DC. Then on Earth Day, thousands more joined the March for Science all across the nation. Organized marches, rallies and protests raise awareness in a visible way and engage the community to act toward progress.
By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
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