Saving the environment is saving humankind
by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante
Youths around the world called for urgent action on the climate crisis on Friday, September 20. Hearing the call of teen activist Greta Thunberg, millions of youths and adults around the world filled city streets, including those in Quezon City.
Humans only have 11 years left to prevent irreversible damage to the planet from climate change. Youths are demanding a safe future and crying out, “There is no Planet B.” They want to avoid the likelihood of extreme weather disasters, wildfires, coastal flooding, loss of animal and ocean wildlife, and air and water pollution – just to name a few.
Why is it important to help?
- Climate change is a humanitarian issue. Environmental crises will affect everyone and result in suffering all over the world.
- Making big and positive changes will ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of our children, grandchildren and generations to come.
- There are personal gains that happen when you help others. Studies have shown that helpers are happier and healthier than others.
- Acts toward helping the greater community reduces personal stress, negative thoughts and feelings. Helpers are more likely to focus on the gifts that they have been given and to practice gratitude.
A lot of focus is on the changes that governments, corporations and industries can make. Although these are incredibly important, one person can also make a big impact. People often wonder, “I’m just one person. What can I possibly do to help such a big problem?” The truth is that there are many things within our own households that can make a big difference.
The following is a list of things that you can do that will have a large impact on change in the world:
Eliminate or eat less meat and dairy from your diet.
Meat production (raising cows, pigs and chickens) is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, water and land consumption and pollution. Eating less or no meat will help to combat climate change, as well as improve your health. The over consumption of meat is related to the risk of obesity, cancer and heart disease. So make fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes a bigger part of your diet, and buy sustainable or organic produce whenever possible.
Buy less clothing and beware of fast fashion
Fast fashion refers to the trend of clothing retailers producing cheap clothes as quickly and frequently as possible. Because the prices are low, consumers are likely to buy excessive amounts of clothes without thinking about how wasteful it is. Most of these clothes end up in landfills because even charities are not taking any more clothing. Furthermore, fast fashion results in water pollution and the use of toxic chemicals.
In order to be a more conscientious consumer, buy fewer clothes and invest in those that are higher quality and will last longer. Buy from companies that have ethical practices and consider buying clothes from second hand stores.
Eliminate the use of plastic.
Plastic products are quickly filling our landfills and oceans. Earlier this year, 1,500 tonnes of trash was sent back to Canada from the Philippines, ending a six-year dispute between the two countries. But this problem was not just an isolated one. Simply put, human beings everywhere are producing too much garbage. But the single consumer has a lot of power! Easy things to do are to stop using straws, carry around a reusable coffee mug and drink container, and stop buying plastic water bottles. Buy food from a bulk food store (e.g. cereal, pasta, rice, snacks) and bring reusable containers with you. Pack your lunch with reusable containers and stop using sandwich bags. Make your own cleaning products to eliminate all the chemicals and use of multiple plastic containers.
Cook meals at home
Not only is this a money saver, but also you will not be throwing away plastic utensils, food and drink containers. Your meals will be fresh and have less salt and additives in it. When eating out at a restaurant, consider bringing your own container to bring leftovers home in. Also, making a meal together with family members can bring you closer together.
Reduce the amount of water you use
A lot of energy, chemicals and money go into treating and pumping water. This contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. So it is wise to use water carefully by simple steps such as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, shaving, or washing the dishes. Take shorter showers and invest in eco-friendly appliances that use less electricity and water.
Making new items from recycled ones takes less energy and fewer resources. Common things that can be recycled are aluminum cans, cardboard, glass, paper, plastic bottles, and yard waste.
Ensure that you know what can and cannot be recycled in your area. For example in Winnipeg, dark-coloured coffee cup lids and food containers are not recyclable. Also, scrub and rinse containers such as peanut butter jars and yogurt containers. Know that the cleaner it is when it gets tossed into the plastic blue bin, the higher chance that it will be remade. For more information, go to the City of Winnipeg website: https://www.winnipeg.ca/waterandwaste/recycle/
Reduce the amount that you use your automobile
A significant amount of climate change is due to the use of road vehicles. Most pollution from cars and trucks come from burning fuel; so try to use your vehicle less. This can be done by biking, walking, carpooling, and taking the bus. Consider buying a fuel-efficient, hybrid or electric vehicle. You can also help by planning your errands carefully, and going to places that are close to home.
Small actions that will have a big impact include turning off your computer and lights when not in use, reducing the amount of heat and air conditioning that you use. Don’t leave your car idling and consider hanging your clothes to dry rather than using a dryer.
It is not just coincidence that environmentally-friendly actions also promote physical health, are financially smart, and improve our relationships with other people. Doing our own part every day will undeniably have a huge impact. Never underestimate the amount that you can do to help the planet and all human beings!
Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.