Do your part to help the planet
by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so does the climate crisis. We continue to see reports of extreme weather conditions happening across the world. The cold snap that swept over Texas reached the northern part of Mexico as well, leaving millions of people without power or clean water for days on end. A heavy snowstorm also occurred in Greece, an unusual phenomenon for one of Europe’s warmest countries. This month also saw snow blanketing parts of the Middle East including Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel. And in northern India, a deadly glacier slide left over 200 people dead or missing.
Natural disasters happen, so it cannot be conclusively said that global warming caused the above events. However, scientists are questioning whether climate change is contributing to an increase in frequency of such extreme weather conditions, which also include wildfires and periods of drought. These catastrophic events capture our attention and are a big reminder that humankind only has about 11 years to prevent irreversible damage to the planet from climate change.
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 yourself that will have a large impact on climate change, as well as your own physical and mental health:
Eliminate or reduce meat & dairy in 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 & beware of fast fashion
Fast fashion refers to the trend of clothing retailers to make 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 accepting any more clothing donations. 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. 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. Aim to buy food that has the least amount of packaging possible. 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. 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 how often you use your vehicle
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 or walking. 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. Interestingly, scientists have found that pandemic restrictions have reduced the amount of global nitrogen dioxide concentrations, which is an air pollutant.
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!
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Dr. Jane Goodall, Scientist & Activist
Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.