On this day 49 years ago, 22 million people marched to protest against the damage being done to the environment. That damage being excessive carbon dioxide emissions –produced by human activities– coming from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, with additional contributions coming from deforestation, changes in land use and livestock agriculture.
This action was sparked by the devastation caused by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that killed thousands of birds and fish along with many dolphins, elephant seals and sea lions.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has passed countless pieces of legislation to protect the natural world since then, but isn’t it frustrating to see just how little progress has been made in half a century?
2019 Earth Day theme is protect our species
Since 1970, humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations. There’s no wonder that the Earth Day theme for 2019 is focused on protecting what’s left of the species we share this planet with. The aforementioned statistics were reported by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) in 2018 and have been directly caused by human activity.
Primarily, the cause of wildlife population loss is the destruction of natural habitats, mainly creating farmland through ongoing deforestation efforts with 3/4 of all land on Earth now significantly affected by human activities. Killing animals for food is the next biggest cause; 300 mammal species are being eaten into extinction with over half of the oceans now being industrially overfished.
So how can you take action today and for the future?
1. Stand up and raise your voice
Your voice alone might not directly influence world leaders, but pooled with millions of others around the world will show world leaders that things need to change fast, before it’s too late. Visit the WWF’s #VoiceForThePlanet campaign page to add your name to stand up and be counted by writing to your local councillor and government to effect change.
2. Make sustainable meal choices
There’s good reason why the Chinese and Malaysian diets are conducive to longer, healthier lives – they contain more plant-based foods than typical Western consumers. Mediterranean foods have also been highly commended for their benefits that are mainly directed at heart health but also include skin health; cancer prevention; psychological health; Alzheimer’s; fertility and weight loss.
Reducing how much meat and dairy foods you eat each day is the single most effective way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet (Source). By including more natural, low-calorie-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts in your daily meals mean you’ll feel fuller for longer. Easy ways to include protein in your diet without chicken or eggs is by cooking your main meals with chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils or quinoa and supplementing your other meals with pistachios, almonds, peanut butter, brown rice, porridge or wholegrain bread.
3. Make sustainable transport choices
According to the UN Framework on Climate Change, the CO2 emissions in the transport sector are c.30% in the case of developed countries and c.23% in the case of the total man-made CO2 emissions worldwide. There is widespread agreement to reduce CO2 emissions from transport by at least half by 2050 – at the latest. How can you reduce your overall carbon footprint in day-to-day life?
- Make a conscious effort to use public transport
If it isn’t possible to walk or cycle to work, take public transport instead. For the sake of an extra hour in bed, it’s worth the effort, especially as there has been (and will continue to be) increased investment in electric buses and trains.
- Try and reduce the number of flights you take per year
If you took five flights a year, that alone would likely contribute to 3/4 of your annual carbon footprint. Are there alternative destinations (or way of getting there), or if it’s for work then would a video call suffice?
- Look into investing in electric vehicle
Cars, especially in families, are necessities that we can’t live without, just yet. The purchase price and running costs of owning an electric vehicle continue to fall each year so it’s worth looking into the government schemes that assist electric vehicle owners.
4. Prevent pointless plastic pollution
Did you know that 80% of the plastic waste ever produced has ended up in landfills or the ocean? It’s an unfathomable statistic, but considering how light a plastic packaging is, that’s over 6,000,000,000 tons of plastic waste taking up land or floating about in the sea.
Follow this five-step framework to prevent pointless plastic pollution:
Being conscious of your overall consumption of plastics, in particular, single-use plastic is the starting point. By filling up your own bottles of water, shopping in plastic-free packaging places, and buying eco-friendly products from Lush is a great start. If you’re stuck for ideas, read about these people who prove that living plastic free is possible.
Most of the frequently discarded plastic items that have the shortest lifecycles are those given to us for free, so often accepted. Plastic straws, carrier bags, plastic utensils, plates and cups are all frequently given away with other purchases. Be aware of these and prepare by bringing your own when possible.
It’s the single-use plastic waste that’s most harmful to the environment, simply because there’s so much of it that’s wasted so regularly. If you have to buy plastic make sure they’re designed for multiple uses and that nothing gets thrown away before it’s been used multiple times. Bags for life are a classic example of reducing your carrier bag usage.
Unsure about whether you can recycle something at home or in the workplace? When putting something in a general waste bin, use this Recycle Now search tool to find out if it’s recyclable or not. You might be surprised!
Time to roll up your sleeves and remove plastic waste from around your area. Encourage friends and family to join you as many hands make light work. If there isn’t one in your area, why not start a beach, river, or lake clean up community to spread the word! Finally, support organisations where you can who are taking on this challenge like Boyan Slat and the biggest ocean cleanup.
5. Support land conservation trusts
In an age where everyone seems to be time-poor, the greatest gift you can give back to our planet is your time and effort. Land conservation is vitally important to ensuring the future of our lives and the lives of the animals we share this floating ball of rock in space with.
If there isn’t a land conservation trust in your area, check out the great work that the World Land Trust is doing to protect and sustainably manage natural ecosystems to conserve their biodiversity. The three areas they focus on and need your support with are:
- Land purchasing »
Taking back land from owners who are damaging the environment is the single most effective way of ensuring the protection of conservation land. To get involved, you can purchase an acre of land to reward you for helping support the trust.
- Reforestation »
The damage inflicted on forests by human activities, no matter how small, will always have a knock-on effect on its surrounding environment. Most of these habitat patches must be expanded and reconnected, which takes time if they are to sustain their wildlife population. To get involved, you can plant a tree that will be monitored to ensure successful growth in those areas.
- Reserve management »
The frontline of animal and land conservation, often risking their lives, keepers of the wild are modern day heroes doing their bit to fight off threats like; poaching and hunting, theft of rare plants, illegal farming activities and natural or deliberate fires. To get involved, you can donate to the reserve management fund so they can continue the tirelessly dedicate work they do.
Take action today – for the future
That wraps up our guide to taking action for Earth Day 2019. If this has helped you or feel it could help your friends and family then please share to help spread the word. Here’s a final recap on how you can take action today – for the future of our precious planet…