The average human releases around 5 tonnes of CO2 per year. Is it different in each country? Yes, even just between two people. Developing countries like Pakistan and the Philippines have around 1 tonne per person each. Compared with developed nations that have higher national averages like the US (16.5 tonnes) and South Korea (11.5 tonnes). It’s about where we are, who we are, and what we do.
By considering our daily decisions within our reach. Climate change issues won’t be solved effectively by your eating, buying or driving habits alone. Or even by a country alone. It needs a system-wide changes.
As the IPCC report says, “unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” “Everyone is going to have to be involved,” says Debra Robert, co-chair of the IPCC.
Before we go to the “what to do’s” we should know first the “why we do’s”.
Change what and how we: Know
1. Are you already well informed?
Get informed! Knowledge is power. You can learn more about the science behind our climate challenge and the responsibility that all sectors hold in addressing the issue. You can also add your voices to the issues that are shaping the climate debate, and emerging, evidence-based data that directly relates to change in our climate. Learn what do many climate-deniers thinks and believes, the truths, the lies, the hoaxes.
2. Are you also accountable?
Know your impact! Take a personal inventory of everything you could remember until now of your impact on the planet. Remember, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!
If you wonder how much are your carbon emissions, this calculator by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley would help you. Or this calculator. And if you consider offsetting your carbon emissions, find out how many emissions you need to ‘buy’ back by using this handy carbon footprint calculator.
Of course, not everyone is a lawmaker, a CEO, or a billionaire, or even live adequate to change their habits, as some in the working classes and low-income family. What’s the best daily action we can take?
Change what and how we: Eat
Our food’s carbon footprint or ‘foodprint’ is the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the growing, harvesting, processing, transporting, cooking, and disposing of the food we eat.
The food industry particularly the meat, dairy, and egg sector is one of the most important contributors to climate change after fossil fuels. The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains, and ship combined. Additionally, food waste is an enormous ‘hidden’ contributor to climate change.
Around 12-17% of total greenhouse emissions in the EU are from meat and dairy production. If cattle or global waste have their nation, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, after China and the US. The carbon footprint of this wasted food is about 3.3 billion tons of CO2. So, enjoy more plant-based meals, reduce your food waste, and compost your food scraps.
3. Reduce our animal protein consumption
We can reduce our carbon footprint through food choices. By reducing your animal protein consumption say, half, it can cut your diet’s carbon footprint by more than 40%.
4. Shift diets to more plant-based foods
Should we all be vegetarian or vegan to make a difference? No, you don’t have to. You can cut down gradually and become a ‘flexitarian’.
5. Buy organic, locally grown and seasonal plant-based foods
The best approach for us is to eat locally grown and seasonal plant-based foods. By buying organic plant-based foods, not only it’s usually healthier because they contain fewer substances, but also growing them protects the environment. By buying locally grown plant-based foods, it helps cut down on the emissions caused by transporting produce.
Even better beating only purchasing local, eating vegetarian.
Change what and how we: Buy
How harmful are your shopping habits? To be noted, anything we buy has a carbon footprint, in how it is produced or transported. Land, maritime and air shipping whether it is national or international will have more ‘food miles’ so it has a higher footprint than local produce.
Do you truly know where your money is going? Our power as a consumer can be enormously impactful. So, if you are unhappy with a company’s impact on the planet, make your voice heard!
Support companies which driven by sustainability and committed to transparency throughout the supply chain. Shop with thoughtful purchasing to minimize waste. Consider reused and pre-loved items to take part in the circular economy and keep goods out from filling out already overflowing landfills.
Change what and how we: Use Things
6. Sharing is caring
If we own less and use more things collectively, we need to produce fewer things, and that saves resources. There are multiple different possibilities for collective consumption are they’re being used by millions of people worldwide. Sharing cars, exchanging clothes, lending and borrowing tools. Avoid purchasing electronic devices that you don’t need.
Change what and how we: Use Energy
7. Save energy
It might sound like the most original-sounding tip around, but it’s as relevant as ever. Saving energy saves you money and helps cut your emissions. Use energy more efficiently. Unplug items when they aren’t in use, or already fully-charged. Buy electronic goods with high energy-efficient standards.
8. Limit our use of fossil fuels
Why should we limit our use of fossil fuels?
First of all, we should already know what is fossil fuels. Fossil fuels such as oil, carbon and natural gas. Things such as driving less, flying less. Around two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to burning fossil fuels for energy to be used for heating, electricity, transport, and industry. Around 80% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions are accounted for from energy production and use.
9. Switch to renewable energy
By far throughout the world, the use of energy represents the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity.
The most commonly used renewables are solar, geothermal, bioenergy, hydropower, and onshore wind. Aside from limiting our use of fossil fuels, it would be much better for us and the environment to also replace it with renewable and much cleaner sources of energy all while keeping our energy use efficient. Things such as switching to a ‘green’ energy provider. By 2020, several of the most commonly used renewables will be on par with or cheaper than fossil fuels, according to Irena’s latest report.
10. Choose HFCs-free
Use an HFCs-free fridge and air conditioning. Because of HFCs, there are up to 9,000 more warmings for the atmosphere than CO2.
Change what and how we: Use Resources
11. Limit and reduce plastic-use
Plastic present in pretty much every aspect of our lives. The material durability has its advantage: being so durable, and disadvantage: we’re struggling to get rid of it. Plastic has found its way pretty much everywhere. On streets, rivers, beaches, cosmetics, wastewater, clothes, even the water we drink and the air we breathe. Almost every plastic is produced from fossil fuels. And in every single phase of its life cycle, it’s emitted greenhouse gases.
Change what and how we: Use Techs
12. Shrink your digital footprint
Energy is needed for all the data we’re producing. Typing search query, sending or receiving emails, streaming song or video causes CO2 emissions.
By 2018, the CO2 emissions produced from the use of digital technologies had overtaken even the aviation industry. Netflix currently consumes 15% of the world’s internet bandwidth.
Try downloading rather than streaming anew each time you go back to them. Switching to a ‘green’ search engine such as Ecosia that plants trees. Clean up your email inbox.
Change what and how we: Travel
Travel smarter! In the US, transportation is now the largest source of carbon emissions. No matter where you live, travel by car or airplane contributes heavily to our shared carbon footprint. Take public transit, or even better, biking, or walking whenever possible. It’s good for your health, wallet, and the planet.
13. Going car-free
Going car-free was the number one most effective action an individual could take. Compared to using public transport, cars are more polluting. In European nations, going car-free can reduce 2.5 tonnes of CO2. “We should choose more efficient vehicles and, whenever possible, switch directly to electric vehicles,” says Maria Virginia Vilarino, co-author of the mitigation chapter in the IPCC’s latest report.
14. Fly less
There is, of course, no other means of transport that faster than planes. But at the same, time there is no activity which a single person can emit such large quantities of CO2 in such a short time.
How harmful are my flying habits? Until now, planes, especially for commercial flights, still run on fossil fuels, and we haven’t figured out a scaleable alternative to it, yet. Here comes the inequality of climate change: only a minority of humans fly and even fewer people take planes often, but everyone will be affected.
Ways to cut down other than avoiding air travel as much as possible are held meetings virtually, holidaying in local destinations or using trains instead of planes.
Bicycle is still the number one form of sustainable transportation. In most cities, travel on a bike can be faster than by car, bus or train.
Change what and how we: Invest
16. Divest funds out of polluting activities
If you are lucky enough to have investments or a pension, pledge to separate them from exposure to fossil fuels assets and increase your stake in clean energy companies.
By avoiding buying stocks in fossil fuels or banks that invest in high-emission industries. We can both take climate action and also reap economic benefits by getting rid of the financial instruments of the industries.
17. Make sustainable investments
It doesn’t stop at your portfolio. Ask your university, your company, and your organization how they invest their money. When it comes to climate change, money talks.
Find your local sustainable bank by checking out this list of member banks of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). Sustainable investments consider social, ethical and ecological aspects aside of the financial aspects.
Change what and how we: Decide
Exercise our rights! As an individual, we also serve as citizens and as consumers. Put pressure on our governments and on companies to make that system-wide changes that we need as soon as possible.
18. Make informed decisions as a consumer
Did you know that 100 largest companies in the world are responsible for over 70% of global emissions? We can consume more carefully and consciously. Giving preference to companies that act responsibly.
19. Make informed decisions as a citizen
Consider climate issues on local, national and even global levels. Find out who is more committed to climate protection in your city, region, and country. Examine the climate and environmental platforms of your candidates and choose the one with clear, ambitious, and convincing plans to protect our planet.
20. Have fewer children
Having fewer children is the best way to reduce your contribution to climate change. It will avoid almost 60 tonnes of CO2 per year, according to Nicholas’s study. Even though this result has been contentious, and leads to other questions like the philosophical ones.
Change what and how we: Speak
21. Show your support
Consider showing your support for campaigns, programs, and organizations including community and citywide actions that trying to tackle climate change, and the one working on the ground to make a difference.
Support organizations that trying to hold companies that account for good environmental practices.
22. Organize others
One person can make a difference. Together, we can make a movement. Consider the neighborhood, communities or organizations that you are a part of. Collective action can have a major impact and influence on a change. Consider how you can gather support by mobilizing a larger group for action.
Fridays for Future has become a huge movement in which people regularly take to the streets to demand more political action taken to climate protection. Extinction Rebellion is using civil disobedience and non-violent resistance, setting up blockades in cities across Europe.
Change what and how we: Preserve
23. Protect our forests and plant more trees
We all know how important forests are for the microclimate in individual regions and the global climate as a whole. Forests ‘feed’ on CO2 and convert it into oxygen, which is vital for our survival.
Two-thirds of man-made CO2 emissions could be removed from our atmosphere if we were to reforest 900 million hectares of forests worldwide, according to a research team at ETH Zurich.
Change what and how we: Opt
24. Offsetting your carbon emissions
If you simply can’t give up eating meat, going car-free, fly less, and else, consider offsetting your carbon emissions by investing in a trusted green projects such as in the clean and renewable energy sector.
Find the one that support local communities, drive sustainable development, and truly protect our planet. Don’t act if it’s a ‘get out of jail free card’, but another resource in your toolbox to compensate your carbon footprint.
There are dozens of trusted projects around the world, like the ones in the UN Climate Convention’s portfolio. Or international organizations that promote the rights of indigenous people living in the protected forests, or protect forested areas by monitoring and reporting on illegal logging, such as Amazon Watch.
Would my action do much difference?
So, even if I do it all of the above, that’s just me, right? how much difference I as an individual would make? Actually, it counts. When one person makes a sustainability-oriented decision, other people do too, according to social scientists. This occurs because we constantly evaluate what our peers are doing and we adjust our beliefs and actions accordingly.
No matter who and where you are, whether you are a high school student in India or a business owner in New York, climate change will impact your life. But it’s also true, that:
Whoever and wherever we are, huge or small, our actions counts.
Earth Day Network. “How to Act on Climate Change: A User’s Guide for 2020 and Beyond.” →
Ortiz, D. A. 2018. “Ten simple ways to act on climate change. BBC Future.” November, 5. →
RESET. “12 Things You Can Do Right Now on Climate Change.” →