There are many differing opinions on the best ways to tackle climate change, and whether it’s too late or not. Scientists have determined that the main cause of our rapidly changing climate is human activity; however, there is a general consensus that a two-tier approach involving mitigation and adaptation can help us reduce the worst side effects. In simple terms that means reducing the flow of harmful greenhouse gases and learning to adapt to the changes in the climate that already exist.
Although it may feel like individual action isn’t doing much as compared to larger policy reforms, there is evidence that even small actions can make a huge impact.
While climate change can affect everyone in some way, places that are more vulnerable to the negative impacts require more protective effort. Children and families living in places where climate change has impacted their lives, such as climate refugees, deserve adequate support in order to improve their quality of life.
Here are five sustainable solutions to mitigate climate change, and ways you can make a positive impact today.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
The Ocean Clean-up Group in Bali, Indonesia.
It’s no secret that The Three R’s were created to encourage the reduction of waste and guide humans toward living more sustainably. Recycling and proper waste disposal are crucial for eliminating ocean pollution, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting our natural resources from harmful waste.
Recycling can be anything from cans, bottles, and plastic containers to paper, cardboard boxes and magazines. Recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 463 gallons of oil, 1,700 kilowatt hours of energy and 730 pounds of air pollution. Not only does recycling help reduce landfill waste but it also can save money as many municipalities offer tax incentives for residents who participate in recycling programs.
Another underrated form of recycling is utilizing thrift shops. Thrift stores allow you to donate clothing, shoes and household items that you may not use anymore or in some cases will purchase your items. They’re great places to find essential items at low costs while also encouraging conscious buying.
The amount of waste we produce is increasing every year, which is why it's important to recycle as much as possible and in a variety of ways.
Reduce food loss and encourage sustainable diets
A transformative World Vision project turns women in Kenya into business owners with an abundant harvest of maize, fruit and vegetables. Photo: Martin Muluka
Research suggests that there are strong links between food security and climate change. The World Food Programme reports as many as 828 million people currently facing hunger mostly prevalent in countries encountering natural disasters that may be made worse by climate change. In many areas, crops that once were able to thrive may no longer be plentiful as environments change causing food loss.
There are also discussions about how overconsumption of processed foods may have negative effects on the environment.
So, as consumers, what can be done?
Firstly, donating livestock, agricultural packs and making other donations in response to hunger is a starting point. Donations like these will help children and families facing food insecurity, while also being environmentally conscious.
Also committing to sustainability by eating most of what you buy, composting food waste and buying locally from farmers and shops that produce their own foods are excellent ways to create a sustainable diet.
Embrace eco-friendly transportation
9-year-old Sithai from Cambodia was gifted a bicycle. “I’m so happy! Now I can ride my bike to school with my friends. Thank you, World Vision!”
Driving less, carpooling or taking public transportation such as trains or buses whenever possible are leading ways to be more eco-friendly.
Many major cities around the world have adopted bicycles and scooters as forms of public transportation. London, Toronto, New York City and others have even gone as far as placing pay-per-use bicycles and scooters at stations around the city to encourage their residents to try these fun, low-cost ways of getting around town.
And opting for a fuel-efficient car instead of one with low gas mileage when driving benefits the environment and saves money as fuel costs rise globally.
Consume energy mindfully
Santa Elena, Honduras where families have access to water and basic sanitation through a solar-powered water system developed by World Vision. Photo: Andre Guardiola
Becoming energy efficient has many meanings with both small and big actions that come along with it.
Using energy-efficient appliances, turning off lights when you're not using them, and setting your thermostat to a lower temperature in the winter (and higher in summer) are smaller scale ways to be a mindful consumer.
Did you know that home appliances that are energy-efficient or made with recycled materials are 60 per cent to 90 percent less energy intrusive than regular ones? So, you can get the same result while doing better for the environment. With these easy practices, you can incorporate cleaner living into your daily routine while also saving more money on energy bills.
On a larger scale, switching to renewable energy sources completely can have a greater impact on the environment.
Solar panels, wind turbines and hydroelectric dams use the sun's rays, wind power and water to generate electricity without producing carbon dioxide. These energy sources are sustainable and do not require fossil fuels like coal or oil to operate.
The conversation about renewable energy is often subject to debates around the many financial aspects and policies around energy production. Although there is much to consider, general consensus’ suggest that investments in renewable energy have life-saving potential and should be considered more widely. Studies show that switching to solar energy worldwide could eliminate 4 million to 7 million deaths annually that are caused by air pollution. Of course, this action can’t be executed in the blink of an eye—instead, it requires global leadership to discuss and decide upon policies that make beneficial climate change initiatives a priority.
“I always say when you want, you can,” Genrri Herrera Ramirez says. This determined streak has put him on a journey of ecosystem restoration in his home village. Describing his Honduran coffee-farming community 25 years ago, he says, "We needed water suitable for human consumption. It was a huge mess of contamination, and we couldn't pass this down to our future generations. We needed to protect our community.” Photo: Andre Guardiola
Ecosystem restoration means helping the recovery of degraded or destroyed ecosystems,as well as protecting the ones that are still intact. A common way that ecosystems are destroyed is through deforestation which is more than just cutting down trees. It is the total disturbance of an ecosystem causing the disappearance of insects and animal species, decreased local water quality, uprooting of natural resources and the emissions of greenhouse gases including CO2 into the atmosphere.
The rapid deforestation in the past 100 years has caused an increase in temperatures in once forested lands. A lot of these areas provide resources for the communities they neighbour, so when they’re deforested the people living around them are affected first and become vulnerable.
Traditionally, many Indigenous Peoples are climate leaders as their culture(s) connect them to their lands, waters, animals and plant life. Indigenous communities often rest on lands with vast biodiversity, making them susceptible to experiencing climate devastation firsthand.
The good news is that ecosystem restoration can happen in many ways. Be it through removing stressors in nature to allow it to heal on its own, or by planting more trees to create more biodiverse habitats – each ecosystem is unique and has its own way to thrive, if we allow it to.
We can all do our part to reduce our carbon footprint, care for the planet and create a better future for ourselves and our children. It's not easy, but it is possible if we work together. We can all do something to lessen the damage being done and protect our environment going forward so that future generations are able to enjoy the earth’s wonders.