Wherever we look these days, it seems like the world is getting visibly hotter. Polar ice caps are melting and wildfires are burning. It’s like nature is sending us signals that humans, and our patterns of consumption, are putting other living beings at risk.
So what can be done? Climate change is real, and there’s not much time left to prevent it from getting really bad. Scientists estimate that if radical action is not taken, the sixth mass extinction could happen as early as 2100.
It’s worrying, but you can start making a difference today. At Aspiration, we believe that collective action can bring about positive change for the planet. We work to bring the most sustainable financial solutions for everyone, not just the wealthiest few. Here’s our list of 10 easy things that you can do every day to save the world.
How is climate change affecting our society?
Climate change is making it more difficult for us to live normal lives. In many cities around the world, air pollution makes breathing so difficult that we need to wear masks. Floods are destroying coastal communities and local livelihoods.
The impact of climate change is big. And it’s taking a toll on our physical and mental health. From deforestation to volatile economies, climate change is altering the way we live.
Humans are producing so much food for ourselves today that we are endangering the lives of other species. The World Wildlife Foundation estimates that since 1970, wildlife populations have plummeted by 68%. The bad news is that there are no signs that this trend will stop anytime soon.
Industrial farming practices like cattle ranching requires clearing large tracts of land. The resulting deforestation depletes nature’s ability to recycle carbon dioxide and produce oxygen for us. What’s more, farmers are growing soy and other monoculture crops on thousands of hectares of land as feed for the cattle. The use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers kills biodiversity in the soil and often creates parched patches of earth.
Together with rising global temperatures, parched, deforested land can cause drier conditions and longer hot seasons that lead to wildfires. The California and Australia wildfires of 2020 are testaments to the vicious relationship between human activity and climate change. That relationship turns into a cycle that’s causing human lives to be lost to climate change.
More volatile economies
Experts say that our passivity to climate change will cost us dearly in the near future. If the average global temperature rises by 4.5 degrees Celsius, they expect more wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and other intense climate activity to occur and disrupt essential sectors important to our economic survival.
Industries such as agriculture, transportation, forestry, and tourism will be most affected. It’s estimated that climate change will cost up to $520 billion in damages each year to these sectors. Climate change will also damage critical infrastructure and make people sicker, reducing productivity. According to Morgan Stanley, hurricanes and wildfires have already caused $415 billion in damages to businesses and infrastructure between 2016 and 2019, just in North America alone. And that’s not including the incalculable toll climate change has taken on human lives.
If climate change continues unabated, it will cause seismic shifts in our communities. Droughts will make it harder for us to grow food and source freshwater. Hurricanes and cyclones will destroy homes and leave entire communities in abject poverty. Heatwaves will make it harder for us to go about our daily routines. And rising sea levels and floods will sweep away human lives and sink communities underwater. With housing and food shortages, many people will struggle to live. There will probably not be enough jobs to go by. The World Bank estimates that if climate change is not slowed, more than 100 million people could be in poverty by 2030.
How can you save the world?
If the future looks bleak, don’t despair yet. There are colossal challenges ahead of us but we still have time to overcome them. Follow these 10 easy steps to help save the planet every day.
10 things you can do to help save the planet
1.Put your money in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly bank
You might not know it, but the money in your bank account could be funding the expansion of the fossil fuel industry. Banks make profit by using your deposits to make loans with high-interest rates to various types of businesses. Oil companies, along with logging and industrial agriculture firms, are some of the most profitable companies that banks loan to, giving them enormous returns.
Divesting your money from your megabank is one of the first, and most effective, steps you can take to help the world. By taking your money out of your account and saving it with an environmentally responsible neobank like Aspiration, you regain control of your money.
The megabanks have less money to finance oil companies, and you win back your authority to manage where your money goes. Aspiration helps you invest your money in sustainable businesses and clean energy initiatives, so you can do your part to help save the planet.
2. Buy fewer things
Every product you buy has an environmental footprint. Resources had to be sourced to manufacture the product and transport it to you. Clothes, for example, produce 20% of the world’s industrial pollution. Dyeing runoff and other chemicals used to process the raw materials flow into rivers and streams, destroying ecosystems. By buying fewer things, we reduce the demand for consumer goods. This sends a signal to large manufacturing companies that most of what they produce is not essential for our day-to-day survival.
It’s an important statement in our fast-changing world where trends come and go. Electronics, clothes, and single-use items get easily discarded and end up in landfills where they may break down and harm animals. Refusing to buy more limits the products in circulation, and reduces the size of landfills.
3. Reuse, reduce, recycle
If you’re already buying less, you’re definitely following the 3Rs. Buying less means helps us build a habit of reusing the items we already have. We save costs because we don’t need to buy new items. And we reduce the amount of waste that we throw out. You can reduce everything from the amount of food waste (by eating them all) to our electricity consumption. When you consume less, you produce fewer carbon dioxide emissions.
The same goes for recycling – when you put items in the recycling bin, you put materials back into the supply chain so they can be made into new products. A cyclical economy reduces our need to source new raw materials from nature.
4. Eat less meat
The meat industry today is one of the leading contributors to climate change. Research by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that 25% of the world’s land is used for cattle grazing, while 33% of all available farmland is used for growing soy to feed the cattle. Most of that land used to be woodland and forest that helped remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
You can help reduce the size of the meat industry by eating less meat. Instead, opt for vegetables, and insects, for the protein. Insects may look gross, but they’re packed full of protein, iron, and vitamins. They can be grown in small areas and urban centers, and you only need to eat a handful to get all the daily nutrients you need. If insects aren’t yet your thing, try a Mediterranean diet with fruits, vegetables, and legumes that will make your heart sing.
5. Shop local, eat local
Whenever possible, shop for local goods and food. A lot of our daily food products come from farms and packaging plants hundreds of miles away. They’re often transported by trucks, sometimes even by air, which contribute to the rise in greenhouse gases. By eating local food items, you support local businesses and workers who are all a part of your community. You can also build a stronger connection to the locale you’re in, and the seasons that give you seasonal vegetables.
6. Use energy-saving lights and appliances
It’s tempting to keep everything switched on in our hyperconnected world. There’s always the need to charge our phones or keep Youtube running on our laptops. We’re also spending more time inside, which means we’re keeping the lights on for longer. All of these habits consume energy. For most of us, electricity comes from coal-powered plants that aren’t very kind to the environment.
Switching to energy-saving lights and appliances is a good step towards reducing our energy usage. The less the coal-powered plants have to work, the safer our air becomes to breathe. And before we all make the switch to clean energies, conserving electricity also helps us conserve coal and other limited natural resources.
7. Conserve water
Water may flow freely from our faucets, but that doesn’t mean that it gets replenished easily. Whenever we use water, we’re taking it away from a source and contaminating it. Washing our hands taints water with chemicals, so does doing our laundry. And the more water we use, the more the amount of water that gets contaminated.
In some places, the water we use doesn’t get filtered and recycled back into tap water. It goes straight into the ocean or a river. It’s important to make a habit of conserving water. It’ll limit the number of pollutants that flow into nature.
8. Choose non-toxic and chemical-free cleaning products
Everyone loves a clean home. But if you’ve been using toxic cleaning products to give that floor a squeaky clean surface, then it’s about time you made the switch to non-toxic and chemical-free cleaning products.
Why? It’s because the chemicals in our cleaning products can easily evaporate or flow into natural bodies of water, harming aquatic species. These pollutants can persist in the environment, and possibly even enter into our own food chain. Fish may get sick with the pollutants, and plants may absorb them. The best way to prevent that is by using chemical-free cleaning products.
9. Travel responsibly
Travel is an essential part of our daily lives. We travel to work, to see friends, and to buy food. And now that we have airplanes and private cars, travel has never been easier, or more environmentally destructive. Reports have found that the transport sector emits more greenhouse gases than any other industry, including agriculture and electricity generation.
To reduce your carbon footprint, travel responsibly. Ride a bike to work or get an electric scooter if you’re in the city. Conserve your trips and use public transport wherever you can. Maybe even vacation closer to home – it’ll save you money and give you a new appreciation of where you live. If you need to use your own car to get around, Aspiration’s Planet Protection program can help you automatically offset the carbon dioxide from every gallon of gas you purchase.
10. Stay informed
Finally, the most important environmental action you can take is to stay informed. Keep up to date about how the world is being affected by climate change. Learn from experts about what must be done to prevent global temperatures from spiking. Speak to friends and family about the impacts of climate change.
The more we are all informed about climate change, the likelier we are to act against it. Climate change is a daily reality for many people, and we have to make positive changes before it’s too late.