Today is Earth Day 2021 and scientists say that we have a bit less than 7 years to reach the goal of a zero-emissions future and limit global warming to 1.5ºC. This means that we’re already late to the party of climate action and we have to start doing something asap.
The climate emergency is already affecting us even if some people decide to look in another direction. But we’ll need to pay attention when, in a few years, millions of people will need to flee from their homes due to radical draughts, climate disasters, and sea levels rising. And not just from Indonesia or Subsaharan Africa, but also from Florida and Amsterdam. This is already happening and climate refugees are a reality. If we don’t do something, more than 200 million people will be in this horrible situation by 2050.
We have avoided acting for too long and for so many reasons that shouldn’t have a place in this conversation:
- the idea that profit is more important than human rights and the environment
- the wave of climate denial we’ve been riding for the past 30+ years and unbelievably is still relevant today
- the idea that sustainable products/policies/alternatives should be a choice and not the norm
- the idea that anyone with a reusable mug is an evil tree-hugging bolshevik conspiring to ruin the western world
So I guess I have one message for those standing in the way of change: profit and stuff mean nothing on a barren planet.
I know what you’re thinking and I agree. This whole thing is scary and intimidating…so how the hell is little old me going to do something to turn around the situation? I’m not responsible for this! And you’d be right. You and I alone haven’t brought the whole planet to this situation, but I am willing to help clean up the mess others have created, are you with me?
There’s strength in numbers and we know mobilization works. Have you seen that bunch of dudes who were angry at that one new soccer league and protested and went berserk on social media until their teams abandoned it? I mean, power to them. If this doesn’t make you feel ✨empowered✨ I don’t know what will.
So I’ve put together this teeny tiny guide with a few of the best things you can do to help mama Earth before those 7 years are over. It’s light and fluffy because we don’t want to feed that eco-anxiety you’re already probably feeling, but it’s also a no-bs straight-to-the-point list so that you can start moving that booty and putting things into practice as soon as you’re done reading it.
So if you’re sick of empty promises from the people who call the shots and you want to start making a change now, keep reading.
1. Address your government
If you have the privilege to demand changes to your government, go for it. There are many ways to do this other than going to the street and demonstrate.
Begin by learning about your government’s policies, its stance on climate change, its relationship with private companies, and its links to shady climate-denying lobbies or pressure groups.
Once you’re familiar with your surroundings, choose your play. Maybe you can create o support a petition or legislative initiative. Maybe you can go to a demonstration, get politically involved on a local level, or create a grassroots movement.
Or maybe you can start by doing something as simple as using social media to call out the big guys. You and I both know social media is a great tool for activism when used right, so go for it, I promise I’ll retweet you.
2. Vote with your dollars and be radical about it
One thing we must all be aware of is that the money we spend and how we spend it sends a very important message. It informs businesses about what we want and sets an example to other consumers of how they should behave.
You can do anything you want with your money, you earned it. But if you’re truly invested in making a change, please, make this teeny tiny effort for the team.
It doesn’t mean that you have to stop buying or that you should start feeling guilty for enjoying your money, but learning how to invest in quality rather than quantity goes a long way and is way more rewarding than being mindless about it. It’s as easy as buying one pair of Reformation jeans instead of 3 pairs from Zara.
3. Learn about greenwashing and avoid it at all costs
For the past couple of years, lots of obviously unsustainable brands are trying to jump on the green bandwagon to get that sweet eco-friendly dollar and I say nope to that – H&M, I’m especially looking at you.
I would absolutely love to see big brands and corporations make changes and take sustainable steps. If just one of them announced a massive reduction of their production, I would cry happy tears, give them a standing ovation and pat them on the shoulder. But that’s not the case at the moment and it’s infuriating.
Greenwashing is a marketing technique that tries to make you believe that an organic cotton t-shirt is sustainable because of that sweet certification they bought, but they casually leave out the story about the underpaid factory workers in delocalized sweatshops, their outlandish carbon emissions before offsets, and the t-shirt having more air miles than the POTUS.
Gaslighting but instead of your toxic ex it’s an evil corporation.
These bad-bad brands are going to keep deflecting any criticism and playing the part of nature warriors because sustainability is the buzzword of the decade, and buzzwords bring money home. Sadly, it’s up to us to know how to identify when this is happening until we have more strict regulations about it to protect consumers – you can learn more in this post about greenwashing and this one about greenwashing red flags.
One telltale sign you can always rely on is brands that offer ridiculous Black Friday deals and post inspirational quotes for Earth Day – we see you. 🙃
4. Calculate your carbon footprint
I know, the carbon footprint thing is controversial in the green community because it helps the biggest pollutants globally put the responsibility on the individual. But enough infighting, let’s be constructive. Your carbon footprint is objectively useful to let you see which areas of your life contribute the most to climate change.
The first time I took one of these tests, I was honestly shocked at how high my carbon footprint was – “but I bring my canvas bag to the market!“. But having this ugly surprise allowed me to make significant changes in my life in areas that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
There are factors from transportation to food, clothing, consumption habits, or where you live. This is a complex topic and if you, like me, believe sustainability starts at home, you need to start by knowing where you stand. And taking the carbon footprint test is easy, faster than a personality test – and we both know our Myers Briggs types, so there’s absolutely no excuse.
5. Simply consume less of what you don’t need
We’re generate 3.5 million tons of waste every day. From food to textile waste to every little plastic we use without thinking anything about it.
The most efficient thing we can do to change this trend and reduce waste is, well, consuming less. Consuming less has nothing to do with depriving yourself of the things you need, but with consuming better and smarter.
This can be as simple as planning your meals even before doing the groceries so that nothing goes to waste or learning how to use scraps so that even the lettuce stem has a purpose.
You can also find solutions for the things you own and you don’t want anymore. So instead of throwing away your pre-loved clothes, you can repurpose them (old tshirts will always make the best rags), resell them or donate them.
6. Learn about climate action and solutions
Contrary to common belief, there are solutions to climate change. We just need to listen to them, goddammit.
Learning about these solutions helps enormously with climate-induced anxiety and it can even motivate you to do something for the Earth, from spreading the message about them to even finding your own one day.
These are my two preferred sources of climate hope:
- books: some of them are too heavy for me, but there are many others that focus on the problems + solutions. You can find my favorite ones in this post about inspiring books about the environment and at the end of this post about green deals.
- Clubhouse: if you have access to it, you can find super inspiring and dynamic changemakers to give you your daily dose of renewed hope for humanity – I would hug them all if I could.
7. Talk about climate
If you’re going to do just one thing listed on this post, please, this is the one. Talk about your worries and fears, the solutions you’ve learnt, the different subtopics in the fascinating world of sustainability, and everything that makes you excited about our future.
Environmentalist movements have had a bad-dish rep (hippies, commies, tree huggers, angry youngsters) for a long time, but now more and more people are seeing how magical this community actually is. This is changing because we’re talking about it and showing that you don’t need to live in an off-the-grid commune to care about the planet.
You never know, maybe you open someone’s eyes, you inspire someone to change their lifestyle or you empower someone to address the bigger picture.
Share this post, share the social media accounts of your favorite activists, talk about your worries and about the problems that make you sad, but also about the solutions that make your heart sing.
This is why I’m never losing hope
I can’t accept this as a failure, or maybe I choose not to see how serious it is, but I believe that more of us are seeing things the way they are. I want you to use the overwhelm and frustration you’re feeling towards a productive end because the responsibility to reverse this situation isn’t yours, but every little help is welcome.
The private sector and governments have the biggest job to do. Not because we trust them the most or because we’re not seeing our individual power, but because, objectively, they’re the ones that can make the fastest and greatest change with the time we have.
We’ve seen what we can do with a global freaking PannyD. We trusted and listened to science (most of us, anyway), and now we can see a sparkling light at the end of the tunnel. The consequences of 2020 on all levels have been absolutely devastating, but you can’t begin to imagine how much uglier things will get if we keep waiting and don’t help our home heal.