5 Tips to Help Save the Planet on Earth Day and Every Day

5 Tips to Help Save the Planet on Earth Day and Every Day
Photo Credit:AP/ 達志影像
What you need to know

There is no easy fix for global warming, but there are everyday ways you can make a difference.

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Every Earth Day on April 22, people across the world gather to educate their peers on ecosystem decline and demand action from governments and corporations.

People also tend to ask for simple tips that the average person can do, not just on earth day but everyday.

Sorry, there is no easy solution. Instead, I can offer five tips that when practiced consistently will lead to an ecological paradigm shift. We all know to refuse straws and single use items, but what can you do that really makes a difference?

Vote

If you live in a democracy, vote, if you don’t get involved with community groups or non-government associations. In short, devote your recreational time to influencing the political process to bring about more robust environmental laws. This doesn’t just apply to federal legislation, you can and should care about what happens in your local community. In the United States young people are suing the federal government to restrict carbon emissions.

Other protests and direct government lobbying in North America have paused contentious pipeline projects. And of course, all the original environmental safeguards in the U.S.: the Environmental Protection Agency, The Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, and many others, came from bi-partisan support in Congress.

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Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像
A man holds up his ink-stained finger as he casts his vote at a polling station in Baghdad April 20, 2013.
Eat more plants

Cutting out meat, especially red meat, from your diet has one of the single largest impacts on all dimensions of environmental health. From land usage to water quality to carbon, cows produce a lot of waste. For each additional type of meat you cut out, you will also achieve further benefits to the planet, and to your overall health.

Am I saying stop eating meat completely? No, just eat more plants and progress at your own rate. It takes time to learn tasty new recipes and form habits. Start with one day a week and expand, join groups and learn from YouTube. It’s never been easier to eat vegan.

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Photo Credit: MaxPixelCC0 Public Domain
Bike more

Driving less will not only help save your life (through increased exercise) it will save the lives of others through decreasing emissions, and even save you money. One study in Stockholm found that switching commuters to cars from bikes saved an estimated 400 lives.

Not everyone can commute by bike, but in the U.S. many drive their car for less than a mile for simple errands. If we ended those short vehicle trips we would save billions of dollars and prevent millions of tons of CO2 emissions.

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A cyclist outside Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Buy alternative-energy or offset

Vote with your dollar or other currency. Many utilities offer the option to purchase electricity from renewable sources. This year solar and wind prices were cheaper than ever, and one factor that caused that drop in price was the increasing scale of adoption. Cities demand renewables, thus they build them. You can not always vote for your power, but when you can you should.

To go further, try offsetting or donating to NGOs. If you have the means, help support the initiatives you care about. Do your research and only support offsetting schemes or charities with certified reports guaranteeing their effectiveness.

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Photo Credit: AP/TPG
Wind turbines on the Baltic Sea in an offshore wind farm in Sweden.
Reuse, repair, and buy second-hand

The best way to stop pollution is to prevent it. Do that by avoiding new purchases at all costs. Humans have created an estimated 7 billion smart phones with an average life expectancy of two years, and a recycling rate of 14 percent. Each new product you buy represents a piece of nature torn out and processed. Each pair of jeans you purchase consumes 3,700 liters of water, with other cotton or synthetic garments consuming similar amounts. The only truly sustainable product is the one you never buy new. It’s the old jacket you stitch up, the old fan you take in to get repaired, the car you buy used.

Of course you should also refuse single-use plastics and support legislation banning this wasteful practice.

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AP / 達志影像
Millard Hassan makes and repairs hoes used by clam and worm diggers at his workshop in Newcastle, Maine, May 17, 2012.
Bring it together

These probably weren’t the solutions you wanted. Bringing around a glass straw or buying a recycled plastic shirt helps of course. But nothing beats the power of organized community actions combined with significant lifecycle changes. Obviously, do the basics, pick up litter, but don’t forget to change your diet too.

It may sound cliché, but everyday really is earth day. The screen you are reading this on came from sand somewhere, the cover surrounding it came from crude oil extracted from an oil well somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, the electricity that gives you light likely came from a coal-powered plant. Everything you use, consume, and see comes from nature.

Each action you take has consequences, environmentally. Rather than living in fear of climate meltdown you can join together with others and make science-based lifestyle adjustments that not only help the planet but will help you, too. Enough time has passed to see that so called “conscious consumerism” combined with political activism actually works.

It was unimaginable in 2009 that five years later the largest companies in the world would commit to 100 percent renewable energy. Or that the largest producers of plastic would take serious actions to end it. While the consequences of environmental damage appear faster than ever, so to do people’s responses. Your choices as individuals matter. Don’t focus on quick fixes or feel good solutions, aim for the root, and leave the low-hanging fruit for others.

Read Next: INFOGRAPHIC: How Climate Change Will Impact Taiwan

Editor: Morley J Weston