When we think of climate change and the effects of it, with recent disasters taking place around our planet, we might think there’s not much we can do about it and that it is, in many ways, an irreversible situation. This could not be further from the truth. Individual contributions are fundamental when it comes to slowing down the effects of living the way we have been living for decades. So, here are a few thoughts on how each of us can contribute to environmental sustainability while saving our planet is still an option.
Although many believe that veganism has no real effects on the environment, the truth is that the impact of changing our diets is bigger than we could imagine. Many stars around the world — as the leaders they are — have given up meat. Everyone from Hollywood actors and actresses to acclaimed sports figures are practicing veganism for more reasons than sustainability, spurring many others to jump on board the food-based diet train.
The extent to which a vegan diet is sustainable is unquestionable; it is obvious that fewer resources are needed to grow vegetables. A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations showed that raising livestock for food produced more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation. Greenhouse gas emissions from beef and lamb are 250 times higher than the equivalent in legumes per gram of protein. Poultry came in at 40 times higher than legumes.
Forests are clear-cut to produce land for cattle grazing which compounds the effects of greenhouse gases and results in climate change. 70% of deforestation in the Amazon was done to create lands for cattle to graze.
If we take into consideration greenhouse gases, water and land needed to sustain these animals, we are left with the logical conclusion that a plant-based diet has less negative repercussions on our planet. Of course, this should come hand-in-hand with consuming organic and seasonal vegetables, which usually contain fewer pesticides and chemicals that also affect our environment and our health.
Another way in which we can contribute to sustainability is by controlling energy consumption in our households. Either by installing energy-efficient appliances, running on solar energy, using less heating or air conditioning, replacing regular bulbs with compact fluorescent ones or simply turning lights and appliances off when they are not in use, we can reduce unnecessary energy waste and actually save money in the process. If we try to conserve energy we don’t necessarily need — like a dryer for our clothes when it’s sunny outside or the dishwasher for two dishes — we will change our habits and help reduce energy-related environmental effects. Replace your air conditioning system with a cheap portable AC unit instead.
Another easy way in which we can do our share is by walking. The more we choose to walk instead of using our cars, the more we contribute to reducing pollution. It is a healthier habit, and if we need to get somewhere faster, bikes are another environmentally-friendly option. Even trains and buses are better than cars, and if everyone chose these options, traffic would be avoided and stress levels would certainly decrease.
We have only scratched the surface here; there are many other routes to sustainable living. The most important step, though, is to understand that we are partly responsible for what happens in our world and this, instead of paralyzing us, should motivate us to change. Think about what you could do to save the world you live in and you might just feel empowered and motivated enough to start acting.