If we do nothing about climate change, we will be seeing the consequences within a few decades. It will no longer be something we read about like a distant future. It will affect our daily lives; it will put our children at risk; it will cause droughts, floods, the extinction of vital species.
It’s not time to think about action. It’s time to panic. This is a climate emergency. And you can do something about it – starting with a few tiny daily actions. It might seem like your personal actions don’t have tangible consequences on the world, but all big changes must start small and if we all play our part as individuals, we can help to influence changes on a national and international scale. If every person thinks that they can’t make a difference, we will never make any change at all.
Of course, it’s important not to perpetuate the myth that individuals are entirely at fault for climate change – or that simply by turning off a few lights now and then is enough to meet world targets and avoid the disastrous and irreparable consequences of climate change. But governments and big companies serve citizens and consumers – and if consumer/citizen behaviour demonstrates that there is a real demand for climate action, they will have no choice but to make changes too. Sometimes, where political willpower is too slow and selfish to respond or create change, popular demand creates the supply. Mother Earth can’t speak up for herself – but we can. We have a voice. Let’s use it in our everyday choices.
Did you know that improving your own health and diet can save the planet, too? Believe it or not, it can. A recent in-depth scientific study has set out the idea of a “planetary health diet” which is designed for optimal human health – estimated to prevent a whopping 11 million deaths a year! – while also remaining within sustainable boundaries for food production for our increasing population. So go on, fill up your plate with fruit and vegetables – they should make up about half of your intake every day – and cut down on your animal protein and processed sugar intake. The Western diet currently includes 638% of the recommended sustainable intake of red meat, and any increase in this will make it almost impossible to meet 2030 targets for eliminating world hunger and malnutrition. Millions of people will go hungry because we don’t eat enough veggies. The good news? You can still eat reduced amounts of meat if you want to, and scientists expect that global fish intake will lightly increase instead. Flexitarianism is the future – fact.
2. Say no to all that gross plastic packaging
Why exactly do we need to wrap everything in plastic? Sometimes the extent of our reliance on plastic has reached nonsensical levels. Fruit and vegetables generally come in their own natural protective packaging (it’s called peel), and there are plenty of other products which could be wrapped in more eco-friendly or recyclable materials. So why are companies still wrapping everything in plastic? Because we keep letting them get away with it! When you have the choice, choose the options with least wasteful packaging and show companies that our generation is a fan of our planet. It is our only place to live, after all.
3. Recycle, recycle, recycle
You’ve heard this one before, I’m sure – but it’s so easy! When you have to buy plastic packaging, check if the type of plastic is recyclable and pop it in your recycling bin, along with all your paper (those scribbled lecture notes at the end of the year) and glass (that bottle of wine you drank too fast). It only takes a moment and most parts of the country don’t even require you to separate the different materials. Similarly, prioritise products made from recycled materials instead of brand-new packaging.
4. Stay hydrated wherever you are!
Instead of buying a new bottle of water when you’re out and about, take a reusable one with you and fill up with tap water and water fountains! There are some super cute durable bottles out there – but at the very least, buy one plastic bottle from the shops and keep using it for as long as possible. Then recycle it when you’re done. The same goes for shopping bags – instead of buying plastic bags every time you go to the supermarket, save yourself a bit of cash and take a bag-for-life (or that stack of plastic bags you’ve already bought) and keep reusing them.
5. Pour cold water on climate change – literally
Since hot water requires more energy than cold water, try to wash with lower temperatures when you can. Not a fan of cold showers? That’s okay – but keep your showers brief and sacrifice a bath or two to save water. Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth or soap up, and tell your landlord about any leaky faucets – they can waste over 11,000 litres a year if you don’t fix them!
6. Turn those fairy lights off! (And your hairdryer too)
Energy accounts for 60% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. So no, leaving your light on all day while you go to lectures isn’t going to make as big as impact as the fossil fuel industry (which you could pressure your university to stop supporting by starting a divestment campaign) but when you switch your lights off, even for a few seconds, it saves more energy than it takes for the light to start up, regardless of the bulb type. Turn off other devices at the socket whenever you’re not using them and while you’re at it, try letting things dry naturally as often as possible. Hang your clothes up on a drying rack, and let your hair air dry – you’ll protect it from heat damage and it can help minimise issues like frizz, too.
7. Stop buying new clothes – and do a good deed with your old ones
Every student loves a bargain, and a new outfit can be fun. But sometimes you have to stop and think about why fast fashion items are so cheap, and the consequences they have on the planet… Every year, 100 billion clothes are sold worldwide, but millions more tones end up in landfill. Donate all your unwanted clothes to charity instead. Charities can use your clothes to raise money for good causes or donate them to homeless shelters. Even your worn-down clothes can be recycled by charities or converted into insulation material for cars or houses.
Better still, save yourself some cash and try to reduce the amount of clothes you buy in the first place, especially from cheap mass-production chains. Minimalism won’t just make you look good; the planet will thank you for it, too.
Want more super easy ways to contribute to saving our home planet from climate change as well as combatting poverty, and optimising worldwide wellbeing? Check out the UN’s fantastic #YouNeedToKnow campaign and their “Lazy Person’s Guide To Saving The World”, the inspiration behind this student-friendly version. The first step to saving the planet? Spread the word! Share these tips with other students and find ways to double your impact by inspiring a partner to do the same.
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