Today is World Environment Day, the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. International days, while not able to change things overnight, are useful times to educate the wider public and to mobilise political will and resources to bring about change. Since World Environment Day was started in 1974 it has grown to be celebrated in over 100 countries, and is widely used to encourage people across the world to take part in local, national or global environmental initiatives.
Each World Environment Day is organised around a theme that focuses on a pressing environmental concern. This year’s theme is “Beat Air Pollution”, as this pressing issue affects human health and plays a huge part in climate breakdown.
I recently wrote a guide to air pollution and what we can do about it, which you can read here.
Beyond that, here are 8 more ways to get involved:
1. Become an Earth Protector
The international movement to implement an Ecocide Law will make any actions which cause serious loss, damage or destruction to ecosystems, climate, and culture, illegal. Rather than individual laws for each country, the Earth Protector movement is working to add Ecocide to the Rome Statute, which will make it an international law that applies to everyone. It’s incredibly simple to implement, as the small countries who are most affected by climate breakdown are able to put this law on the table, all it needs is our backing.
2. Reduce your meat and dairy intake, as much as is possible for you
Obviously, this looks different for everyone, so make sure to prioritise your health and context before making any drastic changes. However, if you are able to, cutting back on meat and dairy is one of the biggest ways to reduce your personal contribution to carbon emissions, as mass farming of these industries produces large amounts of CO2 and exacerbates issues like water and air pollution. Implementing meatless mondays, only eating meat at the weekends or even switching from red meat to poultry can all dramatically reduce the footprint of your diet, so do some digging and see what you can implement.
3. Opt For Local & Seasonal Food
That being said, it’s also good to make sure we don’t replace these things with veggie alternatives that are regularly shipped thousands of miles to reach us or that might be problematic for other reasons. Buying from local greengrocers, and other suppliers such as Oddbox, supports small business owners while also keeping investment in your area, helping the whole community grow. Local businesses will usually source from local suppliers, keeping carbon emissions down and utilising fresh, seasonal ingredients which are better quality and better for us nutritionally too.
4. Contact your local representatives and ask them to support green policy
Green policy is one of quickest ways to mobilise and make large, systemic change. Currently, the fossil fuel industry receives billions in subsidies around the world, this needs to change. Look into electing representatives in your area who run on climate campaigns, who support green policy, who want to end subsidies for fossil fuels, ban fracking and invest in renewables instead, who support rewilding, and who want to invest heavily in public transport infrastructure to take more cars off the road.
If your representative is not like this, then look into mobilising and joining together within your community. Join strikes and marches that are local to you, look into localised projects you can support to clean up your area, look into how you can get your representative on board and show them that this is what their constituents care about, motivating them to implement it into their policy.
Basically, don’t leave them alone if they aren’t pursuing policy you care about. They’re there to represent you, so flood them with local concerns until they do.
5. Shop Secondhand
Overconsumption has led to many of the problems we see today such as pollution, fast fashion, exploitation and waste. Embracing a more circular economy slows down the demand that drives mass manufacturing while reducing waste simultaneously.
Whether it’s clothes, furniture, books or technology, if we have the time and means to search we can often find a secondhand or thrifted option that costs less and saves those things from needlessly ending up in landfill. Even if you don’t live near thrift stores platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Ebay or Depop are all good options too.
6. Evaluate your transport options
This, of course, varies massively depending on privilege. I’m incredibly privileged to live in a pedestrian-friendly area and to have access to a fairly good train system when I need to go elsewhere. Beyond asking for more investment and improvements to be made to our public transport systems overall, looking into other options such as carpooling with others or utilising car sharing services instead of owning your own can all add up to making a difference.
Additionally, try to reduce your flights as and when you can. While electric planes are being tested for short haul flights this is still the area that is going to take the longest to find emissions solutions, so globally reducing the amount we are all flying is helpful. So next time you think about a holiday, why not try taking the train?
7. Support the divestment movement
2018 was the first time the fossil fuel industry recognised the threat of the divestment movement, while shareholders of fossil fuel companies have been increasing pressure over climate change policies. Where moral arguments are not heard, money is one of our most powerful motivating tools to create change, so we must continue to push these areas. Whether it’s your local council, your university, or your arts institutions, we need to increase pressure to take any and all money out of fossil fuels for good.
8. Divest your own money
It’s likely that, without even realising, you yourself have money currently invested in the fossil fuel industry. Try looking into switching to a bank that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels and switching to a renewable energy provider, telling your current providers exactly why you are leaving so that they are motivated to change. Money talks, so lets put ours where our mouths are.
These are, of course, not the only things you can do to look after our environment. They are a great place to start, especially if you’re feeling powerless and want to take some action. But if they don’t apply to you, that’s ok too! Look into what’s possible for you, where you live, and within your unique context. We can’t all do everything, but there may be something out there that is better suited to you.
It’s the sum of these actions together that matters, so be encouraged and push on.