In case you haven’t already seen today’s Google Doodle, April 22nd 2016 marks the 46th annual Earth Day. While we all know we should be recycling more, using our own plastic bags, ditching the car and having two minute showers, life tends to get in the way, and often convenience or personal comfort comes first. Short of taking a leaf out of Tom and Barbara’s book and attempting to live The Good Life from our pokey Peckham 2-bed, what difference can we, as individuals, really make?
Here are some scary statistics. Out of 351 natural disasters in 2009, 325 of these were climate related. The rate of extinction of species in the last 115 years is 50 times higher than it has ever been due to climate change. Artic ice is melting at an alarming rate, so the region may experience its first ice-free summer as early as 2040. There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than at any point in the last 800,000 years. And if we keep on using the planet the way we are, some scientists predict that we will need at least three planets to sustain ourselves. Which is bad news, ’cause we’ve only got one.
All sounds a bit hopeless, doesn’t it?
So what’s achievable today? Is there anything small we can do right now, on a rainy Friday in April, that will have a big impact on our planet’s wellbeing, without going full never-wears-shoes-lives-in-a-hut-in-the-woods-drinks-own-urine-eco-warrior?
Well, yes, actually. There’s loads we can do. So forget donning a woven hemp shirt, drinking a pint of homemade nettle tea and racing outside to do a barefoot rain-dance on your un-groovy neighbour’s immaculate lawn: just do one, two or even all six of these lil Earth-friendly activities, and the planet will thank you for it.
1. Get outside
Sounds obvious, but it’s really beneficial. Instead of driving home from work/to the gym/to the shops, take a stroll instead. Not only is it good for YOU health-wise, it also helps cut back on carbon emissions and makes you connect with your natural environment. If you have a job that means you’re stuck in an office all day with little to no interaction with the outside world, just popping out to the local park for your lunch break .
The more we interact with our natural surroundings, the less we are inclined to take them for granted. So even if it’s chucking it down – pick up an umbrella, strap on your pedometer and go see something green.
2. Switch off
Every year since 2008 WWF has held its Earth Hour event, where participants all over the world switch off their non-essential lights for sixty minutes. Why not incorporate this eco-friendly mentality into Earth Day? Sure, it’s more of a symbolic action to raise awareness of energy consumption, but there’s science behind the idea of switching off anything non-essential to help the planet.
Did you know, for example, that if all UK offices switched off their plugs at night, it would be the same as taking 245,000 cars off the road? Same applies to leaving your TV on standby, or your laptop and phone charging with a full battery. If it’s not being used – flick the switch.
3. Plant something
We don’t all have the time or the patience to maintain a fully-stocked, self-sufficient allotment that eliminates the need to pop to Tesco – but a herb garden, even if it perches precariously on your rented kitchen’s window ledge, is doable. So many herbs, fruits and veggies come in unnecessary plastic packaging, and we often buy more than we need. It’s estimated that 30-50% of all food is wasted globally – just think of all the energy it took to grow and produce that, and for nothing! If you’re growing your own, no matter how meagre, you’re going to be inclined to only use what you need.
And while we’re on that note …
4. Buy local
And seasonal, if you can. Tonight, for example, why not challenge yourself to make a meal using only veg that’s available at this time of year, from this part of the planet? Since 1992 the amount of food flown by plane has risen 140%, and rainforest the size of ten football pitches is felled every second to make room for exported food crops. Ask yourself if you really need those avocados that have taken the long flight over from South America. Swap for some locally grown asparagus instead – and you get bonus points for purchasing from a greengrocer or farmer’s market instead of a supermarket giant.
5. Have a meat-free meal
Obviously I’m going to include this one – the environmental factor is one of the most compelling arguments for vegetarianism. Animal agriculture is responsible for a staggering 91% of Amazonian deforestation, and it takes 660 gallons of water to create a single hamburger – the same as showering continuously for 2 months.
I’m not saying you have to go completely vegan, don’t worry. Today, it’s all about the little things, which in this case means reducing your intake. If you were going to have spag bol for dinner, swap to veggie mince or even just beans and pulses instead. Easy.
6. Get educated
There are tonnes of documentaries you can pop on while munching on your veggie dinner this evening. Netflix UK currently have An Inconvenient Truth, Cowspiracy and Food Inc, as well as loads of gorgeous David Attenborough offerings.
Alternatively, there are loads of articles floating around on the web today with viewpoints, facts and commentaries about environmentalism. Have a little Google and learn something new!