Earth Day Challenge
Set Yourself an Earth Day Challenge
We hear an awful lot about sustainability and environmental protection these days. As scientists around the world debate the best ways to limit the impact of global climate change, businesses and governments integrate ‘sustainability’ into their operations and values, and everyone from Prince Charles to Leonardo DiCaprio weighs in on topics.
The planet is a large place and our own impact can feel dauntingly small. In honour of Earth Day on 22nd April, here are five meaningful (and manageable!) ways that you can make a difference.
Plant a tree
The theme of this year’s Earth Day celebrations is ‘Trees for Earth’. On a regional scale, trees play a crucial role in fixing soil, stabilising climates, absorbing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and providing habitats to support biodiversity, but even a single tree can make a major difference. A tree planted in the right spot can reduce your heating and cooling needs by up to 30 percent, limit noise pollution, and filter more than 20 kg of carbon dioxide per year out of the air you breathe. Make sure you choose a species that is native to your area and enjoy the benefits for decades to come.
Food production accounts for up to 25% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, and livestock farming makes up a particularly large chunk of this, especially in the emission of harmful gases like nitrous oxide and methane. There’s no need to make drastic changes, however, to make a difference in your ‘agricultural impact’ – a family of four giving up meat and cheese for just a single day each week, is the equivalent of taking a car off the road for 5 weeks. All meats are not created equal, so give up resource-heavy beef or lamb to have the biggest impact!
Re-usable coffee/tea cups
‘Take-away’ beverage cups are rarely able to be recycled thanks to their thin polyethylene liner, so the best option is to bring your own, but make sure you choose wisely. A poorly-designed ‘reusable’ cup – one that leaks or burns your hand – is just as likely to end up in a landfill but will take more resources to produce and longer to degrade! Think about what size your cup needs to be, and whether you would prefer one made from plastic, ceramic, or glass. Read reviews or ask a friend in order to find a cup that is well-insulated and leak-proof. It may cost you a bit more in time and money, but you’ll save resources in the long run (and many coffee shops will fill up your reusable cup at a discount).
Pack a lunch
Producing, transporting, and storing the 7 tonnes of food UK households threw away in 2012 emitted as much greenhouse gases as 25% of the nation’s cars! Why not put some of this food in a lunch box rather than a landfill? To be successful, be realistic and think through your choices. Do you crave variety? Do you need your meals to be portable? Make sure to invest in some airtight containers rather than packing your sandwich in aluminium foil or a plastic bag. Instead of snacking on a single-serving yoghurt pot, buy a large pot and portion it out. Bring well-insulated lunch boxes or heat-storing flasks if your workplace lacks kitchen facilities. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll be able to save money (and natural resources).
Start a sustainability challenge year with your mates, family, or colleagues
Sometimes the hardest part about engaging in any sort of behaviour change is staying on-track, and a stressful day, an illness, or a busy weekend away can derail the best intentions. Never underestimate the value of a little healthy competition! Why not challenge your workmates to see who can bring lunch for a full month? Or invite some friends around to try a new meatless recipe? Compete with your family to save water by taking shorter showers. Stick with your challenge long enough to see the money you save, or to feel to mood boost that comes from acting in accordance with your personal values, and you might be surprised to find that by the time your challenge is done, it has become second nature.
Stephanie Meyer is a lecturer at the Wales Institute for Work-based Learning at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Stephanie is currently working on the GWLAD (Growing Workforces through Learning And Development) project which has been supported by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government. For further information about sustainability, you can contact Stephanie by emailing Stephanie.firstname.lastname@example.org