Reduce.

We are destroying the Earth – and have to act on it now.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a report, the largest on global warming: a report that took six years to produce and is considered the most comprehensive, scientific review of man-made climate change up to date. More than 830 scientists from 85 countries worked on the report. They found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at this rate, the atmosphere will be 1.5 C warmer than pre-industrial levels (+0.5 C compared to now) around 2030 – when most of us will be in our 20s.

The temperature over the years

For the first time in history, the IPCC warned that the world should stick to a carbon budget. In the perfect world, that we should be reaching soon (if we want to keep having a world that’s habitable) the world would be carbon neutral – or even better, carbon negative. This would be easier if we taxed carbon emissions – like some countries are already doing – especially in fossil fuels.

Greenhouse gasses. Basically, these gasses (carbon dioxide, methane…) do whatever the roof of a greenhouse does. They trap the heat inside. Inside the atmosphere. This is what leads to a warmer climate – even during winter.

CO2 levels throughout the years

So what can we do, individually, to reduce our footprint? To ensure that we won’t have to live in a world where half a degree more isn’t the reality? Well, it’s going to be tough. Almost impossible. At this point, all we will do is slow it down. But hear me out.

One of the easiest things you can do is go vegan, vegetarian, switch to a Mediterranean diet (focuses on plan-based for with fish and occasionally poultry), or reduce your meat and intake.

I know what you’re thinking: “Vegan? Easy?”  I can tell you it’s actually not as hard as you think it is. I am vegan for this month and so far everything is okay. (It’s only been 9 days so maybe I’m not the person to trust – but my cousin is vegan and she’s been vegan for more than two years – it’s doable)

Livestock causes 20% to 50% of manmade greenhouse gas emissions. So going vegan can cut that huge number in half. If you think you won’t be able to stop eating all kinds of meat and dairy, I recommend cutting the amount of red meat you eat. It’s the worst for the environment. Not eating red meat is the most effective out of all the food you can cut. Raising cows also takes up a lot of land and water. Therefore you’ll be contributing in many ways. 

A completely vegan meal I had at Candle Cafe, New York – don’t worry, it wasn’t for one.

Or you can be a flexitarian, someone who focuses on a plant-based diet but occasionally eats meat. This would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by food by more than half. I think this would be the route to go for most of us, and I suggest you try it out.

Another very important issue about food that frankly isn’t being talked about enough: each year 1.6 billion tons of food – A THIRD of the food produced globally, gets lost or throw into the garbage. That’s 1.2 trillion dollars of food, gone. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, food waste causes 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions – keep in mind that about 870 million people in the world are undernourished. We could start with wasting less – finish what’s on your plate, buy what you’ll eat, check expiration dates.

See the difference between the two maps?

So, we covered food. What else?

You could continue by just purchasing less. Of everything. Whatever you need, you probably don’t need as much as you think you do. Think of your closet, how much of it have you worn in the past six months? Probably less than two-thirds of it. And it’s not just your closet. You probably have a lot of junk in your room. In your bag. Kitchen. Bathroom. Desk. Everywhere.

If you want to simplify your life (reduce the number of possessions you have and clear your mind) is muchelleb’s Simplify Your Life Challenge. You can follow it on her youtube channel or buy the e-book.

You can also reduce the amount of packaged items you buy. Do this by reusing stuff you already own, like using reusable water bottles, but also buying unpackaged things like shampoo bars and unpackaged soap.

We must also not forget the fact that reusable, ‘sustainable’ alternatives shouldn’t be over-bought. It’s not sustainable to have dozens of cotton totes and use each one only a few times. Reusing a plastic bag you had to get many times before throwing it out / using it to collect trash is also a good idea.

 

Street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

What else? I’m going to point out a few obvious suggestions:

Walk when you can.

Reduce screen time. That helps.

Burn fewer fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil)

More solar energy and wind turbines.

Turn off the lights when they aren’t needed.

Turn off everything when they aren’t needed.

That includes heating/air conditioners.

Everything you hear over and over again and keep ignoring.

It’s okay. Don’t feel too bad. I ignore them sometimes.

*I get up to turn off the lights and continue typing in the dark*

The important thing is to remind ourselves from time to time.

Because the truth is, if we continue at this rate, we’re doomed.

In twelve years I’ll be 28, and most of you will be around that age, which means even if technology could get us out of this mess, we have to, most likely, rely on previous generations to invent it, and as you can see they have done a fantastic job preserving the Earth.

For our generation to come up with effective solutions, we will have to delay these depressing results of +0.5 C, so that in 10-20 years, those of us who really, truly believe they can save us will have the chance to. (Note: I’m not saying you can’t at this age, but it will be much easier if you go to university, learn more, start working in a team of like-minded individuals…)

Gen Z, we make up 27% of the world’s population, so what we do matters. Let’s try to act accordingly. We have to. Because for us, it’s not ‘taking care of the planet for our children,’ it’s for us.

So be selfish and selfless at the same time, just reduce.