When it comes to thinking about the environment, and how best to take care of the planet, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Luckily, there are tons of ways each one of us can make the world a healthier and happier place to be. Depending on our individual lifestyle, being eco-conscious may already be a top priority, with recycling, reducing, and curbing waste as everyday considerations. For others, wondering how we can combat pollution or help beat the planet's rising temperatures is an entirely new prospect.
No matter where your starting point is, it's normal to ask yourself: What can I, as an individual, actively do to help prevent temperatures from continuing to rise? What activities can I add into my regular routine that help me take better care of the planet? According to a new study in Environmental Research Letters, researchers calculated the effects of certain lifestyles in combating rising temperatures, actually ranking their effectiveness. Scientists quantified certain behaviors with carbon dioxide equivalents, measuring emissions in terms of their “global warming potential."
Here are the top five things you can do, according to their findings.
Researchers found that switching to a plant-based diet is four times as effective as recycling, eight times as effective as changing all the light bulbs in your home to energy-efficient bulbs, and almost five times as effective as simply reducing the amount of meat you eat. Thankfully, the spike in meat-free meal choices and accessibility to healthy meat alternatives has made it easier than ever to go vegan.
Swapping your gas-guzzler for a more fuel-efficient model can cut fuel consumption by 10 percent. If everyone in the United States made just this change, we’d save $25 billion in fuel costs and 100 million metric tons of exhausted carbon dioxide every year.
Researchers discovered that an a person who eats meat and takes one transatlantic airline flight per year meets their “personal carbon budget” just with those two actions. If foregoing that Eurotrip is too extreme, look for direct flights and carbon offset options (check out TripZero for more information), or make it your duty to book your ticket on an airline that utilizes biofuels.
“Until the emissions associated with desired services are reduced to zero, population will continue to be a multiplier of emissions,” researchers write in the study. Going car-free may put you in better shape (bicycling and walking everywhere will do wonders for your heart, skin, blood, muscles and organs), lower traffic congestion, and push us away from our dependence on petroleum.
If you do go all the way, you can rest easy knowing switching from car to bicycle for one year saves on average 2.4 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from reaching the atmosphere.
Of anything you can do as an individual to combat rising temperatures, the most significant of all is to have one less child. People in developed countries who forego that second (or first, or fourth) child save more than 58 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. In the United States, a family having one fewer child will save the same emissions as 684 teenagers who begin comprehensive recycling and continue the action for their entire lives.