Just a few weeks after Earth Day is another holiday that encourages people to protect the environment (my favorite kind of holiday). Wednesday, June 5 marks World Environment Day, a day that has been celebrated globally for the past 45 years. If you want to take today as an opportunity to do something good for the Earth, we've compiled a few tips on how to do just that.
First, here's a little background on the holiday. The United Nations founded World Environment Day back in 1974, just four years after Earth Day began. World Environment Day aims to encourage not only awareness of environmental issues, but also to encourage action that will protect the planet, according to the website.
Every year, World Environment Day has a new host country and theme. This year, World Environment Day's host country is China, and the nation is hosting official events all day long to celebrate. The 2019 theme is air pollution, and the UN encourages people to discuss this on social media with the hashtag #BeatAirPollution.
A variety of human activities cause air pollution, including: the burning of fossil fuels (to power homes, buildings, the transportation sector, and more, as well as for making plastic), animal agriculture, landfill waste, and more, according to World Environment Day's website. And not only does air pollution contribute the climate crisis, but it is also a public health issue. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one third of deaths from stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer are results of air pollution. WHO adds that microscopic air pollutants are able to enter humans' respiratory and circulatory systems since they're so tiny, and these small pollutants can slowly cause damage to lungs, hearts, and brains.
So keeping this year's theme in mind, we've compiled five things you can do today to help fight against air pollution in your community.
1. Plant a Tree
There are endless benefits to planting trees, especially in terms of reducing air pollution. According to Canopy, trees provide oxygen, absorb CO2, reduce smog, capture particulate air pollution, and more. If you have a yard, take some time today or later this week to plant a tree. If not, you can donate to organizations that are working on reforestation.
2. Pledge to Use Your Car Less
If you generally get around by a gas-powered car, pledge to leave it in the garage one day a week, if that's an option for you. Try taking public transportation, walking, or biking to work or to do errands, and you will actively reduce the amount of air pollution you're directly putting into the atmosphere.
3. Continue Reducing Your Waste
Whether your trash goes to a landfill or gets incinerated, it releases greenhouse gases and other harmful matter into the atmosphere. You can reduce your personal contribution to this by doing things like composting your organic waste and decreasing your single-use plastic consumption.
4. Look at the Way You Eat
According to World Environment Day's website, 24 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and other uses of land — most significantly, from animal agriculture. The website encourages people to consider actively working to waste less food, and to eat more plant-based meals, because the process of growing plant foods causes less emissions and air pollution than raising animals for meat, dairy, and eggs. You can also lower the air pollution of your food by shopping for produce locally, either at a farmer's market, by growing your own produce, or by buying food at the grocery store that was grown in your country.
5. Write to Politicians and Corporations
Change at the individual level is important — but changing laws and corporate policies can have an even greater effect. So, write to your politicians (click here to look up your elected officials) and ask them to support or draft laws that would reduce air pollution in your community. You can also contact corporations, and demand them to change or update business practices that directly contribute to air pollution.
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