The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released the first part of its latest report on climate change, which details the physical science behind the issue and warns of its widespread, rapid and intensifying impacts if allowed to continue unchecked. According to the report, which included contributions from 234 authors from 66 countries, humanity will be unable to limit global warming to even 2°C unless there are abrupt and extensive reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions.
This warning is not unprecedented; the IPCC itself is up to the sixth iteration of this report and it cited over 14,000 peer-reviewed papers to come to these conclusions. Unfortunately, the mounting evidence has not yet resulted in the type of comprehensive action required to preserve a safe and liveable climate.
Crucially though, the IPCC report also outlines a hopeful pathway forward. Taking measures now that result in robust and ongoing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can still mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. It’s not time to lose hope, it’s time to act.
Government and the business community undeniably have the most capability for large scale impact, but individuals can also play a significant role both at the grassroots level and in stimulating movement at higher levels. It’s also empowering to take back a measure of control.
When reading news like this it can be tempting to try to do everything at once. Much like extreme diet or exercise regimes, however, these can be hard to maintain over long periods. You are more likely to achieve long-term impact by starting small and working your way up to bigger outcomes.
So, here are some tips on positive individual actions from the team at Planet Ark.
Start at home
Our homes are generally the location where the bulk of our environmental footprint is created through resource consumption and waste. This means it should be the first point we look at tackling in our individual climate change journey. It might mean something as simple as reducing the amount of meat in your diet, starting a compost or garden patch at home, swapping to a renewable energy provider or finding out exactly what your local council accepts for recycling. Or it could be a bigger ticket item like purchasing solar panels or a rainwater tank for reduced reliance on the electricity and water network.
If you are working from home, it’s time to make sure you are doing the type of sustainable activities you would do in the office, at home. Simple things like putting aside printer cartridges to be recycled, choosing high-quality recycled office paper, and setting up extra recycling bins for items like soft plastics and batteries.
Get outdoors and connect with nature
There are so many ways nature can help us through challenging times. Planet Ark research carried out as part of National Tree Day shows time in nature enhances and grows the key areas in life that Australians consider the most important for a fulfilling life – health, happiness, learning, relaxation and personal relationships. You can plant a tree, do some weeding or just soak it all in. The more time you spend in nature, the more likely you are to value the positive impacts it has on your life and the more likely you are to want to protect it.
Vote with your wallet
Your money has power! Every time you spend your hard-earned cash it’s sending a message to the economy about what type of world you want to live in, so make sure it’s a message for good. Use your purchasing power to support brands that align with your personal ethos and are striving to reduce their own carbon footprint.
This goes beyond everyday purchases; your bank and superannuation fund will likely get more of your money than any individual product you purchase off the supermarket shelf. Where possible, choose ethical funds and banks that finance the renewable energy sector over the fossil fuel industry. There are several tools available online to evaluate your bank’s investment portfolio, or you can write to them to ask!
Practice mindful purchasing
Mindful purchasing, often also called conscious consumption, is an active process of considering yourself, your community and nature when deciding whether to buy new products. This applies to choosing between options, as above, as well as deciding whether or not a new product is required at all. Ask yourself whether you really need the item and, if so, find out if you can procure it second-hand through an online or community marketplace.
Make your voice heard
The most obvious way to engage in political action is with your vote, but our right to participate in democratic political processes can be exercised more than once every three to four years. Write to your representatives at the local, state and federal levels to let them know your concerns and insist on action being taken now. Even better, send the letter to both your elected representatives and those in opposition and request an answer from both.
This also goes beyond exercising your right to participate in the democratic political process; it’s just as important to spread the word among friends and family as it is to write to politicians. Chat with family, friends and housemates about the issue of climate change: sustainable actions they can take such as tips to recycle right, carrying reusables, starting a compost or planting trees!
Use the digital network as a force for good by speaking up about environmental issues you’re passionate about, what you’ve learnt recently, or share how far you have come in your own journey. Our research into behaviour change shows people are more likely to change the way they act when the actions correlate with positive desires and aspirations, so showing the benefits you have experienced personally by living more sustainably can go a long way to changing others’ behaviour!