Sustainable solutions are solutions that everyday people can employ by changing their lifestyle slightly. They cut down on emissions from every sector and everyone can do them.
Bike or Walk
Instead of driving, biking and walking are carbon-free ways to travel. Many people have the option to bike or walk to work or to school, but drive or take a taxi instead. This is a key way to cut down on transportation emissions, the leading sector in causing climate change. In fact, taxis and ride-hailing services have "deadheading" emissions, meaning that they produce 69% more emissions than normal driving. In short, it is important to save emissions and bike or walk when possible.
Trees act as a natural carbon sink, meaning that they take in some of the carbon dioxide emissions that humans emit, therefore mitigating climate change. Trees, according to a World Resources Institute report, can provide 23% of the climate mitigation necessary to meet the Paris Climate Agreement. However, trees and forests have been disappearing at an alarming rate due to deforestation. Deforestation is the process of destroying forests to make paper or to clear land, among other reasons. In the past 50 years, the Amazon has lost 17% of its forest.
There are three main actions that you can take to help stop deforestation: cut your paper usage, plant a tree, and support sustainable companies. First, cutting your paper usage is a simple way but clearly effective way to fight deforestation. If people like you across the world cut their paper usage in half, then logging companies would be forced to limit their operations and cut down fewer trees. In addition, planting trees is a great way to combat the harm deforestation has already done to the planet. While it is difficult to plant many trees on your own, you can also donate to organizations that plant millions or billions of trees a year. Finally, and most importantly, supporting sustainable companies takes money away from other companies that are supporting deforestation and other climate change-related activities.
Divest from Fossil Fuels
The fossil fuel industry is one of the leading industries in the world. Fossil fuels corporations have powerful lobbyists that work to make sure that their views are heard. However, as with any public business, their funds rely on stockholder shares. Something that you can do personally is to divest your funds from fossil fuel companies. In February 2017, I, along with teachers from across New York City, urged the New York City Teacher's Pension Fund Board of Directors to divest their funds from fossil fuels, which they did in December 2017. This was a very important step, and it's important that you do it in your personal finances as well.
Eat Less Meat
Livestock both directly and indirectly produce greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock represents 75% of a farm's energy use through feed and care, producing indirect greenhouse gas emissions. Farming also represents 37% of the world's methane emissions, according to a 2006 study, which comes mainly from livestock. Both of these effects can be reduced by eating less meat, which will lessen the amount of livestock in use.
Eat Local Foods
Big factory farmers like Monsanto are causing large-scale deforestation as they need large amounts of land to function. Small, local farms do not require this. Factory farms are also very energy-intensive, meaning that they require a lot of energy for their processes. Beyond carbon, factory farming is a huge producer of methane and nitrous oxide; methane from livestock, and nitrous oxide from fertilizers. A 2006 study estimates that livestock farming produced 37% and 65% of the world's methane and nitrous oxide emissions respectively. Organic, local farmers do not have these effects, or at least not as much. Not only is it good to support local businesses, but they are also imperative in the fight against climate change.
"Reduce, reuse, recycle" is one of the most common phrases that you will hear with sustainability because it is one of the most important solutions. Recycling is the process of reprocessing a material, primarily paper or plastic, so that new material does not have to be made. Recycling cuts down on the amount of new material needed. The drawback of recycled products is that they are most expensive because they have to be processed a second time.
Reducing the amount of material that you use is a harder but more effective way of cutting down on your carbon footprint. Simply put, if you reduce the number of goods that you purchase, then less will be manufactured. Reusing materials is basically the same thing; it is a method of reducing. If you reuse a product, then you don't have to go and by it again, thereby reducing your consumption.
Water is a complex issue. Bottled water has taken over society and they have serious economic implications. Besides the ocean pollution and wildlife damage that plastic bottles do, the production of plastic water bottles produces greenhouse gas emissions. In the production of one 500-milliliter plastic water bottle (after the production of the plastic), 82.8 grams of carbon dioxide are produced. Water utilities also cause emissions themselves. The direct and indirect emissions involved in the U.S. water industry—including moving, treating and heating water—amount to at least 290 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to over 62 coal power plants. Climate change is also increasing the water industry's carbon footprint as freshwater becomes more scarce.
How You Can Help
Firstly, using reusable bottles is key to solving both climate change and other environmental issues. In addition, in order to cut down on the water industry's CO2 emissions, you should not waste water. This can be achieved by maximizing laundry and dishwasher loads, taking shorter showers, and turning off the water when brushing your teeth. Another important part of water management is reducing the amount of hot water you use because hot water has a greater carbon footprint.