November 17, 2016
By Geneviève Pons, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office
As world leaders are busy discussing in Marrakech on how to turn the Paris Climate Agreement into action, you might wonder what you can do – as an individual – to help reduce CO2 emissions.
Yes, solving climate change is a huge international challenge and it can be difficult to figure out what you can do to help. Melting icebergs, massive losses of our biodiversity and massive tornados are forces much larger than one individual.
Did you know that according to new research, the average westerner’s carbon emissions destroy 30 square metres of Arctic sea ice every year? This means that our everyday actions can make a real difference for the environment and our wellbeing.
Step 1: Choose climate-friendly transportation
In 2013, the transport sector contributed almost one quarter (24.4 %) of total EU-28 greenhouse gas emissions.
- Walk or ride your bike. You’ll save energy, improve your health and help the environment.
- Car share or use public transport. More and more, cities and towns are providing car alternatives that save you money while reducing your emissions. And don’t forget to use public transport, if available.
- Choose train over plane. The travel time by fast train between many European capitals is comparable with if not shorter than flying, with considerable CO2 emissions savings.
Step 2: Save Energy — and money!
Global energy use contributes to almost two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions and Europe consumes the equivalent of 2.6 planets worth of natural resources. Using more efficient appliances and cars, better insulation and heating systems is the most cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption and tackle climate change.
- Switch to green electricity. Use electricity retailers in your country that offer electricity generated from renewable energy sources.
- Use energy efficient lighting. LEDs for example use up to 80 percent less energy and last as much as 25 times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs. This is true not just for your bulbs, but think about LEDs even when your are buying the Christmas decoration in few weeks time.
- Be energy conscious. Switch off your lights, computer, TV and sound system when not in use. Even in standby these appliances use 10-60% of power.
- Buy energy efficient appliances. Find the most energy efficient cars, TVs, computers, and other products in your country and look for energy efficient labels.
- Make your house more energy efficient. Ask your electric or gas supplier to perform an energy audit of your house, and then put the recommendations into practice.
Step 3: Eat wisely
- Eat less red meat: Giving up beef will reduce carbon footprint more than cars, say experts. Study shows red meat dwarfs others for environmental impact, using 28 times more land and 11 times more water than pork or chicken and results in five times more climate-warming emissions.
- Eat local and in-season products which have not crossed the globe to reach you.
- Make sure the palm oil contained in the products you buy come from a sustainable source: Palm oil is in everything from margarine to lipstick, but producing it irresponsibly can devastate forests, communities, and the climate. It’s also threatening endangered species in Indonesia and Malaysia, including elephants, tigers, rhinos, and orangutans. Check the WWF Palm Oil scorecard and check which company is using certified sustainable palm oil: http://palmoilscorecard.panda.org/
Step 4: Recycle
Recycling is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Preventing waste from being created in the first place means that there is less energy wasted and fewer resources consumed.
- Avoid products with a lot of packaging. When you purchase products with the least amount of packaging, not only do you save money, but you also help the environment!
- Recycle whatever you can. While recycling glass, paper, cans etc. does require energy to reform new products, it’s far less than having to mine, drill or harvest the raw resources.
- Drink tap water instead of bottled.
Step 5: Invest consciously
Do you know where your bank invests your money? To create a new sustainable economy that ensures global well being and respects the planet, we need to shift public and private investments from fossil fuels to clean energy and from a highly inefficient to an efficient and sustainable management of resources.
- Green your bank account. Ask your bank about their investment portfolio and make sure your money is invested in sectors that contribute to a more sustainable economy.
- Invest consciously. Pension funds and asset managers increasingly propose specialised funds ring-fenced for renewable energy, green economy, the water sector, etc. In this way your money will benefit you and the environment.
Step 6: Stay engaged
It can often feel like one individual’s voice isn’t going to change much – but making sure your voice is heard is crucial. Raising your concerns about issues like climate change with decision-makers, businesses, institutions and the people around you can make a big difference.
- Get in touch with your decision-makers, at local, national and European level, to ask them what they’re doing to fight climate change and environmental degradation.
- Use online platforms and social media to make your voice heard, notably via petitions and e-actions that raise awareness of issues you are concerned with.
- Urge institutions you’re a member of – such as your university – to invest more responsibly and cut funding from fossil fuels.Choose your own set of solutions to suit your lifestyle – and remember, small acts summed up around the world make a big difference.
Climate & Environment, Développement durable, Énergie, Energy, EU Citizens and Media, EurActiv.com, EurActiv.de, EurActiv.fr, Future EU, Global Europe, Health & Consumers, Social Europe & Jobs, Sustainable Dev., Transport