If we want to save our planet and ourselves from climate apocalypse, we need new policies and governmental action. We're not gonna save the Earth changing our household light bulbs.
Extinction Rebellion – a burgeoning social movement to fight climate change that is taking hold in the United Kingdom – is asking for just this: governments must tell the truth about the ecological emergency and enact legally binding measures to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025.
There are no other ways out of this mess: structural change is needed.
However, this doesn’t mean that as individual citizens we can go on a carbon spree without consequences. Or that all the ways to reduce our personal carbon footprints are equally ineffective.
Different studies highlight that there are four effective ways to cut on your individual carbon emissions. And no, changing light bulbs is not one of them.
While we should keep asking for top-down changes, it’s also good to remember that we can start making an impact on the environment right now by adapting our lifestyle.
1) Eat a plant-based diet
I enjoy the flavour of meat a lot and I’d find it difficult to go 100 percent vegetarian (let alone vegan) right now. Nevertheless, I can considerably decrease my meat consumption. This is already highly beneficial for the environment.
Moreover, I can advocate for meat alternatives like plant-based or clean meat.
2) Avoid air travel
Flights are a notorious source of gas emissions. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid flying. Many jobs require travelling on a regular basis and even though in many cases a virtual meeting will do just fine, there are still some occasions in which your physical presence is needed.
How to solve this ethical dilemma? One solution might be to donate some money to carbon offsetting schemes. These projects can go a long way in fighting carbon emissions.
3) Live car-free
Research shows that living car-free saves about 2.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year (while a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tonnes of CO2 equivalent every year).
I’m lucky enough to live in the Netherlands, a country where it's easy to move around without a car. This is possible thanks to an efficient public transportation system and the omnipresent cycle lanes.
In this case, it’s interesting to notice how my personal decision to live car-free is supported by environmentally friendly public policies.
4) Have a small family
If someone doesn’t exist, she doesn’t have a carbon footprint. This reasoning might seem at the same time cynical and stupidly obvious. But it’s also true.
According to Population Matters, having one fewer child is 25 more effective in cutting carbon emissions than living without a car.