A couple of years ago I posted “The Most Important Thing You Can Do” to address global warming and climate change is to talk about it with your neighbors and friends. This past weekend I had the opportunity to do just that. A few weeks earlier, a good friend of ours asked me if I would be interested in speaking about environmental issues to her community group, The Indivisible Katy Huddle. Their Facebook page describes the group this way: “The Indivisible Katy Huddle is a group that blends the Women’s March with the Indivisible movement, which teaches how to become politically active.”
I agreed to make a presentation and, for the next couple of weeks, I explored what I should share in a 20-30 minute presentation which I titled “Saving Our World, One Choice At A Time”. This presentation gave me the opportunity (and challenge) to review and distill what I have written about for the past 2+ years in over 100 blogs. I decided to focus the talk on three issues: Plastics, Food, and Energy. For each of the areas, I presented what I believed to be the problem; and why it was important for me (and all of us) to make better choices in our personal lives to “Save Our Planet”.
Here’s a brief synopsis of what I presented:
1. The problem with Plastics: We consume lots of plastics and they end up as everlasting trash.
- 1/3 of all plastic ends up in the oceans
- There are over 5 trillion pieces of plastics (macro and micro) currently in the oceans.
- We dump 8 million pieces of plastics into our oceans every day.
- Micro-plastics are present in virtually all fish
- 90% of sea birds have eaten plastics.
What can we do? Stop buying and/or using items packaged in single-use plastics like:
- Water bottles, soda bottles, juice bottles
- Grocery bags, produce bags, zip-lock bags, garbage bags
- Ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, BBQ sauce, peanut butter, olive oil, milk
For all of these items, and many more, there are products available that do not involve plastics. Make the non-plastic choice. And don’t be fooled that consuming plastic is okay because you recycle. Only 8-9% of all plastic that goes into a recycle bin actually gets recycled. And plastic numbered 3-7 rarely gets recycled.
2. The problem with Food: What we eat, and what we don’t eat, has a tremendous impact on our world.
- Red meat is a major contributor to greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere. The “livestock” sector is responsible for more emissions (primarily methane) than the entire “global transport” sector.
- If cows were a “nation”, that nation would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world.
- Animal-based products require massive amounts of land, water, fertilizer, and oil – all of which strain the Earth’s finite resources.
- 70% of the earth’s agricultural land is used for livestock production.
- Every pound of beef requires 2,000 gallons of water; hundreds of gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of chicken or glass of milk.
- Animal are one of the least efficient sources of food. One pound of meat means feeding an animal up to 15 pounds of grains. 90% of what we put into animals turns into waste.
- Grains and vegetables are far more efficient for food and use of resources…. And delicious!
What can we do? Stop buying red meat and transition to a plant-based diet. Additionally,
- 1/3 of all food produced does not make it from the farm to the fork.
- 40% of food wasted goes into landfills, emitting large volumes of methane.
- Consumers – not farmers or grocers – are responsible for 43% of all food waste.
What can we do? Better manage our food, stop wasting food, and compost our food waste.
3. The problem with Energy: Our planet is heating up largely due to human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels. Scientists tell us that unless we limit the increase of global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (as compared to pre-industrial levels) we will not avoid the serious consequences of global warming and climate change. It’s bad and getting worse.
- The most recent U.N. report indicates we’ve already reached 1.1 degrees Celsius and we’re now locked into more global warming for at least the next 3 decades.
- Absent aggressive steps to reduce fossil-fuel emissions, experts believe we could surpass 2, 3, or 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
- This means more intense heat waves, more severe droughts, more devastating wildfires, more serious hurricanes and potentially we may reach “tipping points” like melting glaciers and elimination of rain forests, which will only accelerate the devastating impacts of climate change.
What can we do?
- Reduce our personal consumption of energy (e.g., turn out the lights, change the thermostat, add insulation to our homes, change light bulbs to LEDs, install solar panels, drive fewer miles with more efficient cars like hybrid or electric vehicles, use mass transit, car pool, vacation closer to home…. and the list goes on.
- Experts believe consumers could easily reduce their carbon footprint by 50% by being more energy efficient!
Finally, two more things: As everyone takes steps to make better choices to save our planet, I encouraged them to talk with others about what they are doing, and why they are making these choices. And of course, vote for leaders that commit to steps to protect our world.
I enjoyed meeting the members of this group. I appreciate the invitation to speak and it reminded me that each of us can share with others the importance of addressing global warming and climate change. Hopefully, this message will inspire more individuals to move actions on climate change higher on their list of things that are important.