It is human instinct to put out a fire or at least call for help when a house is burning, as we want to save what we can of it.
It is human instinct to help someone, sometimes even a stranger, when they are in desperate need, as we thrive from self-satisfaction of being of help to someone, and being perceived as thoughtful and compassionate.
So what makes us human? It is not just our built and physical capability. What truly make us distinguished from other living creatures on this earth are our minds. The capacity of our brains is greater than of any other species in animal kingdom, therefore our senses and logical reasoning are stronger. Imagination, creativity and being able to analyse situations and problem solve enabled us to build the world we are living in now. We are all so proud of our human achievements throughout history. We are also very compassionate in nature. We feel emotions towards objects like food, situations like falling in love or war, other people and their impact on our lives, and most of us appreciate and cherish animals and the nature surrounding us. So why is it that our so called Home, Planet Earth and natural world is slowly shrinking, sinking, burning and warming before our eyes?
Barack Obama himself said “Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now,”, and with the amount of scientific support out there it is just no sensible reason for us as human beings to turn our backs on this crisis. Without our home we cannot thrive and continue to grow as we have been.
Growing up in an average household, global warming was mentioned in many family conversations. We tried recycling and being more aware but it was something that I never thought we would have much impact on at all. It is only now that I have been living on my own for one and a half years, I thought to myself that “yes there is an issue, and I am very aware of it”, but what can I do about it? The government and economy are way out of my control and while some people might be aware of the issue, but life is just too busy so we brush this topic under the rug. My budget is certainly not that great so I’m very cautious of my outgoings, and I’m also busy all the time, so how can I possibly be more environmentally friendly?
“No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experiences” is what my man David Attenborough has said, which is why he is so good at showing us all through various or media how amazing this planet is and why we have to protect it.
I love this planet; I love what it has given me, the surrounding nature, the animals, my family, the people that I meet, and I love the freedom of speech and expression. Reviewing my current personal situation got me thinking, I have to do something or at least try and slowly start making changes as I cannot look away anymore.
If you already know enough about pollution but want to know more about what you can do to reduce waste at your household, skip to the Easy Swaps section. If you want to find some interesting facts continue reading on 🙂
Global Warming and Pollution
UN reports that from 1880 to 2012, the average global temperature increased by 0.85°C. Oceans have warmed and the melting ice is making the sea levels rise. From 1901 to 2010, the global average sea level rose by 19 cm which is quiet alarming.
UN also states that “Given current concentrations and ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases, it is likely that by the end of this century global mean temperature will continue to rise above the pre-industrial level. The world’s oceans will warm and ice melt will continue. Average sea level rise is predicted to be 24–30 cm by 2065 and 40–63 cm by 2100 relative to the reference period of 1986–2005.” Such a high rise in sea levels will make certain Islands such as Atolls, Maldives and Tuvalu hard to visit or live on due to coastal erosion. Other coastal cities like Miami will be affected and so will millions of people in residence.
When we talk about pollution, one of the first things that come to our minds is greenhouse gas emission from combustion of fossil fuels in cars, buildings, factories, power plants and burning fossil fuels in manufacturing processes etc. Here are some less popular facts that have a huge impact as well:
- Population growth alongside the standards of living. In most MEDCs we have more money to spend on we don’t even know what as we have sooo many choices. When consumption grows, the waste and plastic pollution grows it’s as simple as that.
- Methane released from landfills, natural gas and petroleum industries are a huge factor, but not as big as the methane released from food agriculture/ farming. This is mainly caused by grazing animals releasing gasses (yes this means #farts) on meat and dairy farms. We also have nitrous oxide released from fertilizers and gases used for refrigeration and industrial processes. Other things in agriculture that affect pollution and global warming are logistics, land use, water and food resource use, deforestation and interfering with natural habitats. All our food manufacturing processes result in using more and more natural resources, leaving less and less behind.
- Single use plastic is proving to significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emission at every stage of its life, starting from production, going into distribution and then at the end of its life where it takes between 50 and 600 years to biodegrade. Even after that, the small plastic molecules are distributed in the air and the oceans, ending up in out drinking water, fish we catch, even farm foods we consume. I don’t like the idea of slowly being poisoned to death with plastic by just eating veggies and drinking water.
So lets’ get a couple of facts and figures out of the way, shall we?
Research shows that annual CO2 emission from plastic waste could grow up to 2.75 million tonnes by 2050. It’s in 30 years’ time guys. I’m going to be 58 and swimming in plastic waste. Lovely thought for future L
Jokes aside, plastic pollution has not only been a concern related to climate change. Recently it has been all over media, after Blue Planet 2 release in 2017, that plastic polluting our seas has an impact on the entire ocean ecosystem, our health and the natural world all over. Microplastic particles are now floating in the air and can be found from top of Mount Everest to Mariana Trench, which is the deepest ocean trench explored.
Millions of animals varying from krill, to fish, whales, birds, seals and turtles are killed from either ingesting plastic, or by simply being stuck in a plastic object unable to get free, suffocating to death. The UKs leading marine charity MCS organises yearly beach clean-ups to make sure we reduce the risk of animals and habitats being affected by the pollution on our coasts. You can get involved in their work by clicking here and help make change.
By simply identifying which plastics are recyclable and which ones are not, we can reduce plastic pollution dramatically. But the main goal is to reduce single use plastic buying. Less plastic in household means less plastic in our lands and in our seas.
BBC has done a brilliant, well researched and eye opening piece on the Plastic Pollution Problem, which I highly recommend on checking out by clicking here.
As consumers we have the ENTIRE power over what goes into our household, so why not take some simple actions right now?
Here are some of my personal tips and easy swaps that can help you start plastic waste reduction:
- No more plastic bottles. Reusable bottles are so much better in so many ways and water should be FREE so why are you paying for it?
- Bringing your own food storage pots. In case you are thinking of having a take away or a lunch at a local caff, if you know they will give you a plastic pot to serve your food in, why not give them yours? I have been doing this a lot at work with the local caff, and they were more than happy to put the food in my own food container.
- Have a straw with you at all times. I also carry my small cutlery set everywhere I go. Just say no to plastic straws and cutlery. Small stuff but it adds up over the years.
- Invest in an eco-friendly coffee travel mug. A lot of coffee shops like Starbucks serve their drinks in fully recyclable cups, but sometimes these are not recycled properly so it’s better to have your own. Some places even offer you money off if you bring your own mug.
- Use long life bags for house shopping. This should be a norm now I think.
- Using biodegradable everyday items instead of plastic options. These could be cleaning ware, natural fibres in furniture and clothes, swapping clean film for food containers or beeswax wraps and just overall using natural substances where you can. Reusing and recycling is key.
- Buy loose fruit and veg as much as you can. You can save money by going to local markets and educate your little ones (if you have any) about the importance of supporting local farmers and businesses.
- If meat or dairy is in your diet, go to local butchers or farmers’ market and get fresh food packed in your own containers.
Another thing to consider is how you commute. Public transport is a great alternative to commuting privately, whether going around the country or travelling abroad. This is something I’m currently struggling with as I love to travel. Abroad is not much of a problem as I normally depend on public transport and walk or hike, but in the UK I take my car on way too many road trips.
As a personal choice I have also decided to go on a vegan diet and have been following it as best as I can for over 2 years. By going veggie I’m reducing individual impact on:
- Agricultural pollution as animal waste pollutes waterways all over the world (which ends up in our oceans).
- CO2 and methane emission from land use and livestock production.
- Water use e.g.: it takes 13,000l-100,000l of water to produce a kilo of beef and only 1,000l-2,000l to produce kilo of wheat.
- Not consuming fish impacts on life cycle of oceans. Oceans help absorb CO2 and they also hold one of the most important organisms on the planet, the phytoplankton. These little guys are responsible of absorption of most CO2 from the atmosphere and producing 2/3rds of the oxygen we breathe in.
There are many other reasons why I believe a plant based diet helps to reduce pollution and impact on the climate change crisis, but I think this is personal choice and this topic has been covered quite well by media already with plenty of evidence supporting it.
If you haven’t already started on being more environmentally aware, I really hope that you get inspired to take small actions and then see for yourself that little changes can have a big impact on pollution, plastic waste and global warming. Just because you are one person making that change, it doesn’t mean you are alone in this. Awareness is growing and more people are trying. With a new year around the corner, this could be a perfect challenged to take on for 2020. We can all be a part of this greater movement if we just try a little.
“There is no planet B. We have to take care of the one we have.”
________ Richard Branson ________
Other useful Links:
- Zero Waste Shop list
- Bamboo Toothbrushes
- Sustainable cleaning products Green Scents
- 10 shocking facts about Plastic Pollution
- Plant- based diet can fight climate change
- Documentaries to watch on veganism on Netflix UK
Carbon Brief. “Barak Obama on Global Warming crises” (2015): https://www.carbonbrief.org/daily-brief/obama-makes-urgent-appeal-in-alaska-for-climate-change-action
BBC. Report “Seven Charts that explains the plastic pollution problem” (2017): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42264788
United Nations. “Climate Change” (2019): https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/climate-change/
National Geographic. “Air pollution, explained” (2019) https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/pollution/
National Geographic. “Causes of global warming, explained” (2019) https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/global-warming-causes/
Science Daily. “Failing phytoplankton, failing oxygen: Global warming disaster could suffocate life on planet Earth” (2015) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151201094120.htm
The Guardian. “The Guardian view on the climate change summit: there is no planet B“ (2015) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/29/the-guardian-view-on-the-climate-change-summit-there-is-no-planet-b
The Guardian “Single-use plastics a serious climate change hazard, study warns“ (2019) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/15/single-use-plastics-a-serious-climate-change-hazard-study-warns
YouTube. “Sir David Attenborough’s plastic message – BBC“ (2018) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IW3jEIYBFzg
BBC. “Blue Planet 2: How plastic is slowly killing our sea creatures, fish and birds“ (2017) http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/42030979/blue-planet-2-how-plastic-is-slowly-killing-our-sea-creatures-fish-and-birds
WWF. “HOW DOES PLASTIC END UP IN THE OCEAN?” https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/how-does-plastic-end-ocean
National Geographic “The world’s plastic pollution crisis explained“ (2019) https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/plastic-pollution/