Sustainability Made Simple is here as a friend and resource to you. Our series will highlight and break down everything you need to know about the green movement, including clear ways to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle. Every step counts in the fight for our environment, and there are a handful of ways that we as individuals can contribute.
It helps to start by clearly explaining what climate change is and why it’s happening. We often see the term climate change interchangeably used with the phrase global warming in the media. While these terms are similar, they’re not the same. Global warming is the overall long-term heating of the planet’s climate system due to human activities since the pre-industrial era. Scientists measure this by checking the Earth’s average increase in global surface temperature.
Climate change is the overall long-term change in weather patterns across different regions around the globe due to human and naturally produced warming. Natural occurrences that can have an effect on Earth’s climate patterns include major storms/catastrophes, such as El Niño or volcanic eruptions, or external forces, such as changes in the sun’s energy output or variations within Earth’s orbit.
While many factors go into global warming and climate change, the biggest culprit contributing to their meteoric rise in temperature in the past few decades is the increasing levels of global greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat within the atmosphere – and compared to earlier times within our planet’s history, the amount of gas floating around the plant are at astronomical levels. As a consequence, this makes the Earth hotter.
Luckily, we have a “north star” to aim our collective efforts as a community when it comes to saving our planet. Scientists have calculated that we need to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5°C (34.7°F). Otherwise, there may be no going back.
According to the NOAA 2019 Global Climate Summary, the combined land, and ocean temperature increase have averaged 0.07°C (0.13°F) per decade since 1880. This rate has nearly doubled, though, in the past 30 years to 0.18°C (0.32°F). It’s hard to imagine fractions of a degree being a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But if you think about it, these rates will accelerate exponentially within the next few decades.
And that brings me to this – even though the future seems bleak, we do have a window of opportunity to change things. As a global community, we have to come up with ways to individually and systemically use, reuse, and repurpose resources more responsibly. These adjustments will take years of funding, research, and testing to implement new ways to produce and recycle. So it’s best we get started now.
The easiest way to get started is to read up on what’s happening around the globe. I know that there is so much to filter through, but educating yourself on the current state of the planet can help you better understand what is needed on a personal, professional, and community level to help fight climate change. Our go-to, NASA, offers a great online resource with the basics and latest findings surrounding the topic.
Another way to get involved is to look at the everyday trash you compile in your home. Landfills cut off oxygen to the garbage that exists inside them. Even without oxygen, landfill waste does decompose at a very, very slow rate (like thousands of years slow). This decomposition has a byproduct, methane gas, which just so happens to be a greenhouse gas and the second-highest gas emitted by human activity. In the US, landfills come in third as one of the leading causes of methane emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Is there something in your trash that you could either do without or that may have an eco-friendlier alternative that will last you longer or can be recycled? It can be something as simple as switching your toothbrush from a plastic disposal option to one made out of bamboo. Or, you can opt for bar shampoo and conditioner rather than the traditional kind that comes in plastic bottles. Once you’ve used what you already have around your home, find alternatives that you can invest in to last. Or replace with more natural materials. Blogs like Zero Waste Home and Trash is for Tossers are great resources to help on your quest to find new products that are more environmentally friendly.
Leading a more sustainable life won’t be easy at first (trust us, we know.) But making any lifestyle change that can improve your quality of life is worth it. Compounding interest in the sense of developing new ways to live green will pay off in the long run. What matters the most in all of this is that we take that first step in our journey and continue moving forward! Join us on our journey to make sustainabile living more simple.
Based in New York City, Andi Morales works as a brand marketer for a sustainably minded children’s clothing line known as The Sunday Collective. She comes from a professional background rooted in media which has made her a big believer in the concept that “knowledge is power”. Through her passion for learning, she hopes to help teach others valuable insights into the many angles and nuances of the relationship between sustainability and retail one step at a time.