Our planet is our home, the place that sustains us; but are we living in harmony with nature? It seems like we humans have embraced a path of self-destruction, destroying the very home that shelters us. From rising carbon emissions, to deforestation and land degradation, anthropogenic activities are having detrimental effects on our ecosystems and environmental biodiversity. Not many are aware that the United Nations General Assembly had declared the period of 2011-2020, as the “Decade for Biodiversity”. We are in the final period of this crucial decade, and despite several strategic plans and initiatives to mobilize people at different levels, we are miles behind in achieving the stipulated targets. The negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems conservation, indicate that we need to do a lot more.
As teenagers, sometimes we feel helpless and powerless, unable to take action, or do things that really matter to us, since governments and large corporations are the ones taking vital decisions. While major changes are only possible if countries and corporations alter their policies and actions, we as individuals also have the potential to make a difference, whether through small actions, or larger initiatives. Let’s not forget that consumers dictate markets, and they can significantly impact the way goods are produced and traded if they decide to change their consumption habits.
Here are some ways in which you can take control of your future, and protect our environment and ecosystems:
1. Start Your Own Initiative or Volunteer With Environmental Organizations
Whether it’s something small like starting a community clean-up group, or building a large social organization with significant reach and impact, taking initiatives for environmental conservation can go a long way. There are many successful youth-led environmental organizations and NGO’s across the globe, that are leading by example today. However, if you’re not up to it, you can also make an impact on the environment by getting involved with local non-profits and assisting the environmental community groups. There are several ways in which you can get involved, from running online awareness campaigns, to offering practical help like beach clean-ups, and fundraising events.
2. Reduce/Recycle Paper
What do you do with your old textbooks and novels that are not in use? Why not donate them to juniors, or kids in your neighborhood, or send them across to countries where children have little to no access to educational resources. While books aren’t doing any harm sitting on a bookshelf, why not save resources by putting them to reuse?
Similarly recycling unwanted paper will reduce the raw material demand for paper production, thus conserving trees and forest ecosystems. From online assignments, to writing e-exams, thanks to the advent of technology, paper isn’t something that is necessary anymore. By making use of smart technologies that are available today, we can effortlessly shift away from paper-based activities, at all levels.
3. Recycle More Often
Recycling is a simple, yet effective way of conserving resources and reducing your individual carbon footprint. Rather than throwing everything in the trash, separate your plastic, paper, and metal waste, and deposit it in a recycling bin. Recycling helps reduce landfill pollution, raw materials and fossil fuel consumption, and generates a circular economy.
4. Save Resources
Did you know that only 0.03% of the 70% of water available to us is freshwater? That’s why, saving water is so important for freshwater ecosystems. By doing simple things like taking shorter showers, avoiding small clothes washes, and turning your taps off while brushing, you can save gallons of water! Similarly, it’s important to be mindful of your electricity consumption, and make adaptations so that you can reduce the demand for energy production and thereby preserve fossil fuel resources. While public and private entities plan the transition to sustainable alternatives, by doing our bit at homes and offices, we can reduce fossil fuel dependency.
5. Buy Sustainable Products
Plastic is one of the most significant contributors to soil and marine pollution, endangering both the land and marine life. Plastic isn’t biodegradable, and is often consumed by animals who mistake it as food. When buying a product, be aware of its environmental impact and disposal after use. Companies are now being questioned on their ecological footprint, and changing consumer habits are compelling them to become more sustainable. There are several sustainable brands available today, and it is easier to find out about the products origin, materials and recyclability. When you’re stocking up on school or office supplies like folders and pens, or buying toys and home accessories, try to look for more eco-friendly alternatives that can replace plastic. For example, some of us use so much plastic from buying bottled water every day, when buying your own reusable water bottle is not only cheaper, but also much better for the environment.
Also, buying local products and produce is a great way to minimize carbon footprint, as goods don’t have to travel longer distances and consume more fuel for transportation. Do some research and find out about the local eco-stores and farms in your area. Supporting small businesses is also great for the local economy because you’re sustaining the economic activity and job creation in your area.
6. Decrease Meat & Dairy Consumption
Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases that contributes to global warming. With increasing demand for meat, the number of live-stock farms has gone up significantly over the last few decades. As livestock release large amounts of methane into the atmosphere, excessive meat and dairy consumption has detrimental effects on our climate. Additionally, unsustainable dairy and cattle farming leads to the destruction of ecologically important areas such as wetlands and forests. Deforestation required to house animals like cows and chickens are damaging habitats and natural ecosystems, where hundreds of species depend on each other for survival. Thus, the only way we can prevent more damage is by being responsible, and eating less meat and dairy products.
7. Only Buy What You Need
Lastly, think about your purchasing habits. Do you buy too many products? Can you do without some of the things that you often buy? Are you being a responsible consumer? Simply buying more because of tempting offers or discounts will actually cost us and the environment more. Whether its groceries, clothes, accessories or home products, by purchasing only what you need, you reduce the amount of waste generated, and thus pollution. As natural resources are limited, our excessive consumption can be counter-productive, and undermine our planet's biodiversity.