WE’RE LOSING a football-pitch sized stand of rainforest every second. There’s enough food in the world for everyone yet 1 in 7 people go to bed hungry every night. The Pacific Ocean holds a raft of floating plastic almost twice the size of the entire USA. You’ve heard the statistics, but the issues all seem so big, so uninfluencable. What can you and I really do in the face of this?
These men are heroes. Credit cesarharada.com
As a student, I became a bit of a radical when it came to the environment. That our actions matter was clear to me. There were plenty of choices I could make for the good (or ill) of the environment. A would-be conservationist with a love of exotic wildlife, I said no to a career in the tropics on account of all the fossil-fuelled air miles I might rack up.
Consider, then, my confusion when I later found out the tropics are so badly in need of saving that it’s probably best for conservation if UK scientists do fly to Borneo and get stuck in. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised – after all, a trip to the shops would regularly find me stood motionless in front of the shelves, mental calculator whirring, agonising over whether the ‘normal’ rice from Italy was in fact better for the planet than the organic rice all the way from India. In any case, the point is that things aren’t always as straightforward as they appear – yet another hurdle.
Fear not: there’s good news. All those ‘green’ things we’re getting used to – recycling, Fairtrade chocolate in your KitKat, using a ‘bag for life’ at the checkout – do count. The power is in our hands – and sometimes quite literally. Recycling a single aluminium drinks can, for instance, saves enough energy to power a TV for 3 hours. What’s more, you can recycle an alu can over… and over… and over again.
Here’s another way to recycle cans. Image max_thinks_sees
If our impact on the globe starts at the level of individual decisions, how can we be better agents for change? One way is by making a commitment. Just say yes – I do care, I do believe in sustainability – social, environmental and economic; I am prepared to sacrifice short-term gain for a long-term win that ultimately benefits everyone.
To transform motivation into effective action, though, we need knowledge. Becoming informed is a great way to make sure we can take positive steps with the confidence that they’ll make a difference. Read the papers, browse the web – a whole host of charities out there have sites packed full of ethical lifestyle tips. (So, too, do a good few businesses. Try gooshing or sust-it to get you started on green shopping.)
One more thing: when it comes to building up some real momentum, there’s little that beats some good old teamwork. Become part of a community such as A Rocha’s Living Lightly and you become part of a world of mutual support and encouragement. We’re all in this together, living on the same planet. From householders putting out the kitchen scraps to housing chiefs scrutinising the company transport policy, we may as well tackle sustainability together!