“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
With an onslaught of recent reports regarding the massive destruction occurring in the Amazon – aka “the lungs of the Earth” – it’s inevitable to experience painful feelings like despair, frustration, anger, overwhelm, and depression about the direction our planet is headed. And while the battle cries of “save our Earth” can be heard around the globe, sometimes it’s hard to know what a single person, like you and I, can really do. And yet there truly are opportunities to make a difference. You can reform your home routines, enrich your local land, set future improvements in motion, and inspire others to join you, creating strong connections in the process. Climate change is here and will continue to impact all of us – but our personal actions can have a lasting impact as well. Here are 5 ways you can influence climate change, and help the future of our planet:
Re-introduce native vegetation. “If half of American lawns were replaced with native plants, we would create the equivalent of a 20 million acre national park – nine times bigger than Yellowstone, or 100 times bigger than Shenandoah National Park” – Dr. Doug Tallamy, Professor and Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware.
As far as plants go, lawns are takers. They don’t provide clean water, fresh air, or wildlife support. In fact they don’t play any major contributing role in the natural world at all. On the other hand, native plants (indigenous species) require very little upkeep, and benefit a vast array of essential organisms that inhabit your local slice of nature (including people!). Your garden doesn’t even need to be 100% native to get the benefits: last year we removed over half the lawn in the our backyard and replaced it with an edible organic garden, in addition to native species and drought-tolerant plants (important for California). Our former “dead zone” of lawn is now a gorgeous garden bustling with birds, bees, and butterflies. Now, we are starting to map out plans to transform the front lawn with more native species, too.
Make plant-based meals. If you’re concerned about the Amazon, the number one thing you can do help stop its decline is to reduce meat consumption. It’s an unavoidable fact: 80% of the deforestation that occurs in the Amazon is due to cattle ranching. (Soybeans are a distant second reason… which are often fed to livestock.) Yes, every burger is genuinely part of the problem, and for the health of the planet, we cannot continue to rely on meat as such a central food source any longer.
Following a healthy plant-centric diet can have a global environmental impact, and is one of the easiest, least expensive (money-saving, actually), and most impactful actions you can take to make real change. If the idea of all plant foods is overwhelming, start by enhancing your week with 50% more plant-based meals, and increase in stages. At Luminberry, we are very proud to offer 100% plant-based recipes and culinary education; for meal ideas, visit our free recipe section or our cooking courses.
Plant old-growth trees. We know that all trees are in the category of natural royalty for countering carbon in the atmosphere, but it turns out some trees are more effective than others. Researchers have found that the carbon uptake of a tree increases in proportion to its size, or in other words, big trees will have the greatest impact. Especially with the damage that’s been inflicted on such important forests globally, weaving these large carbon powerhouses back into the landscape for future generations is vital. If you have room in your yard, plant a tree variety that has “old growth” potential – in other words, a tree that can grow big and live a hundred or more years, like oak, pine, or maple. If you don’t have space, volunteer or donate to a tree planting organization to help refill public lands with trees, and help provide a literal breath of fresh air back into the atmosphere.
Curb consumption. Our addictive attraction to “stuff and things” is a double-edged sword: it takes energy and resources to make products, and many of these products end up in landfills (or worse, pollute the environment) once we’re finished using them. When you do desire or need something new, seek companies that are environmentally conscious: ones that use recycled or biodegradable materials, and source materials responsibly. And as much as possible, use what you have, setting a goal to reuse objects more, and taking joy in the rewarding art of making, repairing, upcycling. The less we “need,” the gentler the impact on our surroundings will become.
Get involved. Although there are many things you can do to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle and reduce your personal carbon footprint, improving the larger systems we have in place as a culture is imperative. In the words of David Suzuki, “Vote for leaders at all levels of government who take climate change seriously. They should commit to setting science-based targets to reduce harmful carbon emissions, implementing clear plans to reach those targets, adapting to climate change and shifting to a clean-energy economy.” Let’s make change.