Today is World Environment Day, and it’s time to take action.
Climate change is worsening, and it’s reasonable to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and angry about the constant barrage of bad environmental news. But we can all do something about it, and people around the world are taking decisive steps to ensure a future for everybody.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently reported significant progress over the last few decades, with 22 million km2 of land and 28 million km2 of ocean now protected or conserved (42 percent of which has occurred since 2010).
In the Netherlands, national efforts to support pollinators have resulted in the stabilization of its bee population after more than 80 years of uncertainty. The British government recently announced extremely ambitious (but yet to be tested) environmental pledges, while President Joe Biden has committed to halving U.S. carbon emissions by 2030.
Even large companies are pledging increased sustainability, with Unilever, Nestlé, and Mattel all working to clean up operations. Electric cars are making significant headway in the global automotive industry, and new technology has even helped to curb illegal deforestation in some parts of the world.
There’s still an extremely long way to go; but World Environment Day is the perfect time to celebrate progress while looking towards the work that still needs to be done. “We have the power and the knowledge to reverse the harm and restore the Earth – if we act now,” Tim Christophersen, Head of UNEP’s Nature for Climate Branch told LIVEKINDLY.
What Is World Environment Day?
Every year, World Environment Day represents an opportunity to engage people, companies, and governments on key environmental issues. The UN celebrated the first ever World Environment Day in 1974, and over 143 countries participate annually.
This year will kick off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration campaign, and focus on the prevention and reversal of existing environmental damage. This, the UN hopes, will help end poverty, prevent mass extinction, and potentially provide one-third of the climate change mitigation required before 2030.
Pakistan is the “global host” for 2021’s World Environment Day event, partly in recognition of its ambitious 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project. The Pakistani government financed this by launching the Eco-System Restoration Fund, which will support nature-based climate change solutions — and encourage conservation — in the coming years.
Fifteen distinct protected areas have also been developed nationwide, with plans to conserve more than 7,300 km2 of land. Furthermore, Pakistan has revealed a green stimulus package designed to create over 285,000 jobs with a sustainability or conservation focus.
“Above all, World Environment Day offers a global platform for inspiring positive change,” reads the description of the celebration. “It pushes for individuals to think about the way they consume; for businesses to develop greener models; for farmers and manufacturers to produce more sustainably; for governments to invest in repairing the environment; for educators to inspire students to take action; and for youth to build a greener future.”
World Environment Day: 4 Ways to Help Save the Environment
Eat Less Meat
The link between animal agriculture and climate change is well established, and eating more vegan food instead of animal products (where possible) can help reduce your environmental impact.
All food production affects the environment, but eating more plants is almost always more sustainable than meat and dairy. A UN Climate Report from February urged a global shift away from these high-impact products in favor of sustainable crops, including beans and legumes.
“Changing the dietary habits of consumers, particularly in developed countries, where consumption of energy and water-intensive meat and dairy products is high, would reduce pressure on biodiversity and the climate system,” reads the report.
Meat directly contributes to habitat loss, and the beef industry is the primary driver of tropical deforestation — with double the impact of soy, palm oil, and wood combined.
“Eating a plant-rich diet is generally good for nutrition, and for limiting climate emissions,” said Christophersen. “However, there is no general rule that all meat production leads to environmental degradation: in some ecosystems, such as savannahs, cattle and other livestock are important to actively restore and maintain a landscape.”
Cut Back On Waste
Food waste contributes to climate change, environmental destruction, and global inequality. While the UN has highlighted a reduction target of 50 percent by 2030, worldwide food waste is predicted to increase by another third before then.
The U.S. alone wastes 30 to 40 percent of its national food supply every single year, according to data from the USDA. In 2010, that amounted to around 133 billion pounds ($161 billion worth) of food. Reducing household food waste helps to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and could potentially help preserve land and feed hungry people around the world in the coming years.
Minimizing other forms of household waste, such as electronics, plastic, and difficult-to-recycle items, also helps to lower your environmental footprint. Consuming less, reusing more, and recycling where possible keeps your impact small.
Use Less Energy
Energy use makes up the vast majority of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and cutting back on flying and driving in favor of public transport, walking, and cycling is one of the simplest ways to reduce your expenditure.
But being careful about water usage (turning off taps, keeping showers less than 15 minutes) and electricity usage (keeping unused switches and appliances off and using low-impact bulbs) also makes a huge difference.
Support Charities, Organizations, and Causes
Supporting key organizations that are working towards environmental protection is another great way to make a difference. This could be by donating and supporting them financially, by volunteering your time and energy, or even by spreading word of their work online and day-to-day.
Some particular groups you could support this World Environment Day include the Women’s Environmental Network, the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, Outdoor Afro, Rainforest Alliance, Earthjustice, the Indigenous Environmental Network, O4S (who are working toward carbon neutral and zero waste Pride celebrations), the Black Environmental Network, the Climate Emergency Fund, and countless others.
Other Ways to Help
If you want to support environmental causes while you’re carrying out your everyday tasks, you might consider switching your internet search engine to Ecosia, which uses 80 percent of its profits to plant trees. The company has planted well over 126 million trees. If you like getting outside and keeping fit, the app atlasGO also plants trees for every completed workout or activity (including yoga and meditation).
“Restoration can be done actively by all who are interested in a liveable future; within your community, city or company,” said Christophersen. “The UN Decade’s Digital Hub will showcase where and how you can engage with others to collectively restore your city parks, or forests, beaches, lakes or rivers near you.”
“We suggest a lot of practical steps in our Ecosystem Restoration Playbook, available for download here,” he added. “Most important, please be vocal about this topic in your community and country and encourage your Governments to protect and restore ecosystems at significant scale.”