Stowarzyszenie Projektów Międzynarodowych „INPRO”

7 actions you can do to fight global warming

Written by Damien Aymerich

Climate change is here. You can already see the consequences: rising sea levels, temperature increase, lack of food and water, disappearance of species… But you can still limit the disaster. How? By acting now, because we are all responsible.

You can act every day: recycle, reduce your meat consumption, save water…

First, let me explain what is climate change and why it is happening. For those in a hurry, you can go directly below. I won’t blame you.

On Earth, we have what we call greenhouse gas. It’s a natural process that keeps enough energy in our atmosphere. Thanks to that, we have a world with a good temperature to live in.

So, what is the problem? Human activities produce additional greenhouse gas, which is more than the Earth can absorb. They also have a huge impact on the living. According to WWF, 60% of wildlife populations were lost the last 40 years.

To sum up, more gas equals more energy kept in the atmosphere. It means that the living conditions for every species is going to change. Actually, it’s already changing. More than you think.

As citizens, we don’t have all the power to change this situation. But our actions can start a change at the top of the hierarchy. So here are the 7 things you can do to limit climate change. Each point is detailed with numbers and examples.

 

1. Recycle

It’s maybe obvious, but not everyone is doing this kind of action. What can you recycle? Paper, metal, plastic and glass. In Poland, the rules about recycling have changed since the 1st of July, 2017. Nowadays, you can find 5 different bins:

  • Blue for paper
  • Green for glass
  • Yellow for metals and plastic
  • Brown for biodegradable waste
  • Non-colored for mixed waste

For special wastes such as electronics, medications, light-bulbs or batteries, you can call the PSZOK – Punkt Selektywnej Zbiórki Odpadów Komunalnych (Selective Urban Waste Collection Point) in your city. You can check more information about hazardous and bulky waste.

 

2. Reduce your meat consumption

Why do we need to reduce our meat consumption? Well, according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), the livestock industry emits more greenhouse gas than the transport sector.

First, farm animals need food. 30% of arable lands is just used to feed them. Farmers use a lot of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to produce this food quickly.

And what is the result? A large amount of nitrous oxide is ejected into the atmosphere. And nitrous oxide is 310 times more warming than CO2.

Second, this industry needs water to grow food and give animals to drink. I’m going to give a simple example.

To produce 1 kg of beef, 15,400L of water is needed. One cow can provide approximately 200 kg of meat1. After a quick calculation, we get a result of 3,100,000L of water. Just for one cow.

Let’s compare that to how much water we use in our daily lives.

The water consumption per person varies among countries. So we will take an average of 150L/day/person2. In one year, it represents 54,750L of water consumed. So, one cow equals our water consumption for almost 57 years.

What are the alternatives then? If you want to eat meat, choose chicken or pork. They need less water and less land to be produced. You can also privilege eggs, fish or vegetal solutions like soy, tofu or tempeh.

For instance, according to a report conducted in 2017 by the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, 39% of people in China are reducing their consumption of meat. They are aware that is better for the environment and also for their health.

We don’t need to eat meat every day, but this is maybe the most difficult habit to change.

 

3. Buy less plastic wrap

In many supermarkets in Poland, you can buy packaged fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic. And sometimes it’s just one packaged food, like cucumbers. Maybe it’s to protect them but they already have a natural skin for that. So it’s very unnecessary.

Just in 2017 alone, 348 million tonnes of plastic have been produced3. That is to say the weight of 34,455 Eiffel Towers. Consequently, the global production of plastic waste increases each year.

For instance, the quantity of plastic waste in the oceans could double by 2030 and exceed the number of fish by 2050. I repeat. Exceed the number of fish in the ocean by 2050!

But, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. According to a survey conducted by WWF, we can put an end to plastic pollution by 2030. How? By reducing plastic production by almost 1/3, not using plastic for single use anymore and collecting 100% of our waste.

Some cities in the world have already banned single-use items made of plastic. Like in the town of San Pedro La Laguna, in Guatemala.

In June 2016, the mayor decided to prohibit the sale and distribution of disposable plastic bags, straws, and expanded polystyrene containers4. After this law, 80% of the town’s inhabitants have stopped using plastics. And the tourism has tripled within 2 years. So not only was the new law good for the environment, it was good for the economy too.

Another good news. On the 27th of March, 2019, the European Union passed a law that prohibited the sale of some plastic products, such as knives, forks, plates, straws and cotton buds5. These products represent 70% of the plastic waste in the sea.

Of course, it’s mainly up to companies to decrease the quantity of plastic they produce in the world. So let’s show them the way by impacting their turnover and buying less food with plastic wrap. Or buying food only wrapped in biodegradable or recycled plastic packaging.

Let’s say no to plastic wrapped cucumbers!

 

4. Avoid wasting food

To begin, 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted or lost each year. That represents 1/3 of the food produced in the world.6

We all know it’s happening. And everyone is responsible, from the companies to the citizens.

What are the consequences? First, if the food waste in the world was a country, it would be the 3rd biggest country in terms of CO2 emissions, behind China and the USA.7

Second, for your wallet. In Poland, an average family loses between 2000 and 2500zł (466€ and 582€) per year on food.8

So why do we waste so much? One of the reasons is because of the “best before date” we see on products. It’s often misunderstood with the “use by date”.

And what is the difference? The “best before date” is the date until food keeps all its properties, such as freshness, taste and nutrients. But the product can be eaten after this date.

Here are some examples:

  • Honey/sugar (unlimited time)
  • Pasta/rice (if they are stored in good condition)
  • Yogurt (until 3 weeks after, if they are kept cool)
  • Milk U.H.T. (until 2 months after)

On the other hand, the “use by date” is the date until the product can be eaten. After this date, you shouldn’t eat it. Like meat and fish for example.

To reduce your quantity of food waste, here are some tips:

  • Prepare your shopping list before leaving your home
  • Buy only what you need and in a reasonable quantity
  • Verify the date on the products and sort them in your house from the least sustainable to the most sustainable
  • Make an original meal with the leftovers from the day before

To finish, since 2016 the Polish Senate is working on a law that will force establishment such as restaurants and supermarkets to give their unsold food to a food bank. How? By making them pay fees, 0,10zl/kg of food they put into the trash.8

This law is already effective in France since February 2016. Thanks to this, the quantity of food collected has increased by 28% between 2015 and 2017 (46,000 tonnes in 2017 against 36,000 tonnes in 2015).9

 

5. Save water

Did you know that 3.6 billion of people around the world are living in areas where there is no water for at least one month per year?10 This is almost the half of the world’s population. And the lack of water resources continues to increase each year.

Because of our consumption, our way of life and our ease to get water in some of our countries, we aren’t aware of this issue. The truth is that we are wasting water every day. While we take a shower, do the dishes, throw food away, etc…

Unfortunately, this problem especially concerns agriculture. 70% of the water consumed is used by agriculture and the livestock industry. As citizens, we represent only 8%.11 In any case, it doesn’t mean we cannot do something.

Why? First, because our mode of consumption demands more meat and more products. Remember, one cow represents our water consumption for almost 57 years.

So we can make the difference in our shopping cart. Of course, it will take some time to change our habits. And it’s always difficult to change our comfort zone.

Second, because we live without thinking about the consequences of our actions. For example, food waste. It’s not only a problem about CO2 emissions.

The quantity of water used to produce the food we throw away each year represents 250km3 of water, or 3 times the size of Lake Geneva.

Lake of Geneva

Another example concerns when we brush our teeth or clean the dishes. We often let the water run all the time. It’s something very frequent. On average, someone who lets the water run while cleaning dishes consumes around 40L. For someone who cuts the water? Only 10L.12 So we have used 30L of water for nothing.

For brushing teeth, I let you watch this simple advertising from Colgate.

California has clearly understood this global issue. After declaring a state of emergency in 2014, the governor of California, Jerry Brown, set up several laws to encourage the inhabitants to reduce their water consumption.

And it’s working. In 2013, California residents used an average of 413L/day. Then in 2017, they dropped their consumption to 341L/day.13 They are aware it’s still a lot. So the state keeps trying to find solutions to decrease the quantity of water used.

 

6. Privilege public transport when you can

The CO2 emissions is responsible of 2/3 of the greenhouse gas produced by humans in the world. Although it depends on each country, transportation is the first or second main cause. In Poland, transport represents 17,6% of total CO2 emissions, just behind energy production (54,5%).14

In our daily life, we use the car for everything: to go to work, to do our groceries, to go to a restaurant, etc… And we pollute, whether a petrol or diesel car.

A good alternative can be to use an electric car. It is 2 to 3 times less polluting than a petrol or diesel car. And yes, an electric car pollutes. How? Because of the production of the battery and the electricity consumption to use them.

For some trips, it’s better to take the bus, ride a bike or just walk. Of course, it depends where you live. It’s much better to move by bus or tram in bigger cities.

The great advantage in Poland is that the bus network is highly developed. You can go to almost every city and village thanks to the bus. Moreover, Poland wants to increase the quantity of electric buses in the country during the next years.

China is the best student in electric bus. Out of almost 425,000 electric buses that were in circulation around the world in 2017, 421,000 were in China.15

And that’s not all. The country wants to get more than 600,000 by 2025. An example that Europe and USA wants to follow in the future.

What about the bicycle? In Poland, bicycle paths are well-developed too. The country has put a lot of money to improve its infrastructure. And if you want to travel in Poland, you have “GreenVelo”.

What is it? It’s an itinerary that crosses the country from North to South. You have more than 2000 km of trail to enjoy the landscape, parks and mountains with your bike.

And let’s not forget the train. It is one of the least polluting forms of transportation. Compared to planes, trains are 40 times less polluting.

 

7. Disconnect your unused devices and manage your energy consumption

In the European Union, the energy consumption from households represents 25% of the total energy consumption. Every day, we use electricity to cook, to heat, to watch TV, to go on the Internet…

The main expense goes into heating our homes. But there also exists another unsuspected expense. Your standby and unused devices. Like the charger that you left plugged in your room or the TV you use only during 2-3 hours per day.

Maybe you are thinking it’s not a big deal. And you’re probably right, compared to some other appliances in your house.

But nowadays we have a lot of small devices that we leave plugged in and we don’t use so much. In one year, it represents 11% of the total energy consumption for a household in Europe.

So if we take the devices on standby from all the houses in the EU, we get 19 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.16 Or the pollution that an average car creates in 100,000 km. That’s a little weight in the balance don’t you think?

We agree it can be annoying to plug and unplug the device each time. Then the best option is to use a power strip. Like this, you can turn off all the appliances with one simple action.

Also, when you buy a new product, search for “Energy Star” label. It means that the device is less energy intensive. You save energy and money at the same time. It’s worth it, right?

In a general way, you can easily optimize your energy consumption in your daily life by following some tips. For example, give preference to taking a shower instead of taking a bath. You use less water and heat less water.

Concerning the lighting of your house, use LED lightbulbs. It consumes less energy and lasts around 40,000 hours (or 4,5 years in a row). So you can use them over 10 years at least.

 

Conclusion

Everyone has the power and the responsibility to change things. Grażyna Wolszczak, a famous Polish actress, sued the Polish government in 2018. Why? For the bad air quality in Warsaw caused by pollution. And she won!

Then in Indonesia, two sisters, Melati and Isabel Wijsen, have been campaigning for 5 years to get plastic bags banned from Bali. They started when they were 10 and 12 years old. They created an NGO called “Bye Bye Plastic Bags”. And after having been involved in many international initiatives, such as Ted Talks, speaking at the United Nations or organizing the largest beach cleanup in Bali with 12,000 volunteers, they are about to succeed their goal.

So we need the support of our governments to set up real actions to limit the CO2 emissions and force big companies to change their way of production. It started with the Paris Agreement during the COP21 in 2015. But after 4 years, the results aren’t enough.

Since the beginning of May 2019, only 2 countries have declared a climate emergency: The United Kingdom and Ireland. The world comes first. So let’s see what’s going to happen after the European Elections.

But one thing we should all remember is that we are all responsible. If we get together to challenge companies and our governments, we can change the way things are done.

 

Sources

1. http://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/average-daily-water-usage

2. It isn’t an exact calculation since the figures can vary widely by country: https://water-for-africa.org/en/water-consumption.html (Germany and Africa), https://www.ccwater.org.uk/households/using-water-wisely/averagewateruse/ (England), https://blog.ferrovial.com/en/2015/03/how-many-litres-of-water-does-a-person-need-per-day/ (Spain), http://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/average-daily-water-usage (USA)

3. https://www.plasticseurope.org/application/files/6315/4510/9658/Plastics_the_facts_2018_AF_web.pdf, p. 18

4. https://www.greenmatters.com/news/2018/08/09/1psDzE/plastic-bans-guatemala

5. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20190321IPR32111/parliament-seals-ban-on-throwaway-plastics-by-2021

6. https://toogoodtogo.fr/fr/blog/penseataplanete-cest-quoi-le-gaspillage-alimentaire-en-2018

7. http://www.casuffitlegachis.fr/particuliers/je-m-informe/gaspillage-alimentaire-triple-enjeu

8. https://polandin.com/38494720/poland-breaks-records-in-food-waste, https://www.agroberichtenbuitenland.nl/actueel/nieuws/2018/10/09/food-waste-in-poland

9. http://www.lefigaro.fr/economie/le-scan-eco/2018/10/16/29001-20181016ARTFIG00007-loi-anti-gaspillage-alimentaire-quel-bilan-apres-18-mois.php

10. https://www.europe1.fr/sciences/la-terre-pourrait-bientot-manquer-deau-avertit-le-forum-de-brasilia-3603935

11. https://www.europe1.fr/sciences/4-idees-recues-sur-la-penurie-deau-dans-le-monde-3607571

12. https://www.fournisseurs-electricite.com/guides/consommation/lave-vaisselle-lavage-a-main

13. https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article211333594.html

14. http://www.kobize.pl/uploads/materialy/materialy_do_pobrania/krajowa_inwentaryzacja_emisji/NIR_2018_POL.pdf, p. 17.

15. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-15/in-shift-to-electric-bus-it-s-china-ahead-of-u-s-421-000-to-300

16. https://ec.europa.eu/energy/intelligent/projects/sites/iee-projects/files/projects/documents/selina_consumer_guide_en.pdf, p.3