15 Things You Can Do To Make A Difference On World Environment Day
By Aileen Richter
World Environment Day – A day to celebrate tireless commitment to our planet and to remember the tremendous positive impact we can have as a community – as long as we stick together – for the one Earth we have, its inhabitants and our children’s future.
What is World Environment Day?
World Environment Day is organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and has been held annually since 1974. The goal of the day of action is to promote environmental awareness and draw attention to crucial concerns around our planet’s survival, that require active engagement and commitment. Today, the day represents one of the largest global platforms for environmental action, with millions of participants from around the world. Each World Environment Day focuses on a specific issue that reflects urgent problems and challenges of our time, such as climate change, biodiversity loss or pollution.
In 1972 the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm. One of the results of this conference was the inception of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UNEP’s aim is to promote partnerships in environmental protection, provide information and create awareness on urgent planetary issues. The slogan of the first UN conference was “Only One Earth,” which is just as true 50 years later, as it was then. The slogan is being re-energized for World Environment Day 2022, which will be celebrated on the 5th of June.
Big challenges require big commitments
But what are the big challenges we face and where do they come from?
As human beings, our never-ending production and consumption structure, especially in industrialized nations, is causing planetary boundaries to be increasingly exceeded. Planetary boundaries refer to the processes that are responsible for the stability of the Earth’s natural ecosystems. The overloading of this ecological resilience has significant impact on people and their livelihoods – as we can already see today.
Climate change, loss of biodiversity or pollution are just three of many consequences that can be observed. But let’s dive deeper into the background and take a look at what needs to be done.
In 2015 the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, was adopted by 196 countries – a historical breakthrough. According to that contract, global warming should be limited in this century to below 2°C, preferably to 1.5°C, in comparison to pre-industrial levels. Without significant efforts to achieve this goal, the climate crisis will have devastating consequences in the years to come, such as extreme weather events or intensified famine.
Therefore, we need to halve annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This issue requires international cooperation and coordination but also the commitment of each individual. Here are a few tips on how you can reduce your own carbon footprint:
1. Use public transport or carpooling services, ride your bike or go on foot
2. Try to consume local and seasonal products
3. Reduce your consumption of meat
4. Ask yourself with every purchase if you really need it
5. Switch off lights and electronic devices when they aren’t in use
The loss of biodiversity refers to the decline or disappearance of the biological variety of all living species that inhabit our planet. This diversity has declined at an alarming rate in recent years, which can be attributed primarily to human activities. Some of the main causes are climate change, pollution, devastation of habitat or the invasion of alien species that displace indigenous ones.
Yet, in many ways, healthy ecosystems reflect the basis for our survival on Earth and allow us to thrive. They provide clean air, fresh water and rich soils. But what can you do to protect and restore these sensitive systems?
6. Become a role model for environmental protection by raising awareness
7. Set up birdhouses and eradicate weeds in your garden
8. Plant indigenous trees or support organizations like us to do so
9. Conserve water in order to maintain wetlands
10. Support local government initiatives in protecting natural habitats
In terms of health, air pollution is the most significant environmental threat of our time. It accounts for approximately 7 million premature deaths every year. Billions of people are exposed to particulate matter. Particulate matter is defined as airborne particles that do not immediately sink to the ground but remain in the atmosphere for a certain time. They can cause health problems if they are inhaled over a long period of time. Main emitters of fine particles are, for example: burning of fossil fuels, waste burning and agriculture. In Africa and West Asia, windblown dust is a significant source of particles.
Not only air pollution, but marine pollution is also a growing threat. The large amounts of chemicals and trash that end up in our oceans every day, especially plastic waste – including bottles, shopping bags or food wrappers – is a major problem. It takes hundreds of years to decompose. So, how can you help?
11. Prevent waste in your daily life and try to avoid single-use plastic
12. Separate your waste properly and recycle
13. Encourage policies to improve waste management on a large scale
14. Participate in clean-up days in your area
15. Start your own compost pile in order to reduce organic waste
Scientists have found that trees communicate in various ways, one of them being fascinating fungal networks below the earth.
For this year’s Women’s Day in South Africa, we want to introduce a woman in sustainability who inspires us daily. After earning a Master’s degree in Development Studies, she joined Greenpop in 2014. When she is not heading up programmes across Sub-Saharan Africa, you can find her spending time with her family, tending to her garden, practising Italian, and searching for the best pizza in the Mother City. Get to know Zoë Gauld-Angelucci!
Composting is surprisingly easy with these 4 steps – you can even do it at home, and don’t need a lot of space.
Greenpop Foundation NPC is a registered non-profit organisation. Registration Number (NPO): 151-411 NPO.