Four easy(ish) ways to help save the world

One step at a time: UK carbon emissions from farming have fallen by 3% since 2012.

How much difference can one person make? It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the mammoth task of rescuing our planet, but there are some simple changes we can all practise.

1/ Say goodbye to burgers. In May, a report concluded that giving up meat and dairy is “the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth”. The farming industry produces around a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases, which drive global warming. Agriculture is also the leading force behind the mass extinction of wildlife as it encroaches on natural habitats.

If you want to go a step further, grow your own vegetables at home. This could help cut down on plastic, and save vast amounts of fuel and water that are used to produce and transport food.

2/ Get on your bike. In the UK, road transport makes up 26% of greenhouse gas emissions. Half of all road trips are under three miles — a distance most people could comfortably cycle in 20 minutes with zero damage to the environment.

And it is not just good for the planet. If cycling was as popular in the UK as it is in Denmark, the NHS would save billions and there would be 500 fewer road deaths every year. Next time you are offered a ride in a car, why not hop on a bike instead?

3/ Rein in your shopping habit. The rise of cheap, throwaway clothing is an environmental disaster. Microfibers from synthetic fabrics clog the oceans, and chemicals leak from factories into rivers. Overall, the fashion industry produces as much greenhouse gas as the whole of Russia.

Buying clothes made from natural materials is helpful but expensive. Rather than tossing old clothes in the bin, donate them to your local charity shop so they do not end up in a landfill, or learn basic sewing skills to repair items, extending their lifespan.

4/ Spread the word! Whether it is signing a petition or sharing an article about global warming, there are lots of ways you can show you care and extend your impact by changing minds along the way.

If you want to get involved practically, volunteer with a pro-environment group. See if your school has an eco-committee, or set one up with your friends if not.

But how much difference can one person make?

Reduce, reuse, recycle

It’s a losing battle, say some. Scientists have been telling us about the terrifying impact of climate change for years now and it hasn’t made a difference. There’s no reason to believe the majority of people will suddenly change. Faced with this apathy, one individual will have no effect at all. You might as well enjoy that burger.

Don’t be so pessimistic, respond others. Yes, the actions of one person may seem vanishingly small, but if everyone saw that as a reason to give up then there wouldn’t be much good in the world at all. Besides, your actions might get your friends, family and classmates thinking about their own choices. Never underestimate your impact!

You Decide

  1. Can one person make a difference?
  2. Do you feel betrayed by older generations over climate change? Why/why not?

Activities

  1. Can you think of any other ways you could help the environment in your own life? Make a list of three more and discuss your answers as a class. See how many different ways you can come up with.
  2. Choose one source of sustainable energy from wind energy, solar energy, hydro-electricity and wave power. Research how the method creates power, how commonly it is used in the world today, and what industries use it. Produce a leaflet for your class on your chosen source.

Some People Say...

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”

President John F. Kennedy

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The temperature of the Earth is rising almost twice as fast now as it was 50 years ago, and the only way scientists can explain this acceleration is through greenhouse gases emitted by humans. There is some good news. Emissions from generating electricity in the UK have fallen by 55% since 2012 thanks to coal power stations being phased out. Transport produces the most emissions in the UK.
What do we not know?
Whether we will do enough to slow climate change, and what exactly will happen if we do not. In June, a report concluded that in the future young people will have to pay far more to combat climate change than previous generations, as many politicians are currently dodging the issue.

Word Watch

Greenhouse gases
Gases that contribute to the “greenhouse effect” by trapping the sun’s warmth in the Earth’s lower atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas by far, followed by methane and nitrous oxide.
Agriculture
Farming animals for food, including the use of land to grow crops.
Mass extinction
At least 11% of the world’s surface is taken up by agriculture. A recent study by an Israeli university found that humanity has destroyed 83% of all wild animals on Earth.
Microfibers
Tiny pieces of plastic that come from synthetic fabrics like polyester. Microfibres break off items of clothing in washing machines and end up polluting oceans and rivers. Plastic fibres are now found in tap and bottled water around the world.
Apathy
Showing a lack of interest of concern.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.