In my view, climate change is the issue of our time. It underpins all other issues—from political instability to financial distress.
In 2018, hurricanes, floods, fires and droughts wreaked destruction on the planet. Global greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high. And, it’s only a taste of what is to come. We have until 2040 to avoid catastrophic climate change, according to multiple scientific reports.
A lot of change for the worse is already locked into place. But, we have some choice in how screwed we are. Just think how crazy it is that we happen to be alive at the time of humanity where we can save the Earth!
For starters, head to the polls and demand more of your officials. Personal decisions alone won’t stop global warming. That’ll take policy changes by governments on a worldwide scale. Hundreds of scientists compiled research and figured out exactly how we can mitigate, and even reverse, global warming by using only methods currently in use with proven results: refrigeration, wind turbines, reduced food waste, plant rich diet, preserving tropical forests, to name the top five.
Officials will derive their courage from the conduct of citizens. Whether you choose to brave NYC summers without an AC or choose the environment over convenience in everyday ways, here’s how I’ve started to clean up my act between elections.
Start by considering and questioning your consumption habits. Take a look at your pantry, closet and trash and estimate your carbon footprint.
A plastic bag is used for ~12 minutes on average before being discarded. It’ll last another 1,000 years leaching toxins as it slowly decomposes.
No container or BYO
Reusable glass or metal container
Recyclable glass, metal or paper container
Recyclable #1, #2, #4, #5 or clean, rigid plastic container
Recyclable yet less safe #3, #6 or #7 plastic container
Non-recyclable containers made of more than one material, like snack bags, or dyed black
Styrofoam containers that can’t be recycled and will leach toxins as it deteriorates
Expand the life cycle of products you already have, like a glass jar. Repair worn or broken items. Donate items outgrown.
Only 9% of the world’s plastic has ever been recycled. In the US, about 25% of items recycled are considered “contaminated” and sent to the landfill—that’s double the rate a decade ago.
The rise of single-stream recycling, which takes the responsibility of sorting off the individual, has paved the way for “aspirational recycling.” Worst case a non-recyclable item will contaminate an entire bale of recyclables. Best case it’ll get picked out at the sorting facility and landfilled. Instead, send clean, recyclable products, check out Terracycle for hard-to-recycle materials and, when in doubt, throw it out. Common contaminants include:
Bubble wrap mailers
Frozen food boxes
Batteries and electronics
About ⅓ of what is buried in landfills could have been composted. When food waste is trapped in a huge pile of garbage deprived of oxygen, it releases methane—a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Store food scraps in the freezer in between compost drop offs. It’ll stave off any odor and aids cell breakdown. But, do not compost pet waste in NYC.