Your actions alone can’t save the planet—but these habits can help

Each of us can help lighten our ecological load—in our homes, our neighbourhoods, and the wider world.

By Patricia Edmonds
Published 31 Mar 2020, 16:02 BST, Updated 29 Oct 2021, 13:54 BST
This story is part of the optimistic argument for the future of the planet in our special April issue on Earth Day.

When Earth’s woes come in large numbers—10,000 microplastic particles per litre of Arctic sea ice, 30,000 species at risk of extinction—we may doubt the power of this small number: one. As in, one person, ready to help.

It’s true that individual acts alone can’t cure what ails the planet. But each one of us can find ways to contribute to the solutions—in our homes, our neighbourhoods, and the wider world.

In the home

Become an eco-friendly pet owner: Be careful how you use flea and tick products containing pesticides. Avoid cat litter made of materials obtained by strip-mining.

Minimise food waste: Use a digital meal planner to calculate ingredients and portions so virtually everything you buy and cook gets eaten. Learn how to store foods to prolong their usability.

Keep food scraps and waste out of landfills by composting.

Be sure to properly insulate your home and replace old, drafty windows with energy-efficient ones.

At the shop

Green your coffee habit. Get a reusable filter pod for your single-use coffee machine—and fill it with certified “bird friendly” coffee grown in a habitat that also nurtures birds.

Be choosy when buying home tissues. Know which products are made of virgin wood pulp, which contribute to destruction of forests. Instead of buying paper towels and paper napkins, use cloth towels, napkins, and rags when possible.

Consider dropping meat from a few meals, or completely.

In the neighbourhood

Help keep your community’s vegetation healthy by organising tree-planting projects or pruning and weeding outings to eliminate invasive plants.

Plant pollinator gardens.

With help from local water and conservation officials, arrange a cleanup of a canal or other waterway in your community.

As a citizen

Know the requirements for submitting written comment when councils are seeking public input on an action or rule under consideration.

Share your home-composting experience: Hold workshops in the neighbourhood to encourage and teach others.

Source: Natural Resources Defence Council
This story appears in the April 2020 issue of National Geographic magazine – on sale 8 April.

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