Environmental issues often feel too massive for a single person to make any sort of difference — and that's partially true. It will take a lot more than recycling. Still, there are plenty of small, realistic things you can change in your own life to do your part while the rest of the world catches up.
Photo via Beth Scupham.
Problems like pollution and climate change are a constant threat for our planet, but you don't have to feel so hopeless if you don't want to. Research from Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute points to many ways we can be effective on an individual level.
The biggest thing, according to Sivak and Schoettle, is getting everyone to drive fuel-efficient vehicles. Over at the New York Times, the researchers explain that having every American household drive a vehicle that gets at least 13km/L would reduce US emissions by a whopping 10 per cent. Heck, even getting a vehicle that averages 9.2km/L, as opposed to the current average of 9km/L, would be a much bigger help than you realise. Of course, as nice as that would be, most of us don't have several thousand dollars lying around for a car upgrade.
On a more realistic level, though, there's lots of other things you can change in your routine to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And it doesn't cost you much trouble at all. For example, you can reduce the overall distance you drive by a measly 1.2 per cent (or about 21km a month less for the average driver), keep your tyres inflated to the recommended air pressure and buy tyres with better rolling resistance, drive over 110km/h 25 per cent less of the time, make fewer hard starts and stops while driving to conserve fuel, and fly 10 per cent less. On the home front, you can turn down your thermostat by three degrees for eight hours a day during the winter, and replace just one of every five incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. And when it comes to food, eat just 200 fewer kilojoules a day, reduce meat consumption by 500g a month, and discard 13 per cent less wasted food.
These changes are not that big and are unlikely to upend your lifestyle in any way, but collectively they make a world of difference. Everyone has to get on board for it to work, but that kind of change begins with people willing to start. Can you save the world all by yourself? No, of course not. But you can set an example and do your part to lead others in the right direction. And if you do happen to be in the market for a new car, consider one with amazing fuel efficiency.