As it’s our only home and the source of everything we need to survive and thrive, sustaining the health of our planet should be high on our priority list – and the brief respite the environment experienced during COVID lockdowns really highlighted this. While the Australian government has implemented many environmental policies and initiatives, and New Zealand has ambitious goals to address environmental challenges, both face controversies and challenges around whether more needs to be done. We can’t rely solely on governments; creating a healthier planet will take a collective effort. If we can start making daily decisions that help the earth rather than hurt it, we’ll be closer to a sustainable future. Here’s why it’s so important to start making changes and how to get started:
- To protect biodiversity – our environment is an intricate web of life that sustains our planet. Every animal, plant and bug play a critical role in maintaining the delicate balance of our ecosystems. Protecting our environment means safeguarding the biodiversity essential to a healthy, functioning planet. Even Australia’s unique biodiversity is threatened by habitat loss, and while there are recovery plans put in place by the government, many say it’s still not enough.
- To slow climate change – rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and food scarcity are all becoming very real threats. We need to make climate-positive changes to our behaviour, and now.
- To prevent health problems – with environmental degradation comes health risks like respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Protecting our environment is crucial for a healthier population going forward.
How can you contribute to positive change?
Even small changes can make a significant impact on the environment. Here are 8 easy initiatives you can implement today:
1. Eat whole foods.
Food has a massive impact on our environment. As much as 25% of greenhouse gas emissions come from large-scale food production. More people adopting sustainable eating habits will significantly reduce our environmental footprint. Small changes like buying from local farmers markets and eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains is an easy place to start. And cutting back on red meats and processed foods is much healthier too. If you want to go a step further, grow your own fruits and vegetables or if space permits, welcome some feathered friends to your backyard. With an abundant garden or a hen house, you can take control of your food production, and even save money!
2. Plant new life.
Most countries are still failing to meet carbon reduction targets, but there is a simple solution – planting more trees. Trees are natural carbon sinks capable of absorbing carbon from the air. Even a young sapling can absorb five kilograms of CO2 annually, and that’s just the beginning. As a tree matures, its carbon absorption capabilities increase, reaching its peak when it’s around ten years. Trees also filter out harmful pollutants from the air, such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and small particles, making the air cleaner for us all.
3. Reduce your waste
Reducing waste is one of the most effective ways to care for our environment. It starts with simple everyday actions like remembering those reusable bags or bringing your own containers to the deli so you can ditch the single-use packaging. If that’s unrealistic, choose single-use products made of sustainable materials like bamboo or recycled plastic. Recycling everything from paper to glass and plastic is also a positive step; if they wind up in a landfill, they can take hundreds of years to decompose. Finally, don’t forget to compost. All you have to do is put your food scraps, green waste and other organic materials into a compost bin, and you’ll create nutrient-rich soil for gardening – while also reducing waste.
4. Save water.
Start by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, and fixing any leaky taps – an all-day drip can waste up to 260 litres of water per year!
If you’re considering a new landscaping project, choose drought-resistant plants that won’t need frequent watering. That way, you’ll have a beautiful garden that saves you on water bills, helps the environment and doesn’t require daily attention.
5. Give harsh chemicals the flick.
The most effortless daily change you can make is switching to environmentally friendly cleaning products. Most traditional brands use harmful chemicals that can pollute the environment and aren’t great for your health. Look for alternatives made from sustainable materials and biodegradable formulas or make your own from vinegar and baking soda!
6. Save energy.
When you’re upgrading appliances and electronics, go for energy-efficient products that will lower your energy consumption and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And if it’s available to you, consider the switch to renewable energy or installing solar panels on your home. Your initial investment will pay off long-term with much lower power bills and a healthier planet.
Another simple saver is to turn off all the lights when you leave a room, unplug electronics when not in use and seal any air leaks in your home to minimise heating and cooling needs.
7. Support environmental initiatives.
When we work together, we can make real change. Donate to environmental organisations and support political candidates prioritising these issues. Spread awareness for environmental issues using social media, educating others and inspiring them to take action. And if you want to really make a difference, sign up for local environmental groups like Clean Up Australia, Save the Planet or the Aotearoa Sustainability Group.
8. Cut down on petrol use.
We’re not saying you need to stay at home, but it wouldn’t hurt to use more sustainable transportation when you can. Walking or cycling to work is not only fun but also great for the planet and your long-term health. And opting for public transport over driving will save you money on petrol while reducing your carbon emissions.
It takes a collective to make real change.
It’s no exaggeration that our choices today will shape the world we pass on to our children. If we can adopt a more sustainable approach to our everyday lives, we’ll be making a meaningful impact towards the future of our beloved planet. Whether it’s reducing our carbon footprint, using eco-friendly products, or supporting conservation efforts, let’s create a legacy that future generation can enjoy.