Ask an Activist: What Can I Do to Help Fight Climate Change?

Author: Leah Rodriguez

Courtesy of NRDC

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Governments, individuals, and the private sector all have a role to protect the planet. Global Goal 13 aims to combat climate change and its impacts by 2030. You can join us and take action on this issue here.

The effects of climate change, from warming temperatures to more natural disasters, may be daunting — but joining the fight to help stop them doesn’t have to be.

We’re asking Global Citizens via our Facebook group what questions they want answered about some of the world's greatest challenges, and many of you asked questions about how to reduce waste and make more sustainable choices daily. 

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) has more than 3 million members and activists who are working to "safeguard the Earth." Sasha Stashwick is the organization’s climate and clean energy program senior advocate. Stashwick believes people individually and collectively have the power to stop one of the biggest threats to the planet. 

The world can apply several lessons from the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which is impacting millions of people worldwide, to fight climate change, she said.

"It's a stark reminder that we ignore science at our own peril," Stashwick told Global Citizen. 

"Whether it's COVID-19, lead in drinking water, or the growing damage that's inflicted on communities by climate change, we're seeing that our leaders have to listen to what scientists are telling us about these problems and how to solve them," she added. "An attack on science is an attack on our health, on our communities, on our children's future."

Similarly to climate change, COVID-19 is hitting people of color the hardest because they are more likely to live on the frontlines of pollution, according to Stashwick.

"We need government leaders who put people first and we need ways to keep those leaders accountable," she said.

The single most important thing individuals can do to stop climate change is vote to support candidates and policies that protect the planet, according to Stashwick.

"There's lots of ways that people can take action, individually, those are all really powerful," she said. "But we also need people to take collective action in terms of supporting candidates that actually follow the science and put in place the solutions that the experts in science recommend."

People can implement small lifestyle changes while staying at home to help flatten the COVID19 curve

Food production and climate change are inextricably linked, and Stashwick advises everyone to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables to reduce their carbon footprint

"If every American cut just one hamburger a week — which is about a quarter-pound of beef — out of their diet, we could reduce emissions as much as by taking about 10 million cars off the road for a year," she said.

Stashwick also recommends making a conscious effort to waste less food. Making a grocery list, learning how to store food properly to extend shelf life, and not relying on best by dates to determine when to dispose of food, can all help. 

An estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally each year, which also wastes land use and fuel, and emits greenhouse gases responsible for heatwaves, water shortages, and floodings.

"Every bit of food that you can avoid tossing out is something that helps to reduce those climate emissions," Stashwick said.

When food scraps like banana peels and coffee grinds are disposed of in the trash they end up in landfills and release methane. Composting is another way to reduce food waste and turn food scraps into nutrient-rich soil and can be done in a backyard or indoors.

The decisions consumers make also contribute to climate change. NRDC advises skipping overnight shipping while online shopping to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. To prioritize speed over efficiency, shippers often forgo the lowest carbon, lowest fuel delivery option, and dispatch half-empty vehicles to fulfill shipments, Stashwick explained.

Using less energy at home goes a long way too, she said. Letting the daylight come in, configuring devices to low power mode when they’re idle, and replacing old light bulbs with LED lights can all make a big difference.

"If every US household replaced just one old bulb with an LED, we'd avoid roughly 2 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution over 10 years, and that's the equivalent of burning 2.2 billion pounds of coal," Stashwick said.

For people who can afford it, switching to renewable energy at home, which costs a bit extra, is another great option.

"It's also critical to vote for — and support and hold accountable — the policymakers that are advocating for the deployment of more energy solutions," Stashwick said.

Anyone interested in getting more involved and staying informed on environmental issues can join the NRDC’s All In online platform. The organization uses the tool to help US-based activists host events, phone banks, and fundraisers in their communities.

"People are seeing that climate change is here, and it's now, and it's about their own community, their own lives, and the lives of their children," Stashwick said. "The more people see that climate change really affects every aspect of life and it's about people and community, they are seeking ways to take action."