With floods, heat waves, fires, and other effects of climate change affecting millions of people around the world in 2021, there has never been a better time for each of us to do our part to protect nature and wildlife in our neighbourhoods and communities.
While there are various scientific breakthroughs designed to limit the impact of climate change (such as mechanically removing carbon dioxide from the air), the Earth’s ecosystems already have the incredible ability to heal from the extensive harm humanity has inflicted on them and stabilize the global climate — but human help is required in the form of stopping environmentally destructive activities and taking actions to help nature regenerate.
These concepts of empowering nature to fight against climate change are known as “nature-based solutions” and they've gained a lot of momentum in recent years.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “we all need to implement lifestyle changes” and “support nature-based solutions, like reforestation” if the world is to curb rising temperatures and reduce extreme weather events by 2030.
In other words, it is not just companies and nations that need to pay more attention to the environment and the impact of climate change (although they do have a huge role to play, as you can learn more about in our coverage of the COP26 climate conference) — every citizen of every country in the world has a part to play.
But it can be hard to know how to get started, so we’ve put together a (non-exhaustive) list of things you can do right now to give nature and wildlife in your neighbourhood a helping hand.
1. Reduce Your Waste
As the saying goes, “little drops make the mighty ocean.” While it is easy to think waste reduction is a problem for big companies and industries (and they definitely have a big role to play), we can also all do our bit by actively working to reduce waste in our personal and daily lives.
Every year, more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans and experts estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic waste than fish. Daily use items such as plastic bags, disposable cups, straws, and plastic bottles all contribute to this problem.
Experts estimate that about 60% of the more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic that has been produced since the early 1950s have either ended up in landfills or the natural environment.
A great place to start is to use plastic waste calculators like this to identify how much waste you are responsible for and take steps to cut down on it — in the UK alone, 7 million disposable coffee cups are used every day. Every little bit counts in protecting nature and our environment.
2. Reuse Plastic Items as Much as Possible
One great way to start cutting down your plastic waste is to use cotton bags for shopping and errands — this way you rely less on plastic bags. You can also get creative and reuse or repurpose plastic items you already have.
You can also choose a reusable glass or plastic water bottle as well as taking your lunch in a tupperware-like container.
For context, the average American throws away approximately 84kg of plastic a year and when you multiply that by the US population, that is a lot of plastic! Reusing plastic items helps cut back on plastic waste and ultimately helps protect and keep our neighbourhoods clean.
3. Recycle Wherever You Can
Many things we use in our daily lives are often recyclable, if you pay attention. From plastic to paper and aluminum containers, you can find out about recycling options in your neighbourhood and commit to recycling as much as you can.
When we recycle we help prevent pollution by cutting down the need to source raw materials for new products and reduce the impact on nature’s biodiversity systems.
4. Plant a Tree or Anything That Grows
Trees help combat climate change by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They also beautify our neighbourhoods, prevent soil erosion, and, alongside other plants, absorb roughly half of manmade carbon emissions.
Globally, rainforests are disappearing at a rate of some 13 million hectares per year, according to the European Commission, even though they only cover 6% of the earth’s surface. By planting trees and other plants, you could be helping nature recover from this rapid and devastating loss. You can learn more here about the movement to plant, restore, and grow a trillion trees by 2030.
You could also be creating a cleaner, more enjoyable environment for yourself and your loved ones when you commit to having plants around your house, garden, and neighbourhood.
5. Talk About How You're Protecting the Environment
One of the best ways to encourage other people to care more about the environment and take action to reduce their contributions to climate change is by talking about it.
Within your social groups and on your social media, talking about the things you are doing to protect nature in your neighbourhood helps to educate other people about climate change.
That said, remember to keep things civil and respectful at all times.
6. Volunteer Your Time
While activists, organisations, and individuals across the world are working hard to secure the future of our planet, there is still a lot more to do. Reducing the effect of climate change is a truly herculean effort that needs all the support it can get.
You can start trash collection drives in your neighbourhood, a gardening club, a plant parent group, and so many other cool activities to help protect nature.
You can also volunteer to do some work for environment-focused nonprofit organizations and activists in any way you can — it can be a skill, or just your time. Trust us, they need as much support from as many people as possible. You can also engage your local leaders in your spare time to encourage them to start taking climate action seriously.
You can even get started right now by taking action here with Global Citizen to support our campaign to defend the planet, and call on world leaders currently gathered at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, UK, to take climate change seriously and make the urgent action required to tackle it.
According to the World Bank, the world needs to invest about $90 trillion in climate change initiatives and infrastructure by 2030 if we are to ensure global temperatures don’t exceed 1.5°C.
While funding as significant as this needs to be driven by world leaders, you can also donate if you can to your local nature conservatory or nonprofit organizations working to protect the planet. Nothing is too small because these organizations and activists need all the help and support they can get for the incredibly important work they are doing.
You can also donate things like gardening supplies, or even just household items and clothes that you are no longer using so they don’t end up on the waste pile. Doing this can both be beneficial to the environment and also support the most vulnerable in our communities.