If 2021 was the wake up call, then 2022 is the year of taking the urgent action needed to combat climate change. The past year has been rife with alarming extreme weather events and rapidly changing weather patterns that have brought urgent action to tackle climate change to the top of the world's agenda.

Last year the world experienced devastating events from extreme floods in Eastern Europe to unrelenting wildfires in North America and everything in between.

While Germany and Belgium experienced devastating floods, other countries such as Colombia, Kenya, and Turkey were hit with catastrophic droughts. California in the United States witnessed two forest fires in July and August that burned over 2 million acres of land and killed at least three people. Russia and Greece were also hit by terrifying wildfires, with the latter experiencing its worst wildfires since 2007, linked directly to global warming.

The list of climate-related devastation continues, and this year, more action must be taken to tackle the crisis head-on.

While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made it clear that human activity is the cause of this chaotic unraveling of our planet and that we're on a trajectory to devastating consequences, activists and campaigners everywhere continue to be frustrated by the lack of action from world leaders and corporations — which have the most power to drive the systemic change necessary. 

But we can all do our part, making changes in our everyday lifestyles to cut our own carbon footprints, as well as using our collective power as consumers and Global Citizens to urge world and business leaders to take climate change seriously and prioritize the protection of the planet over profits. 

So to help you make tackling climate change your top priority in 2022, here are nine important ways you can help defend the planet this year — and you can start right now!

1. Commit to Using Less Plastic

Single-use plastic and plastic consumption is seriously damaging to the planet. The excessive use of plastic causes contamination as toxin pollutants are released into the environment. This pollution harms plants, animals, and humans alike and is aggravated by the fact that plastic is not biodegradable so this effect is long-lasting.

There are loads of ways you can cut back on plastic day-to-day, from switching to reusable produce bags, to using a reusable coffee cup, to doing your shopping at a plastic-free store if there's one close to you. You can find more ideas to help you cut plastic out of your life here, and if you're needing some inspiration, here are some great plastic-free activists you can follow on social media.

To help you get started and stay on track, download the Global Citizen app and join our challenge to go plastic-free for a week. 

2. Support Sustainable Fashion

The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to pollution, accounting for 20% of global industrial water pollution, as well as being a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions — according to the World Economic Forum, the fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity's carbon emissions, as well as being the second-largest consumer of the world's water supply.

Sustainable fashion, meanwhile, is clothing that is made from environmentally-friendly materials, doesn't harm anyone in the process of making the clothes, and uses natural resources responsibly. Supporting sustainable fashion can seem like the more costly option, but the environmental cost of fast fashion is vast — and there are lots of affordable ways to support sustainable fashion too. 

You can try, for example, organizing a clothes swap with stylish friends and family to refresh your wardrobes without buying anything new, or going thrift shopping for a dope fit, or trying out online market places like Depop. If you want more tips on how Global Citizens everywhere can fight fast fashion at home, head here.

3. Pledge to Live a Zero Food Waste Lifestyle

It's estimated that one-third of all food produced for human consumption globally goes to waste, a shocking statistic that helps drive home how broken our global food system really is. It's also really bad for the environment, because when food rots it produces the greenhouse gas methane

You can help take action by pledging to live a zero food waste lifestyle in 2022, or at least switch to making zero waste choices, like planning your meals in advance, consciously using up food that's soon to expire, composting biodegradable food, and using vegetable scraps for stock. You’ll not only be reducing landfill waste, but you will also be conserving all the water and energy to it takes to grow, transport, and package the food items.

Global Citizen editor Khanyi Mlaba pledged to being zero-waste in the kitchen for a full week, and you can read more about her experience and what she learned here. You can also find more of our top tips to cut out food waste here.

4. Find Ways to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint

The average carbon footprint for a person globally is about 4 tons, according to Nature.org. But there's massive global imbalance, with the average carbon footprint of a person in the US being 16 tons, one of the highest in the world. 

This is an area we can all take serious steps to help fight climate change — as well as, of course needing large corporations and world leaders on board — because, to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, the average global carbon footprint needs to drop to below 2 tons by 2050

This is a definite undertaking, and actions you can take range from very small to very big, and include almost everything about our lifestyles — from our homes, to the transport we use, to how we go on holiday. But a great first step is finding out what your carbon footprint is currently. There are a lot of good "carbon calculator" websites that will help you do this, as well as helping you identify what actions you can take to cut yours — including things like, making your choices as a consumer more sustainable; adopting a plant-based lifestyle; changing the lightbulbs in your home to more environmentally-friendly options, and loads more. 

Do some reseach online to find out which carbon calculator platform works best for you, but some options you can check out include the UN's own calculator, the WWF Footprint CalculatorGikiZero, and Klima. If you’re looking for more ideas and inspiration, Global Citizen writer Helen Lock went on a month-long journey to start decreasing her carbon footprint, which you can read more about here; and you can find our easy steps to start cutting your carbon footprint here.

5. Make an Event Out of Planting Trees

A fully-grown tree absorbs 48 pounds (21.8 kgs) of carbon dioxide per year and studies have proven that up to 88% of nitrate and phosphorus is reduced from agricultural runoff – this is the water that's drained away from the surface of the land that's produced during farming. Trees are also a great way to prevent flooding as they filter and regulate the flow of water from rainfall.

Whether it’s putting "plant a tree" on your bucket list for 2022, or planting trees for your birthday celebration, make an event out of it. Get your friends and family involved, it will be fun, normalizing planting trees as part of our human activity is a great way to combat climate change. You could even celebrate an achievement like your social media following just like YouTube star, Mr. Beast. He started a campaign called #TeamTrees to celebrate 20 million subscribers.

Before you do though, make sure you research which trees can be planted in what area, so that you’re making the most of the occasion, and that your tree-planting doesn't do more harm than good. You can read more about why tree planting, protection, and conservation are so important in tackling climate change here; and other ideas for how you can help protect plantlife here

6. Avoid Greenwashing & Companies That Aren't Exercising Sustainable Practices

UN Global Goal 12 — one of 17 goals that work together to end extreme poverty and its systemic causes — calls for responsible consumption and production. The easiest way to guarantee this is to support and consume from companies that practice sustainable production. The other way to do this is by refusing to associate yourself with organizations that do not produce responsibly, as well as those that hide their actions by greenwashing.

Greenwashing is a misleading way of advertising that leads consumers and audiences to believe that a company is more environmentally-friendly than it actually is. Educate yourself on this issue further and discover how you can recognize greenwashing. If we join forces as a global community to hold our standards to good practices we can ensure that we are making a positive impact.

7. Adopt a More Plant-Based Diet

Going plant-based is a trend that has really picked up over the last few years, and one of the simplest ways you can help tackle climate change this year is by adopting a more plant-based diet, or making plant-based choices. Not only is this a healthier alternative for your body, but research shows that a global shift to a more plant-based diet could reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases by 70% by 2050.

Meat and dairy products generally demand more resources and higher emissions than plant-based choices. Want to try going plant-based but unsure where to start? Here are some delicious vegan recipes you can try out right now to get you started, and you can also get inspired by downloading the Global Citizen app and taking our challenges to go vegetarian and/or vegan for a week! 

8. Collaboration is the Key Toward a Greener World

While you can play your part individually by following these tips, the milestones that we can achieve if we join forces to combat climate change are amazing. Donating, volunteering or working with organizations like Global Citizen, WWFGreenpeace, or other grassroots organizations in your local community can ensure that we have a greater impact and a better chance at tackling climate change, the changing weather patterns, and saving the planet from further damage.

Most importantly, we need to call on governments and world leaders to implement structural changes to tackle the climate crisis and defend the planet. You can do that right now by taking action with us here. Great transformation can only take place if our leaders acknowledge the need to address this issue and take action immediately.

Global Citizen Life

Defend the Planet

8 Ways to Make Tackling Climate Change Your Top Priority in 2022

By Tshiamo Mobe