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How 3 experts want us to start changing the way we live

What climate experts say we can do right now

By Jenny Ringland

There is a sea of information out there about all the ways we as individuals can create solutions to the climate crisis, from reducing our food waste to walking rather than driving, less flying, more local holidays, and switching our energy and super providers. The truth is truly transformative action requires a multi-faceted approach, not just from us, the everyday person, but from national and state governments, financial institutions, NGO’s charity organisations, global brands and startups, all with the power to facilitate the scale of movement required to regenerate our planet.

But that doesn’t mean individual change (and action) won’t help, because it does, on many levels. From the small action of remembering our keepcup, which on an individual carbon emissions level, isn’t going to save the world, but at a community level has a ripple effect in the community, so that the woman behind you in the line might remember her reuseable cup next time, your barista might be inspired to encourage more customers to do the same, or they might even go so far as to start a mug library, and so on. To the one-time action of switching super, or who we bank with. There are many small changes to make that are not only worth doing, but will contribute to the ripple effect that will bring about the change we need.

So when it all becomes too much, rather than give up, we want to shine a light on some of the easiest, yet most powerful ways we as individuals can make change, according to the experts.

The power of social change

Dr Kimberly Nicholas, Associate Professor of Sustainability Science, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies is keen to point out those who are in the top 1 per cent of earners in the world, on average create climate pollution 30 times above the sustainable limit for 2030.

“The majority of this climate pollution is created through frequent and long-distance travel by plane and car, followed by home energy use,’’ she says.

Dr Nicholas suggests a common misconception is thinking that only top-down system change matters, “when change is really more like a circle than a waterfall”.

“Social influence increases with status, but we all influence those around us through our words and, especially, our actions. We can use this influence with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues to promote climate-friendly aspirations and norms in our networks and communities,’’ she says.

“One simple way to wield this influence is through shifting social media posts away from celebrating conspicuous consumption of tropical holidays and fat steaks, and towards simpler pleasures of time with family and friends and in nature closer to home.”

More plants, less meat 

According to Dr Diana Bogueva, Centre Manager at the Centre for Advanced Food Engineering at The University of Sydney, the top three ways an individual can make change immediately are to  adopt a more environmentally friendly diet, reduce personal waste including food waste and walk more. 

“Our food choices are a major contributor to the current environmental emergency, so if we really want to make significant changes today that can lessen our emissions impact, we need to switch to a more plant-based diet,’’ she says.

“This could help not only dealing with the detrimental impact caused by increased meat consumption globally leading to huge biodiversity loss, land clearing, and causing both obesity in the developed world and malnutrition in the developing world but will contribute to betterment of the environment and human health.”

Dr Bogueva’s view is that waste by all means is of anthropogenic nature. 

“From unwanted and not used, cultivated, or built on, to useless consumption,’’ she says.

“The more we reduce the better for the environment and ourselves we will live.”

Reducing carbon emissions 

Joanna Auburn, CPO & Co-founder of carbon footprint measurement tech company Trace has a controversial change that tops her list, it’s having less children.

“One of the most impactful things is quite controversial. It’s having one child less,’’ she says.

“Apart from the emissions that bringing a child into the world brings. It also adds a multiple for the parent. It is estimated that a child uses about 58 tonnes of CO2 per year, which compares to an an adult in Aus using approximately 17 tonnes.’’

Joanna says the one-off actions that should be considered even before remembering your keep cup each day are switching your super to an ethical and sustainable fund, switching banks and also energy providers.

“These are one-off actions where you get a really bang for your buck in terms of reducing your personal emissions.’’


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