The United Nations suggests that climate change is not just the defining issue of our time, but we are also at a defining moment in history. Weather patterns are changing and will threaten food production, and sea levels are rising and could cause catastrophic flooding across the globe. Countries must make drastic actions to avoid a future with irreversible damage to major ecosystems and planetary climate.
But what about individuals? What can we do to pitch in and help save the Earth? There are plenty of things you can do every day to help reduce greenhouse gases and your carbon footprint to make a less harmful impact on the environment. Taking care of the Earth is not just a responsibility, it's a necessity. In that spirit, HowStuffWorks has come up with 10 things you can do now to help save the planet.
1. Conserve Water
The little things can make a big difference. Every time you turn off the water while you're brushing your teeth, you're doing something good. Got a leaky faucet? You might be dripping as much as 90 gallons (340 liters) of water down the drain every day [source: EPA]. So fix it! It's easy and cheap. And stop drinking bottled water. Switch to filtered tap water. You'll save a ton of cash and help reduce a ton of plastic waste in the process.
2. Be Car-conscious
If you can, stay off the road two days a week or more. You'll reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,590 pounds (721 kilograms) per year [source: EPA]. It's easier than you think. You can combine your errands — hit the school, grocery store and dog daycare in one trip. And talk to your boss about teleworking. It's a boon for you and your company. But being car conscious also means maintaining your car on a regular basis. You can improve your gas mileage by 0.6 percent to 3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure, and be sure to make necessary repairs if your car fails emission [source: EPA].
3. Walk, Bike or Take Public Transit
Walking and biking are obvious ways to reduce greenhouse gases. Plus you'll get some good cardio and burn some calories while you do it. If you live in an area that's not walkable, take advantage of your local mass transit if you can. Or carpool. Even one car off on the road makes a difference.
4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
You can help reduce pollution just by putting that soda can in the recycling bin. It really does make a difference. Paper, too. The average American household dumps 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year, most of it junk mail and packaging [source: University of Southern Indiana]. But you can also take reusable bags to the grocery, and avoid using disposable plates, spoons, glass, cups and napkins. Contact companies that send you junk mail to get off their mailing lists. When you order online, see if you can group your packages together for mailing. Buy products that are made of recycled materials. And don't forget to recycle your own paper. It all makes a difference.
5. Give Composting a Try
In 2018, (the last year figures were available) Americans generated 292.4 million tons (265.3 million metric tons) of trash. Only 25 million tons (23 million metric tons) of that was composted. Some was recycled and some was combusted for energy, but half of it — 146 million tons (132 million metric tons) — ended up in the landfill. Imagine if you could divert more of that to your own compost? It would help reduce the amount of solid waste you produce, and what eventually winds up in your local landfill. Plus, compost makes a great natural fertilizer.