So much is at stake in our fight against climate change that it can feel overwhelming. Coming to grips with the complex causes and global impacts of the environmental crisis is hard enough - but we also face the monumental task of stopping it.
The enormity of the problem has caused ‘climate anxiety’ to go mainstream. This refers to an intense worry about the unfolding crisis, and the consequences it will have on our precious natural world as well as human lives and livelihoods around the world.
Adding to this feeling of doom is a widespread belief that our choices are insignificant, and we can’t make a meaningful difference in the fight against climate change. Luckily, while the idea that we don’t have power can lead to anxiety and apathy, it simply isn’t true.
On the one hand, yes, there are huge drivers of the climate crisis that are out of our control - we aren’t world leaders or the heads of fossil fuel industries, and can’t stop polluting companies emitting carbon and degrading the environment.
However, particularly for those of us who live in high income countries, global emissions largely stem from our own daily actions and consumption habits. The problems start with us - and so do the solutions. As individuals, we can make small changes in our lives that will make a real, tangible difference to the climate crisis.
Everyone thinks they’re only one person, and their choices won’t make a difference. But what about the actions of millions - or billions - of people? Imagine what would be possible at that scale! Your carbon footprint is the sum total of the greenhouse gases your actions have caused to be released into the atmosphere.
To avoid a temperature rise of two degrees or worse - which would have devastating impacts on our planet - scientists say that the average global carbon footprint should be around two tonnes by 2050. In the UK, the current average is ten tonnes.
Calculating your carbon footprint - and you can do so through our app - gives you an insight into what elements of your daily lifestyle are generating the most greenhouse gas emissions, and where you can make the most impactful changes.
Your carbon footprint will show how much carbon emissions you are responsible for across the following areas:
In your everyday life, how do you normally get from A to B?
Transport emissions stem from the fuel from your personal vehicles as well as public transport like trains and buses. Driving is the most polluting option, so how often you do so will contribute significantly to your carbon footprint.
All of our food comes with emissions attached, stemming from how it was produced, how it was packaged, and how it travelled. The kinds of food you buy regularly, how often you eat at restaurants, and if you tend to shop from local suppliers or supermarket chains, or restaurants will all impact your personal carbon footprint.
Flying halfway across the world for a holiday? Travelling by plane gives off huge amounts of CO2 - even a short trip from London to Rome emits as much as citizens of 17 countries do in a year.
Unless you live like a caveman, or your home runs on 100% renewables, daily tasks like cooking, washing clothes, and working on a laptop all use energy from fossil fuels, which add up to form a sizable carbon footprint.
Shopping also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, since our smartphones, gadgets, and new clothes don’t grow on trees - they’re made in factories through processes that are generally highly carbon emitting and environmentally harmful. People often buy far more than they need, which pads out our unhealthy carbon footprints.
The things we do online - posting on social media, sending messages, streaming videos - all carry a carbon footprint. Millions of physical servers are needed to keep the internet up and running, consuming a mammoth amount of energy.
Every day, we all make unsustainable choices of some kind. But luckily there are many solutions and ways we can drive down our carbon footprints. In a future article, we’ll show you exactly how you can change your lifestyle to make a tangible impact towards stopping climate change.
Beyond cutting your personal carbon footprint, there are many other ways you can get involved in the fight against climate change. Here are some ideas:
Once you’ve taken steps to live more sustainably, you can make an even bigger impact by telling others about the changes you’ve made. Talk to people around you or post on social media about the actions you’re taking to protect the environment, and why.
Don’t attack people for not being as eco-friendly as you, but simply share your motivations and answer any questions people have. Imagine if you inspire three people, and those people go on to inspire three more people each, and it causes a ripple effect - we might stop climate change much faster.
Around the world, people are consistently stepping up to demand their governments, workplaces, or even their local football clubs take action on the climate crisis. The more people that join protests against environmental destruction, the more power we have and the more likely we are to see change.
And if you want to see your community become greener, why not join or start a local group to campaign on an issue, such as better cycle lanes or recycling facilities.
Forests are essential for life - they provide food, shelter, and medicine, as well as storing carbon, making them a critical tool in our arsenal for fighting climate change. By protecting these natural carbon sinks, we can cool the planet down by speeding the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Tribaldata’s research found that everyone in Britain could offset their average annual carbon footprint by planting 650 trees. But it’s unlikely we’ll have the space to plant these ourselves in our back gardens. As well as helping you to learn more about living sustainably, our app means you can earn points and use them to plant trees around the world.
So there you have it - we can fight climate change by keeping track of our personal carbon footprints and taking steps to protect the environment both globally and in our local communities.
As individuals, we might act alone but we aren’t powerless - each of us will play a vital role in stopping the worst impacts of the climate crisis. The next time someone tells you that one person can’t make a difference, come back to this article to remember all the ways we can.