Five ways to reduce your impact without getting up

(Photo by Cate Twining-Ward)

It’s easy to be lazy about climate change. You might feel uneasy about the smallness—2 degrees Celsius—or the largeness—​​​​​​1.8 trillion tons of CO2—of the numbers. Or, perhaps, you are simply distraught by the overwhelming discomfort of considering a global crisis. No matter what, you aren’t alone in thinking that the solutions are out of your hands. However, if you momentarily suspend that disbelief, and consider these five solutions, you may realize that you are in fact wrong in thinking that you can’t easily make a difference.

Technology isn’t perfect. Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly one of our most powerful tools for creating innovative solutions to address the problems we have created. Recently, technology has created a number of user-friendly ways to materialize eco-friendly concepts. By simply choosing to integrate some of these solutions in your own life, you too can help spread solution-orientated social norms, without much physical effort at all. 

Not only do these following solutions help reduce your carbon footprint, but they also promote a culture of convenient climate-friendly behaviors and consciousness among your fellow peers. These solutions help people to visualize their own progress as well, showing us the ways in which we are improving— uplifting our spirits in a time when it’s needed most.

 

1. Ecosia

The first accessible and eco-friendly solution for creating a greener planet is Ecosia: a search engine that magically transforms the revenue from advertisements in your search results into planted trees. Ecosia does this by donating more than 80% of its profits to nonprofit organizations which then carry out reforestation projects. 

The idea of planting trees has understandably been long popular. Not only do trees effectively absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but they also (theoretically) help to alleviate poverty by providing food and income in areas lacking resources. The German company plants its trees through various projects like the Eden Reforestation Project, focusing its work on biodiversity hotspots across 15 different countries. Although there has been some skepticism online about the integrity of their claims, Ecosia aims to be as transparent as possible, and regularly publishes their tree planting payments and financial reports on their website. You can personally track how many trees you’ve ‘planted’ by watching the number steadily increase on the side of your browser. Internet users can quickly download the extension from the Chrome web store to set Ecosia as their default search engine.

As of August 2019, it is estimated that the company has planted over 70,000,000 trees since their launch in 2014, the equivalent of offsetting the carbon emissions from over 6 million flights from New York to Berlin.

 

2. Oroeco

Oroeco is both a website and an app that rewards you for taking action to fight climate change. It works by putting a "carbon value" on daily decisions (what you buy, eat, energy consumption, transportation) which are then used to calculate a user’s personal carbon emissions, as well as their monthly carbon footprint. These calculations are made using data from UC Berkeley’s CoolClimate research group.

Most of us are much more motivated by the immediate actions we can take to combat climate change, the ones that have instant rewards. Using Oroeco, you can have both the satisfaction of taking action and getting rewarded for it. A feature of the app allows you to compete with your Facebook friends as well as earn rewards (though virtual and real-life prizes) for reducing your carbon emissions. Let’s say your footprint for the month of November is especially high, as you took two flights to go visit your family for Thanksgiving break. Through the app, you can directly purchase carbon offsets to make up for your emissions!

Ian Monroe, the founder of Oroeco, points out that climate change is a “collective action problem that we all contribute to through our lifestyle choices” and that while Governments do play an important role in making our choices cleaner, people also “need incentives in the right places to nudge [them] towards cleaner choices on a daily basis.”

 

3. Bikemap

Tired of high gas prices and crowded bus commutes? Ever considered investing in a bicycle to get around quickly and healthily? The app Bikemap compiles GPS and user data to share the best and safest cycling routes all around the world, giving you yet another good reason to hop on your saddle.

Bicycles are on the rise, and for good reason! They offer affordable transportation, reduce traffic, and decrease carbon emissions, all while keeping the rider in shape. Project Drawdown estimates that if bike infrastructure was successfully implemented by 2050, it would result in a reduction of 2.31 gigatons carbon dioxide, and in $400.47 billion net operational savings. We could all use a little more fresh air in our lives, and apps like this one help promote the culture of climate-friendly transportation, which in-turn, coincidentally, makes our air fresher! The safer and easier it is to bike around, the more people will be motivated to do it. Through the app you can also connect with other cyclists, potentially helping you expand your community and share routes with other riders and friends. 

 

4. HowGood

HowGood is a sustainable food and household product rating company, that aims to increase transparency about where our food comes from. The app shares where grocery store items are grown, the practices that are used to raise animals, if the workers are paid fair wages, and more, ultimately helping customers understand the “real story” behind food labels. The company uses the world’s largest database on sustainable food to generate a ‘sustainability score’ for food products, which users can search up by scanning the barcode of products found in stores.

“We wanted to create a simple tool for consumers to get the information they need on food choice right at the point of purchase,” explains founder Alexander Gillett.

One of the easiest ways in which individuals can take daily action to reduce their impact on the planet is by changing what they consume in their diets. A plethora of research shows the overwhelming environmental degradation caused by industrialized agriculture, particularly the meat and dairy industries, which is why what we chose to consume is so important. The more informed consumers are about what they buy, the better, as they are more likely to make smarter, more sustainable choices.

 

5. YOUR social network— like, comment, and share!

When considering all these various technological solutions, its important to evaluate how our own social media networks can also act as a vessel of change. You may not realize it, but just like with every dollar you spend, the things that you post and share on social media have an impact.

I want you to think about how many friends you have on Facebook, then combine that number with the followers you have on Instagram, Twitter, maybe even LinkedIn. Got it? Okay. You have the potential to influence each and every one of these people. 

You may think that the actions you make as an individual don’t have an impact, but think about all of the people who are viewing the choices and actions you make online. 45 percent of teenagers are online “almost constantly” receiving high quantities of information about what their friends are up to. Studies show that over imitation, the action of copying everything another person does is a universal human trait.

Therefore, harnessing the social networks that so many young people have and are influenced by is a great way to promote sustainable alternatives in our day-to-day activities.

An example of a positive way that you can use social media is by tagging and supporting projects such as the Lionsshare Fund. The Lion’s share initiative asks brands who use images of animals in their advertising to donate a portion of their income to conservation projects. The United Nations Development Program then uses that money to protect animals in the wild, preserve habitats, and save species from extinction. And it’s working. The revenue generated from this innovative and partnership orientated idea has already helped decrease elephant poaching in Mozambique and safeguard the some of the last Sumatran Tigers. So next time you see an animal in an advertisement remember to ask the brand if they’re a part of @LionsShareFund!

Want to increase your positive impact right now? Start by sharing this article. With one click, more people like you will be inspired to work in ways that protect our planet.

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.