Earth Day on April 22, 2022, marks the 52nd year that people around the world have marched and rallied and participated in projects to clean up the environment. After another year of extreme weather and higher global temperatures, let’s use Earth Day to revisit our personal transitions to sustainable living: an Earth Decade Plan to eliminate one big source of CO2 from our lives.
The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report established that humanity had approximately 12 years to reduce CO2 emissions to 45% of the global levels recorded in 2010. Doing so will stabilize global temperature. Combined with additional cutbacks, land restoration, and carbon capture technology, it will put us on a path to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels enjoyed by our grandparents.
The 2022 IPCC report paints an even more troubling picture. Climate change is already wreaking havoc around the world with just 1.1 degrees C of warming. We need to make big changes in every aspect of life. But that doesn’t mean the wholesale abandonment of modernity. We can eat meat grown responsibly, switch to renewable electric power in transportation, and adopt nontoxic, efficient production processes to achieve a society that could look more like Star Trek than Mad Max. It is time to give up fear and act boldly.
Get Involved in Earth Day
Earth Day launched in 1970, the same year President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency. This year, Earthday.org aims to inspire individuals, businesses, and governments to Invest in Our Planet. What each of us does, and how we do it, has a huge ripple effect on our ecosystems, and on the pace of corporate and government action. We are responsible for holding businesses, governments, and others accountable and for supporting their efforts when they get it right.
- Ready to start investing in our planet? Check out 52 actions you can take today.
- Participate in the Great Global Cleanup by joining a group or picking up litter on your own — on Earth Day or anytime!
- Hosting an Earth Day event? Register it online so others can join.
- Another great way to help is to contribute to the nonprofit Earthday.org.
Transforming Your Personal Carbon Impact
Change is hard, but we can do it for our families and future generations. The suggestions below represent starting points for a plan to cut the carbon output of your life. These are just a few of the many possible steps you could take. Each of these ideas is likely to require significant effort. And, in some cases, a significant expense.
If you choose one big project annually, such as replacing your internal combustion car with an electric vehicle, eliminating excessive carbon-producing foods from your diet, or switching to sustainable sources of clothing, electronics, or groceries, the cumulative reduction over a decade can make a meaningful difference. If we all did it, humans could hit the 45% goals laid out by the IPCC.
You can transform your carbon impact over the next decade by taking any of these steps:
Do you commute five days a week? Swapping your gas-powered car for an electric vehicle can reduce the CO2 produced during your commute by 7 to 10 tons each year. If half of U.S. commuters, who drive an average of 16 miles each way to work, switched to EVs, the approximate carbon reduction would be almost 800 million metric tons a year. That’s about half of the 1,373 million metric tons produced by U.S. transportation.
Go Meatless at Lunchtime
Let’s say you and three friends go to lunch and each of you has a quarter-pound hamburger, the four of you will consume a meal that cost almost 4,226 gallons of water to produce. Add to that the 26.4 pounds of CO2 emitted by the steer and production process, and a weekly commitment to avoid beef at lunch twice a week will reduce your group’s carbon footprint by 2,750 pounds a year.
Try our meatless breakfast and lunch strategy and reduce your food carbon footprint even further.
If you can’t stomach the absence of beef, try one of the emerging alternatives, from mushroom-based to lab-grown burgers. The Blended Burger Project led by the James Beard Foundation has inspired a variety of savory blended burger recipes that produce less CO2 than all-beef burgers.
Additionally, the variety of meat-like substitutes continues to increase, ranging from the popular, beef-like Impossible Burger to Before the Butcher’s selection of beef, chicken, and pork alternatives.
Eleven percent of food-related CO2 emissions come from the transportation of your meal to the table. Make a change to buying local produce, meat, and dairy to reduce the environmental cost of your dining.
Make the Jump to Home Solar
Reduce your reliance on other people’s energy decisions by going solar at home. Solar technology is advancing rapidly, becoming affordable and easy to install and maintain. Earth911 has several guides to reducing solar costs and financing your upgrade. Granted, installing solar is expensive but the long-term benefits will last decades. Still not sure? Compare the solar power pros and cons.
When you move to your own renewable power foundation, you take energy companies’ ability to control your power choices away. Energy flexibility will keep you warm in winter and cool in the summer without tapping into the coal- and natural gas-burning power supply that accounts for 62% of U.S. energy.
Watch for Earth911’s upcoming guide to Earth Day events and get started on — or renew your commitment to — your Earth Decade Plan. Then you’ll be ready to march with another billion humans on Earth Day 2022 with pride and accomplishments under your sustainability belt.
Originally published on April 5, 2019, this article was updated in April 2022.