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How to Live a More Sustainable Life: The First Pillar: Environmentally Consciousness Explained

As we talked about in our first blog of this series, How to Live a More Sustainable Life; an Introduction, there are 3 pillars of living a sustainable life.

“These pillars are like the legs of a stool – they need each other for balance. Environmentally conscious practices lead to cleaner air and water, which benefits communities and encourages a healthy, active lifestyle. This, in turn, fosters a more vibrant local economy and a stronger sense of shared purpose."

environmentally conscious clean up

Let's break them down individually to understand how they work and are integrated.

The First Pillar: Environmental Consciousness

Environmentalism is too often overused and misunderstood. To really understand what environmental consciousness is we have to start by seeing why it is needed. What's wrong with the way things are? What needs to be changed? Why do things need to change?

Climate Change

You've probably heard about our planet's current state and likely the term climate change once or twice before. Global warming has been happening for a long time now and affects the future of our planet. A recent comprehensive study published in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report finds that human-caused global warming is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. This warming will likely exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in the next two decades unless drastic emissions reductions are made immediately.  

As the temperature of the planet changes, we witness a cascade of impacts. Impacts include more frequent and severe weather events, rising sea levels, and disrupted ecosystems. These changes threaten not only wildlife and natural habitats but also human communities and economies.

How Do Humans Contribute to Global Warming?

We contribute through the emission of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas for energy, transportation, and industrial activities. Here are the key ways humans have contributed to global warming:

Hiking in the forrest to promote environmental awareness

  1. Cutting down forests and clearing land for agriculture, urbanization, and other purposes reduces the planet's ability to absorb and store CO2, while also releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere. While you may not be wielding the axe or operating the bulldozer, the products you buy and the food you eat could be driving deforestation elsewhere in the world. For example:So even though you're not physically cutting down trees yourself, your consumer choices and lifestyle create demand that is met through deforestation in tropical regions around the world. By being more conscious about what you buy and eat, you can reduce your indirect contribution to global deforestation.

    1. Eating beef contributes to deforestation in the Amazon, where forests are cleared for cattle ranching and growing soy for animal feed.

    2. Using products containing palm oil, like many snacks and cosmetics, can fuel deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia for palm plantations.

    3. Buying furniture, paper products, or wood construction materials that aren't sustainably sourced could be supporting illegal logging operations that decimate forests.

    4. Purchasing soy, coffee, cocoa, and other agricultural commodities may be linked to forests being cleared for new farmland.

  2. The combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas for electricity generation, transportation, and industrial processes releases large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most significant greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.

    1. To make it more relatable, think about all the activities in your daily life that involve burning fossil fuels: So every time you drive, turn on a light, or buy manufactured goods, you are contributing to the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere that is warming the planet. The more fossil fuels we burn for energy and transportation, the more we add to the greenhouse gas blanket surrounding the Earth.

    2. Driving a gasoline-powered car releases CO2 from the tailpipe.

    3. Using electricity at home from a coal or natural gas power plant produces CO2 emissions.

    4. Manufacturing processes for products we use, from plastics to steel, often burn fossil fuels and emit CO2.

    5. Even heating your home with natural gas releases carbon dioxide.

  3. Agricultural activities:

    1. Livestock farming, rice cultivation, and the use of fertilizers release methane and nitrous oxide, which are potent greenhouse gases.

  4. Industrial processes: 

    1. Certain industrial processes like cement production and the use of fluorinated gases in refrigeration and air conditioning systems emit greenhouse gases.

  5. Increasing atmospheric concentrations:

    1. Human activities have increased the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 by nearly 50% since the Industrial Revolution, along with higher levels of other greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide. These increased concentrations trap more heat, causing global temperatures to rise.

Beach Clean Up

Knowledge is Power

When we truly absorb all the information about climate change and its impacts, we begin to understand the deeper meaning behind the discussions about saving our planet. This knowledge helps us see the urgency and necessity of adopting more sustainable lifestyles. By making conscious choices in our daily lives, from reducing waste to conserving energy, we can contribute significantly to the health of our planet. Every small action counts, and together, we can create a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Social Impacts of Climate Change

After learning something like this you might be thinking, okay the planet is getting warmer but what does that actually mean for my day-to-day life? This brings us to our second pillar of living a more sustainable life: the social pillar. In the next blog post, we will discover all about how society is affected by climate change and what we can do about it.

Interested in learning more about sustainability?


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