350, 365 Days A Year

Photo courtesy of 350.org

On Sunday, 10-10-10, people in all corners of the world joined together for a Global Work Party to support the grassroots movement known as 350. Thousands of participants in 188 countries worked on more than 7,347 projects to raise awareness about, and take steps toward solving, climate change. By building community gardens to fortify local food systems and planting trees to offset CO2 emissions, to installing solar panels in the Namibian desert, project organizers hoped to send a clear message to world political leaders: “If we can get to work, so can you.”

Why 350?

Scientists and climate experts say that 350 parts per million is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere; the number currently hovers around 392 ppm, so it’s become a matter of both reducing emissions to keep the number from creeping upward, and changing behaviors to reduce the amount.

It’s a tall order, no doubt, that requires an overhaul of not only our lifestyles, but our political policies, business practices, and everything in between.

A Little Less Talk, A Lot More Action

It’s not just about 350. Reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change are at the forefront of a worldwide dialogue, and it’s a long conversation. Add to the docket the related problems of the energy crisis, waste management, petro-laden conventional farming methods, the dwindling supply of fresh water, and the discussion could go on forever.

While having a clear understanding of the issues at hand is important, there is more than a lot of work to do to affect change on the large scale. Let’s hope the Global Work Party and similar events will inspire people and governments across the globe to get moving, and make these activities a part of everyday life. But where do we even begin, and how can the average person make a difference?

Getting to 350

Image courtesy of ENSO Bottles

The most sweeping changes must be mandated at the federal and international levels; policy and environmental impact go hand in hand, so a logical first step is to keep up with the issue and be vocal about it. Tell local and state representatives, congressmen and women, and the President how critical the issue is, then get to work at home, at work, and in your community.

Many of us are already working to reduce our impacts, and efforts like bringing reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, opting for the to-go mug instead of a paper cup, and even driving a hybrid car are a great start. But there are other overlooked steps we can take to further minimize our impacts, and make an even bigger difference.

Reduce environmental impacts at home and in the workplace by:

  • Examining daily habits, including consumption, energy, and waste. Track patterns for one month.We often don’t realize how much we are consuming, and how much goes to waste in a typical month-long period of day-to-day living.
  • Consuming less. Buy only what you need, share when you have extra, and use less water and electricity. You’ll save money, and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide your household contributes to the atmosphere.
  • Investing in alternative, clean energy to power your home. The upfront cost of technologies like solar panels is coming down, and many states offer tax credits and rebates to help offset the initial investment.
  • Understanding that all labels are not created equally. Currently, the onus is on the consumer to know what they’re buying. Just because a product claims to be eco-friendly that it really is; research, and substantiate green claims.
  • Changing the way we look at waste. Whether we recycle or not, all waste eventually ends up in the landfill, and can take thousands of years to degrade–if ever. It’s important to look at the inevitable last phase of the cycle, and factor it in to consumer decision-making. For example, biodegradable packaging, like ENSO Bottles, is a good option because it can be recycled along with other plastics, and completely breaks down in the landfill, often in less than a year’s time.
Paying it Forward

Photo courtesy of 350.org

Get involved with grassroots efforts already underway, like 350.org and other local causes. Once we’ve taken steps in our own lives, raising awareness and educating others is the only way to affect change on a large scale. For our kids, families, neighbors and our friends, set the example, and inspire others to take steps toward healthier living, and a healthier planet.