If you haven't seen the video of the starving polar bear on Baffin Island, it's a heartbreaking reality that needs to be addressed. I saw it for the first time last night before I fell asleep, and woke up this morning with this post in my head. Check it out here, I'll wait.
Like anything on the internet, there are disputes about whether or not this particular polar bear is starving because of climate change, or because of a disease that hasn't allowed him to hunt. Regardless of the reason climate change is a real issue that effects polar bears, penguins, turtles, many other wildlife species, and believe it or not, us humans.
I have heard countless times "well in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter if I use a reusable cup or take the bus because I'm just one person". And I always want to smack that one person a little bit. While I'm totally ready for policy changes that put these issues on a pedestal, change begins with us: the average, everyday global citizen, making small conscious changes in our everyday lives. I don't care if it's one conscious act a day, it makes a DIFFERENCE. Our individual voices come together in a demand for change, and that's almost impossible to ignore. So what can you, as 1 person out of 7.6 billion, do to make this earth a little bit healthier and help reverse climate change? Simple:
1) Reduce Your Meat Consumption: I'm not saying you have to be vegan or vegetarian, but cutting meat out of even one meal a day makes an impact. Why? Mass farming results in clear cutting of trees for the widespread use of land which destroys the natural carbon sinks within the soil. On top of this, the raising of cows and other livestock results in the generation of astronomical amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas. Eating less meat = less need for farming, less methane gas, and the restoration of soil. Read more about this here.
2) Use Reusable Everything: Coffee cups, water bottles, food containers, utensils and grocery bags. One of my biggest pet peeves if seeing people sitting in a cafe drinking their coffee out of a paper cup. Now there are definitely times that I forget my mug or water bottle and resort to paper or plastic, but using a reusable container more often than not keeps plastics out of landfills. Again, less demand = less supply. I know you're probably thinking plastic water bottles are recyclable, so there's no issue, but the truth is that only 1 in 5 bottles makes it to the recycling bin. Plastics bottles are petroleum based which doesn't easily or often get broken down by bacteria. Millions of water bottles end up of in the landfill every DAY, and these most likely won't ever decompose. So why take the risk? Learn more about this here.
3) Carpool, Bike, Transit or Walk: Wherever and whenever possible. Reduce emissions and get some exercise!
4) Compost: Composting keeps unnecessary waste out of landfills and allows for decomposition to happen faster and more efficiently. This allows for more nutrients to be returned to soils, which in turn helps restore those carbon sinks I mentioned earlier that are being destroyed. I'm lucky that my city has a city-wide composting program, but starting one yourself isn't hard! Check it out here.
5) Make Your Voice Heard: More and more cities are adopting bike share programs, an increase in bike lanes, composting programs and more. Why? Because that's what the people want. Write to your representatives and let them know changes you want to see in your community, whether that be a city-wide program, or starting a community garden near your home. Make it heard.
Bonus Tip! Spread Awareness!: Spread this information to the people in your life. Surround yourself with people who practice these tips to help keep you on track. All in all, these tips are simple and really don't require a drastic lifestyle change.
Clearly these tips are not exactly for backpackers, as a lot of these things are difficult to accomplish when you're constantly on the move in countries that have very different policies than what we may be used to. But there are still little things that we as backpackers can do to reduce our footprint while we travel. Being mindful of our laundry detergent, especially if travelling near the ocean; eating less or no meat; and travelling on buses rather than on independent scooters everywhere are just a few examples.
We no longer live in a time where we can do whatever the fuck we want without thinking of the repercussions. This is a right now problem, and it's time to start taking action.
Not Your Average Travel
"Whatever is good for your soul, do that"
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