How to Connect the Paris Deal to our Everyday Lives

With all the talk of climate change and the Paris Climate Deal there has been a lot of confusing information circulating. A great question to start with is, what is it?

Alexandra Simon-Lewis at Wired reports that,

“The ultimate purpose of the Paris Agreement was to strengthen the global response to climate change by creating an international network of government bodies, all dedicated to lowering emissions. Syria and Nicaragua were the only countries who did not join the Agreement.

Those who did pledged to work towards a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, ideally aiming to limit the increase to 1.5°C. This level of temperature change may sound insignificant, but would, in fact, put massive strain on food production, clean water sources and energy production.”

There are some key aspects that are important to note. For example, it will take about four years to withdraw from the Paris Deal because of stipulations set by the deal. While this is good news, many worry this just means the administration will work harder to eradicate domestic climate programs.

Some cities in the United States are attempting to take matters into their own hands and curb their environmental impact. If nothing else having a group of 246 city mayors, the US Climate Mayors, across the U.S. standing together sends a strong message to our administration. Some mayors have organized events to show their commitment to the environment,

“Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has emphatically stated his support for the Paris Agreement. Renewable energy in Pittsburgh has created an estimated 13,000 jobs, with investment in green development transforming it from its roots as a polluted, steel-mill-driven city to one of the largest growing tech and healthcare centres in the country. Pittsburgh residents have taken to the streets in a “March for Truth” in support of the Paris Agreement, at which time Peduto committed the city to a goal of reaching 100 per cent renewable energy adoption by 2035.”

Like every situation that has arisen under this administration I am reminded of the importance of taking matters into our own hands. While it is devastating to be under a leader who does not value the future of our environment we can all have an impact on our planet regardless of the policies being discussed on Capitol Hill.

Googling ways to live more sustainably is overwhelming and begs the question where do I start? Often when we hear sustainable living we imagine living off the grid in a yurt. While that works for some (shout out to the yurt dwellers!) there are more attainable, everyday small changes, we can all make. A bonus to many of these suggestions is you often end up saving money when you are buying and reusing goods that have a longer lifespan.

  1. Stop using plastic straws. They are small enough to be mistaken for food by some animals and have even caused some animals to suffocate. Not convinced? Check out this post with more details – including a woman’s story about finding 319 straws on a 20-minute dive in Australia and a video of a Turtle being saved from a straw being lodged in its poor little nose. I found some stainless-steel straws on amazon that I love!
  2. Reusable napkins. Aside from setting the table with cute napkins and placemats you can waste less and save money using cloth napkins. According to Ocean Conservancy five years’ worth of cloth napkins for a family of four could cost up to $108 while paper napkins could cost upwards of $2635. That is a big difference!  
  3. Microfiber cloths. Like getting rid of napkins, getting rid of paper towels saved me a lot of money. I replaced using paper towels with dish rags and microfiber cloths for cleaning, which work better!
  4. Reusable shopping bags. According to Protect Your Central Coast, a plastic shopping bag can take up to 1000 years to decompose. Worse yet, only 1% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide which means 99% are sitting in landfills. Practical side note – if you are like me and refuse to make more than one trip in from the grocery it is a much easier feat when you are using sturdy bags and not having cheap target plastic bags cutting into your fingers. I know I’m not the only one to experience this!
  5. Reusable water bottles. Not only is the plastic itself harmful the process of bottling is taxing on our poor planet. The organization Ban the Bottle reports that it requires three times the water to produce a plastic bottle than it does to simple fill it.
  6. Just try cutting plastic in general. Cut the one-time use cups, plates, utensils – especially the plastic ones! Read more about some general effects of plastic here. From the smallest microorganisms to the largest animals we are all being effected by the massive amount of plastic we use.
  7. Try eating more meatless meals. Now hear me out meat eaters – I know that many of you find it crazy to not eat meat. But even having one day a week without meat, meatless Mondays for example, could drastically change the world. For example, it takes roughly 1,850 gallons of water just to produce a single pound of beef, compared to 39 gallons for a pound of vegetables.

We need policies and practices at national, state, county and personal levels to continue this change. But none the less we can all personally make small changes to try to work towards protecting our planet. Do not underestimate the power of what seems like small acts. Whenever people ask my dad what I do and what I went to school for he explains how I work with survivors of sexual assault, do programming and usually ends with his signature, “she’s trying to save the world one Styrofoam cup at a time” – one, because he thinks he’s funny, but two, because he knows how often I talk about trying to make a difference in small ways every day.

Last week I got a coffee and forgot my reusable straw at home – know that nobody is perfect (what a silly word anyway)! We all make mistakes and get to learn from them every day. But just starting to be aware of the environmental consequences of our actions is a great place to begin. I am willing to bet you start noticing these small things more and more.

Call your representatives and tell them how much their constituents care about the planet. Read a new book or blog post about climate change. Or just start with a reusable water bottle. No matter what, do something.

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.” – Ban Ki Moon

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