From carpooling with your friends and conserving your household energy to 21st century hashtag activism, take these five simple steps to tackle toxic air on World Environment Day 2019.
Thanks to Sir David Attenborough’s rallying call to protect planet earth, the rise of ethical high street collections, and the pioneering efforts of one Swedish teenager by the name of Greta Thunberg, sustainability is firmly at the forefront of mainstream conversation. But as we work to reduce our environmental footprint and create a fairer, kinder future for the next generation, we can always find new ways to switch up our everyday habits and push for progress.
This World Environment Day, when the world comes together to raise awareness of environmental issues and consider the ways in which we can preserve our precious planet for future generations, the UN is inviting us to turn our thoughts to an urgent crisis that’s hiding in plain sight: air pollution.
With data from the World Health Organisation showing 7 million premature deaths from air pollution exposure every year, with a horrifying 800 people dying every hour, there’s not a minute to waste in working to reduce levels of toxic air. It’s a problem that’s worryingly close to home, too. Last year, air pollution on Oxford Street alone was found to breach EU nitrogen dioxide limits 80% of the time – that’s a staggering 5.6 days a week.
This year, the UN is asking the world to consider how we can change our everyday lives to reduce the amount of air pollution we produce, and limit its harmful contribution to global warming and our own health. As we continue to push our government for greener economies, there are small but significant steps we can all take to improve the quality of our air. Here’s how to get involved.
Use public transport
It’s always tempting to hop in the car when you’re running late for a meeting, or book an Uber when you’re in a rush to make it to your to favourite rooftop garden when happy hour cocktails are calling. But we’re better connected and more mobile than ever, and taking public transport is a super simple way to keep our air a little cleaner. If you can’t face the rush hour crush, consider carpooling with a group of friends, or use your own two trusty legs to get you places. It’s summertime after all, and walking will boost your Fitbit miles, too.
Turn off the lights
Nelly Furtado said it first. While we’re all guilty of leaving the lights on and our many electronic devices when they’re not in use, remembering to switch off our applicances is simply a no-brainer when it comes to reducing our environmental footprint. And though upgrading to high efficiency home heating systems and equipment will significantly reduce pollution and save money on your bills in the process, there are super affordable ways to conserve energy too. If you’re serious about creating a conscious household, contact your energy supplier for a smart electricity meter, only run your dishwasher and washing machine when they’re full, and invest in some energy efficient lightbulbs pronto.
Raise your voice
This year, the UN are inviting people to join the global #MaskChallenge to show our leaders we want to breathe clean air. You simply take a selfie wearing a pollution mask (and personalise it #ootd style, if you fancy it) and upload it to social media, along with a pledge to take action against air pollution in your own way. Remember to tag three people you’d like to partake in the challenge to pass the word forward, alongside the hashtags #WorldEnvironmentDay and #BeatAirPollution.
Recycle, recycle, recycle
You might think you’re a whizz with your recycling bins, but there are still ways we streamline our household waste and ensure the air we breathe in our living space is as clean as it can possibly be. From shampoo bottles to makeup palettes, mascara tubes and beyond, familiarise yourself with the ways you can recycle the contents of your bathroom shelf, then install a bin in your bathroom for your empties to save you from chucking everything into black waste. Be diligent with the rest of your home too; if you have the option of food waste collection, bring the carrier inside and get into the habit of collecting your scraps. Even if you don’t have that facility, look into composting your leftovers in the garden or an allotment nearby. While you’re in the kitchen, be sure to seal the containers of any cleaning products, chemicals and solvents to prevent volatile organic compounds from evaporating into the air.
Embrace a plant-based diet
We’re not suggesting you surrender your roast beef and convert to veganism overnight, but reducing your consumption of meat and dairy can dramatically help reduce methane emissions. According to research published in the journal Science last year, meat and dairy account for 83% of farmland use and produce a whopping 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, with experts advising that avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet earth. With that in mind, introduce a meat-free day once a week, and delve into a vegan recipe book to get creative with your meat-free meals.