Today, June 5, is World Environment Day 2014 (WED). WED is the United Nations’ principal initiative for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. It's a day for doing something positive for the environment, and transforming our individual actions into a collective power that has an exponential positive impact on the planet. This year, the theme of the event is Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level, focusing on the impact of climate change on island nations in honor of the International Year of Small Island Developing States. Now, we know you don't want to just sit around and read about something like that, you want to get out there and do something, so here are seven ways you can get involved, raise awareness and have an impact.
Take the WED Challenge
Head over to the United Nations Environment Program’s WED Challenge webpage and pledge your support for one of four WED teams to commit to taking action, not just today, but every day. WED Goodwill Ambassadors Don Cheadle, Gisele Bündchen, Ian Somerhalder and Yaya Touré each head a team respectively dedicated to powering down, stopping food wastage, connecting to and supporting green enterprise, and quitting reliance on single-use plastics. You can just join one team, or go the whole hog and commit to them all. Holding yourself accountable will do wonders for your resolve when you are about to yield to the temptation of convenience.
In case you’re not invited to the main event in Barbados tonight, there are hundreds of events and activities registered on the WED website. Choose from the drop down list of countries to find out what’s happening in your neck of the woods. Keep an eye out locally for community events that might not have officially registered too. And hey – there’s still time! – plan an impromptu gathering or event for this evening and raise awareness of the issues and strategies amongst your friends and family. Potluck vegan picnic in the park tonight, anyone?
Say No to Single-use Plastics for Good
You well know how we feel about bottled water around here, but single-use plastics have a way of sneaking into your life without you realizing it. Do a kitchen audit today: how much plastic is in your recycling bin or lurking in your cupboards “for later”? How exactly did it get there? Identify the circumstances under which you succumb to the convenience of single-use plastic and take evasive action or leave the house prepared with alternatives. Today, politely say no to all plastic bags, takeaway containers and cups, and
nag ask your regular hangouts to switch to sustainable alternatives. Then do the same tomorrow and every day after that. Make a little mental map of your daily activities too. Are there any public drinking fountains along your walking trail? Is there a friendly coffee shop you can stop into on your regular route that will give you a real glass full of water? Choose the ice cream in the cone, not the cup. Even force yourself to only buy as many groceries as you can carry in your arms if you forget your tote: you’ll only do that a few times before remembering to bring your own bags every time suddenly seems much easier.
Start a Food Wastage Diary
Worldwide, 30 to 40 percent of the food produced annually goes to waste, either between the farm gate and point of sale, or once it’s purchased. The amount of energy required to produce that food also effectively goes to waste when this happens, heating up our atmosphere and oceans for nothing. Resolve to start a food diary today and log how much food you throw out over the next week. Yes, it’ll probably freak you out, but it’s for a good cause. Review your findings: Did you buy too much? Did you prepare too much? Was the food out of date or spoiling, or did you just not like it? Pledge to not overcater in future, it is possible to show your loved ones you care without wasting resources! Buying in bulk or snapping up two-for-one deals can be a trap too. Find local food co-ops and farmers markets that will let you buy only as much as you need. If you are lucky, you may even be near a zero-waste supermarket.
Support Sustainable Enterprises
You know how that vegetarian, locavore, solar-powered café on the corner with the 3D-printed beet sugar plates and the compost bin out the back was a great green idea, except that everyone in the neighborhood still went to Starbucks, so it closed? From local stores to large corporations, research the businesses and enterprises that align with your values. Tell them about it today and let them know you noticed and appreciate their efforts. Better yet, consciously support them with your consumer dollar so they can thrive. Small businesses can’t survive on good thoughts alone, and larger organizations are made up of ordinary people who may just be trying to make a difference too. Send them an email they can forward to their manager that says you are choosing them over their competitor due to their latest green initiative. It may be just the ammunition they need to get a pilot program turned into company policy.
Talk About It
Share, share, share and like, like, like! Let your networks know about WED events, use the hashtags #WorldEnvironmentDay #WED2014 #Islands2014 and #Climate2014, write a blog post about it, or take an Instagram snap that will get people thinking about small island developing states and the particular challenges they face. The main purpose of WED is to raise public awareness of the year’s highlighted issue so that more people are motivated to take action.
Get Planning for Next Year
If you weren’t already onto it, you probably won’t have enough time to organize anything more than your last-minute, vegan picnic tonight, but get thinking about what you can do – bigger and better – next year. The UNEP releases the theme for each year’s WED in early March and they also hold a blogging competition for the honor of exclusively covering a UNEP event. This year’s community events include exhibitions, sporting events, online chats, clean-up walks, fashion shows and writing competitions, so get started planning your own event for next year.
Happy World Environment Day!