As we say goodbye to 2019, let’s take a moment to reflect on the monumental environmental moments of the year, good and bad. This past year has re-shaped the sustainability movement, with a younger generation taking a leading role and the effects of a changing climate becoming more and more obvious. As we head into 2020, we believe that sustainability will be THE hot button issue – here’s why.
The Environment in 2019
During this past year, the world has seen more droughts and an increased intensity in storms, leading to devastating events in countries such as Brazil, Australia, and the US. Forest fires commanded newspaper headlines for a large part of the year. In each of these countries forest fires do occur naturally during the dry seasons, however this year the world watched in horror as forest fires caused destruction and grew unruly in their intensity and speed of spreading across the country. A warming climate is expected to increase the frequency of forest fires, causing severe environmental and economic consequences.
Another unavoidable topic in 2019 was plastic. Whichever way we look, mass production of single-use plastics has begun to catch up with us, bringing concerns about items such as water bottles and plastic grocery bags well into the mainstream. Headlines have shown Hermit crabs using trash as shells, and a dead sperm whale washed ashore in eastern Indonesia with 220 pounds of plastic in its stomach. Our use of single-use plastics matters, and re-usable or compostable coffee cups, water bottles, and food containers are becoming more and more on-trend (thankfully).
Also in 2019, the UN came out with a report finding that 1 million species of plants and animals are facing possible extinction and that this species loss is directly related to human activity. The report said that fighting climate change and saving species are equally important and go hand in hand; as the earth warms species die out, and having fewer species means having a less biodiverse world. The importance of biodiversity is impossible to understate – it’s the foundation of our food systems, acts as a natural defense system against natural disasters, and keeps carbon dioxide levels in balance. In order to turn this dire situation around, we must change the way we grow food, produce energy, dispose of waste and deal with climate change. Solutions will involve governments, corporations, and people.
These events reaffirm the seriousness of climate change and pollution issues and express the need for action to be taken NOW.
What are we doing about it?
Thankfully 2019 also showed that people around the world are banding together to demand a change:
Global Climate Strikes:
Global climate strikes have occurred around the world in attempts to end the age of fossil fuels and solve the climate crisis. Protests occurred in the Pacific Islands, Australia, parts of Asia and Africa, throughout Europe and North America. The Guardian states that an estimated 185 countries had demonstrations take place.
During the global climate strikes, the world’s attention turned to Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist, for inspiration and education on climate issues. In a big moment for climate activists, Greta Thunberg was just announced as Time’s Person of the Year. This year made it clear that the world is taking notice on climate change and pollution issues – creating a platform for more pressure and concrete solutions in 2020.
Extinction Rebellion has been another big name this year in climate activism. They are putting pressure on politicians to make biodiversity loss and re-forestation a priority to get rid of as much carbon dioxide as possible. It is an international movement using nonviolent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimize the risk of social collapse. Extinction Rebellion has put the extinction crisis front and center, making it clear that this issue goes hand in hand with climate change.
What can YOU do about it?
As a consumer, there is always something YOU can do about these issues. Political solutions will take time, but our ability as individuals to make the change and inspire others is truly powerful. This is why we ask you to make your 2020 new year’s resolution about sustainability in your own lives and homes.
The list below details easy ways you can incorporate sustainability practices in your day to day life to make 2020 YOUR year of sustainability!
Small changes to your diet are an easy way to start living more sustainably.
- Eating local is a great way to lessen the number of miles your food has traveled, consequently lessening the amount of pollution while supporting local farmers and businesses.
- Cut down on the plastics, buy reusable cutlery and keep it in your bag.
- Embrace the use of reusable food containers! Even when ordering your takeout just let them know that you will bring your own container to pick up your food. Butchers, delis and cheese shops will gladly weigh product in your container (we go through this all the time – expect a little confusion, followed by the delight that you’re making an effort!)
- Get into a habit of using reusable mugs and cups. Disposable water bottles and coffee cups are super unnecessary (in the USA alone it is estimated that 1,500 plastic water bottles end up in landfills or thrown in the ocean every second) plus there are so many great beautiful reusable options!
- Finally, research has shown that eating less meat is a great way to lessen your individual impact on the environment. The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains, and ships combined! If it seems like a big lifestyle change for you, try meatless Mondays, or buying your meat and poultry from a local butcher- this will at least help with reducing the amount of fuel needed to transport your food.
Transportation and travel are some of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, meaning they’re a great area for any individual to focus on.
- Try and carpool when you can. It’s a great way to lessen the number of cars on the road, while also giving you a travel buddy in the process!
- Choose to bike or walk instead, this eliminates the pollution from your car all together while also giving you a chance to get some exercise!
- Hopping on a flight? Do a little bit of research before you go, many airlines are taking steps to improve their carbon emission - some have worked on becoming more eco-friendly through methods like, reducing fuel consumption and using more environmentally friendly packaging.
- Equally, if you’re interested you can calculate all the emissions you generate using this WWF emissions calculator. This will give you an idea of your total carbon footprint and options ways to reduce and offset – a great way to keep yourself and your environmental goals accountable!
Now that we’ve tackled diet and travel, let's focus on your closet. The start of the new year is a great opportunity to transition from fast to slow fashion. This doesn’t mean you have to throw out every item of clothing you have from fast fashion brands, but rather transition to a more mindful approach to shopping. The world and your wallet will thank you!
- Before going out and purchasing a new blouse or skirt, take a look at what you already have in your closet. You might be surprised about the clothes you forgot you had!
- Buy sustainable or second hand when you can, resist the urge to shop anywhere and really value the ethics behind each brand
- A great sign that the company values sustainability is the quality of their material. Look for materials like Lenzing Modal or TENCEL which TAMGA uses to create many of our garments. These materials are comfortable, sustainably produced and biodegradable (if they’re not blended with other fabrics).
- When making new purchases ask yourself “can I find out how the makers were treated?” Make it a habit to ask. This is a great way to humanize the act of consumption, we often forget that there are always people behind every item of clothing you purchase! Check out our past blog post on “Beyond Who Made My Clothes” which provides great questions to ask when making purchases
For the final section, we wanted to give you sustainable tips for is the home! There are many easy opportunities to make your home more sustainable and eco-friendlier!
- First, let’s talk about cleaning products! Look for all-natural cleaning products that don’t have harsh chemicals like toxic alcohols, or ammonia.
- Another great step towards sustainability is to handwash your clothing when possible, this will save you money on your energy bill, and it will also save resources! This is because handwashing uses less water and a smaller dose of detergent. Using sustainable laundry detergent will also be beneficial for the environment
- Create your own compost; composting helps return valuable nutrients to the soil and helps it maintain its quality and fertility- your garden will thank you!
- Finally, make the switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, these can last up to 12 times as long as regular light bulbs while using less electricity to amount the same light
Although in 2020 we will continue to see and hear about the climate crisis, remember that there is always something YOU can do! Political solutions take time, but individual action is empowering and inspires those around you. After all, TAMGA started as two individuals who were tired of waiting for change to happen.
Do you have a sustainable or eco-friendly tip you didn’t see here? Let us know in the comments below!
Happy New Year from the TAMGA team!