When I tell new acquaintances that I work as chief program officer for the Rainforest Alliance, I usually get a flurry of questions.
Some people want to know how we help farmers make a more sustainable living, while others are interested in how we work with forest communities to manage their natural resources. Many ask about our work to help rural communities deal with climate change.
But no matter what aspect of the Rainforest Alliance’s global work interests my new friends the most, they all end up asking the same question: “What can I do in my daily life to make a difference?”
In honor of Earth Day, I’ve decided to share with you here the few simple suggestions I make to such concerned citizens. Here are five easy steps you, too, can take to make Earth Day a year-round celebration—and to do your part to heal the planet.
1. Use less fossil fuel
You probably already know that burning fossil fuels sends a massive amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, hastening climate change. For most of us, flying, driving, and heating and cooling our homes are our biggest carbon dioxide-emitting activities. Of all these, flying is the worst offender, so if you absolutely must take a plane, be sure to purchase carbon offsets from a reputable provider that supports tree planting. The amount you pay for offsets—often not more than the price of a couple cocktails in the airport bar—supports reforestation, agroforestry, and other projects that capture carbon in a measurable way. In addition to limiting and offsetting plane travel, you can make a concerted effort to curb your driving, use a more fuel-efficient car, and use heating and air conditioning sparingly—which will not only help ease global warming but save you money, too.
2. Eat better
The food choices we make have a huge impact on the planet—and the good news is, what’s healthier for the planet is generally healthier for your body. The production of red meat, especially beef and lamb, has an outsized environmental impact. Scientists say that chicken and fish are much healthier sources of protein, anyway, so why not give a “flexitarian” or planetarian diet a shot? It’s a win-win. Another way your food consumption can make a difference: Choose Rainforest Alliance Certified products at the supermarket. When you see our green frog seal, you know that the food item has been produced according to rigorous environmental, social, and economic standards—all good for farming communities and for the Earth, too.
3. Talk to everyone you know about the link between deforestation, agriculture, and climate change
Not exactly clear on that link yourself? Never fear—we can help. Read up and spread the word, so that as many people as possible understand that we have to act urgently on all these fronts if we want the planet to sustain a population expected to rise to about 10 billion people by the year 2050.
4. Vote for climate action
Elections matter, and who’s in power—in our towns, states, counties, and countries—can make a huge difference. Young people are generally more concerned about the environment than older generations, having grown up hearing about climate change, but be sure to remind newer voters to research candidates and legislation and vote accordingly. Remind veteran voters, too, while you’re at it. We all need to harness the power of the vote to fight climate change and maintain clean-air and
5. Join the growing movement to create a world where people and nature thrive in harmony
It might feel daunting to think about doing more than what’s in your immediate control, such as changing your transportation and food choices. But joining a community of like-minded Earth-lovers is easier—and more fun—than you might expect. You can start by researching what your local government and environmental organizations are doing; you’ll find plenty of opportunities to volunteer, appeal to politicians, or join a local planning or conservation committee. On the global level, join our growing alliance! As part of that, you can take our 30-Day Sustainability Challenge, connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or sign up for our emails to get inspiring stories from the field delivered straight to your inbox. You can also, of course, donate to help us continue strengthening farming and forest communities, stopping deforestation, and fighting climate change.
I hope that next year on Earth Day, you’ll look back at all you’ve done—maybe even a few of the actions I suggest above—and have cause to celebrate both the marvel of our planet and your own 365 days of efforts to keep it healthy.
Happy Earth Day!