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Four simple ways that everyone can and should live in order to stop the destruction of the planet.

As thousands of politicians and climate activists gather in Glasgow this month to debate the future of our planet, UofG students may feel a hopeless sense of climate despair. To lift our spirits, The Glasgow Guardian has compiled a list of four simple ways in which we, as university students, can contribute towards "saving the world" during COP26, and beyond.

Unfortunately, our impact is significantly limited by the upsetting reality that just 100 companies – including the UK-based BP, Shell, and BHP - are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions. Being aware that not everyone has the physical or financial capabilities to consistently live sustainably, it truly is our generation’s responsibility to solve the human-induced climate crisis. As anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall famously proclaimed: “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."

Make your voice heard

Making your voice heard, especially by those in positions of power, is arguably the most profound way in which you can help save the world. Join social movements, such as Fridays for Future, that urge governments to prioritise climate action and hold corporations to account. Strive to advocate for local climate issues, like the proposed Cambo offshore oil field in northeast of Scotland, in order to support regional climate activists. As university students, we are surrounded with an abundance of opportunities to become more involved with environmentalism. For example, the Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team (GUEST) aims to improve the university’s environmental practices. Furthermore, you can write to Members of Parliament and sign petitions on matters of urgency, such as pressuring institutions to stop investing into fossil fuel companies. During the UN Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) this November, make sure to get involved with the COP 26 Coalition – a group of NGOs, as well as indigenous, feminist, and youth movements, which jointly advocate for global climate justice.

Reduce your meat and dairy consumption

Regarded as “the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth” by Oxford University researcher Joseph Poore, eating less meat and dairy products is a key step in solving the climate crisis as an individual. In addition to provoking the detrimental loss of intrinsic biodiversity, the meat industry is the single biggest cause of deforestation around the world, for instance in the Amazon Rainforest. Additionally, a meat-conscious approach effectively helps conserve Earth’s precious fresh water supply, which is essential to the sustained future of life on this planet. In fact, reducing your animal protein consumption by half can decrease your carbon footprint by more than 40% according to research by the World Resources Institute. Therefore, support your small local businesses by consuming fresh, locally-sourced, and seasonal produce. Additionally, the West End offers a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, such as The 78, Suisse Vegan Kitchen, and 279 Cafe Bistro which can help promote a more plant-based diet.

"Reducing your animal protein consumption by half can decrease your carbon footprint by more than 40%..."

Become more waste-conscious

Throughout their lifetime, the average person in the USA produces 102 tonnes of waste - the equivalent of a blue whale (the largest mammal to have ever lived). Therefore, it is imperative that we strive to reduce, reuse, and recycle in order to minimize our landfill waste. If you can, try to avoid single-use plastic and individually-packaged items, especially fruits and vegetables. Instead, students are encouraged to switch to reusable coffee cups and purchase fresh produce at local farmers markets. Furthermore, Byres Road offers a wide variety of second-hand charity and vintage shops, which further promote a circular economy as opposed to exasperating the damaging effects of the fast fashion industry. With a recycling rate of just 24.7%, Glasgow City Council currently holds Scotland's worst recycling rate in tonnes per capita. Compared to the national recycling average of 44.9%, Glasgow is clearly lagging. As an individual, make sure that you are correctly separating your waste, for instance at University buildings like the James McCune Smith Learning Hub, which features mixed recycling containers, as well as bins for food waste and compostable packaging.

 Encourage others to live more sustainably

Motivating your family members, friends, and flatmates to also live more sustainably is another vital step in supporting our fight against the climate crisis. According to the Count Us In campaign, if 1 billion people actively implement sustainable habits into their personal lives, they could reduce as much as 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions, thereby demonstrating the true potential of individual climate action. Therefore, it is incredibly important to share your sustainability tips and educate others about how they can help in order to spark a ripple effect throughout our local community. By establishing a welcoming support network of individuals within your personal circle, you are setting a positive example for inspiring a cycle of meaningful climate action. Furthermore, utilize the power of social media to spread awareness about the climate crisis and get involved with your local eco-activism group or volunteer in your nearby community garden.

After COP26, we must remind ourselves of a powerful Native American saying: “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realise that one cannot eat money.” Hand in hand, we can all contribute towards saving the world - one step at a time.


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