In the days leading up to and on September 8, 2018, the global community came together to #RiseforClimate. There is no better time to act than now when the trajectory for our global temperature has risen almost exponentially in the last 50 years.
So what were we advocating for all week, and better yet, all summer (starting with the #ThisIsZeroHour Youth Climate March)? We are saying that we can’t do this alone.
We need our elected officials to get off their butts and stop hiding behind the fat wallets of fossil fuel giants and address climate change.
The youth leading the #ThisIsZeroHour movement demanded two things: divestment from fossil fuel and transitioning our country toward renewable energy. I could not agree more, but think we can do better and ask for more, taking examples that have already been implemented in the US and around the world.
(Please note: I suggest the following items because I am based in NYC–please adapt to your country’s government structure and take these ideas with you and spread them widely! :))
1. Invest in compost and organic waste collection.
Mayors should work with the Departments of Sanitation to ensure that every residential and commercial building has brown bins for green waste (i.e. food scraps from the kitchen) and invest in educating the public about the importance of composting and how suffocating organic waste in garbage bags that get sent to landfills produce and contribute to the methane gas that inevitably add to the greenhouse gases. As it stands right now only certain neighborhoods in NYC have the brown bin collection program and apartment buildings must get their building managers to apply for it, and commercial buildings do not have this option at all (and must look to pay for such organic collection services).
2. Enforce efficient building construction by following the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system.
Elected officials can implement regulations for efficient buildings that are LEED certified and encourage developers to use CarbonCure that takes captured CO2 and injects it into concrete as it’s being mixed, making the foundation of the buildings even stronger than if it didn’t have CO2.
3. Paint city streets WHITE!
GuardTop is working with Los Angeles to paint some of its streets white in efforts to keep the city cool, reflecting less heat onto buildings and making it less hot in efforts to reduce the need for maximum power air conditioning in the hot summer months.
4. Improve public transit systems.
I live in NYC. The MTA sucks, I know. We have one of the world’s oldest public transit systems and it shows. Many of my friends and family know the struggle commuting to and from work each day and would opt for driving themselves everywhere if it would save them the headache of experiencing hour+ delays on the subways. Instead of incrementally hiking up MetroCard prices every year to “pay for” repairs that never seem to actually improve the MTA system, consider the fact that many low-income individuals and students can’t even afford to take the subway because of these prices. Tax the rich (they can afford it) and have their taxes go toward these repairs, and make the repairs efficient! Why are train lines shutting down and we are still experiencing mayhem in the morning commutes? The least our Mayors can do is invest money in better ventilation underground so we don’t pass out from heat stroke while waiting for these trains. I’ve taken the trains and subways in Washington, DC; Portland, OR; Madrid and Barcelona, Spain; Paris, France; and Taipei, Taiwan and see just what a shit show, for lack of a better word, the MTA system is. If the Mayor gave a crap and got it together, maybe people would be more encouraged to take public transportation. Not to mention we are really behind on transitioning all of our buses to run on electricity rather than gas.
5. Invest in green spaces around the city.
Flowers and trees can do wonders for absorbing CO2! Our Mayor should invest in greening rooftops which get the brunt of the heat from the sun. The plants help purify the air, decrease the temperature of the buildings, and the color green is also shown to be stress-reducing for people. They can also invest in planting more trees around the city to help absorb all that CO2 our vehicles on the road produce. (We need to be mindful, however, that as we try to make cities green, we don’t want to create grassy lawns in parks and other green spaces because grass requires an unreasonable amount of upkeep by watering, and we don’t have that kind of water to spare as places around the world are experiencing extreme weather and actually running out of water!)
6. Transition our cities and states to a clean energy economy and away from fossil fuels, starting with their divestment from Big Oil.
There is SO much untapped potential with solar, wind, hydropower, etc. We could drastically cut down on our carbon emissions, create thousands of green jobs in the renewable energy sector, and most importantly it will save us so much money! So what are we waiting for? Demand your elected officials to move your community to renewable energy because you deserve to live better, breathe better, and give your children and grandchildren a healthy planet to thrive in.
7. Ban food waste in restaurants and grocery stores.
133 billion pounds of food waste wasted in 2010, equivalent to $161 billion worth of food.
This staggering statistic is only at the retail and consumer level, so restaurants, grocery stores and us consumers (by buying too much and food going bad) are all losing out financially! So what can we do? Our city officials can encourage restaurants in Boston and NYC (for now) to sign up for Food for All so they can sell their food to us at a discounted rate rather than get it thrown out. Grocery stores should provide a discounted produce or non-perishable goods section, OR even better, donate their food items to homeless shelters and food banks. France has banned food waste in supermarkets and it has already been seeing positive change in their country.
8. Ban single-use plastics and styrofoam!
NYC will ban styrofoam starting in 2019, and a bill was also introduced to ban plastic bags in NYS and there was momentum surrounding banning single-use plastic straws, and cities around the country are mobilizing to #BeatPlasticPollution.
I hope these ideas have inspired you to reach out to your city and state officials and advocate for your right to a livable future on our planet. As the saying goes, there is no Planet B.
Please let me know in the comments below if you have other suggestions on what our elected officials can do to help us be better stewards to our environment!