The latest headlines on climate change are bleak. And sometimes the ongoing news of humans’ environmental impact on our precious planet can be overwhelming, leaving us feeling helpless as to how we can really make an impact. While we know that substantive and lasting changes must come from corporations and global government leaders, our everyday decisions and small actions really do help. And when we know we’re helping, it can make us feel more empowered and more positive overall. Every choice you make, from where you source your food, to the type of car you drive, and even which company you bank with can create a ripple effect for the planet.
We checked in with green experts on the best investments you can make to give Mother Nature a fighting chance.
1. Start By Empowering Women And Girls
Yes, supporting environmental-specific causes is a wonderful path to take towards helping the planet, but did you know that donating to organizations that support women and girls also has vast environmental benefits? Two of the top ten most powerful solutions to reversing climate change include educating women and girls, and ensuring their access to family planning, according to Project Drawdown.
“Education leads to resilience, improved agricultural techniques, and innovations crucial to reverse climate change, explains Kerry Keihn, CSRIC, ABFP, a financial advisor and the director of client services and operations for Earth Equity Advisors.
“In fact, access to family planning reduces unplanned pregnancies and the emissions associated with a rapidly growing population since almost half of pregnancies are unplanned,” she continues. “These are two critical pieces of the puzzle to combat climate change, and they are important to keep in mind when you are evaluating different causes to support.”
2. Bank Responsibly
Yes, your bank has an environmental impact. Some banks provide financing options for green home improvements, like solar panels, while others are certified B Corporations, with environmental missions to reduce the impacts of climate change, Keihn explains. One example is Climate First, a carbon-neutral bank that offers many options for those hoping to improve their environmental footprint. “Even if you don’t need to take out a loan, opening accounts at an environmentally responsible bank helps that bank grow and expand its impact in the community,” she says.
3. Invest In Quality Clothing
As tempting (and as easy!) as it is to snag a new dress from a fast fashion retailer that churns out the latest and greatest in designs every season, this industry continues to extract more from the earth than it’s putting back, explains Amy Johnson, a values and ideas integrator. As she puts it, we have roughly 7.2 billion people on earth, yet the fashion industry produces over 100 billion pieces of clothing a year. “This problem of overproduction produces a lot of waste and is clogging up our landfills, or it’s being shipped to other countries clogging up their waterways and putting their local economies out of work,” she says. “So instead of thinking of ‘How much I can buy?’ consider buying less and investing in fashionable pieces you love, and that will last the test of time.” (We promise, you’ll look even more gorgeous in an outfit that prioritizes the planet!)
4. Check Your Investments
As more investors demand sustainable and responsible investment options, investors have an excellent opportunity to reevaluate their portfolios and make sure their investments align with their values, Keihn explains.
First thing to note is that buzzwords are just that — so don’t be lured in by a company that’s shouting words like “green” and “socially responsible” from the rooftops without doing a little digging first. Keihn recommends researching all companies via the As You Sow search engine to see who is supporting the fossil fuel industry, the tobacco industry, or others that may be causing environmental harm. “By divesting from companies worsening climate change and investing your money in solutions-oriented companies, you can deploy your money to fight against climate change,” she says.
5. Optimize Your Home
What are some small yet significant changes you could make to decrease the carbon footprint of your home? When you invest in solar energy, it’s a win-win for you and the environment. You’ll save on your electric bill while also reducing your need for harmful fossil fuels, explains Chris Kemper, Palmetto’s chairman, founder, and CEO. “If you ever plan to sell your solar-powered home, it’s been reported through Realtor.com and other studies that these houses stand out, sell faster, and earn more than homes without solar panels,” he adds.
If you have a larger property or a garden, you might also want to consider investing in a water cistern that will allow you to harvest and store rainwater, and naturally irrigate your lawn and plants with the rainwater you collect. “A cistern also allows you to sink overflow rainwater back into the ground by directing the overflow through rain gardens, which help restore the water cycle and reduce the risk of drought, forest fires, and flooding,” explains Brandy Hall, the founder and managing director of Shades of Green Permaculture. “Also, you can filter the water and use it for home plumbing and household needs.”
Composting can also be an important way to reduce our environmental impact — when we compost, we’re re-investing in our land by building healthy soil. “Whether you pay for a monthly compost service like CompostNow to do your composting for you, or you amend plants with organic matter from a locally-owned nursery in the form of compost or worm castings, building healthy soil means water can infiltrate into the ground more easily, which replenishes groundwater and aquifers,” Hall explains. “It also offers more nutrients to your plants, which will require less water and thrive.”
6. Stock Your Kitchen The Right Way
When we’re walking the grocery store aisles in the middle of February and a beautiful melon or carton of berries catches our eye, our first thought isn’t usually, “How far did this travel in order to get to me?” But it’s something you should keep in mind as part of your greener-life-strategies. When you purchase in-season foods, chances are you’re supporting a local farmer, and you’re ensuring that what you buy didn’t spend a week getting to you via three airplanes and four giant trucks.
So, rather than grabbing whatever fits your fancy at the grocery store, challenge yourself and your family to shop for local and seasonal ingredients. Not only will you be cutting down on transportation emissions, you’ll also be eating your fruits and veggies when they taste the best! If the selection at your local grocery is lacking, check out farms in your area or join a community-supported agriculture system (CSA), recommends Kevin Yu, CEO of SideChef.
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