Climate change is among the greatest threats we face in our lifetime. In fact, in a 26-nation survey from 2018, climate change was viewed by more countries as a top international threat over ISIS and cyberattacks.
No longer is it a conversation of the future, but an urgent cry for action. Every day, we see communities around the world devastated by record-breaking storms, forest fires, droughts, and floods — all contributing to a whole new set of infrastructure problems.
While you may feel powerless — that your efforts won’t make a dent — think again. The united fight for our planet starts at home.
In honor of Earth Day, April 22, meet seven global environmental leaders as they share the easiest, most effective ways to embrace a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Founder of the Zero Waste lifestyle movement
Since 2008, Bea Johnson and her family have produced a mere pint-size jar of trash annually. Johnson’s simple 5R methodology, blog, and book, “Zero Waste Home,” have launched a global movement inspiring people worldwide to adopt the zero waste lifestyle.
“The most important thing one can do to stop waste and clutter from entering their home is to simply say no! Think before accepting something that is handed out to you. Turn down flyers, freebies, party favors, business cards, single use plastics (such as plastic bags), and fight junk mail. Accepting these things not only creates a demand to make more, they are a waste of resources and once they are brought into our home, they add to the clutter and require effort to dispose of them later. Refusing is the first rule to living a zero waste, simple lifestyle. Give it a try! You’ll be amazed how much stuff you’ll be able to stop from coming in.”
Congresswoman for New York’s 14th Congressional District
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, made history in the 2018 midterm elections as the youngest woman to be elected to Congress.
Along with improved and expanded Medicare for all, abolishing ICE, and a federal jobs guarantee program, Ocasio-Cortez’s platform prioritizes the global climate change crisis. She supports transitioning the United States to a carbon-neutral economy by 2035.
One of the highlights of her platform includes the mission to both tackle climate change and bridge socioeconomic divides with the Green New Deal.
Founder & President of Green Hope Foundation
Kehkashan Basu was destined to be an environmental warrior. Born on June 5, World Environment Day, Basu grew up in Dubai, where she became passionate about climate justice, sustainability, and giving voice to women and youth. Basu is a United Nations Human Rights Champion, founder of the Green Hope Foundation, and winner of the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize. Among many other accomplishments, she is a prominent speaker and has addressed more than 75 UN and global forums.
“Our world is heading toward an environmental apocalypse and the main cause is our apathy. It is not a problem for someone else to solve. The onus lies with each one of us to take concrete and time-bound actions to reduce our carbon footprint, reduce waste, and avoid single use plastics. My first step was to plant a tree on my 8th birthday and I would like everyone to do so — planting a tree is the simplest yet most effective way of reducing one’s carbon footprint and combatting global warming.”
Susan D. Shaw, Dr.PH.
Environmental Health Scientist, Marine Toxicologist, Explorer, Author
Dr. Susan D. Shaw is the founder and director of the Shaw Institute, a nonprofit scientific institution dedicated to the research and discovery of the impacts of toxic chemical exposure and climate change on human and ecological health.
She is recognized globally as an expert on the effects of environmental chemical exposure in both wildlife and humans. Notably, Dr. Shaw dove into the 2010 BP oil spill and influenced national debate on the dangers of dispersant chemicals.
She’s currently an adjunct professor of public health at the University at Albany-SUNY. Dr. Shaw is also the leading force behind an international team researching the impact of global warming and pollution on the survival of marine mammals.
“We are living with the alarming consequences of the fossil fuel age — the planet is warming at breakneck speed, our oceans are choking with plastics, and every person on Earth has hundreds of untested chemicals in their body, many of which cause cancer. Public deception, the assault on the facts, on science, is an unconscionable waste of precious time. We urgently need to confront the ethical dimensions of, not only our everyday actions, but who we elect as our political leaders, if we want our world to survive.”
Dr. Vandana Shiva
Global leader in developing sustainable methods of agriculture
Dr. Vandana Shiva is an iconic environmentalist and physicist from India, known for being a leader in the anti-GMO movement.
Dr. Shiva is the founder and director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy (RFSTN), an organization dedicated to developing sustainable methods of agriculture. She is also the founder of Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, particularly native seed, and to promote organic farming and fair trade.
Dr. Shiva was named an environmental “hero” by TIME Magazine in 2003, one of the five most powerful communicators in Asia by Asia Week, and one of the “Seven Most Powerful Women on the Globe” in 2010 by Forbes Magazine.
“Eat fresh, poison-free, local food — and if has been destroyed, create local living food economies.”
Executive Director, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO)
Kimberly Wasserman launched her career with Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in 1998 as an organizer. Currently, as executive director, Wasserman has worked with organizers to reinstate a job access bus line, built on the recent victory of a new 23-acre park to be built in Little Village and continued the more than 10 year campaign that won the closure of two local coal power plants to fight for remediation and redevelopment of the sites.
“We cannot buy or individualize our way to saving the environment. We must come together collectively and fight for justice and equity for those most impacted who least contribute to climate change.”
Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer, Operations for the Urban Growers Collective (UGC)
Since 2001, Erika Allen has dedicated her career to the urban agriculture sector. Her fascination of the intersection between justice and the environment led to development of the forerunner of Urban Growers Collective, Growing Power.
Allen and her co-founder, Laurell Sims, launched Urban Growers Collective in fall of 2017. UGC tackles food insecurity through its partnerships with local farms and nonprofit organizations, as well as dedication to urban farming and agricultural training programs.
“One of the most impactful and personally rewarding things is to grow your own food. A small garden can bring loads of nutritionally dense food and has a zero carbon footprint. Growing greens for daily salads and your favorite tomatoes and peppers, as a start. Start small, even a few herbs on a porch makes a difference. To take it to another level, compost those scraps and you are really closing the circle by feeding the soil yourself.”
More from Make It Better:
- 7 Chicago Restaurants Reducing Their Carbon Footprint in Innovative Ways (While Dishing Up Incredible Food!)
- Plastic Straws Are Wreaking Havoc on Oceans and Marine Wildlife: Skip the Straw or Try These Sustainable Alternatives
- 17 Bay Area Environmentalists Making a Difference in 2019
Emily Stone is Associate Editor at Make It Better. She earned a degree in journalism from Elon University in North Carolina. Along with writing, Stone has a passion for digital storytelling and photography. Her work is published in Chicago Athlete Magazine. Stone is a supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Stone is a fluent Spanish speaker who in her free time loves a good dance class.