What does it takes for the average citizen to make a difference for the environment?

Since the beginning of the 2000s, awareness about climate change and environmental conservation. Although it is highly positive to educate the population to be more aware of the situation the planet is in, daily (especially in more recent times) we are bombarded with information on how to care for the planet. From reliable old ideas such as recycling, through more modern ideas such as the total conversion to electric cars, to more extreme ideas such as the entire world population becoming vegan or leaving the cities to lead rural lives depending on renewable energy. Furthermore, several people around the world who try to create more awareness with the issue of climate change with different forms of protest, from marches for the conservation of the environment and even in the most extreme occasions, crimes such as attacks on pieces of art. invaluable, this with the aim of “creating awareness” according to activist groups such as “Just Stop Oil” .

Just Stop Oil activists throw tomato soup on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting at National Gallery

However we are not here to discuss whether the actions of these activists are right or wrong. I want us to be on the same page and understand that we are all on the same side to do everything possible to save the planet.

What can you do and how much can you really contribute to the cause?

As we had stipulated, both the media and the scientists themselves warn us of the danger posed by climate change and that we can all contribute our bit to make a considerable change for the better. But which of all the options given to us by different sources really make a difference? What activities are worthwhile when it comes to really helping the environment? Next we will see some of the ones that should be taken into account when answering these questions.


Education is the central pillar of all knowledge and disciplines that have been and will be. For climate change education is the first step to start taking action. Learning and understanding what climate change is, how we know it exists, how it happens, what causes it, the consequences it brings to our world and what we can do to stop it or at least slow it down is fundamental to the cause. One of the best places to find out about all these issues is on the website of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) where you can find detailed and direct information.


Recycling is indeed an important part of the fight against climate change. However, it may not be as effective as many people believe. According to an article in The Atlantic titled “How Useful Is Recycling, Really?” by E. A Crunden in which he offers data that shows that recycling, although it is effective and it is a fact that it reduces the amount of waste produced and therefore, decreases the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, the truth is that the process of Recycling itself produces emissions, which causes it to rank below other alternatives such as forest protection, efficient aviation, and geothermal energy.

Even so, recycling continues to be a great exponent of the fight against climate change, both for what it represents, being one of the first steps to take to live in a more “green” way, but also in the same article by The Atlantic for all the waste currently produced more than 20% is recycled. It may not seem like much at first glance but that’s more than a fifth of what would otherwise be further polluting the planet.

As further evidence of the effectiveness of recycling, according to an experiment carried out by A. Rodriguez in which he collects data between January 2022 until October 2022 recording the amount of waste produced by a building in Inwood, Manhattan before, during and after a recycling policy was implemented, being the policy was implemented at the end of the second quarter of the year (in June).

Picture by Angel Rodriguez

As can be seen from the implementation, the amount of waste decreased considerably during the following weeks.  The policies implemented in buildings serve to motivate people and become more aware of recycling and environmental conservation. Furthermore, by making activities like recycling more everyday and commonplace for people living in the building, tenants might be less likely to stop recycling and continue doing other activities that contribute to the fight against the environment, and raise more awareness that recycling, although it is very helpful, is not a definitive tool and there should be an effort to continue caring for the environment.

Decrease the compsumption of Meat

The meat industry is one of the greatest exponents in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture industry makes up a huge part of the emissions of various substances that contribute to climate change and global warming. Of agriculture, the meat industry is the one that pollutes the most, since this is the one that uses the most land, energy and is the one that emits the most greenhouse gasses. According to a study by the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering titled “Impact of Dietary Meat and Animal Products on GHG Footprints: The UK and the US” Around 60% of all emissions that contribute to climate change come from the meat industry.

For this reason, and from an objective point of view, the best thing for the environment is for the entire population to stop eating meat. However, for various reasons it is almost impossible for this to happen, in addition to the fact that such an event could bring economic consequences that could be absolutely disastrous for our current society if the change occurred overnight, so for now this is not One option. However, if the change occurred gradually, the results would be very beneficial for the planet.

This gradual change could begin by reducing the consumption of the meats that produce the most emissions. According to Rebecca J. Barthelmie in the same study, meats such as pork and beef, in addition to other options such as rice. These 3 alone represent almost 50% of all emissions produced by the food industry. The plan is to focus on eating other much less polluting meats such as chicken, turkey and fish. Together these 3 only make up around 10% of the emissions. All of these figures take into account factors such as land use, farming, animal feed, processing, transportation, retail and packaging. If we only focused on a diet that has limited consumption of low-emission meats, we could reduce emissions from agriculture of methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, etc. by up to 50% and it would not represent such an extreme change in the people’s lifestyle.

Lab-Grown Meat

Even though it is a technology that is in its early stages of development, it is worth mentioning since in several places like Singapore it is a method that is already used regularly commercially.

Picture by Live Science

According to an article published on CNN Health titled “How ‘lab-grown’ meat could help the planet and our health” in addition to finding evidence that this type of meat could be beneficial to human health and be a method with the potential to greatly reduce animal cruelty, also help the environment since being grown in laboratories does not produce greenhouse emissions and in turn does not need all the land to store livestock, which has the potential of not depending on industries and factories for the production of meat. In this way, gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane could be reduced.

Transition to electric cars

Despite what many people think, including leaders and important personalities, electric cars do not do much for the environment. In fact, at times, they could pollute even more than gasoline-powered cars.

Image by YouMatter.World

In general, other factors are not taken into account in addition to the fact that they do not produce greenhouse gas emissions since they work with electricity, however in the creation of their components such as the lithium batteries that most use and in the recharging process of these can produce huge amounts of emissions in the long term. Even governments and their leaders do not seem to understand the depth of the matter. I think it is important to inform us about other more affordable options such as hybrid cars that could even be better for the environment for a much lower price. In this way not only people with a lot of resources, but also people from the middle class or even lower middle class can contribute to the cause of environmental conservation. According to a study by professor and environmentalist Bjørn Lomborg tittled “Gridlock on Electric Avenue: Electric cars aren’t climate-change heroes. The do little to reduce carbon pollution and in some ways even increase it.“, if by 2030 nations like Canada and the United States progress with their plans to put 140 million electric cars in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this would only save around 190 million tons of carbon dioxide, this being only 0.4% of global emissions. The price is definitely quite high, however this is not all, since if we add to this that the lithium batteries used by electric cars are produced in China and that their production produces emissions as well as their distribution, and that in addition the The vast majority of the electric stations used to recharge these batteries obtain their energy from fossil fuels. In the end, electric cars, depending on use, produce the emissions that cars that run on gasoline. This demonstrates that in order to help the environment, the convertion to electric vehicles is not an option we can depend on. On occasions like this it would be better to opt for a hybrid car.


To contribute our grain of sand as average citizens, it is not necessary to change our style in an extreme way. Just by continuing to recycle, cutting back on red meat and other foods like rice, supporting the development of promising new technologies like lab-grown meats, and getting a hybrid car instead of an all-electric or one that only runs on gasoline, we are already making a big difference. Of course, we should not stop here, but we should continue learning and educating ourselves on this very important subject, since our future generations could depend on it.