The truth about living climate-consciously

The truth about living climate-consciously

Wondering what you can do to have a meaningful impact on people and the planet? We’re breaking down the science into two simple steps. You’re probably already doing step one, but don’t forget step two. It is a crucial but often overlooked way to maximise your positive impact.

Science tells us it is all about emissions

The problem = increasing emissions.
The science is simple and undisputed. We’re releasing more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere than ever - gasses that have long been stored away in coal seams, oil fields, forests and soils. All these added emissions have fundamentally changed the energy balance of our planet. 

To put this into perspective, scientists estimate that over the last 25 years, the extra emissions blanketing the Earth have added the heat of 3.6 billion Hiroshima bombs to the oceans. That’s four bombs going off in the oceans every second. 
All this heat is causing widespread changes to the environment impacting all life on Earth. In the human realm, disaster after disaster affects where we live, how we stay healthy, what we eat, and how we make a living.


The solution = decreasing emissions. To make sure we’re heading towards a more liveable future, the world’s scientists have warned us that we need to restore the Earth’s energy balance urgently. The only way to do this is to decrease our emissions and absorb those already in the atmosphere. 

It may sound simple, but the problem is that we’re emitting more greenhouse gasses than ever. On a global scale, we recently reached the highest ever concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. On a local scale, we’re not doing much better. In December 2020, despite a year of lockdowns, household emissions in New Zealand peaked at their highest quarterly reading ever.

What can I do to lower emissions?

Step 1. Reduce your own emissions

Every day, we release emissions into the atmosphere. We do this directly by burning fossil fuels (e.g. burning petrol in our cars) and indirectly via the energy embedded in the things we buy and do (e.g. housing selfies on the cloud). It’s practically impossible to avoid, no matter how eco-friendly we try to live. 

What we can do is get a better handle on where our emissions come from. There are plenty of calculators out there to help, including Future Fit and CoGo. It means we can make an informed plan to reduce our emissions based on what we actually emit. It also lets us prioritise the most impactful actions first, so we don’t waste our energy on the small stuff.

Research shows that the most emissions-saving actions are living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year), avoiding aeroplane travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per year), and eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year). To put this into perspective, eating a plant-based diet is 180x more effective at reducing emissions than using your own bags at the supermarket.

Step 2. Help others reduce their emissions

While we should try to reduce our own emissions, we can’t do it all, nor are we expected to - perfectionism has no place in environmentalism

It’s important to remember that we’re each only responsible for the tiniest blip of emissions in the scheme of things. Fixating only on reducing our own blip isn’t helpful. All it does is limit the impact we could have and leaves us with less energy, time and headspace to do the things that matter. Instead, we need to be thinking bigger than ourselves. 

That’s where the important yet often forgotten step two comes in. Helping others reduce their emissions takes the pressure off and let us supersize our positive impact at the same time. By working with others, there is no limit to the emissions savings we can have. How can I help others reduce their emissions? Think beyond your sphere of influence to: 

  • support carbon-saving initiatives, either with your time, your money or by spreading the word,
  • advocate for change within your community, be it at a government level or a family level
  • encourage others to make better climate choices.

Just make sure you use your influence effectively. Saving 1 tonne of emissions by planting native trees in New Zealand in 179% more expensive than saving the same amount of emissions via donating to low-carbon projects through Co-Benefits.

Co-Benefits online giving platform makes supporting low-carbon projects and having a massive impact easy. For the price of just one coffee per week, joining the Co-Benefits collective of climate-conscious Kiwis means saving 16 native trees worth of emissions within a year. Not only is it a cost-effective way to reduce emissions, but every $1 received by Co-Benefits’s projects also creates up to $25 of socio-economic value in vulnerable communities at the frontline of the climate crisis. Learn more and join the collective today.

Author - Jessica Brown.
Co-founder of Co-Benefits

Co-Benefits an online giving platform helping Kiwis take more meaningful climate action.

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