Having a small family is the most important thing you can do to conserve resources and protect the environment, but reducing your consumption and changing to more sustainable kinds of consumption is also essential if we’re to address our environmental challenges.
Here are a few other steps we can all take to reduce our environmental footprints.
Eat a planet-friendly diet
Reducing the amount of meat and dairy in your diet can make a big difference to the planet. Animal agriculture is responsible for a very large proportion of the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change. Livestock farming is the biggest driver of deforestation and slurry run-off from farms is a major cause of water pollution and fish die-offs. The production of red meat in particular has a disproportionately big environmental impact as it is energetically inefficient. Cattle require a tremendous amount of water and feed during their lifetimes.
When possible, choose local, organic produce to limit transport emissions and support environmentally-friendly farming free of synthetic pesticide use.
Choose low-carbon transport
Using a bicycle, public transportation, or even your own two feet to get around helps reduce air pollution and climate change emissions. If you are unable to live without a car, perhaps choose an electric one or enter a car-sharing scheme.
By far the biggest contributor to personal transport emissions is flying. Long distance flights in particular produce an enormous amount of carbon emissions per passenger. Avoiding air travel when possible is an excellent way to reduce your environmental footprint. When planning your next holiday, for example, why not consider going somewhere accessible by bus or train?
Buy less stuff
We live in a world that tries to convince us that we always need more. More babies, more money, more stuff. This toxic growth-obsessed thinking is at the heart of the environmental crisis. So much of what we buy—mobile phones, clothes, cars, laptops, etc.—ends up being tossed aside for newer, fancier versions. With 7.6 billion of us, 'reduce, reuse, recycle' really does make a big difference. Managing the huge amount of landfill waste we collectively produce is going to become increasingly difficult with more and more people and less and less space to store it.
Avoiding buying a lot of things we don't need and paying that little bit extra for durable goods that are produced in an ethical and environmentally-friendly manner goes a long way. Make sure that most of the waste you do produce can be recycled.
Help restore habitat
Our wildlife is facing an unprecedented crisis. Rapid human population growth and our destructive activities have stripped species of their habitats and food sources. There are many small things you can do to help out wildlife in need.
For example, if you have access to a garden, plant some native wildflowers for wild bees and other pollinators that are declining precipitously. Mow your lawn less often, avoid using pesticides and leave gaps in your garden fence or wall for hedgehogs to move through.
If you'd like to do more, why not volunteer for a local conservation group or wildlife rehabilitation centre?
Ditch single-use plastic
We are producing and throwing away more plastic than ever before. Single-use plastic can take thousands of years to break down and ends up accumulating in landfills, entering the ocean and killing marine wildlife. Try to avoid buying anything wrapped in single-use plastic and write to your nearby supermarkets asking them to stop unnecessary packaging.
Bring your own reusable bag and use a reusable bottle and cup when out and about. Buy produce from local markets if you are able and bring your own lunch to work. See how fast you can cut your total waste just by ditching single-use plastic!
Spread the word
We have the greatest influence over those closest to us. Engage your family and friends in conversation about population and environmental issues. Challenge them to think about ways they can reduce their own environmental footprints.
Movements spread via communication, something we humans are particularly good at. If every one of us who feels strongly about the state of our planet inspires a handful of other people to limit the number of children they have or adopt a more plant-based diet, for example, think about how much we could achieve!
Population Matters Local Groups get out and spread the word at local events, by organising talks and film screenings and distributing leaflets. They support our campaigns and provide the face-to-face contact that's so effective in changing opinions. Contact us to see if there is one near you.
Population is the driver behind so many global problems - but you can also get involved in campaigning on other issues you care about. Whether that is climate change, women's rights, conservation, global justice or anything else, there are plenty of orgnisations doing great work on those problems. Look what's available near you - and if you do get involved, bring the population message to the organisations you're supporting.