There has been much debate about the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of individual actions to combat climate change. Even if we try to do the best we can, it does not help if everyone else continues to do the same. It is also true that shifting all the responsibility to individuals is unfair if large companies – especially those in the fossil fuel sector – and governments are left out. This does not detract from the fact that if we all led more sustainable lives we would also be making a significant contribution to improving the situation.

Many psychologists explain that the actions we take individually influence our environment. Even though we continually tell ourselves that we cannot be influenced at all, we always look to the people around us for guidance. Climate change is the order of the day, and we have all changed some of our habits in recent years to do our bit when we saw others doing the same. The Fridays For Future movement is an example of how the awareness of individuals has given rise to space for political debate that demands action from governments and companies.

What are the most impactful individual actions?

A study published in Environmental Research Letters, by Seth Wynes and Kimberly A. Nicholas, ranks different actions according to their impact on climate change. The individual actions with the greatest impact are quite controversial, as they involve personal choices that are also very important. Topping the list of high impact actions are having fewer children, eating only plant-based products, not owning a car, and not flying in an airplane. While it is true that acting against climate change requires personal sacrifices, some people cannot base their diet on vegetables alone, and it is unfair to focus all attention on women’s fertility and such important decisions as to whether or not to have children. Even so, there are several lifestyle changes that we can consider, within our socio-economic means.

What can we do then?

  • Not owning a private car, using it less, and opting for public transport or cycling. If we need to travel by car, opt for a hybrid or electric car, always within each person’s means.
  • Fly less: avoid flying if you can travel by other means, whether by train, bus or boat.
  • Review our diet: Reduce meat consumption, eat local and seasonal products, and avoid anything that comes with excessive packaging.
  • Look after the forests and avoid anything that could cause a fire. If possible, even planting a tree can have a big impact.
  • Save energy: take care in the use of electrical appliances at home, turn them off instead of leaving them on standby. Use renewable energy. For example, install solar panels at home.
  • Recycle: recycle our waste properly, find out exactly which bin each material goes into.
  • Reuse and repair: try to make the most of the things we already have instead of buying new things. Repair or replace parts of objects when they break down instead of replacing them.
  • Consume less: In the last UNIR Project debate, the topic of hyper-consumerism and responsible consumption was discussed, find out more:
  • Civic actions: They also highlight in their study the importance of civic actions: raising awareness among the people around us and influencing the actions that take place in our environment, be it at school or work. It may not be a high-impact action, but as we have explained, setting an example does make a difference.
  • Demand more from our politicians: As we have already said, personal decisions are useless if they are not followed by political decisions at a global level.

If you want to start your project to combat climate change, find out more about our Bachelor in Management, our Master in Management, or one of our 5 MSc programs.

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