Ways to Give Back to Our Planet During The Holidays

a person holding a handful of dirtWritten by: Hanbi Lee & Reya Siby

Photo by: Noah Buscher on Unsplash

From September 19-27, a new clock went up on New York City’s Metronome, a building that includes a 62-foot-wide, 15-digit electronic clock that faces Union Square in Manhattan. Created by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, this clock would count down the time until the effects of climate change on our planet would be irreversible. The hope was that it would encourage people to start taking action before it became too late.

The Climate Clock shows two numbers. The first number is our “deadline,” meaning it’s a timer that counts down how long we have before we’ve burnt through our “carbon budget” at our current rates of emissions. The “carbon budget” is the amount of carbon dioxide that can still be emitted while limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. In other words, this is how long we have to take action in order to keep warming below this threshold. The second number represents our “lifeline” and tracks the growing percentage of the world’s energy that is currently supplied from renewable sources. Ideally, we want to see our lifeline increase and reach 100% before our deadline reaches 0.

This deadline isn’t a number two artists arbitrarily estimated to scare the public into action. They have similar exhibitions in other major cities of the world to raise awareness for the pressing concern that is preserving our planet. Their website thoroughly explains the science behind how this number was calculated, but in case you’re in a bit of a time crunch, here’s a quick summary:

The clock is modelled after the carbon clock made by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, whose data is based on the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. There are a lot of factors that are taken into consideration when making these calculations. While the carbon budget is based on a nearly linear relationship between the cumulative emotions and the increases in temperature, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the earth would be 1.5°C warmer the moment we’ve used up the remaining carbon budget. One of the reasons for this is because there is a time lag between the concentration of emissions in the atmosphere and the impact of these emissions on the temperature. Moreover, the earth’s climate doesn’t warm at a linear rate, and there are thresholds along the way that cause large and possibly irreversible transitions in the climate. In the calculations, it was also assumed that the annual emission rates of future years would be similar to the rates of 2017, but current numbers are showing that emission rates are still on the rise, which means that we actually have even less time than we think.

I know, it all sounds very bleak. But my goal is not to sit here and spew all this information at you and dampen your holiday spirit. If anything, I hope that this will encourage you to start thinking about the ways you can take action. Because even in small ways, there are a lot of ways we can help.

This holiday season let’s all try to be mindful of the ways we impact our environment and consider the ways we can give to our planet so that future generations can continue to enjoy many more holiday seasons. Here are a few ways we can contribute:

1. Be Mindful of Waste:

When buying gifts, try to find eco-friendly items or items with reduced packaging. Also, choose gifts that will last the recipient a long time, rather than something that will be discarded after little use.

When wrapping gifts, recycle wrapping paper and gift bags when possible. You can also try to use a reusable alternative to regular wrapping paper such as: newspapers, comics, posters, maps, fabric, brown paper bags, or cloth gift bags. Your gifts will look unique and also be sustainable.

Lastly, limit buying unnecessary, single-use decorations.You could even try creating your own decorations that you can re-use each year.

2. Send Green Holiday Cards:

A lot of our close relatives or friends might be living far away, and you might want to send them your season’s greetings. You can find a sustainable alternative to the regular holiday cards. For example, Etsy is a great site to find eco-friendly holiday cards. They have many options and they are cheap! How about if you are receiving holiday cards? You can reuse them as decorations for next year or recycle them.

You can also try to make your own home-made holiday cards from house hold items like blank white paper, lined paper, or construction paper instead of buying packs of cards that come with unnecessary plastic packaging. This is a great way to send your love while also creating something fun!

3. Real is Always Better:

Fake Christmas trees are made from toxic plastics like PVCs and dangerous heavy metals. So not only will real Christmas trees get you more into the Christmas spirit with its fresh pine scent, it’s also eco-friendly. After Christmas is over, you can recycle the tree or compost it.

Another thing you can consider is buying candles made from soy or other plant-based waxes instead of paraffin wax, which is from petroleum as a by-product of making gasoline. This way, your candles are made from real, natural, and sustainable materials.

4. Give to Non-profit Organizations That Are Fighting Against Climate Change:

It can be difficult to narrow down which organization to donate to since there is a plethora of them out there. Nevertheless, it’s important to do the research before you donate your hard-earned money! To save you the time and effort, I’ve compiled a short list of the best ranked organizations by Charity Navigator, a reputable and trustworthy non-profit that researches various charities and ranks them based on a variety of factors to ensure that your donations are going to good use. Here are the top non-profit organizations to donate to this holiday season (note: most of these are tax-deductible):

If none of these tickle your fancy, you can also find more environmental charities here.

5. Raise Awareness:

Probably the easiest thing you can do this holiday season to contribute to protecting the Earth is to raise awareness regarding the effects of climate change and to educate yourself and those around you!

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