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Open Road

All I want for Christmas is…sustainable living!

2022 environmental recap. How did we do in 2022? Climate change. Waste reduction. Pollution reduction. Are we getting there? If not, how can we do a better job in 2023?

2022 has been quite of a year, hasn’t it? Wars, recession, inflation, another supply chain disruption and on top of that, temperature rise. We were all so caught up in the political disputes and social and economic challenges that not many of us had an extra nerve to wrack and see how the planet is doing. But now that we are approaching the end of year, it would be shame not to ask.

- How are you doing, Earth?

- Well, huh, where do I start? I have inflammations here and there. Ukraine is hurting. Temperature is rising. Floods and wildfires are increasing. Glaciers are melting…I am not feeling good, to be honest. Do you want to see my recap?

- Sure.

Earth’s 2022 recap:

  • The world’s sixth-hottest July on record [1]

  • Atmospheric CO2 Reaches Highest Level in More Than 4 Million Years [2]

  • Around 1.3 billion tons of the food intended for human consumption is wasted or lost [3]

  • The population sizes of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians have experienced a decline of an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016 (in 46 years)  [4]

  • 14 million tons of plastic make their way into the oceans every year [5]

  • 91% of all plastic that has ever been made is not recycled [6]

  • Every hour, forests the size of 300 football fields are cut down. The planet might have only 10% of its forests by 2030 [7]

  • Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that  4.2 to 7 million people die from air pollution worldwide every year and that nine out of 10 people breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants [8]

  • Fashion produces more greenhouse gas emissions than both the aviation and shipping sectors combined [9]

  • Since 1970 the fresh water habitants have declined by an average of 83% [10]

  • Most people consume twice as much food as they did 50 years ago and there are four times as many people on earth as there were at the close of the 1960s [11]

  • 15 climate disasters resulted in the deaths of 342 people in the U.S. alone [12]

- I see…I’m sorry, Earth. Is there anything I can do to help you?

- Sure. Do you have any medication for me?

- Yes…no…I don’t know. Do I? Let me check.

I think this is the exact moment, where everyone struggles, me as an individual, me as an employee, and me as a community member. I recognize the problem but I do not get any clear instructions. What do I do with this information? What are those magical steps we all should be taking?

Let’s focus on the environmental responsibility and break it down into a couple of milestones.

  1. Net Zero

  2. Circular Economy

  3. Wise consumption

  4. Biodiversity preservation

Net Zero is a simple innovative concept. Net Zero is the balance, where energy consumption is equalized by energy production. For example, houses that use solar panels and have electric vehicle charging stations can neutralize the other houses that emit their share of greenhouse gases.

A circular economy keeps materials, products, and services in circulation for as long possible states U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [13]. Some people tend to think it mostly refers to different kinds of recycling and upcycling but I would argue that it is rather the system where all elements of the ecosystems are being tracked and leased, rather than once made, owned and sent to trash.

For example, when electric cars catch up on production and sales, we are likely going to face the shortage of lithium. One of the solutions would be potentially lease materials from the manufacturer to the seller, from the seller to the buyer, and when then the buyer no longer needs the product, it is being passed back to the manufacturer. Thus, no material is wasted while economy keeps moving.

However, to be realistic, not all materials can be reused so not every product will participate in the circular economy (i.e. commodities in the agriculture sector and hygiene products) so then what? The answer is responsible consumption. Responsible consumption is closely tight to the first two concepts, except that it goes even deeper and balances natural resources use by directly interconnecting economic and environmental relationships.

Now at this point, we have talked enough about the market and expected change in the consumer behavior. But are we changing it for nature? Global growth and development historically have been dependent on us “taking” resources from nature, molding them and putting them on a shelf as “goods”. And as we have recently learned the model of only “taking” has to go. As we are approaching the climate crisis, the time is finally to give it back. Reforestation and biodiversity restoration should be our priorities for the years to come.

- How do you like my plan, Earth?

-  It looks good, in fact it is everything I wish for.

- You and I will finally have sustainable relationships, right?

- Yes, all I want is sustainable living.

To sum up, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. All I want for Christmas is a bright future, which is impossible without climate action. Please take this action. Change your small habits. Consume consciously. Volunteer and help your community members get educated on the subject. Help your companies improve their operations. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Happy holidays and see you in 2023!

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