It’s a start of a new year, and almost an end of a decade. Still, climate change is not going anywhere. In fact, data show that global warming is projected to intensify.

I don’t say this to feed into any fear mongering or make you feel powerless with the changing tides (literally). Instead, I say this as a reminder that this year we all need to shift our focus from discussion to action. We don’t have time to debate climate change deniers, and simply supporting the science behind it isn’t enough.

2019 is the year I encourage us all to invest more in the fight against climate change, in one way or another. Here’s how:

1. Commit to a more sustainable diet

Bringing your reusable shopping bag to the grocery store is great, but the fight against climate change starts and ends with what’s on your plate.  Altering your diet may be the most tangible ways to cut your carbon footprint, and it doesn’t have to be as complicated or costly as you may assume.

The fundamentals of sustainable eating are being mindful of what you’re eating, where it came from, and how it was made.

Eat more plant-based foods

Zero Waste Gluten free restaurant in Brussels, featuring a Avocado rice bowl, Belgian chocolate gluten free waffle and gluten free beer
Zero-waste and season restaurant in Brussels, Belgium. Still savory and sustainable!

If you’re like me, you probably were conditioned into thinking that you can’t have a meal without meat. After all, WHERE else do humans get protein? Well, in 2019 it shouldn’t be a secret that plant-based foods have plenty of protein and have numerous health benefits.

For many (due to culture, dietary restrictions and allergies, and food deserts) going 100% vegan is not possible. I’m a flexitarian myself, and I believe plant-based doesn’t have to be all or nothing. But there’s no denying that cutting down on dairy and meat (especially red) will significantly help curb carbon emissions. Your health, and the planet will thank you.

Eat seasonally

Isn’t it the worst when the price of avocados spike two-fold in the winter? Yeah I know, talk about first world problems. But the reason this is, is because they aren’t in season (and likely are not local unless you live closer to Central America.)

Eating produce out of season means there’s more food miles involved in shipping it into your grocery store. You’re better off eating foods in season as much as you can. This will obviously vary depending on where you are in the world, but altering your diet according to the seasons is crucial to fighting climate change.

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Shop local, and organic if possible

Dolac marketing in Zagreb with woman picking fresh produce.
Dolac market filled with local produce in Zagreb, Croatia.

Somewhat along this same line of thought is that the more local your food, the better. This also goes hand-in-hand with food miles and encourages us to think a little more about where our food is coming from. It’s better to buy the apples that are local, instead of across the country in California.

Additionally, buying organic is better for the environment, and don’t use toxic pesticides that damage wildlife and pollute waterways. However, the organic food industry has turned into a big, profitable business as well, and many farmers can’t afford to pay for the organic certification. It’s best to check out your local farmers market, and ask them specifically about their “natural” practices to make sure.

2. Help cleanup your community

One of the basic pillars of sustainability is “think globally, act locally”. That means that each of us has to start with facilitating change within our own communities. Investing your time in local environmental organizations and non-profits is one of the best ways to do this.e

Start a community gardens

PC: Cultivate Northeast Minneapolis Community Garden Facebook

A great way to gather the neighborhood is to start a community garden. Sure, it won’t happen overnight and you’ll need to get your local government to sign-off on it. But community gardens have long-term benefits, including supplying local foods to members and the opportunity for the next generation to learn about sustainability from a young age.

Organize a clean up

If you truly want to act local, it’s time to roll your sleeves up. Think of an area in your community that could use a little love, and organize a clean up with friends or neighbors. This could be a beach, park, or area along the highway. You can easily make a fun event or day out of this, like winner for picking up the most recyclables gets a bottle of wine.

All of the U.S national parks that are currently trashed due to the government shutdown would be a good place to start. If you get a group of friends together, you can easily organize a beach or park cleanup.

Get involved with environmental non-profits

It’s likely that there are already several organizations in your city that need your help fighting climate change. Many non-profits are constantly seeking canvassers and volunteers. If you don’t have time to get involved in these organizations, or would like to do so additionally, consider donating a monthly fee to an environmental organization, local or global.

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Also, don’t forget about environmental justice organizations, because people of color are most affected by climate change and environmental disasters. Especially with out current administration in the U.S., where the EPA is essentially non-existent, these organizations need funding in order to continue their work. Here’s a list of a few environmental justice organizations in the U.S.

3. Offset your carbon miles from flying

Taking public transport, biking, and driving less is all great. But if you’re like me, you probably still fly at least once or twice a year regardless. Air travel becomes more affordable every year, and unfortunately that means tons more carbon added to the atmosphere.

The easy solution is to simply fly less and opt for buses and trains (which can often be way more fun anyways). Otherwise, you’re better off flying budget airlines like EasyJet that actually have a lower carbon footprint. You can also check out this post to see which airlines have the best sustainability policies.

Lastly, you can actually offset your carbon footprint with many airline companies by simply checking a box that usually says, “off-set my carbon miles” upon checkout. There are also third-party organizations like Green Seat where you can pay to offset your footprint for the price of a coffee.

You can read more about how offsetting your carbon miles works here.

4. Build a sustainable portfolio

student debt while traveling

The inconvenient truth is that individuals can do all of the above, but it won’t make a difference unless the private sector changes too. With any sustainability movement there’s always so much blame placed on the individual, when in reality it’s 100 companies that are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions.  

The good news is that sustainability IS profitable. We don’t need to sacrifice the economy for the planet, and the financial sector is leading the way.

According to a report on U.S. Sustainable, Responsible, and Impact Investing Trends 2018, sustainable investing is now a $12 trillion market in the United States alone. Now, one in four dollars is invested with sustainability in mind.

The problem is, how does one tell the difference between a company with a sustainable track record and one that is just using sustainability as a green-washing buzzword? And how on earth does one insure that this investment is even profitable?

That’s where Sustainfolio comes in, a sustainable financial, investment firm that also generously sponsored this blog post. Sustainfolio works with individuals to build a personalized and profitable portfolio in alignment with their environmental and social values.

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Dale Wannen has 15 years of experience as a sustainable investing advisor and runs Sustaininvest Asset Management. Wannen started Sustainfolio specifically as he saw more millennials wanting to invest in their values at a lower cost.

Essentially the program serves as the middleman between companies with a sustainable track record and individuals looking to invest sustainability.  Here’s how it works:

  • Sustainfolio vets companies using a screening process known as ESG: environment, social, and governance.
  • You answer a series of questions about your interests in social impact and sustainability, so that Sustainfolio can tailor your investments to your specific values.
  • Each portfolio is further tailored to your specific financial needs as well, including your tolerance for risk and aspirations for building wealth.
  • Sustainfolio will open your account with Charles Schwab & Co so that you can have complete peace of mind about the security of your investment and information.
  • Then, by using Sustainable and Responsible Investing, Sustainfolio manages all the asset allocations for you.

Sustainfolio is 100 percent focused on sustainable investing, and is part of the One percent for the Planet Program, in which they also donate 1 percent of annual profits to environmental non-profits.

This option is best for those that are both committed to sustainability and profit-minded. Sustainfolio allows you to invest in both your future for the planet and your finances.

5. Get out and vote

Truthfully, we can’t fight climate change with people in office that put profit before people and the planet. Sadly, climate change has become so polarized, when science should not be a partisan issue. After all, the Environmental Protection Agency was created under Nixon’s Republican administration in 1970!

Even the U.S. military says that climate change is a major threat to national security.

Our public officials work for US, therefore we need to hold them accountable to our values, or vote them out of office. And we can’t just show up when it’s a presidential election every four years. We need to vote in every local and state election as well.

There’s more than one way to fight climate change this year, and it involves change at all levels of our society. This fight starts with individuals, communities, companies, and governance.

How will you fight against climate change in 2019?

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*Disclaimer: This post was generously sponsored by Sustainfolio, but please note that all thoughts and opinions remain my own and do not reflect the views necessarily of this sponsor. As always, I only work with companies who I would genuinely recommend and that align with my own values.

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