How to help the environment in a structural way

For too long, the narrative around how to stop climate change has focused on individual action.  The oil industry has spent decades convincing the public that reducing one’s own environmental footprint will suffice to revert climate change.

The problem is that global warming has deep, systemic causes that are little affected by individual actions alone. Unless we undertake a massive change in the way our societies and economies work, we have virtually no hope of averting the worst consequences of an already changing climate.

However, some individual actions do have the potential to create the structural change needed. If only by diverting some of the power and money away from the very corporations trying to convince us that the climate crisis can be solved by simply renouncing plastic straws.

So, here are five easy things you can do to help the entire planet without leaving your home, but with a bigger ripple effect!

Switch to a green energy provider

The use of coal, gas and lignite is fanning the flames of climate change. Fossil fuels are, in fact, the single biggest contributor to the climate crisis. By switching to a green energy provider, you don’t just support the development of renewable energies such as solar or wind. You also send a strong political message that the use of fossil fuels belongs to the past.

Not all renewable energy providers are equal, though. Some just buy renewable energy credits while still producing dirty energy themselves. Make sure to pick a provider that is investing in new solar plants or wind farms.

Experiment with plant-based recipes

Meat and dairy are responsible for about 14.5% of the planet-warming greenhouse gases we release each year. The animal industry – and the feed it requires – is also one of the driving causes of deforestation.

Plant-based food has a much smaller climate footprint per gram of protein, doesn’t involve animal cruelty, and might even help prevent future pandemics. You can find delicious plant-based recipes here – or just search for them on Ecosia.

Switch to a more ethical bank

Instead of donating your money, you can be smarter about how it’s being invested on your behalf. The money in your bank account isn’t kept in an iron vault: in order to make a profit, your bank has invested it in stocks, government bonds and other assets. These investments are seldom ethical, however. In the last three years, banks have poured $1.9 trillion into fossil fuels. It’s time to take back control by switching to a more ethical bank. Aspiration is a fossil-fuel-free bank in the US, Tridos in the EU, and Me in Australia. Here’s a list of banks that have environmentally friendly credit cards, or you could research other local options through the Fossil Banks effort or

Switch to Ecosia

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time browsing the internet. Luckily, you can turn this habit into a force for good by using Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees. Each web search with Ecosia removes about 0.5kg of CO2 from the atmospher. The trees you'll plant also have many other environmental benefits. They prevent erosion, create microclimates that protect crops, restore depleted soil and create habitats for endangered animals. Ecosia also pays its taxes, respects your privacy, and has built its own solar plants. It’s easy to make the switch!

Train to be a better activist

Improving your personal carbon footprint matters a great deal, but our world has to change on a profound, structural level, too. To make sure future generations can thrive on a habitable planet, we must end our dependence on fossil fuels. We must start to adopt regenerative approaches to agriculture. And businesses must stop pursuing profit at the expense of the environment. Activism can compel systemic actors like multinationals and governments to start implementing these changes.

You can use your downtime to learn how to be an environmental activist by taking an online course or by catching up on climate change books. You can then apply your new knowledge and skills right away. For instance, you could join an upcoming climate strike, or you could campaign for policies that help us transition to a more sustainable economy – one that creates green jobs – instead of ones that unconditionally bail out airlines and fossil fuel companies.

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