World Environment day lands on 5 June this year, and it gives us all cause to reflect on what else we can do in this space, if this is of interest.
These are the words that the United Nations’ (UN) World Environment Day is leading with, as it unveils its theme of #OnlyOneEarth. But how can we take that on board and turn it into local action if this is something you are interested in doing?
Here is a list of UN-suggested actions alongside our own suggestions a little closer to home.
“Encourage your friends, family and co-workers to reduce their carbon pollution. Join a global movement like Count Us In, which aims to inspire 1 billion people to take practical steps and challenge their leaders to act more boldly on climate. Organisers of the platform say that if 1 billion people took action, they could reduce as much as 20% of global carbon emissions. Or you could sign up to the UN’s #ActNow campaign on climate change and sustainability and add your voice to this critical global debate.”
We say: There are so many ways to achieve this. If you were comfortable doing so, perhaps consider running an awareness event online through your social feeds, or sharing any one of the UN’s hashtag #OnlyOneEarth on World Environment Day which lands on 5 June this year.
Lobby local politicians and businesses to support efforts to cut emissions and reduce carbon pollution. #ActNow Speak Up has sections on political pressure and corporate action – and Count Us In also has some handy tips for how to do this. Pick an environmental issue you care about, decide on a specific request for change and then try to arrange a meeting with your local representative. It might seem intimidating but your voice deserves to be heard. If humanity is to succeed in tackling the climate emergency, politicians must be part of the solution. It’s up to all of us to keep up with the pressure.
We say: Politics in the workplace is a tricky combination and not something you may wish to pursue. But there are plenty of interesting tips in there for activism if this appeals to you.
“Transport accounts for around a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions and across the world, many governments are implementing policies to decarbonise travel. You can get a head start: leave your car at home and walk or cycle whenever possible. If the distances are too great, choose public transport, preferably electric options. If you must drive, offer to carpool with others so that fewer cars are on the road. Get ahead of the curve and buy an electric car. Reduce the number of long-haul flights you take.”
We say: This concept could really take hold as a locally-run campaign by your workplace, given it falls so closely in line with the goals of any podiatrist to keep their patients active and mobile where possible. Perhaps you could organise a local walking group in your community which your workplace promotes, where the goal is to promote the benefits of walking over car use. The Heart Foundation also has a great walking group program which you could explore. Maybe contact the Heart Foundation to start up a local walking program in your area and recruit your clients who are looking to stay active and would appreciate the moral support.
“If you can, switch to a zero-carbon or renewable energy provider. Install solar panels on your roof. Be more efficient: turn your heating down a degree or two, if possible. Switch off appliances and lights when you are not using them and better yet buy the most efficient products in the first place (hint: this will save you money!). Insulate your loft or roof: you’ll be warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer and save some money too.”
We say: These tips are so relevant to our personal and work lives. It’s an education piece as much as anything, so if you feel comfortable in doing so, add a sign in rooms where clients may leave a light on, such as the bathroom, encouraging them to turn the light off after use.
“Eat more plant-based meals – your body and the planet will thank you. Today, around 60 per cent of the world’s agricultural land is used for livestock grazing and people in many countries are consuming more animal-sourced food than is healthy. Plant-rich diets can help reduce chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.”
We say: Information like this can offer a great educational resource to clients who may need some motivation to change their eating habits. While eating choices don’t immediately seem to fall into the sphere of podiatry, if a patient is struggling with their weight or has been forced into inactivity due to immobility and/or pain, then a conversation around healthy eating choices may be of benefit. And if it is good for the environment as well, then all the better!
“To reduce your food’s carbon footprint, buy local and seasonal foods. You’ll be helping small businesses and farms in your area and reducing fossil fuel emissions associated with transport and cold chain storage. Sustainable agriculture uses up to 56% less energy, creates 64% fewer emissions and allows for greater levels of biodiversity than conventional farming. Go one step further and try growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs. You can plant them in a garden, on a balcony or even on a window sill. Set up a community garden in your neighbourhood to get others involved.”
We say: This point touches on the power of community to inspire action. Perhaps your practice can be the catalyst for starting a local community garden, or sponsoring a local plot where clients are free to book in time to do a bit of gardening. Not only is this a great way to support your community but it is a practical way to encourage clients to be active in ways they may not have previously considered, such as gardening alongside other community members.
“One-third of all food produced is either lost or wasted. According to UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report 2021, people globally waste 1 billion tonnes of food each year, which accounts for around 8-10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Avoid waste by only buying what you need. Take advantage of every edible part of the foods you purchase. Measure portion sizes of rice and other staples before cooking them, store food correctly (use your freezer if you have one), be creative with leftovers, share extras with your friends and neighbours and contribute to a local food-sharing scheme. Make compost out of inedible remnants and use it to fertilise your garden. Composting is one of the best options for managing organic waste while also reducing environmental impacts.”
We say: This point offers up practical reminders to us all about how we can all be more mindful with food consumption. Whether it is a case of bringing in leftovers to work, or taking your reusable cup with you next time you order a takeaway coffee, it all adds up.
The fashion industry accounts for 8-10 per cent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined – and ‘fast fashion’ has created a throwaway culture that sees clothes quickly end up in landfills. But we can change this. Buy fewer new clothes and wear them longer. Seek out sustainable labels and use rental services for special occasions rather than buying new items that will only be worn once. Recycle pre-loved clothes and repair them when necessary.
We say: This one falls outside of work-related tips but it does give us pause for thought. It can be so easy to become part of the ‘fast fashion’ cycle but there are better, more sustainable options out there. To get started on this path, consider using this resource which outlines which clothing brands are most and least ethical in their supply chains and production choices.
“Every year approximately 12 million hectares of forest are destroyed and this deforestation, together with agriculture and other land use changes, is responsible for roughly 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We can all play a part in reversing this trend by planting trees, either individually or as part of a collective. For example, the Plant-for-the-Planet initiative allows people to sponsor tree-planting around the world.
Check out this UNEP guide to see what else you can do as part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global drive to halt the degradation of land and oceans, protect biodiversity, and rebuild ecosystems.”
We say: Depending on where your workplace is based, it could be a nice idea to spend a day in your community planting trees and inviting clients and community members along for the experience. Once again, it is about promoting community-based physical activities, and being seen to lead these opportunities.
“Individuals can also spur change through their savings and investments by choosing financial institutions that do not invest in carbon-polluting industries. #ActNow Speak Up has a section on money and so does Count Us In. This sends a clear signal to the market and already many financial institutions are offering more ethical investments, allowing you to use your money to support causes you believe in and avoid those you don’t. You can ask your financial institution about their responsible banking policies and find out how they rank in independent research.”
We say: This reminds us that businesses can set an example by choosing who they bank with and where their superannuation fund of choice may be. You may want to look up resources such as the Australian Sustainable Finance Institute to aid in such decision-making.