By Pianpian Wang
Since the 1970s, Earth Day has blossomed into a global day of action. Today, there are nearly 200 countries taking part in this day bringing attention to environmental problems that the earth is facing.
This year, Carbon Credit Capital (“CCC”) organized and participated in a few events to engage with the public on incorporating more sustainable lifestyles. In partnership with Good Clean Love, we held our first talk live on Instagram promoting a healthy sex life. This year also marks our second year as a partner with Earth Day Initiative. With this partnership, we advocated that vendors and attendees offset their carbon emissions caused by attending Earth Day New York 2019 at Union Square. During Earth Day Week, I had the opportunity to talk with several people and found some concerned about climate change or other environmental issues. Personally, I cannot stop thinking about how many will remain concerned but inactive after this week or who will realistically take action.
Most environmental problems do not affect people’s everyday lives. Therefore, Earth Day cannot be celebrated year-round unless we create a connection between the two. In this article, I will share observations on how to engage the public to take action.
We Need to Create Win-Wins
One motive that prompts the majority of people to do things is “I want to do it.” Generally speaking, if people feel good about doing something, or they can get benefits in return, they are more likely to say “I want to do it.” This hypothesis is a crucial foundation to create win-win solutions to environmental problems.
Here is an example to demonstrate a win-win situation. To respond to a trend that more and more people demand environmentally-friendly products, a company decides to make its products green without a significant price hike. When this product is presented with other ordinary counterparts, it is very likely that consumers will pick the green product. In this context, the company will sell more products than its competitors, which will motivate more companies to care about their products’ environmental impact.
In practice, there are many examples that utilize market mechanisms to create win-win situations. For example, it saves more energy (and money) if we switch to LED lights, therefore the adoption rate of LED lights continues to increase in recent years. Another example is voluntary carbon credits. We can spend 50 cents a day to purchase carbon credits to mitigate our personal carbon footprint, and the money will be used to support low carbon projects. The essence of “I want to do it” is to make being green an economical option for individuals and businesses.
We Have to Make it Obligatory
The legal obligation is another cause to force people and businesses to take rightful actions. In particular, for those industries who are pollution intensive, they have to keep the harm to the environment within legitimate ranges.
Laws and regulations are usually laggy, therefore, we have to revisit them regularly to make sure the standards are up to date and the regulations can deal with the changing environment. Due to the fact that climate change impacts are very dynamic and have already brought challenges to the traditional legal framework (silo-based oriented), many countries are speeding up to revise the existing laws and regulations. For example, the UK requires that a company should disclose information about emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from activities for which the company is responsible and a strategic plan to improve the status-quo. China is gearing up to force its publicly listed companies to disclose environmental information by 2020.
There is still room for regulations to make a strong push to achieve more ambitious carbon emission reduction goals, to develop adaptation measures and to increase the capacity of risk management in the context of climate change
We Can Start from Education
At this stage, education is the best entry point to make Earth Day every day. It does not only fill the public’s knowledge gaps on why they should care about climate change or other environmental issues, but also lets them know how they can help.
It reminds me of a lady I talked to at the Earth Day event held in Union Square. I explained to her the carbon emissions generated from an event. For example, the live music that she enjoyed consumes electricity and electricity generation needs to burn fossil fuels, and fossil fuels, as we all known, have carbon emissions. Let alone the brochure she got, the free samples she tried, and the free gifts she received from the event, and all of these involve a lot of manufacturing processes, which emits carbon emissions. She was surprised by these facts and decided to support low carbon projects that help remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere by offsetting her event attendance. In the end, she asked me if she can mitigate her travels’ carbon emissions too. This story shows that people are willing to take action when they are aware of what is going on.
With more education, people can understand what is a healthy lifestyle that is good for themselves and the planet; businesses can understand a sustainable path is more cost-effective in the long term. If we can make such learning as deep as possible, the understanding of the connection between people’s everyday lives and environmental problems will be strengthened, and eventually, Earth Day will be every day.