Across the globe, humans produce 300 million tons of plastic each year, about half of which is intended for single use only. Of that plastic, approximately 8 million tons ends up in our oceans. Every gallon of gasoline becomes 20 pounds of carbon dioxide when burned, and the average car produces about six tons of carbon dioxide annually. However, more than any individual civilian contribution, industrial pollution is the single most detrimental source of greenhouse gases on the planet. How can you, as an individual, make a difference?

Curbing Your Plastic Addiction

As a single person, you may feel that your impact on the global scale is minimal, but every little bit counts. If every person did a little bit to make a difference, all of those tiny steps would result in a significant change. So, how can you do your part to save the Earth? Here’s a breakdown of the things you can do in your daily life to keep the world a habitable place.

Start small by replacing single-use plastics in your homes, such as freezer bags, plastic wrap, and bottled water with reusable substitutes. Invest in reusable grocery bags and in food storage containers that can be used in the fridge, freezer, or pantry to store the things you would otherwise bag. Glass jars are great for storing macaroni, rice, beans, and other dry goods, which are often purchasable in bulk. To ditch the plastic wrap, buy (or make) some beeswax wraps. The wax-soaked fabric will form to any container with the heat from your hands, it’s watertight, and it can be used over and over again. Finally, swap your bottled water for a filter. Most tap water is potable if filtered, and whether you use a filter pitcher or a faucet attachment, nearly any water can be turned into fresh drinking water. When you’re out and about, carry a reusable water bottle. If you keep only water in it and wash it regularly, it’ll say clean and fresh indefinitely.

Sustainable Changes

Transportation is a significant contributor to carbon emissions. If you live in a city, consider public transit, or, if possible, walking or biking to your destination. Carpooling or taking public transportation dramatically reduces the amount of carbon dioxide created per person when traveling. Even more than ground-based transit, air travel is responsible for up to 2 percent of all carbon emissions, so if you can get by without taking the plane, the planet will thank you.

At home, you can make a difference in the industrial component of pollution in several ways. First, saving energy by turning off lights, adjusting your thermostat, and installing energy-efficient light bulbs are all inexpensive ways to cut industrial pollution and save you money. If you can install solar panels on your roof, most reports show that they pay themselves off within ten years. Even the food you serve at your dinner table can make a difference.

The meat industry is one of the foremost contributors to greenhouse gases, cattle especially. Cows alone produce a variety of globe-warming gases, from the carbon dioxide required to house and process them to the methane and ammonia they produce by way of existing. Switching to a more vegetable-heavy or meat-free diet can go a long way toward protecting the planet. When it comes to producing crops, while some organic products are beneficial to the environment, genetically-modified crops are often more land-efficient and have less of a negative impact on the environment due to higher crop yields. Best of all, if you can buy local, do so.

Lastly and most importantly, your voice and choice are likely to go the farthest at the polls. Voting on critical issues at the local and national level can help reduce the amount of industrial pollution by capping factory emissions, imposing environment-protecting legislation, and levying taxes on companies that don’t follow the rules while rewarding those who do. Just as important as voting wisely on industrial regulations, the people that you vote for can do as much harm or good at the end of the day. Research your politicians and see what their views on climate preservation and protection are before you give them your vote. They’re the ones who make the large-scale changes, so it’s up to you to put the planet in good hands.