In honor of the 52nd Earth Day, I am sharing some changes I’ve made in my life to promote a healthier future for the planet and ourselves.
First, I was introduced to climate change freshman year of college (2012) when I took Intro to Environmental Science. I learned the impacts of industrial agriculture, deforestation, fossil fuel production, plastic pollution, etc. and decided to major in Conservation and Resource Studies. I wanted to further study the impacts of industrialization and how it can be resolved. As I’m sure you can infer from my current job title, I ultimately did not pursue a career in environmental restoration. However, my passion and commitment to a healthier world never wavered, and I’ve applied my learnings into my daily habits, consumption decisions, and investment strategies. Here’s how.
The food system is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, of which 80% is associated with livestock production. If everyone reduced their consumption of pork, beef, and poultry by a quarter and substituted with plant-based options, it’s estimated we’d save 82 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year; this is a 1% reduction in emissions. The positive impact doesn’t stop there. Reducing meat production will increase biodiversity, save water, reduce deforestation, decrease soil degradation, and free up land for growing more food (vegetables). We didn’t cut meat entirely out of our diet but significantly reduced our consumption to about three times a week. The rest of the week we eat plant-based meals (we also grow our food and try to eat seasonally.) And now, when I do eat meat, I purchase higher quality meat and have found I appreciate it more than I used to. Try it! Start with Meatless Mondays. It’s an opportunity to explore new recipes and get creative in the kitchen. Here’s one of my favorite weeknight meals:
Single-use plastics were created for convenience, but its impact on the ocean ecosystem and lower income communities is of a greater, longer-term, inconvenience for our world. Developed countries ship trash and recycling to developing nations, like China and India, for processing. Today you hear how inundated they are with the developed world’s recycling and, consequently, burn the plastics to dispose of them, expelling toxins in the air resulting in health hazards for the community. The plastic left to sit in the landfills is also problematic. Plastics don’t break down; they break up into smaller microplastics. Small marine and freshwater species commonly mistake microplastics for food, resulting in reduced reproduction and growth of the population, which ultimately disrupts the food chain.
I make a concerted effort to reduce plastic consumption and waste in our household by avoiding single-use plastics like utensils, straws, or plastic bags. We use reusable water bottles, coffee mugs, and grocery bags; we purchase glass and silicone tupperware. Of course, I am not perfect, and plastic cannot be avoided in today's world, but small efforts add up over time! What plastic can you omit from your daily routine? Plastic water bottles? Starbucks cups? Plastic grocery bags?
We’ve all heard reduce, reuse, recycle. Did you know the word order is intentional? Reduce is the top priority. Take this quiz to learn how many plastic items you consume and discard daily.
INVESTING — INVEST IN OUR PLANET
Impact investing, aka Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) investing, has gained popularity as environmental and social inequity issues have become ever present. ESG investing is a non-performance metric used to evaluate how a business operates, impacts the environment, and treats its people and stakeholders. The wellbeing of our planet requires more than individuals making lifestyle changes; it requires businesses and corporations to use their power and influence for positive change and implement business practices focused on preserving our environment rather than destroying it. I’ve chosen to allocate my portfolio investments based on ESG metrics because I believe businesses are responsible for helping create a sustainable economy. What we don’t see when we invest is the real cost of unsustainable business practices. People are more focused on maximizing yields and profits today at the expense of a costly future. The economic cost of wildfires in California in 2018, for example, totaled approximately $148.5 billion. This number does not include the long-term health costs of smoke inhalation and air pollution that we will bear in the decades to come. So, I’ve chosen to invest in companies that are creating solutions for climate change risk because it’s where the world needs to go and over the long run, they are likely to outcompete the business who were slow to innovate.
However, you don’t have to have an investment portfolio to make an impact in the investment space! Investing in our planet also includes time and resources, and this can be done at the consumer and community level. Being a conscious consumer means understanding the impacts of the products you buy and choosing a sustainable alternative. For example, avoid purchasing single use tupperware or water bottles; commit to carrying a reusable water bottle, and purchase glass containers instead of plastic. At the community and global level, shop local and buy from businesses who are giving back. Support regenerative agriculture by purchasing produce from a local farmer. Support innovative technology and plastic recycling by purchasing clothing from companies like Patagonia who make clothing out of plastic and worn clothes. We redid our landscaping and planted all California natives from a local nursery. The impact of this has been trifold; we are saving tons of water annually, restoring the native habits of pollinators, increasing biodiversity, and supporting a local business. California Native Plant Society is a great resource if this is of interest to you. https://www.cnps.org/
So, what changes can you commit to this Earth Day to invest in the future of our planet?
If you don’t know where to begin, start by building awareness and educating yourself of the issues. Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t learn about the climate crisis until college, and I wish I had learned about it sooner. We owe it to our little ones to be educated on the matter, because they are inheriting our impact. If we don’t gain awareness or teach positive habits, they will be stuck with a mess that might be irreversible.
There are a lot of neat and simple ways you can contribute towards a healthier world. Check out Earthday.org. They offer 52 Ways to Invest in Our Planet: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-tips/
And if you want to talk about your investment strategy and how to align it with your values and long-term vision for the planet, reach out! There are various strategies and techniques for incorporating impact investing in your plan. I’d love to help.
~ Rachel Bubb
World Wildlife Fund. 2019. No Plastic in Nature: Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People.
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.