Helping you learn how to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, whether in your private or professional life, is the objective of this article. Because it’s time for you to stop just feeling guilty, and learn what actions and efforts you can take to fight at your level against the various environmental challenges that threaten our future and that of our children.
- Here's the program
- Why is this important?
- The 5 main environmental problemsMain Environmental Problems
- What are the tricks to limit the impacts of your business?
- What are the eco-responsible actions to adopt in your daily life?
- Do environmental problems really exist?
- Pros and Cons
- Information recap
Why is this important?
Today, I’m offering you a slightly different article, one that I even thought of writing when I started Sweekr a few months ago. Those who know me or who regularly read my articles, are aware that ecological issues are one of my concerns, especially when it comes to talking about businesses. You have probably seen and read the “Ecotips” section at the bottom of each article in the “ideas” category. It briefly explains how each of the ideas that allow you to make money can be problematic, and what are the ways to avoid them (when there are any).
So why is this important? I’m guessing you have at least a vague idea of the answer to that question. For decades, the vast majority of industrialists and businessmen have been working with the sole purpose of generating profit, and this without worrying about the damage that their activities could have on the planet and its inhabitants.
As a result, we are left with catastrophic environmental problems on our hands. And for those who don’t understand what I’m talking about, let’s start with a list of the main problems that humanity is facing today.
The 5 main environmental problemsMain Environmental Problems
This is certainly one of the most urgent. Greenhouse gases (GHG), such as CO2 and methane, emitted by human activities since the industrial revolution of the 19th century, are accumulating in certain layers of our atmosphere and creating an imbalance that leads to thea global warming of the earth’s climate. The consequences of these changes are already visible since exceptionally long droughts regularly affect certain regions of the world, particularly in Europe and Africa, and the frequency and violence of typhoons, hurricanes, and also tornadoes is intensifying, floods, and landslides due to heavy rains also, huge wildfires, etc.
All these disasters are responsible for a number of deaths, injuries, and homelessness that increases year after year, and also lead to population movements and mass migrations. And all this is only a foretaste of what is to come in the not too distant future, because if nothing is done at the global level to reverse the curve of GHG in the atmosphere, scientists warn that it will be the apocalypse.
2The collapse of biodiversity
These same human activities have led to a dramatic decrease in biodiversity on a global scale. Many animal and plant species are already extinct, and others are close to the same tragic end. This loss of biodiversity has serious consequences on ecosystems and some of the precious services that nature provides, such as pollination, climate regulation, water quality, and food production, are now compromised.
Pollution is a scourge that is now found in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, in the soil where our food grows… No ecosystem, even the most remote and distant from any human activity are polluted to varying degrees. Microplastics have been found on the top of Everest and mercury in the blood of polar bears! This pollution represents a serious threat to biodiversity, but also to human health, since the countless types of pollutants found in nature can cause cardiovascular or respiratory diseases, cancers, and other serious illnesses.
4The scarcity of resources
The overexploitation of natural resources, such as water, forests, soils, and minerals, leads to their depletion and degradation at an unprecedented rate. The economic, social, and environmental consequences are evident around the world: loss Loss of income and livelihoods of local communities, water shortages for agriculture, industry and daily life, price increases and geopolitical instabilities that can lead to armed conflict are just a few examples.
The way we consume, especially in the industrialized countries, has led to an unprecedented production of waste, some of which is destined for landfill or incineration while others are exported to less developed countries, leading to a whole series of local problems (corruption, pollution, misery). Plastic waste, in particular, has a devastating impact on marine life and ecosystems because it ends up in the ocean and can persist for centuries.
Just a little clarification before continuing, this article is mainly aimed at micro-entrepreneurs and freelancers who work from home or in a small professional structure, but also at citizens from all walks of life, whatever their age, social or professional situation, etc. If you are the CEO of a big company (yes, I’m talking to you Mark and Jeff), you will find articles that will bring you information more adapted to your needs, like this one for example.
What are the tricks to limit the impacts of your business?
Let’s see what you can do to make your business more environmentally friendly, the ones I regularly talk about in the “Ecotips” section of my articles. We will then see those that are useful in your everyday life, but these should be beneficial even if you are not a self-entrepreneur or freelancer. This list is of course not exhaustive, and I will probably add more items later, but it’s already a good basis to start.
Buying second hand: I’m starting with this because it’s applicable to many of the points I’m developing in this list. Buying used equipment rather than new is often more environmentally friendly because it reduces energy consumption and waste generation, both of which are inherent in the manufacturing and packaging of new products. It also extends the life of the products, thus reducing the pressure on natural resources, and will save you money. So, choose this solution whenever possible.
The smartphone: If there is one common tool that every entrepreneur has, it is this one. And not only them, of course, since it is estimated that there are nearly 8 billion cell phones in circulation worldwide. Knowing that it takes a significant amount of plastic, raw materials, rare earths, etc. to manufacture each one, you can imagine the various environmental pressures, those I mentioned in the previous chapter, that this represents. Keep the one you have for as long as possible, and when the time comes to change, buy a good quality one, with all the options you need, take good care of it, and keep it as long as possible.
Computer: As with the smartphone, if you already have one, keep it as long as possible. And the advantage here is that it is easier to repair/modify it if necessary. For example, if you find that it is slow, replacing the classic hard drive with an SSD, or increasing the size of the RAM memory, in most cases makes it faster again. Sometimes even a reinstallation of the operating system is enough to make it work like before. And if it breaks down, take it in for repair. Often it’s just the charger that’s toast or a simple RAM strip that’s defective, so you should be fine for less than $100.
And if you have to buy a new or used one, opt for a laptop model which generally consumes much less energy than a desktop one. If you only have office work to do (writing, emailing, accounting…), a basic model will be more than enough (e.g.: i3 processor or equivalent, 4 or 8 Gb of RAM, 256 Gb SSD drive). Only for photo/audio and video editing is a more powerful computer needed, and in that case you could take an i5, 8 or 16 Gb of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a basic RTX or equivalent graphics card (RTX x060, for example). Unless you’re a gamer, there’s no point in buying a “big configuration” because it will just cost you more.
Car: Of all the money-making ideas listed on Sweekr, very few require you to own a car. We all know what impact cars have on the environment (pollution, GHGs, raw materials, etc.), so if possible, try to do without them. If you live in the city and need to get around, public transportation is much cheaper and often more convenient. You also have the option of using self-service electric bikes or scooters. Companies like Bird, Lime, Dott, etc., are present in most European countries, in the United States, as well as in other parts of the world. They offer various subscription packages at very attractive prices.
If you live in the countryside, in a remote area, or if for any other reason you absolutely need to use a car, you should know that there are also solutions. You can for example rent a car by the day, either through a rental company or through a car rental application (e.g. Turo, Getaround, and others that you can easily find via Google). But if you really need to buy one, prefer an economic model with low GHG emissions, or better, an electric vehicle.
Web hosting: If you have to create a website, and go through a platform such as Wix, Squarespace or Weebly, your site will be hosted by them. But if you opt for another solution and you have the choice of hosting, you should know that there are some more “green” than others. Greengeeks, for example, on which Sweekr is hosted, is a service whose servers are powered by 300% green energy, which makes it the most eco-friendly web hosting. It also offers a hosting package starting at only $2.95/month. Otherwise you can find more via this site.
Cloud service: The cloud is very convenient. It’s a simple and flexible solution that allows you to save your work safely and often for a reasonable price. But the cloud is very polluting. Indeed, the servers that host your files are permanently powered by electricity often produced from fossil fuels, which generates huge greenhouse gas qualities. If many web hosting companies have gone green, it is not necessarily the case with cloud services. Google (Drive), Microsoft (OneDrive) and Amazon (AWS) are making great efforts in this area, but there is still a long way to go. That’s why I recommend you use the cloud only for important and not too large files, and to use an external backup drive that will only cost you a few tens of dollars and that you will plug in only when you need it.
Some people will tell me that an external drive can be lost, stolen, burned in a fire, or simply break down, and they will be right. That’s why I have two external drives, and one of them always stays with my best friend.
And if you really need a lot of space, kDrive seems to be a good solution, since they offset all their GHG emissions by 200% (they also offer web hosting packages).
Energy providers: I don’t know how it is in the US or elsewhere, but if you live in Europe you can choose between different energy providers. If you have this possibility, choose a green energy supplier. Wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass or even nuclear, everything is good except fossil fuels such as ground gas, oil, or coal. And if your budget allows it, you can also have solar panels installed on the roof of your house. This can quickly become profitable, especially if the price of energy continues to rise as is the case at the moment.
What are the eco-responsible actions to adopt in your daily life?
Before being a businessman, freelancer, or any other kind of entrepreneur, you are a citizen who can also act at his level and contribute to make this planet “great again”. This article would not be complete without a list of eco-responsible gestures to adopt in your daily life, which will allow you as a consumer to reduce your ecological footprint.
Reduce your energy consumption: Using low-energy LED light bulbs, turning off the lights as soon as you leave a room, reducing the use of electronic devices as much as possible, and limiting the use of air conditioning or heating are simple gestures that have a real impact and also contribute to avoiding the need to build new ground gas or coal-fired power plants.
Favoring local and organic products: This is a simple and effective way to reduce your carbon footprint since it avoids transporting goods over long distances. Eating organic food also reduces the production and use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers which are partly responsible for the decline of insect and bird populations in our countryside but can also be a danger to human health.
Reduce meat consumption: Meat production poses huge problems. This industry, in addition to being very consumptive of natural resources (water, fodder, arable land…), contributes strongly to greenhouse gas emissions. The famous cow farts are not a joke because they contain a huge amount of methane, a gas 25 times more powerful than CO² for the greenhouse effect.
Deforestation is also a major problem directly linked to meat consumption. Tropical forests, especially those located in South America, are regularly cleared to make way for pastureland for livestock or for soy crops whose production will be sent to Europe and the US to feed the cattle. These forests play a crucial role in the regulation of the climate because they absorb a large quantity of CO². Deforestation therefore contributes to the increase of greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to destroying ecosystems rich in biodiversity.
Reduce your water consumption: Water is certainly the most precious element on this planet (as well as the air we breathe). Without water, there is no life. However, many regions in the world suffer from sometimes severe shortages, and this situation is likely to worsen in the years to come because of global warming. Reducing your water consumption therefore helps to preserve this essential resource.
You can do this by taking showers instead of baths, turning off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving, installing rainwater harvesting systems to water your plants or to flush the toilet, repairing water leaks as soon as they appear, etc.
Limit food waste: Every year, nearly one billion tons of food is not consumed, which represents one third of the total amount of food produced in the world. This figure is staggering, especially when you consider that between 720 and 811 million people on Earth are malnourished. In addition, considerable amounts of energy, water, and fertilizer could have been saved. On a global scale, all this wasted or lost food generates more greenhouse gases than any other country (except China and the United States).
Only buy food that you are sure to eat. This means doing small daily shopping trips to the local market rather than large weekly ones to the supermarket. Also consider making a shopping list before you go shopping for food; this will help you focus on what you really need and avoid impulsive purchases. If you have leftover food, use it to create new food or meals for the next few days. Finally, if you can’t finish a food at a restaurant, take it home rather than letting it end up in the trash (take a tupperware with just in case).
Be sure to check the best-before date (BBD) before buying a perishable product. For fish and meat, eat them as soon as possible or put them in the freezer if the BBD is approaching, as these are the foods that go bad the fastest. Overripe fruit can be used to make desserts, compotes, or jams, and vegetables make very good soups.
Finally, you should know that some products can be consumed long after the date indicated. Yogurt, for example, can be eaten up to a month or more after its expiration date, chocolate up to two years, and dry foods (like pasta and rice) several months. Some foods such as spices, sugar, honey and salt never expire.
Limit the amount of waste: Our planet is literally crumbling under mountains of waste of all kinds. To fight against this at your level, you can start by buying products in bulk or with as little non-recyclable packaging as possible. Avoid plastic especially, because compared to glass or aluminum packaging, it is the most difficult material to recycle and degrades the least well in the environment. And if the tap water is drinkable at home, prefer it to plastic water (or soda) bottles. Use a carafe filter if you don’t like the taste. There , there are different types. And if you have to take it with you, buy an isothermal water bottle that will keep it fresh for 24 hours (it also works for hot drinks).
I insist on this point because it is one of the most worrying environmental problems of our time. It is estimated that today more than 150 million tons of plastic are floating in the seas and oceans of the world! Much of this plastic is concentrated in several areas known as “waste vortexes” or “plastic continents”, where it accumulates due to the action of ocean currents. This plastic breaks down very slowly and ends up fragmenting into microplastics that are then ingested by fish and shellfish that end up on our plates (bon appetit!).
The problem is so big that some scientists estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish if nothing is done to reverse this trend. Now you can see why it is urgent to reduce our use of plastic, but also to encourage the recycling and reuse of existing plastics.
Avoid buying new: The astronomical amount of material and consumer goods produced each year is largely responsible for the environmental problems we face today. When you need to buy something, first ask yourself if you really need it (and take a look at all the useless stuff you’ve accumulated over the past few years 😁). And if you do, see if there is any way to make it yourself, buy it second hand, borrow it, rent it, or if there is any other solution that would allow you not to have to buy the product new. And if you really don’t have a choice, try to choose a product that is of good enough quality that you can keep it for several years.
Favor alternative means of transport: Avoid as much as possible using the car for short trips and prefer public transport, or better, two-wheelers (bicycle, scooter…), electric or not. Cars are one of the other scourges which, in Europe, are responsible for nearly a two-thirdsthird of GHG emissions linked to transport.
The plane, another big emitter of GHG is also to be avoided as much as possible. The train is an option that is not always cheaper, but sometimes just as fast on relatively short trips (up to 1000 km), and certainly much less harmful to the climate.
Another option you may want to consider is carpooling, a practice of sharing a ride (and the cost) with others traveling in the same direction. There are specialized applications that connect drivers and passengers (ex: Lyft or blablacar) all over the world.
And if you still have to fly, you can offset some of your CO2 emissions by investing in reforestation projects or renewable energy initiatives. More and more airlines are also offering options to offset the CO2 emissions of their flights.
Some non-profit organizations propose solutions to offset our carbon emissions. These solutions are sometimes controversial. Reforestation, for example, does not meet the current climate emergency since the time needed for trees to mature and start absorbing CO2 efficiently is about 30 years. Another point raised is the fact that carbon offsetting can give the feeling of having paid to “cancel” our CO2 emissions, which is not the case, and can thus have the opposite effect and encourage people to take the plane (this is especially the goal of airlines). It is therefore not always ideal, but it is better than nothing.
If you want to offset your GHG emissions, here are a few sites that will help you.
Carbonfund.org offers carbon offset programs to help businesses and individuals reduce their carbon footprint by funding projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as renewable energy or carbon sequestration projects. They also provide resources to help raise awareness and educate the public about climate change issues.
Goodplanet.org is an organization created by renowned photographer and filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand (Earth from Above), which aims to promote sustainable development and environmental protection through education, awareness, and the implementation of concrete projects. They work with local and international partners to implement environmental and social projects, such as reforestation, access to clean water, and the promotion of renewable energy.
Pur Projet is a French social enterprise whose mission is to contribute to the regeneration of land cover by developing agroforestry projects. It works with companies to help them integrate sustainable practices into their supply chain, planting trees to capture carbon and restore ecosystems. In addition to its consulting and project activities, Pur Projet also offers an online platform for individuals to support reforestation and carbon offset projects by making donations.
Opt for eco-labeled products: These labels exist in different sectors such as agriculture, wood, fishing, household appliances, etc. They are not always very reliable, but they are better than nothing. And beware of the greenwashing that I have already mentioned. It is not because a product’s label is green, or even that it says it is good for the planet, that it is really eco-friendly. If you’re unsure about a particular label, do a Google search to find out more.
Support eco-friendly companies: Some international or local companies really care about environmental matters and make a real effort to provide products or services that go in the right direction. By buying from companies that are committed to this type of positive approach, you encourage them to continue on this path and to go even further, but above all, you encourage other companies to follow their example. This is an important role that you can play as a consumer.
But the most important thing is to boycott those who act in a totally irresponsible way. So, you may ask, how do you know which companies are virtuous and which ones are harmful? I’ve provided a few links to studies that will help you figure it out.
The most eco-friendly companies: “Corporate Knights” is a Canadian magazine specialized in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. Since 2005, it publishes every year a ranking of the 100 most sustainable companies in the world. These companies are not all known to the general public and some operate in very specific sectors. But if you want to know which mainstream ones are the most eco-friendly, Google is full of articles, such as this one, that offer lists of virtuous brands and companies.
The most harmful companies: Again, there are all sorts of studies and rankings via a Google search. This one, for example, exposes the 100 companies that are responsible for 71% of GHGs in the world. This other one lists the top 10 plastic polluters in the world, while this one shows the 20 companies that produce 55% of the plastic waste found in the environment.
Support ambitious policies: All the goodwill eco-actions done by citizens will be useless without the implementation of a real environmental policy at the local and global level. When it comes time to vote in the next elections, look carefully at the proposals of the different candidates and parties, and vote for those who have clear commitments to fight climate change, energy transition, biodiversity protection, waste management, and the promotion of a circular economy.
You can also support non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and groups that work for the environment and lobby governments to adopt more ambitious policies to protect the planet.
What is the circular economy?
The circular economy is a concept that aims to reduce waste and preserve natural resources by giving products a second life rather than discarding them after use. This means that waste is considered as a potential resource and is reused, repaired, recycled or transformed into new raw materials to manufacture new products.
The idea is to create a virtuous circle in which products are used for as long as possible, thereby reducing the demand for new raw materials and decreasing the amount of waste sent to landfill. The circular economy is a sustainable approach that helps protect the environment while stimulating innovation and job creation in sectors such as recycling and repair.
Fairphone is a concrete example of the circular economy in technology. The company designs modular, durable smartphones, where every component can be easily replaced, extending the phone’s lifespan. They use recycled and ethical materials, reducing their environmental impact. What’s more, Fairphone sets up recycling and take-back programs to collect old phones and recycle them.
But there are other examples, too:
- Patagonia, an outdoor clothing brand that encourages the repair and reuse of its products, offers recycling programs for its used clothing, and uses sustainable and recycled materials in its production.
- IKEA, which is committed to using sustainable and recycled materials in the design of its furniture, and also offers recycling programs for its end-of-life products.
- Interface, a company that manufactures sustainable floor coverings from recycled materials and offers recycling programs for its end-of-life products.
- Dell, which offers refurbished computers and encourages the recycling of electronic components to reduce the environmental impact of its products.
Do environmental problems really exist?
Before I end this article, I just want to talk about the resurgence of climate skepticism that we are currently seeing. I so wish the answer to this question was no, but unfortunately, yes, environmental problems are real. There is undeniable scientific evidence that the planet is facing upheavals of a magnitude and speed unprecedented in Earth’s history.
Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are also causing climate change of unprecedented speed, with catastrophic consequences such as extreme heat waves, floods, droughts, more intense hurricanes, and uncontrollable forest fires.
So, there will of course be skeptics who will not always agree, and there have to be, because that’s how science advances, but concerning the climate (but also biodiversity, pollution…) there is an undeniable scientific consensus. This means that an overwhelming majority (97%) of scientists who study these phenomena agree on the evidence that these problems exist and are caused by human activities.
A study was even conducted to find out the percentage of scientific publications confirming the thesis of global warming and its human responsibility. The result is clear: 99.9% of them confirm it.
Some people deny the environmental problem because it causes them such a state of anxiety that making it disappear (consciously or not) is the only solution they have found to be able to continue to live “normally”, while others refuse the truth because they are too attached to their lifestyle of opulence and carefree living.
And then there are especially those who have an interest in denying it, or rather very big interests. They are the biggest polluters, industrialists who have been gorging themselves with billions of dollars for decades and bribing scientists, politicians and journalists with millions of dollars in order to sow doubt in people’s minds and thus keep the status quo.
To finish, I propose a video which explains in a very simple way this phenomenon of climate change.
So, that’s it for now, but as I said, I will add more information to this article as soon as possible. And if you have any relevant information that could add to itbe added, I invite you to let me know via the comments below. I will be happy to add them here.
I know that some points may seem obvious, but they are not necessarily obvious to everyone, and that’s why I had to write this article. Every decision we make every day has the power to improve or worsen the situation we find ourselves in today. It is up to us to choose between being part of the problem, or being part of the solution. And above all, do not make the mistake of thinking that each of these gestures is derisory in the face of the magnitude of the challenges, and that isolated they are only a drop in the ocean. It is only through a collective effort that we will be able to get through this, and there are already millions of us.
The time when we did business without thinking about the consequences is over, and each human being has now the responsibility to act at his level and according to his means to preserve our planet, and thus ensure future generations a future in a liveable world. I am not saying that we have to be a model of exemplarity, but being aware of the impact of our actions on the environment and looking for ways to reduce our ecological footprint can only contribute to making this world a better place.
That’s it. Sorry if this article seems a bit radical and peremptory, but the urgency is there, and if things don’t move quickly, I’m afraid we’ll go straight into the wall.