What more can we do?

To tackle the environmental crisis, it is essential for us to take action in both our student and professional lives. Moreover, it is important that we engage in individual changes towards an eco-friendlier way of life. College students and recent graduates belong to a part of the world’s population that has the highest impacts on the planet, but also the strongest means of action. Need proof? We, a handful of college students, managed to mobilize 30,000 students and carry their voices to more than a hundred economical and political leaders.

While individual actions alone are not enough, they have a significant impact on solving the environmental issues: this section will show you how.

On this page, you will find rubrics that offer information on ways to act around different subjects: food, finance, housing, transportation, fashion... There are many ways to act. But above all, it is important to understand the specific environmental issues we are facing: you will therefore also find a section explaining those issues.


Browse the sheets

Food

Let us change the way we eat, the way we shop for food, and the way we cook in order to lower our carbon footprint.

Mobility

30% of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to transportation: let us rethink our ways of going to work, our ways of traveling, etc.

Housing

We can reduce the carbon footprint of our housing by improving thermal insulation and finding solutions to decrease the energy used by our household appliances.

Placing our savings

Let us place the world of finance at the heart of the "real economy" thanks to our savings, and thereby contribute to financing the ecological transition.

Digital

Let us rethink our relation to the digital world, whose environmental impacts are often little-known and underestimated.

Energy

To launch an effective energy transition as quickly as possible, let us take the time to understand its complexity and interdependence with numerous other sectors.

Fashion

The fashion industry is the second-most polluting industry in the world, after the oil industry. Let us become aware of the practices of the brands that we choose, find alternatives to buying, and recycle our clothing.

Humanities and behavioural sciences

The study of human behavior in the face of environmental challenges is an emerging subject whose importance is obvious, although the literature covering the subject remains scant.

Collective action

The ecological transition cannot limit itself to individual actions; all stakeholders need to participate. Collective action is essential to build their awareness, mobilize them, and change the way things are done.

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The main landmarks

Individual actions


Acting individually is not enough…

Shifting towards an ecological society implies a global effort, in order to stop climate change but also the destruction of species and resources. If we think about climate change, for instance, meeting the 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement would entail lowering U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 75%.

Individual efforts could seem powerless facing those issues. However, when associated with actions from governments and companies, they are nonetheless essential. A recent study from the French consulting firm Carbone 4 shows the importance of shared responsibility between citizens, governments and companies when facing climate change. It shows that citizens’ eco-friendly behavior and investments could achieve a quarter of total efforts to be made. The remaining efforts (3/4) would have to be achieved through a systemic change, hence our demands towards governments and companies.

Carbone 4 - Faire sa part

… but yet has a significant impact

The study also shows that individual actions, when not symbolic or superficial, do make a difference. One scenario shows that “heroic” changes from individuals (eco-friendly behaviors) coupled with relevant investments could achieve 50% of the Paris Agreement’s goals regarding decrease in greenhouse gases emissions. However, this scenario would imply radical changes in our way of life.

héroique.png


Less consumption, more cooperation

As citizens and consumers, taking part in the global effort means questioning every aspect of our way of life: what we eat, how we travel, how we invest our savings, how we dress, how we use digital tools and how we consume energy. The association Avenir Climatique has put onlinean excellent tool to identify its main greenhouse gas emissions sources. Making progress towards a sober lifestyle does not necessarily mean a giving up our well-being. Quite the opposite! Repairing bikes in workshops, meeting neighbors when asking to borrow some tools are numerous occasions of bonding with others while saving money. A few examples of actions have been listed below. The goal is to extend the impact of the Manifesto by helping people to understand the issues and to find ways to act.

Understand environmental issues


Global environmental challenges

Global environmental issues... our generation hears about them almost every day: but what issues are we talking about?

Our generation was born in a globalized society with exponential growth due to a set of socio-economic factors, such as the extraction of raw materials (left part of the graph). Our activities have an impact on our environment, and that is completely natural. Nevertheless, population growth coupled with a change in our way of life - more particularly the thermo-industrial society that appeared two centuries ago - has also led to an exponential degradation of our environment (loss of biodiversity, emissions of gases causing global warming, etc.) (right-hand side of the graph) and the depletion of mineral and fossil resources.

The great acceleration.jpg

We live in an environment of limited resources. As a result, these extremely rapid growth rates led to an overshoot in many of our renewable resources (particularly animals and plants) in the 1980s. Since that time, we have been eroding the natural capital of our planet, over-exploiting its biocapacity. Our yearly ecological footprint is greater than what our planet can a absorb in a year. .

Ecological_footprint.png

More specifically, researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre have identified 9 planetary boundaries that should not be exceeded if humanity wants to be able to live in a safe ecosystem, i.e. to avoid sudden and unpredictable changes in the global environment (Rockström et al., A safe operating space for humanity, Nature (2009)). Beyond these biophysical boundaries, we do not know how ecosystems behave. To quantify these limits, these scientists assessed the environmental conditions in which humanity has prospered over the past 10,000 years (geological period called the Holocene).

In addition, for certain boundaries and physical phenomena, impacts on ecosystems can reach tipping points, causing irreversible disruption.

Planetary_boundaries.jpg

To discover the concept of planetary boundaries in a video: Johan Rockström TED Talk.

Among these limits, 2 have been overshot: the loss of biodiversity (genetic diversity of species) and the disruption of biogeochemical flows (phosphorus and nitrogen). The graphic does not show climate change as being exceeded, since the observed global warming is still +1°C. Nevertheless, the scientific article points out that because of the inertial effect of the greenhouse effect and socio-economic changes, i.e., what has already been emitted and what we predict will be emitted into the atmosphere, the threshold of 2°C average global warming will be exceeded.


Here are some links to deepen your knowledge of planetary boundaries and the mechanisms involved:

🌡️ Climate change


🌳 Biodiversity loss


📉 Disruption to biogeochemical cycles (nitrogen and phosphorus)


The changes in lifestyles that we collectively achieve on a global scale, the natural capital available, the pollution of ecosystems, biophysical conditions, and the standard of living and human population will decisively influence the world in which we live. This major challenge calls for the integration of the knowledge of economists, engineers, climatologists and other stakeholders (politicians, industrialists, associations, etc.) in order to model the future and evaluate sustainable development policies in a comparative way. A famous example is the Meadows (or Club of Rome) report of 1976, which modeled different socio-economic and ecological trajectories that our society could follow.

To find out more: a documentary that interviews the authors to explain the genesis of the project:


To summarize this section: our current system and lifestyles are causing potentially irreversible changes in environmental conditions that put our life in danger and that of millions of other species. This is a decisive moment to engage collectively, to thoroughly review our lifestyles, in order to halt these environmental changes and adapt to those already underway.

Sheets to help

Food

One of the first things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and your impact on biodiversity is to change your eating habits, such as reducing your consumption of meat as well as processed and overpackaged food, which sometimes travels long distances. Reducing meat consumption to once or twice a week, consuming organic, local, bulk and seasonal products when possible, or even growing a permaculture vegetable garden, would already significantly reduce your carbon footprint! Here are some links to learn more about the different impacts of food consumption, to help you transition to more conscious habits.

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How to find information

Better quality, less waste, less pollution: towards a healthier, more coherent and more environmentally friendly diet

Some figures on meat consumption in the world

Local food: features and benefits of buying local (short-circuit retail)

Some readings for an alternative agriculture:

  • Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, D. Holmgren.
  • The One-Straw Revolution - An introduction to natural farming, M. Fukuoka.

How to act

Consume locally, meet local producers that practice sustainable agriculture, shop in the market or through associations (Incredible edibles, Open Food Network, Big Barn…)

Cooking with seasonal fruits and vegetables (calendar)

Buy in bulk to limit the waste of the food industry (zero waste approach, buy back unsold items and convince businesses around your home to join this type of system, bring your own containers...)

Reduce the proportion of ready-made/frozen meals and animal proteins, and take advantage of the savings to increase the proportion of organic AND local products in your average basket (vegetarian recipes)

Grow your own vegetable garden.


Mobility

Mobility is a major stake of the ecological transition: according to the European Energy Agency, transportation accounts for 25% of total CO2 emissions. Rethinking our mobility has a direct impact on our comfort, from our holidays (tourism accounts for 8% of global emissions, and air traffic for 4% of our carbon footprint) to our daily commute (cars account for 14% of our total carbon footprint). Here are a few tips in order to better understand the stakes of mobility and take a step towards energy sobriety.

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How to find information

To fully understand the impact of transport on climate change, see this 2018 report by the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (Slocat)

An overview of the contribution of aviation to climate change, by the European NGO Transport & Environment

Comparing CO2 emissions for a similar journey by plane, train, car or bicycle: an article by the Energy Saving Trust

How to act

Favor train for long journeys or alternatively buses or carpooling.

Favor active mobility like walking or cycling. Some countries or cities grant subsidies for the purchase of an electric bike, as highlighted in this 2016 European Parliament Briefing.

Otherwise, prefer shared mobility: public transport, short-distance carpooling, organised hitchhiking… And if all else fails, think of carbon compensation.

It is also possible to make your vehicle available to others when you are not using it in order to maximize its utilisation rate. However, many of these so-called "sharing economy" alternatives can create "rebound effects" that make their overall impact on greenhouse gas emissions uncertain. For example, having the possibility to rent out a car when not using it may encourage the purchase of new vehicles; having the possibility to take passengers to reduce the cost of travel may increase car use, etc...


Housing

Housing is a very energy-intensive sector today, and therefore a major emitter of greenhouse gases: it accounts for 39% of energy consumption in the US on 1+2 scopes (Carbon4), and 60% of these emissions are related to heating. Many houses have extremely poor energy efficiency: more than 40% of French homes consume more than 230 kWh per m² - that is more than 200 euros per month in energy bills! To reduce the environmental impact of this sector, thermal renovation of existing buildings and carbon-neutrality in the construction of new ones must be carried out as soon as possible. To achieve this, public investment is crucial and relevant: savings made could compensate for the sums invested in less than 10 years.

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How to find information

Find out more about the problems of home heat loss and what can be done.

Understand the carbon impact of the construction and building sector and the margins for progress in a national low-carbon strategy

How to act

Buying/renting a well insulated apartment

Household appliances

  • Share electrical appliances for occasional use, for example with streetbank (UK), Mutum (France), smiile (France), peerby (Netherlands).
  • When purchasing, choose appliances with a high energy label (A+++).
  • Choose devices with a long service life and whose broken parts can be replaced.

Develop good habits

  • Reduce heating by 1°C in winter: it is recommended to heat only the rooms you live in, at 19°C. Reducing the heating from 20° to 19° allows you to consume 7% less!
  • Prefer using household appliances during off-peak hours (10pm-6am) and avoid using them during peak power consumption hours (6pm-10pm, especially in winter).
  • Find other quick savings on this Household Energy Action Guide.

Check the origin of your electricity and invest in resilient self-consumption solutions offered by many electricity suppliers such as Green Energy, Co-op Energy, Ecotricity, Good Energy, ... (UK) or other suppliers (US).

Promote biodiversity by installing a nest box, plant box, water trough, etc. on the edge of your window or balcony to attract fauna and flora that can shelter, drink, etc.

  • For example, this website displays initiatives to promote biodiversity in gardens.

Placing our savings

To hope to stay below 2°C global warming, 80% of our fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. Banks have a central role in achieving these objectives by directing their financing towards clean energy. However, since COP21 and the signing of the Paris Agreement, their support for fossil energy projects has increased. As a saver, you can choose to invest your money better: finance sustainable projects with your savings rather than let the banks use it in this way.

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How to find information

Despite the climate emergency, banks continue to finance fossil fuels. This report summarizes the best and worst U.S. banks on fossil fuel finance, while the full report and interactive website sums up the current policies of the major world banks, giving them an individual grade. Consider the following case study from France: The fair Finance website offers a quick and clear comparative analysis of top 10 French banks on 10 topics, especially regarding climate change. The initiative originated from french associations Les Amis de la Terre and Oxfam France who explain how French banks kept on investing massively in fossil fuels since the Paris agreements. "Out of 10 euros spent on energy, 7 euros go to climate change energy, compared to only 2 euros for renewable energy. [...] despite the recognition by States and financial actors of the urgent need to act to limit the rise in global temperature, these supports increased by 7% between 2016 and 2018".

For most students, savings are limited to regular savings accounts such as the ISA. To invest your money more responsibly, you can consider other types of ethical savings accounts offered by some banks such as the equivalent of the LSSD in France (Inclusive and Sustainable Development). For the past year, any money received on this type of savings account was supposed to fund sustainable projects.

However, as far as we know, there is no robust reporting or indicators to check the use of our investments. In fact, the lack of rigorous reporting on what it means to be “green” or "financing the ecological transition" is one of the main difficulties encountered in trying to align savings choices with environmental commitments. In addition, private banks have difficulties getting familiar with this aspect of savings, lagging behind growing demand. In France, only 28% of wealth management advisors and private bank advisors spontaneously mention responsible investment opportunities to their customers. In short, there is no easy solution at the moment, so we must take the initiative.

How to act

Several types of action are possible:

  • Contact your bank advisor to request that your bank offer eco-friendly investment options. Making the request visible can ignite change if it is made by a large number of people.
  • Turn to alternative offers: Some banks have taken the challenge of exclusively financing projects from the Social Economy. While they offer less flexibility than traditional banks, with a symbolic rate of return, this is undeniably the most serious option for responsible investment.
  • In France, “La Nef” is a financial cooperative offering savings and loans options (but not current accounts), oriented towards solidarity, cultural or environmentally committed projects.
  • Find a cooperative bank that offers all the traditional banking services, and offers "ethical and solidarity" options here.
  • If you are in the UK, check out these articles about your options for ethical/environmental finance (The Guardian, This is Money).
  • If you are in another country, consider banking with the institutions that are members of the ethically-oriented Global Alliance on Banking Values.

Other types of collective action:

  • Setting up for an investment club with friends to choose where my money goes.
  • Participate in a divestment movement by joining or creating a local group.
  • Send an email to challenge my bank.

Digital

Despite the sector's undeniable role in economic and social development and energy efficiency, the environmental impacts of digital technology are often underestimated. 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions originate from digital technologies and its energy consumption is increasing by 4% each year. The amount of energy required to store the mass of information circulating worldwide in servers is staggering. In addition to this, digital technology reflects the rebound effect: efficiency gains are absorbed by the exponential increase in the amount of information exchanged.

It is not a matter of banishing digital technology from our lifestyles, but rather of favoring a more reasoned and sufficiency-driven use. The Shift Project refers to "digital sufficiency" as "prioritizing the allocation of resources as a function of uses, in order to conform to the planet’s physical boundaries, while preserving the most valuable societal contributions of digital technologies.”

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How to find information

  • A general infographic from Custommade for a global understanding of the environmental impact of digital technology.
  • A study from the Shift Project to better understand the specific and massive impact of online video (which produces as many worldwide GHG emissions as Spain...).
  • Jean-Marc Jancovici explains the impact of online video.... in video (in French with English subtitles).
  • A study to better understand the metal footprint of your smartphones (in French).
  • A Greenpeace study rating the environmental performance of various electronics companies.
  • An article warning against the deployment of 5G.... requiring huge amounts of energy.

How to act

  • Sort and delete emails regularly, especially those containing large attachments: for express sorting, use cleanfox.
  • Opt for an alternative search engine (keeping in mind that it is only compensation) such as ecosia (replanting trees) or lilo (supporting associations).
  • Buy good devices designed to last, and extend the life time of your electronic devices: avoid changing them too often (no more than every 3-5 years). Buy or rent your refurbished phone and computer, or resell it or give it away if it is still working.
  • Video is responsible for 80% of the emissions related to digital use: reduce your streaming consumption (0.2g of CO2 per second), lower the quality of your YouTube videos, and favor other tools to listen to music such as offline downloading.

Fashion

The fashion industry may not be as visible in the media as the food industry, but it does pollute a lot: it is responsible for 3 to 10% of CO2 emissions in the world, and it is the second most polluting industry (after the oil industry)!

It takes about 2,000 litres of water to produce a pair of jeans. To consume better, let's have a look at the issues related to the fashion industry and get to know the causes and types of pollution.

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How to find information

Destination zero: seven years of detoxing the clothing industry is a Greenpeace report that comes back to the Detox campaign that they launched to challenge fashion industry companies. It shows the progress of some global clothing brands in detoxing from hazardous chemicals, addresses major challenges, and maps out the next steps to achieve towards a more sustainable fashion industry.

How to act


Energy

As the energy transformation sector stands behind all the other sectors of activity in our society, most changes to energy consumption can only be made collectively. Today, it is vital to reduce our consumption while changing these energy sources, in order to mitigate climate change while protecting against possible disruptions in the supply of energy. Models of energy sobriety must take root in our daily lives. Moreover, to launch an effective energy transition as soon as possible, the most useful thing to do as a citizen is to spend time understanding the complexity of the problem: indeed, the energy transition depends on many other sectors.

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How to find information

To better understand this sector of activity: Sustainable energy - Without hot air! by David JC MacKay

Vaclav Smil explores in a conference technological transitions of past, present and future that are critical for understanding how to shift to a low carbon future.

In parallel, here is a plan to understand the subject, with links to learn about each part:

Human sciences

"Our house is burning [...] we will not be able to say that we did not know," said Jacques Chirac during the Johannesburg Summit in 2002. We are aware of the environmental degradation caused by our activities, and yet we are collectively unable to implement the necessary lifestyle changes. The humanities and social sciences have taken an interest in recent decades in understanding why we struggle to address these issues and act accordingly. The below proposes some links to introduce these newly-emerging topics.

A general source on this topic: Don't even think about it by George Marshall


🧠 Human memory is not designed to properly perceive changes in the environment

From generation to generation, we grow up in a world where nature is increasingly degraded. Can this explain a certain insensitivity to the destruction of biodiversity and the alarming findings on climate change?


🌱 Our "above-ground" way of life and the perception of environmental changes

Our way of life, with increasing urbanization, is becoming increasingly distant from other living bodies and the resources that allow us to survive. This gradually disconnects us from the natural or man-made ecosystems that we need. Moreover, the relocation of production/pollution sites hides the realities underlying our technology. Consequently, our ability to see the damage we cause is diminished, especially since environmental degradation is progressive and progresses imperceptibly. This is somewhat paradoxical, since on the one hand we are measuring an ever-increasing amount of data on the changes to our environment, and on the other hand, this evolution is detached from our daily experience.

This questioning is a modern variation of the ancient theme of nature-culture duality. Some modern authors have sought to develop this idea of man's distance from nature and its consequences.

  • The perception of the environment : essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill by Tim Ingold. This book, published 20 years ago, has become one of the most important references in the anthropology of nature. Ingold proposes an approach to understanding how human beings perceive their surroundings. The book questions the way we think about what is 'biological' and 'cultural' in humans, about evolution and history, and indeed about what it means for human beings - who are at once organisms and persons - to inhabit an environment.


😰 Eco-anxiety: the consequences of the alarming findings of scientists and a degraded future

Scientific research is very limited on this subject. "Eco-anxiety" has recently been introduced into the DSM-5 list of mental illnesses by the American Psychiatric Association. Here are some articles to clarify this notion.


🔎 Eco-psychology or the study of the relationship between man and his environment

Coming from the United States, this discipline uses the tools of psychology to analyze the links between Man and the living environment in the broadest sense. In particular, it attempts to analyse human behavior in the light of the ecological crisis and proposes solutions to change it. The term eco-psychology was invented in 1992 by Theodore Roszak in his book The Voice of the Earth, subtitled An Exploration of Ecopsychology. This field of study is still emerging and its contours are still poorly defined.

Collective action

Daily life actions are essential to reduce our ecological footprint, but are insufficient to reduce it to a level that is sustainable for ecosystems and climate stability. Our range of actions is limited by the societal framework at the root of the ecological crisis; transforming it represents an effort rarely seen in history, and that is why we need collective mobilization.

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How to find information

  • Understand the systemic aspect of the ecological crisis: Given the order of magnitude of the changes needed to stay below a 1.5°C increase in temperature, we can easily understand that this target will necessitate changes in society.
  • Get information on the decisions of our elected representatives about the environment: All parliamentary votes are normally available on official websites. Some NGOs list MEPs' votes on climate issues. This website evaluates governments’ policy and corporations’ influence on the climate.

How to act

  • Carry out collective projects by joining the Transition network, for example
  • Participate in the general awareness-raising effort: organize conferences, screenings-debates, activities.
  • Join groups that collectively lobby public or private institutions for systemic change: associations, NGOs, political parties, trade unions...below are some examples. The list is not exhaustive!

350.org

Attac

Extinction rebellion

Greenpeace

Friends of the Earth

Oxfam

Sea shepherd

Most of the movements are young, dynamic, and lively. Everyone can find their place in a collective according to their interests, their free time and their affinities with the other members of the collective.

  • Create a new group

You can of course create your collective/association/movement...like the collective Wake-up Call on the Environment was created last year! Make sure that nothing similar already exists and that there is real added value in doing so. In this perspective, we can only recommend that you talk about the subject around you before going headlong into creating a new group; the opinions and remarks of your relatives but also those of people from more distant circles (not necessarily eco-convinced) are really valuable to have good ideas.

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