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The Most Pressing Environmental Issues in 2024

Do your part in helping our planet

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We can all do our part to ensure the safety and security of our planet. While at times overwhelming, the environmental crisis is not without solutions. Here are 10 of the most pressing environmental issues facing 2024, and what you can do to help.

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Decrease the use of fossil fuels

Soil, water, and air pollution are all tied to fossil fuels like coal and oil. Fortunately, solar and wind power are effective, often cheaper, energy sources. Make your home energy efficient by ensuring proper insulation and regularly scheduled tune-ups for your furnace. Turn off and unplug electronics when they aren’t in use, and only run the dishwasher when it’s full. If you want to take things a step further, contact your local representatives and support action against fossil fuel companies.

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2.      Say no to fast fashion

In the past 20 years, global clothing consumption has increased by more than 400 percent. About 60 percent of ready-to-wear fabrics are a plastic-based blend, including polyester, nylon, and spandex. These plastic fibers and toxic dyes pollute our oceans, atmosphere, and soil. Fortunately, you already hold the key to change. Make use of clothing you already own and learn some mending techniques. If you truly need a new garment, shop secondhand or purchase from a brand with transparent production practices.

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3.      Eat responsibly

At least 30 percent of the food produced globally goes to waste, and not just at home. The industrial farming industry discards crops if harvesting them is not deemed cost efficient. To combat this, buy fresh, seasonal produce directly from local farmers, thereby removing wasteful steps in the food-production process. At home, store fresh produce properly to help it last longer and taste better.

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4.      Be efficient with water

More than 1 billion people lack access to clean water, with most freshwater used for farming and irrigation. That’s right—food production is a major part of our water problem, not just home usage. Research shows that eating a healthy plant-focused diet  can go a long way in fighting water scarcity. Beyond your food choices, be conservative with at-home water use. Fix leaky taps, use an energy-efficient dishwasher, and never leave the water running.

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5.      Support the fight against deforestation

Trees keep balance in our ecosystems, supporting biodiversity, clean water, and decreased carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. However, illegal logging, poorly planned infrastructure, and destructive agriculture has increased deforestation. To help, purchase recycled paper and lumber products, rather than buying new. Take it a step further by supporting organizations that stand against harmful corporate policy. Here at alive, we’ve partnered with veritree to sponsor global tree-planting projects.

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6.      Limit air pollution

Carbon-based transportation contributes to unsafe air quality for our most vulnerable communities. Try to drive less and walk more, which is not only better for the environment, but also for your physical well-being. Do you take public transportation? You’re already doing your part! Reducing our collective carbon output can also decrease the likelihood of forest fires, keeping our lungs and loved ones safe.

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7.      Avoid single-use plastic

Plastic is in our clothes, our packaging, and our oceans. These plastics contain bacteria and toxic additives that can be harmful when consumed. Unfortunately, microplastics are already prevalent in our food chain. To help, don’t throw away your clothes and plastic toothbrushes. Instead, recycle and choose sustainable alternatives in the future. Look for biodegradable packaging and avoid single-use plastic containers and products.

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8.      Protect our soil

Improper recycling of technologies like electric vehicle batteries and everyday electronics exposes our environment to materials such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, thereby reducing crop yields and infecting our food. By changing the balance of ecosystems, soil contamination can also lead to the emergence of pests and diseases. You can fight this by limiting your use of electronics. Keep technology as long as possible and purchase green electronics, rather than getting the newest phone every year.

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The dirt on soil health

As soil around the world continues to be contaminated and degraded, sustainable farming is more important than ever. Enter: regenerative agriculture. This farming method focuses on improving soil health—which then leads to a healthier future for our food system.

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9.      Reduce ocean acidification

With increasing CO2 output from humans, the very chemistry of our oceans is changing. Many organisms are unable to survive in acidic waters, with shells dissolving and brain defects increasing in fish. The domino effect of ocean acidification is not only a threat to wildlife, but also a threat to our food chain. You can help by reducing your carbon footprint. Fly less, avoid car travel, and invest in sustainable energy, from updating your heating systems to installing solar panels.

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10.  Recycle the right way

Improper waste management is exacerbating the environmental crisis. Did you know there are correct and incorrect ways to recycle? It’s important to check the guidelines of your local recycling facility, as they may differ from location to location. For organic waste, try composting. It’s a great way to turn waste into something useful, especially in your garden. Even if you don’t have a garden, there are community initiatives that could put your waste to good use.

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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD