This year’s theme for World Environment Day on June 5 acknowledges the consumption choices we face on a day-to-day basis. The world's population is currently consuming much more than our planet can supply us with, and according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “By 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6 billion, we will need three planets to sustain our ways of living and consumption.” Clearly, we must find more sustainable ways to consume.
June 5 marks the anniversary of the 1972 Stockholm Conference, the first U.N. meeting of world leaders devoted to environmental matters. The day was designated World Environment Day thereafter and is dedicated to raising awareness and sparking action for environmental concerns. A theme is assigned to each year, such as "Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care" for 2015. Past themes have included “Small Islands and Climate Change” (2014), “Forests-Nature at Your Service” (2011), and “Melting Ice – a Hot Topic?” (2007). A host country, in which the main celebrations are held, is also selected for each year. This year’s host country is Italy, where leaders have planned multiple activities and events focused on sustainable production and consumption.
You can observe World Environment Day 2015 by reflecting on your consumption habits, and find ways to make your use of resources more efficient and frugal. Activities like reducing energy usage, buying recycled products, and planting a vegetable garden are all examples of simple activities that can help alleviate the stress our Earth is under. Achim Steiner, UNEP's Executive Director, reminds us to think not only about how much we consume, but also how we consume. Often, consuming smarter doesn't mean consuming less. Steiner emphasizes, for instance, renewable energy, which is capable of producing just as much energy as fossil fuels, but much more sustainably.
Here are some other ways to make a difference:
Attend an Event:
Several cities around the world are hosting World Environment Day events for community members to participate in. For example, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro is hosting a day of activities, including an exhibition of student sculptures made from waste material. In Mumbai, the Nehru Science Centre is gearing up for a photo exhibition, while The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers is preparing to provide free “pollution under control” checkups. The Chicago Botanic Garden is celebrating by hosting a day of family-friendly activities on Saturday, such as presentations on easy home-gardening methods.
Take a Pledge
Individuals are encouraged to share their dreams for a healthier planet and make a pledge to consume water, food, energy, and all other natural resources in a sustainable manner. The UNEP Dream Team suggests visiting their website to find others’ pledges, take part in others’ dreams, and show your dedication to healthy living by adding your own pledge.
As UNEP notes, “It starts with an individual action. That leads to collective power…and translates to exponential impact!” If all seven billion of us commit to reducing, reusing, and recycling in our own lives, then we would be well on our way to living sustainably on the one planet we have.
Author: Sharmen Hettipola