Turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper, flip on the internet: stories of environmental woe are everywhere. From massive deforestation to chemical contamination to over fishing to garbage cities floating around in our oceans, it can seem pretty hopeless. What can one person possibly do to right this careening ship? With a global population of over 7.2 billion people, the word powerless doesn’t even seem to touch on the level of insignificance a single person appears to have.
But the truth is actually far from this doomsday sort of thinking. One person can actually make a very substantial difference in the world. Yes that’s right, just one single person. Here are some crazy facts that can get you really thinking about the power of transformation you actually possess.
Hyper-consumption is real.
The average city-dwelling North American uses around 300 litres of clean water per day (rural dwellers use even more. source: Gov of Canada). Over the course of a year, that adds up to a whopping 100 000 litres of water, equivalent to 3 very large tanker trucks of fluid.
The world’s annual consumption of plastic materials has increased twenty fold in the past 6 decades, from around 5 million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 100 million tonnes today. (source: Waste World.) That equivalates to a current usage of 1.176 tonnes per person (1176kg, almost 2600lb) per year; in visual terms, this is upwards of 40 000 personal-sized drink bottles. (Need a size comparison? Just think about how many 591ml disposable water bottles you can cram into your fridge…6 dozen…7 dozen at the outside?)
Fewer people in North America prepare home-cooked meals than ever before. Prepackaged and fast food in North America is now a more than 100 billion dollar industry…that’s more than 100 billion dollars in revenue every single year (source: Fast Food Stats). High in fat, high in sugar, high in chemical additives, the average fast food meal can contain upwards of 30% more calories than a home-cooked one and yet contain substantially less nutrition than meals prepared at home. Not surprisingly, rates of malnutrition-related illnesses are also on the rise.
People actually do more than you may think.
An average human being typically walks just over 2.5km per day (source: WalkingAbout). This isn’t necessarily in a straight line; simply running to the car, going grocery shopping, climbing stairs, etc. all add up. Let’s multiply this by 365 days in a year, and regular Joe Citizen has logged 1000 km. By the time a person reaches middle age, they will have walked the circumference of the entire globe (~40 000km).
On average around the globe, people with internet access spend 4hours per week online. Most North Americans spend more than triple that (source: Business News Daily), with the majority of their time online being spent in social media hangouts.
An average person thinks 60 000 thoughts per day. An average person speaks 13 000 words per day, most of them to other people (source: Davis PHD). That’s a lot of thinking and a lot of communicating!
You Can Change the World, “A Better World Begins with Me”
So how does it all tie together? How does the power of one actually make a difference? The answer is actually very simple and already at hand -it lies in a seed, a seed of an idea that is!
The notion that “A Better World Begins with Me” is all it takes. Incorporating and taking this idea to heart can create a snowball effect that reaps wonderful rewards.
The person who believes “A Better World Begins with Me” starts to think about things differently, and finds themselves dedicating more time to thinking about the how’s and why’s of that statement.
Why do I want a better world? To live a better life of course! How do I make a better world? Simply by being mindful of my choices: I choose to think about my personal responsibility to this planet.
The 13 000 words I speak today will reflect that choice. What I do over the course of the 2.5km I walk today will reflect that choice. My actions on the internet and social media today will reflect that choice. My daily actions in our highly disposable, consumeristic world will further reflect that choice.
Does it mean that I will avoid fast food altogether? Probably not, but perhaps I will tone it down a bit and carry a granola bar/ apple/ beef jerky etc. in my backpack so the Golden Arches aren’t so appealing next time I get hungry. Will I quit drinking fresh water, showering, and flushing the toilet? Absolutely not, but I will be careful to recycle my drink containers, turn off the tap when I am brushing my teeth, and won’t allow the shower to warm up for five minutes before I get in.
Understanding that actions flow from beliefs, the goal of reducing your environmental footprint is so very achievable when you incorporate the idea “A Better World Begins with Me.” We have an inherent personal power to change the world around us; it is real and it is one of the touch stone attributes of the human experience.
And guess what happens when you decide to help the planet out? The people in your sphere of influence tend to assimilate the same idea. So not only do you save 20 000 litres of fresh water and reduce your plastic utilization each year by 300lb etc., so do each of your friends! The extension of actions from a single idea can be so powerful; will you be the first of your friends to really incorporate the idea “A Better World Begins with Me”?