When teen climate activist Greta Thunberg gave an impassioned speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit this week her words hit many parents right in the heart. We are supposed to be protecting our kids, but Thunberg proves many of our kids don't feel like we're doing that.
"I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you all come to us young people for hope," Thunberg said.
She continued: "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words."
Thunberg and so many children like her are counting on our generation to do something, and the good news is you don't have to be a world leader to take action.
Here are five ways you can help fight climate change today, mama:
1. Ditch the disposables
It seems like a small thing, but being more intentional about what we consume is an important way to fight climate change. As National Geographic reports, about 40% of the plastic goods made every year are made to be thrown away, but they are not biodegradable and are ending up in our oceans.
Back in 1955 Life magazine published a photo of a family throwing disposable plates, cups and utensils up into the air. The headline was "Throwaway Living," and the article explained it would take hours to clean all those objects but "that no housewife need bother" because they were disposable.
"Throwaway Living" promised women freedom but it didn't deliver. We're still doing the lion's share of the housework (even if most of us aren't "housewives" anymore) but we're also tossing tons of plastics each week. By ditching paper towels and plastic wrap for more eco-friendly alternatives we can start making a difference in our own homes.
[Editor's note: Mothers should not feel guilty about using disposable diapers. While using cloth diapers is a great alternative for some it is not always feasible for every parent. We support mothers in choosing whatever works best for their family.]
2. Consider reusable containers
So much of that 40% of the world's plastic is actually not only meant to be disposable but meant to be disposed of within five minutes of landing in the hands of the end consumer. We can make small changes to our shopping habits and eliminate everything from produce bags to toothpaste tubes by bringing our own containers to the grocery store or simply making more conscious decisions about what we buy.
We can involve our kids by asking them to help us find household containers to repurpose or get their help making our own produce bags.
3. Eat more plants
For a lot of people, going vegan today is not an option, but we can all eat more plants and reduce our dependance on meat. A report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (compiled by 100 scientists from more than 50 nations) suggests that if we just eat more plant-based meals we could mitigate some problems associated with climate change.
Cattle produce a lot of emissions. There are things cattle producers can do to reduce this, but simply by demanding fewer cattle we can reduce it. We can encourage food manufacturers to consider plant-based alternatives by buying more of them.
It's time for a #meatlessmonday, even if you can't go fully vegan right this second.
4. Travel with intention
Using public transportation or being more active can be fun for kids and a way to be intentional about fighting climate change. When possible, take the bus or train or take your kids for a bike ride. Some of your travel needs may have to happen by car, but just try to be conscious of how you can reduce the discretionary trips.
Greta Thunberg gave up flying to flight climate change. Some sustainability experts have not gone as far for practical reasons and instead do things like cut the number of their trips and/or the distance.
You may not be able to give up your car or flying right now, but we can all be more intentional about our travel and explain to our children why we are doing so.
5. Demand politicians take action
Call your reps and let then know you are listening to the next generation, and ask if they are, too. Ask them what they are doing to ensure the children in your community will still be able to live there decades from now.
If you don't know what number to call, you can either call the US Capitol switchboard or punch your info into callmycongress.com and get the direct phone numbers. An election is looming and now is the time to ask those holding seats and those hoping to win them not only where they stand on climate change but what, exactly, they plan to do about it.
Our kids can't vote yet, so they need us to keep lawmakers accountable.
In her speech Thunberg had a message for our generation:
"You are failing us, but the young people are starting to understand your betrayal ... Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up, and change is coming whether you like it or not."
It's hard to make changes, but we need to. Our children deserve to dream about the future. They shouldn't have to be fighting for one.