The Nature of Things·In Depth

5 things you can do right now to help save the planet

Some small (and easy!) changes in our lives can put a big dent in carbon emissions.

Some small (and easy!) changes in our lives can put a big dent in carbon emissions

Some small (and easy!) changes in our lives can put a big dent in carbon emissions. (Infield Fly Productions)

Now streaming on CBC Gem. 


Our planet's climate is in crisis.

Governments and corporations need to take some very big steps to slow global warming. But Curb Your Carbon, a documentary from The Nature of Things, shows some of the small, easy things we can all do to fight climate change in a big way. 

How big? BIG. 

Fix your stuff

There are two things we can say about humans these days: one, we love our electronics; and two, we love new electronics.

We buy roughly 1.5 billion smartphones every year (about five times the weight of the Titanic!), and making all those electronics creates a lot of carbon dioxide — about 24 million tonnes. But as soon as a battery starts to die or a screen gets chipped, many of us rush to replace our devices with the latest model. 

Kyle Wiens is working hard to change our bad habit. He's the co-founder of iFixit, a company with a mission to teach anyone how to fix almost anything. 

Wiens and his team are working to provide parts and know-how to consumers who want to extend the life of their electronics. If every phone that was destined for the junk pile was used for at least eight months longer, we could stop about 35 million tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.

iFixit's tutorials have step-by-step instructions and videos, and parts and repair kits are easily available online. In Curb Your Carbon, Wiens shows a group of teens in the Yukon how to fix their screens. 

Guess what? They were all able to do it!

Watch: These Yukon teens easily replace broken screens to breathe new life into electronics — and they do it in less than an hour! 

If you fix your phone, you can help save the planet | Curb Your Carbon

5 months ago
Duration 2:52
Instead of throwing away your electronics due to a cracked screen or worn out battery, trying repairing it. If we used our phone for just 8 months longer, we could eliminate the same amount of CO2 emissions released by Ireland every year.

Stop wasting food

If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of CO2 in the world, after China and the U.S.

Canadians throw out a lot of food: almost 2.2 million tonnes every year. 

WATCH: Canadians throw away a LOT of food — a total of 2.2 billion kg every year!

Canadians waste a LOT of food - and these garbage-stealing ninjas prove it | Curb Your Carbon

5 months ago
Duration 1:17
With the help of a garbage-stealing ninja family, we get a look at what the average Canadian throws out every day. And the amount of waste is incredible.

Globally, if we threw away half of what we currently do, we'd avoid producing up to 2.3 billion tonnes of CO2 a year. That's because produced but uneaten food takes up an area that equals about 30 per cent of the world's agricultural land. That's a lot of space that could be used for something better, like … forests. 

Eat less meat: Put some bugs in your burrito

If just half of us ate one less serving of beef a week, we could cut 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon from our global emissions every year. That's one tonne for every cow on Earth. 

In Curb Your Carbon, we learn that a juicy steak dinner takes a staggering 70 times more CO2 to get from farm to fork than a tofu meal of the same weight. In fact, the livestock sector accounts for close to 15 per cent of global carbon emissions. 

Instead, we could just replace meat with … bugs?

Around the world, 2.5 billion people eat insects regularly. From ants to cicadas, beetles to mealworms, there are more than 2,000 types of insects eaten by humans. They are packed with protein — and growing them is much lighter on greenhouse gases. 

Farming one kilo of bugs can produce about one per cent of the greenhouse gases that the  same amount of beef does. So why not toss some tarantula in your salad or add some beetles to your burrito. Insects could start crawling onto restaurant menus near you — and by eating them, we're doing the planet a big favour. 

Drive smarter

The number 1 culprit when it comes to carbon emissions is transportation, including driving our gas-guzzling cars. Every litre of fuel we burn produces over two kilograms of CO2.

Doesn't sound like much? Well, it added up to over 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2020, just in the U.S. and Canada.

André Lotterer, a driver for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team, races electric supercars. He's learned how to conserve power to stay ahead and says we need to rethink the way we drive.

"In Formula E, you need to be very efficient," Lotterer said in the documentary. "You need to drive in a very smart way because you need to be as quick as possible with the least amount of energy throughout the whole race."

His advice? Drive at a consistent speed and within the speed limit, remove any unnecessary weight from your trunk, make sure your car's tuned up, avoid hard braking (unless absolutely necessary), and keep the tires at the right pressure. All this can help your fuel efficiency and limit your emissions. 

WATCH: Follow André's pro tips to improve fuel efficiency. 

Reduce your emissions by following this pro's driving tips | Curb Your Carbon

5 months ago
Duration 2:23
Electric supercar racer, André Lotterer, never steps on the gas, but he has some expert tips to make your driving much more efficient.

To further reduce your carbon footprint, consider an e-bike. In Curb Your Carbon, we meet two sisters who race through the streets of Hamilton, Ont. — one on an e-bike, and one in a regular car. For the exact same journey, the car driver burned half the calories, but over 10 times the CO2.

Plant some carbon-sequestering devices: trees

If we're serious about fighting climate change, we need to recapture the emissions we've already released. So why not use nature's perfect tool — trees — which capture carbon dioxide and release oxygen? 

Instead, in one recent year, we cut down a forest the size of a soccer field every single second (just let that sink in). 

According to some very clever people, there's enough suitable land on Earth to plant nearly a billion hectares of trees — a forest the size of the U.S.

The women of the Mount Kenya Trust have planted over 1.5 million trees. Their forests help remove CO2 from the air, but the trees also hold the soil together. This prevents erosion so watersheds remain intact and rivers can keep flowing, for use in the home and for growing food. 

We are seeing the effects of climate change before our eyes. And the rest of the 21st century will be an uncertain time for humans. But when we look at these numbers, it's clear what we can do about it. 

So it might be time to roll up our sleeves and plant some trees, throw away less stuff, drive a little smarter, and for goodness' sake, try some bugs!

Watch Curb Your Carbon now on CBC Gem.

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