How to Beat Pollution Before It Beats Us

Pollution—of our water, soil and air—is now the biggest killer on earth. Let’s make 2018 a year of action.

By Zahra Sethna on January 4, 2018

Pollution—of our water, soil and air—is now the biggest killer on earth.

A 2017 report in The Lancet shows that nine million people—roughly the population of New York City—die prematurely from causes related to pollution every year.

More than 80 per cent of the world's wastewater gets released straight into the environment without any treatment.

Over half of all premature deaths from pneumonia among children under the age of five are caused by indoor air pollution.

These statistics are staggering, and they don’t stop there. Pollution is a universal and mounting problem—no country is immune.

In Canada, pollution cost families, businesses and governments at least $39 billion in 2015.

Last month, government representatives from more than 100 countries met in Nairobi, Kenya at the United Nations Environment Assembly to come up with a global political declaration of actions to fight pollution in all its many forms, with an eye towards a “pollution-free planet."

The declaration aims to collect commitments to end pollution and safely manage chemicals and waste.

So as the United Nations calls on governments, businesses and civil society groups to #beatpollution, what can we as individuals do?

A lot, as it turns out. We can all make a difference with just a few small actions:

1 | Choose planet-friendly products

You may have noticed more products such as soaps and detergents on the shelves that advertise themselves as phosphorus-free. It may seem insignificant, but it’s not. Research has shown that when too much phosphorus enters the environment, there is an adverse effect on the environment. For example, excess phosphorus can lead to harmful algal blooms.

2 | Be a smart energy consumer

Turn off lights, computers and other electrical devices when they are not in use. Make sure you choose energy-efficient appliances for your house. Use cold water to wash your clothes – then hang them up to dry whenever you can. Pretty soon these actions will become habits that you won’t even have to think about.

3 | Switch to a clean energy provider

Find out if you there is an electricity option in your area offering renewable energy, or ask your current provider if the option exists. You may not even be aware of it! If there isn’t, tell your provider you are interested—and have your friends and neighbours tell them too.

4 | Reduce your own personal waste

Avoid single-use plastics, such as water bottles, straws and plastic bags. In the kitchen, buy and cook only what you know you and your family will eat. Compost your kitchen scraps and separate your recyclable materials. Bring your own shopping bags to the grocery store and let store managers know you are interested in products with minimal and/or recyclable packaging. Small choices make a big difference.

5 | Get informed—get involved

To learn more about how to beat pollution, check out organizations like UN Environment. Do your research to find out where political representatives in your area stand on pollution and other environmental issues. Contact them and tell them you want immediate action on climate change. Remind them that action on climate is not just good for the environment—it also improves our health, drives innovation and can create new jobs and grow the economy.

Let’s make 2018 a year of action.  

Insight details