‘Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate Change. If we don’t take action the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.’

– David Attenborough addressing the climate change conference in Poland.

World Environment Day was created by the United Nations to promote worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. Inaugurated in 1974, it is celebrated every year on the 5thJune and now reaches over 100 countries. It is the ’people’s day’ to do their part in taking care of the earth – this can be a local, national or global act, and performed alone or with a group. Whilst it is up to you how you choose to participate, as always, we believe that many hands make light work. World Environment Day is a great chance to connect and collaborate with your neighbours and inspire your community to become more environmentally friendly. Of course, such changes should not just be limited to this day only. Rather, use this as an opportunity to make lasting changes that will contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle.

This year, the official celebration is hosted by China, who have chosen the theme ‘air pollution.’ As one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time, the theme invites us to consider how we can make the changes necessary to reduce air pollution and thwart its effects on the health of our planet, and our own health too. With nine out of ten people worldwide breathing polluted air, it is a global public health emergency, responsible for 1 in 9 deaths globally and roughly 7 million premature deaths every year. That’s more than those caused by alcohol use. Alongside this it causes respiratory diseases, heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer. As for our planet, air pollution, namely the greenhouse gases, is one of the driving causes behind climate change. Unnatural levels of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and others trap heat in the atmosphere causing the earth’s temperature to increase at a disconcerting rate which in turn leads to extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats and rising sea levels.

Air pollution may be complex, but the good news is that doing our part to reduce it is simple. Here are some of the ways you can connect through OurHood to celebrate World Environment Day, #beatairpollutionin your community and live greener in general:

Plant trees: Trees and plants naturally absorb pollutant gases and is a cost-effective way to tackle air pollution. Through photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, reducing the ‘greenhouse effect’ and creating a less polluted, more sustainable world for our children. Why not organise a group of green-fingered neighbours on OurHood and do your part for the environment today?

Host a plant-based braai: Reducing your consumption of meat and dairy is one of the easiest ways to help cut methane emissions. Livestock production does not only contribute to air pollution, through vast levels of greenhouse gases, but it also responsible for deforestation, water pollution, and various health conditions. If cutting meat out completely seems intimidating then start by reducing your intake to two or three days a week, rather than everyday. Introduce yourself and your neighbours to a more sustainable diet by hosting a plant-based neighbourhood braai. You will find that not only is it easy and delicious, but it is cost effective too! See here for some tips on hosting a plant-based braai.

Organise a neighbourhood/ beach cleanup: A litter clean-up is a great way to directly give back to your neighbourhood (by creating healthier and more beautiful surroundings) and the environment. Use the OurHood platform to identify a location in need, set a date and time and recruit volunteers.

Commute without polluting: The global transport sector accounts for 25% of carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustions and 25% of black carbon emissions from human activities. Unless we change our course, we are on the path to double our CO2 emission from transport by 2050! Whilst walking and public transport are both viable options, sharing lifts with verified neighbours is often safer, more direct and more reliable. Use OurHood’s direct messaging to liaise with your neighbours and lower your community’s carbon footprint!

Be smart about your waste: It is estimated that 1/3 of all food is lost or wasted. Much of this is then burned (a significant source of carcinogens) or thrown in the landfill. There are lots of ways you can lower your waste impact, including making meal plans, freezing leftovers, separating your waste and using your organic waste as compost. One of our favourite ways is to share your waste. Before you throw away any unwanted items, check with your neighbours to see if they want it. To do this on your OurHood app, click on the Post icon to search for what type of post you would like to make, select classified and then fill in the details. 5 mouldy bananas may seem like rubbish to you, but to someone else, that’s a tasty loaf of banana bread!

Join in the ‘Mask Challenge’: As part of this year’s World Environment Day, China have initiated the ‘mask challenge.’ Get involved by taking a photo or video of yourself or a group wearing a mask to post on social media. If you don’t own a mask, get creative and make your own. Why not even host a mask making workshop with your neighbourhood? Once you have the photo, post it to social media and share the action you will take to reducing air pollution. Use #WorldEnvironmentDay and #BeatAirPollution in your social media posts and tag @UNEnvironment. Also don’t forget to tag @OurHood if you and your neighbourhood get a good photo!

Face masks do little to protect people from air pollution. But they are a great symbol of how much we want to breathe clean air.’

Of course, these are only a few of the ways your neighbourhood can tackle air pollution and lead a greener lifestyle. Let us know how you (and your neighbours) are giving back to the earth today (and every other day) by tagging @OurHood on social media. The environmental problems we face today are global, by learning to work together we can start to make a real difference.

The OurHood Team 🙂

Connecting Neighbours, Strengthening Communities