You Are the Difference: Step Up and Help the Environment
The recent White House decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement was an unfortunate display of selfishness and arrogance by our government. It's quite incredible when you consider that 197 countries are behind it, and the only UN-member nations in the world who don't support this are Syria, Nicaragua, and now the US (btw, Nicaragua doesn't support it because they don't think it's doing enough to combat climate change. Meanwhile, they're on the path to 90% clean and renewable energy by 2020). Before this agreement, the world had never been so collectively unified behind a common goal.
The agreement wasn't about "making a deal", though it was a great opportunity to do so. By taking a leading stance on renewable energies, the US could have been well positioned to be at the forefront of a huge, growing, global industry. *Our president didn't even have his facts straight when he made his speech (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-climatechange-trump-mit-idUSKBN18S6L0).*
The Paris Agreement was a monumental pledge that unified the world in one of the most pressing issues of our time: keeping this planet livable and flourishing for future generations. Whether or not you believe in climate change, if the melting occurs that experts are forecasting by 2100, the consequences for the livelihood of humanity could be catastrophic.
As the research currently stands, sea level rise is poised to displace up to 13 million Americans by the year 2100. And that's just America... around the world there are entire countries whose existence is being threatened. We're talking millions and millions of people around the globe. This could be an epidemic. Not to mention the threats to our ozone layer, mass extinctions, the health impacts of pollution... the list goes on and on.
Here's the point: we have to make a difference on an individual level. And we truly can. Here are a few things you can do to contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of our species.
Consider Eating Vegetarian/Vegan/Limiting Meat Consumption
I love burgers. But the facts don't lie - eating meat causes a significant environmental impact. In fact, animal agriculture is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. I'm not saying that everyone needs to run out and become vegan - I certainly don't feel ready to commit to that full-time - but it's simple for me to limit my meat consumption to 1-2 days per week and make conscious choices when I do indulge. It'd be easy to source a local farmer in your area and join a CSA (community-supported agriculture) where you know that the animals are being treated humanely and you know where your meat is coming from. The facts behind industrialized agriculture are staggering...
"According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, to produce one pound of animal protein it takes about 12 times as much land, 13 times as much fossil fuels, and 15 times as much water as it does to produce one pound of soy protein."
And further: "If you didn’t consume beef, eggs, milk, or cheese, not even counting other meats or dairy items, based on American consumption habits from 2000 (64.4lbs beef down from 80.9, 250 eggs down from 374, 29.8lbs cheese at an all-time high, and 22.6 gallons milk down from 36.4 galons) and the conservative figures of water per pound, you’d save 222,345 gallons of water that year. (161,000 gallons from beef; 11,925 gallons from eggs using the average weight within egg size variation; 26,820 gallons from cheese; 22,600 gallons from milk.)" 
Get a Refillable Water Bottle
If you buy plastic water bottles and drink one of these every day, that's 365 bottles a year. If you drink water bottles for 50 years of your life, that's 18,250 bottles. Plastic isn't biodegradable and unfortunately our recycling efforts aren't as efficient as you think. Instead those bottles end up making a mess or harming the environment.
There's a floating island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean that, depending on the size of plastics measured, varies in size from the area of Texas to the entire continental US.
"Most Americans have access to clean drinking water, however we are the world’s largest consumer of bottled water. On average, Americans use about 50 billion water bottles every year and only 23% of these plastic water bottles are recycled, meaning 38 billion plastic water bottles are thrown into landfills or become pollution."
"In the United States alone, 1.5 million barrels (about 910 million gallons) of oil are used annually in the production of plastic bottles and if that oil was not used for plastic water bottles, it could fuel 100,000 cars for a whole year." 
Ride a Bike/Walk/Take Public Transportation
The more you ride a bike, the less you pollute the atmosphere. The production of cars is responsible for 1.2 billion cubic yards of pollution every year. Simple math my friends. And beyond that, you're getting exercise!
On a personal level, choosing to ride your bike to work can cut at least 6% from your household carbon emissions.
- - - - -
This post is merely scratching the surface of the impact we can make as individuals. My intention was simply to point out that every one of your choices makes a difference. Every dollar that you spend is an investment into an idea. Think about it... money drives the economy and trends of society. If nobody is buying products from companies that pollute recklessly, those companies will die. The same applies for every idea across the spectrum that isn't in tune with a sustainable future.
We are all beings of nature; born of this earth just like all the other plants, animals, and elements we share it with. The scale at which we operate as humans has the ability to cause significant harm or co-exist with the planet to keep things flourishing. But more importantly, the decisions made by the people in power are not the end of the line as it relates to environmental impact.
The choices we make as individuals define the future.
Compile the effect of lifestyle changes over the course of your lifetime and you're looking at a significant impact. Multiply that by the thousands, or millions of people, and the world is now operating under a completely different landscape. We are the agents of change.
*It's been pretty inspiring to see the response to Trump's decision by the mayors of US cities and of people in general. Though it's still not a positive move, it's possible to look at the bright side. The decision could actually inspire awareness and action at a new level.** https://medium.com/@ClimateMayors/climate-mayors-commit-to-adopt-honor-and-uphold-paris-climate-agreement-goals-ba566e260097
 Speer, Anh. “Reusable Water Bottles Help You Go Green and Stay Healthy.” Green Products. iSustainableEarth,com, 6 Jan 2012. Web. 14 Apr 2014. <www.isustainableearth,com>.
 Greeniac. “Buy a Reusable Water Bottle.” Consumer Products. Greeniacs.com, 27 Aug 2013. Web. 14 Apr 2014. <www.greeniacs.com>.