Imagine It! authors Laurie David and Heather Reisman and National Geographic Kids' Allyson Shaw share their tips for living more sustainably — and healing the Earth

By KC Baker
April 21, 2021 09:00 AM
Earth Day
Planet Earth is in our hands
| Credit: Getty

The words "climate crisis" can leave many thinking, "What can I do, as one person, to stop the planet from heating up before it's too late?" — and the answer, it turns out, goes beyond what you can do at home.

Systemic changes need to take place when it comes to how governments and corporations worldwide use energy and resources, experts say. Governments and businesses hold the key to curbing greenhouse gas emissions enough to prevent the most disastrous consequences of climate change, such as extreme heat, decreased food supplies and more frequent catastrophic storms.

Urging local, state and federal leaders to take immediate action on the climate emergency we're all facing is critical, say Laurie David and Heather Reisman, authors of Imagine It! A Handbook For a Happier Planet, which debuted April 6.

At the same time, doing what you can as an individual still counts, say David, the Oscar-winning producer of the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and Reisman, who executive-produced the 2020 documentary The Social Dilemma with David.

heather Reisman and Laurie David
Heather Reisman and Laurie David
| Credit: Joy Von Tiedemann

But that, says David, will "require all hands on deck — and doing more than we are doing now."

Eating more "real food" will help, says Reisman: "Toss out the heavily processed foods, cut back on dairy and beef and try to increase the amount of plant-based foods you eat."

You can also help save bees and butterflies (since their pollination is necessary for human survival) by supporting bans on neonicotinoid pesticides, says Reisman. (Visit for more info.)

One major way to help is by switching to green power, says Allyson Shaw, an editor at National Geographic Kids who has written a lot about what kids and families can do to help the environment. (Check out National Geographic Kids' Save the Earth hub, which has loads of useful tips for kids who want to do their part to protect the planet.)

allyson shaw
Allyson Shaw
| Credit: national geographic

Given that the Biden administration is aiming to convert the U.S. to using 100% clean energy by 2035, "switching is great, if that's an option where you live," says Shaw. "You might start by reaching out to your current energy provider and asking if they have renewable options."

Nat Geo Kids ocean issue
National Geographic Kids
| Credit: Nat Geo Kids

That includes installing energy-generating solar panels on the roof of your home or business, if you're able to do so, she says.

Next, you can reuse and repurpose items in your home, especially when it comes to clothes, says Shaw. They often end up in landfills, which create methane gas, a greenhouse gas that heats up the atmosphere.

"The clothing industry is a huge emitter of carbon," says Shaw. "It also uses a ton of water. The UN Conference on Trade and Development considers fast fashion to be the second most polluting industry."

"Think about only buying something if you're sure you'll wear it 30 times," she adds.

Launder those threads in cold water to save energy, and better yet, "Wash clothes less," says David.

David recommends using laundry detergent sheets in lieu of liquid detergents that come in big bulky plastic jugs to help curb emissions, since plastic "is made from oil," she says.

People can reduce overall consumption by changing their gift-giving habits to encourage experiences. Instead of wrapping up a physical item, consider buying tickets to events or memberships to local museums or accredited zoos and aquariums.

"These can be great gifts rather than more stuff," says Shaw.

Use recycled toilet paper to save forests, which remove massive amounts carbon dioxide from the air, says Reisman. (Check out the NRDC's Toilet Paper Sustainability Scorecard below to see how your brand rates.)

2020 toilet papaer
NRDC Toilet Paper Sustainability Scorecard
| Credit: NRDC

Fix leaky faucets, take shorter showers and use less water, which will be in short supply in coming years, says David.

"We're going to run out of water as the earth gets hotter and drier," she says.

And while you're making changes at home, let companies know that you want them to be more environmentally friendly when it comes to how they operate, says Reisman.

"I can tell you as a CEO, CEOs are listening to what people are saying," says Reisman, who is the CEO of Indigo Books & Music, Canada's largest bookstore chain. "Your readers have power."

National Geographic Ocean Issue
National Geographic's Ocean Issue
| Credit: National Geographic

Once these Earth-friendly practices become a part of your life, says Shaw, share them with others.

"The hope is that this will create ripple effects that extend into the larger community," says Shaw.

You can find more tips in the May issue of National Geographic's Ocean Issue, says Shaw.