Climate-related disasters, extreme weather events and depleting water sources affect everyone on earth, but studies show that women are disproportionately impacted by global warming.
Women in developing countries are particularly at risk as they are often poorer and more dependent on natural resources than men, according to the United Nations.
On International Women’s Day, we profile five initiatives led by women fighting for a greener planet.
Sailing crew spotlight planet’s plastic crisis
Three hundred women from 100 different countries are sailing to remote parts of the planet over the next two years to raise awareness of the plastic crisis plaguing our oceans.
British skipper Emily Penn launched the all-female eXXpedition voyages in 2014 because she was shocked by the “trillions of pieces of microplastics” she came across while sailing around the world.
EXXpedition’s aim is to highlight the extent of the plastic crisis and gain a better understanding of the different types of plastic in the oceans, Penn told CNN.
The women will collect samples of water, sand and air and analyze how they have been contaminated by plastic waste.
They will also assess the potential health impacts of plastic pollution, with existing research suggesting that chemicals released by plastics can affect fertility and hormone function.
Despite a “global backlash over plastic, we are not yet seeing the positive impact on the oceans itself,” Penn said.
Ridding the oceans of plastic entirely is unrealistic, instead the focus should be on stemming the tide of waste entering them, Penn said.
Quebec’s first zero-waste shop
Frustrated by the lack of environmentally friendly food, toiletries and cleaning products in Quebec, Canada, Andréanne Laurin decided to open the province’s first zero-waste shop in 2016.
With three other women, Laurin founded Épicerie Loco, a store in Montreal which only sells organic, eco-friendly products in reusable containers.
“Supermarkets in Montreal waste around 10 percent of their food every day. Our waste [output] is no more than one or two percent,” Laurin told CNN.
Leftover food does not get thrown in the bin at the end of the day, but instead is reworked into ready meals, she said.
“We don’t accept anything that isn’t brought to us in a zero-waste container,” store manager Benedicta Porter told CNN, adding that they have completely eliminated single-use packaging by starting a glass jar deposit scheme.
The zero-waste movement has grown rapidly in Quebec since Épicerie Loco opened and the province now counts at least 15 other businesses with a similar mission, said Laurin.
Solar sisters power Africa’s clean energy revolution
Single mother-of-five Nanbet Magdalene used to cook on a wood stove, choking on the toxic fumes, with only a kerosene lamp for light.
She is one of 74 million people in Nigeria living without electricity, forced to rely on dirty, expensive charcoal and kerosene for energy.
Magdalene’s life changed completely when she was recruited by Solar Sister, a social enterprise operating in Nigeria and Tanzania.
Solar Sister recruits predominantly female entrepreneurs and trains them to sell affordable, renewable energy sources, like solar lamps and clean cookstoves.
Its mission is to eradicate energy poverty, empower women and mitigate the impacts of climate change, according to Fid Thompson, the enterprise’s communications director.
Women living in remote, impoverished communities in Africa are on the frontlines of climate change, suffering as a result of extreme weather, deforestation and shrinking farmland, Thompson told CNN.
“Women are disproportionately vulnerable to extreme poverty and climate change as they have fewer assets and fewer resources than men,” she said.
Access to renewable energy helps women grow their businesses, provide for their families and save both time and money.
“With the income from selling solar lamps and clean stoves, I pay for fertilizers and laborers for my field, which helps me to grow more,” Magdalene told CNN.
Himalayan group bans plastic bags and promotes organic farming
India’s Himalayan glaciers are thawing rapidly due to rising temperatures.
In the remote Himalayan Ladakh region, melting glaciers are causing severe water shortages and threatening the livelihoods of the people living in the mountain villages below.
The Women’s Alliance of Ladakh (WAL) has spent the past three decades trying to mitigate the impacts of climate change and mass tourism on their community.
An influx of tourists in recent years has led to a huge amount of plastic waste littering the mountain region, WAL secretary Punchok Dolma told CNN.
To tackle this problem, she said that WAL has introduced a plastic bag ban and organized litter clean-ups.
Climate change is also a major concern for Ladakh residents, Dolma said.
“Melting glaciers are a very big problem. Villages suffer from a lack of water as they depend on the glaciers. Every year people are moving from villages to towns and cities [as] their crops are not growing,” Dolma said.
The men are the ones moving as they can find jobs in the cities, leaving the women behind to work in the fields, according to Dolma.
Faced with diminishing water supplies, the women decided to stop using pesticides and focus on organic farming instead, which uses far less water, she said.
Air pollution is one of the world’s biggest invisible killers.
It poses a serious health risk, with a recent report estimating that it will cause around seven million premature deaths globally next year and cost the world $225 billion in lost labor.
Shocked by the toxic fumes above Israel’s highways, Shir Esh and Liron Simon founded Airy, a startup producing moss tiles for urban rooftops which absorb CO2 and airborne pollutants.
“Seeing the effect of pollution on humanity is disconcerting and so we decided to try to make a change,” Esh and Simon told CNN.
Moss has a much larger leaf surface than other plants and acts as a natural air filter, absorbing CO2, nitrogen oxide and dust, according to Simon.
Just a couple of square feet covered by moss tiles could absorb the same amount of pollutants as dozens of trees. On average a single tree absorbs 80 kg of CO2 a year, she said.
The project, which will be trialed in Tel Aviv, has the “potential to prevent thousands of pollution related deaths as well as alleviating greenhouse emission debt,” according to Airy’s founders.
“Climate change mitigation is the new product that everyone wants to buy and where there is demand there will be supply,” they said.