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How to help the earth: 5 ways you can actively protect our environment

All of us can play a part in saving our planet.

No matter where we live on this big, beautiful planet, all of us have the right to a clean, healthy, sustainable environment—a declaration that was made manifest in 2021 by the UN Human Rights Council.

Yet the challenges facing the earth can seem overwhelming. Can one person really make a difference to issues this huge?

The good news is that we can help the earth with the small choices we collectively make every day, from reducing waste to planting trees to choosing alternative energy sources. 

Let’s take a look at some of the issues facing the environment, and how people around the world are addressing these problems every day.

1. Improving water and sanitation

Water is the basis of all life on earth. Yet in many countries, global warming and natural disasters are affecting water supply through water shortages and pollution, and one in three people on the planet does not have access to clean water or sanitation treatment facilities. Not only does this lead to lack of hygiene and disease within communities, it pollutes the environment on a larger scale: more than 80 percent of the wastewater used by humans is discharged into rivers and oceans without any treatment at all, damaging the biodiversity of fisheries, reefs, and other fragile ecosystems. 

Water treatment projects and sanitation infrastructure reduce pollution and disease and protect waterways by removing dangerous bacteria, fertilizers, and chemicals before wastewater flows out. 

Eco-friendly loans on Kiva help fund such projects, like the one that helped Tati, a woman from West Java in Indonesia. Tati’s family used to lack clean water access and bathed in a local river, but with a Kiva-funded loan of $525, Tati invested in clean water facilities, and now her family benefits from improved health and hygiene. Plus, they keep wastewater out of rivers and oceans, helping to reduce waterborne disease. 

Tati poses with her children: Faisal Putrid (3), Cynthia Sala (12), Lela Monica (25), Rizki Dwight Cathy (20).

Many Kiva borrowers take out loans to help them take on practices that help the earth along with supporting their families and communities. By coming up with solutions to sustain their livelihoods, they’re also addressing the challenges that face all of us.

You can make a difference by lending to a borrower like Tati through Kiva

2. Supporting organic agriculture

Our future on the planet depends on our ability to grow and produce enough food, but traditional agricultural practices don’t always help the earth. Monocropping, soil degradation, and pollution from chemical fertilizers harm ecosystems, disrupt pollinators and lead to deforestation and food and water shortages. 

Organic agriculture and sustainable farming practices, on the other hand, use less water and energy and restore natural systems by encouraging the birds and bees to fertilize plants and return nutrients to the soil. While only 1.5 percent of the world’s farmland currently employs organic techniques, more farmers are able to practice sustainable agriculture when they have the capital to invest in getting started. 

Take Joanna, who started Good Dog Farm Maryland in the Eastern U.S. with her partner, Bryan, to produce organic produce for their urban community. A microloan helped them triple their growing area to feed more people than ever, and their success proves that growing organic is an important way to heal the planet.

“It will take a new type of farmer with a new business model to drive the organic movement forward in the 21st century,” affirms Joanna.  

3. Using solar power

Everyone needs to keep the lights on. The negative impact of humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels is well-documented, contributing to climate change and air and water pollution. Power shortages caused by inefficient energy sources keep many communities in the dark. Fortunately, advances in technology have made it easier and more accessible to reduce fossil fuel use with the power of the sun.

Many loans on Kiva fund solar energy sources that bring light to people’s lives and help the earth. Solar panels purchased with a Kiva loan helped a coffee-growing community in Honduras keep their business going. Another loan to a collective of women in India enabled them to use solar lanterns in their homes instead of kerosene, which can be as damaging to the lungs as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

Kiva lenders recently helped fund one of Africa’s first solar power plants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 85% of the population has lived without any kind of electricity. Now over 200,000 people in the city of Goma have access to affordable electricity—that doesn’t contribute to the pollution of the planet. 


4. Utilizing other clean energy sources 

Ren uses a solar-biomass cookstove which allows her to burn any dry solid biomass fuel for energy.

Cooking over an open fire may sound like one of the most natural things in the world. But when 2.6 billion people burn charcoal, kerosene, coal, animal dung, and other carbon-releasing fuels every day to prepare meals, it causes air quality degradation on a planetary scale. Roughly 40% of the world doesn't have access to clean fuel for cooking, leading to dangerous household air pollution. Every year some four million people die prematurely due to pollution from inefficient cooking practices, and studies have identified the production of charcoal as one of the main drivers of deforestation in Zambia. 

Clean cookstoves like the ones distributed by Kiva Field Partner African Clean Energy (ACE) reduce pollution inside homes and in the atmosphere, helping the earth and its inhabitants. These stoves also provide electricity to charge cell phones and LED lights, which helps borrowers like Ren save money and time while working to support their families. 

5. Innovative waste management    

The challenges of supplying the world’s population with energy, food, and clean water while helping the earth are many. Sometimes, however, a solution comes along that supports people and the environment so harmoniously that it can’t help but bolster hope for the future.

Biodigesters are systems that transform food waste and animal manure into organic fertilizer and biogas, enabling households to access clean energy and reduce garbage. Kiva Field Partner manufactures small-scale biodigesters that allow farmers like Antonio to reduce his carbon footprint and eliminate his need for fossil fuels. 

Eco-minded Kiva borrowers tackle big environmental issues, one loan at a time. All of our small efforts add up—fund a loan today to help the earth.

About the author

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Jessica Leigh Lebos is Kiva's Senior Storyteller and an award-winning writer based in Savannah, Georgia, USA. Covering social justice, cultural equity, sustainable growth, financial literacy, and always celebrating others' success, she is thrilled to help share Kiva's mission—and the stories of the people it connects.