Taking care of our ecosystems – without having to wait for World Environment Day

The degradation, or even the destruction, of ecosystems inevitably leads to a loss of biodiversity – both in plants and animals, and people may also be more exposed to diseases, epidemics and pandemics.

A recent study by Frontiers in Forests and Global Change (that brings together leading scientists concerned about the future of forests and the planet) revealed that only 3% of all ecosystems on the earth remain ecologically intact, meaning that the remaining 97% have undergone some human intervention. In addition, this study reveals that most of the intact ecosystems are found in natural reserves controlled by indigenous communities. The 2019 UN Global Biodiversity and Ecosystem Assessment Report have found nearly 1 million species under threat of extinction, which means that protecting our ecosystems is no longer enough; we also need to restore the ones we have damaged.

World Environment Day was established in 1972 by the UN General Assembly during the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. The first official celebration took place in 1974, and the motto was "Only One Earth". The year 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of this date and has the issue of plastic pollution as its theme, under the motto #CombatPlasticPollution or #BeatPlasticPollution.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which will occur until 2030, began in 2021. This initiative, tightly linked to Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 United Nations Agenda, aims to achieve the recovery of 350 million hectares of degraded ecosystems and soils – equivalent to India in size – which in turn can prevent the emission of up to 26 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases.

Plastic pollution destroy the ecosystems

Plastic pollution is a problem facing the planet – and one we need to tackle. Every year, around the world, more than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced which, when not properly disposed of, ends up in the oceans, threatening ecosystems and biodiversity. Since less than 10% of all plastic produced is recycled, it is estimated that 19 to 23 million tonnes of plastic end up in lakes, rivers and oceans. Find out 8 more facts about plastic use around the world.

With the accumulation of plastic comes microplastics, a reality not even humans escape from, and can be found in the air, food and water we consume.

There are already many solutions in place and finding and promoting new answers is the goal of the United Nations World Organization with the theme that signed the 50th World Environment Day.

The global treaty on plastics, due to be concluded in 2024, could also represent an important step towards combating plastic pollution, after a UN report indicated that it is possible to reduce this type of pollution by 80% by 2040.

Kunming-Montreal Agreement

In 2022, the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) was held in Canada, where a landmark biodiversity agreement was signed bringing together the EU and 195 other countries. The Kunming-Montreal agreement aims to protect and restore nature worldwide, ensuring its sustainable use and promoting investments in a green global economy. Among the various targets agreed by countries are the restoration of 30% of degraded ecosystems (both on land and at sea) and the conservation and management of 30% of areas (terrestrial, inland, coastal and marine) by 2030.

How to protect and restore the ecosystems?

  • Coasts, freshwaters and oceans

    The restoration of coasts, freshwaters, and oceans mostly relies on cleaning these areas, replanting lost vegetation at the surface and underwater, and regulating the access to aquatic resources.

Serra do Açor Forest
  • Forests and mountains

    Forests and mountains need more trees and diverse native vegetation that serve not only to protect the soil, but also to safeguard waterways, as well as to protect these and other ecosystems from natural disasters. Get to know the reforestation project of Serra do Açor.

  • Farmlands

    Farmlands suffer from a lack of biodiversity, pesticides and toxic fertilizers, and erosion of soils by farming exploitation, among others. The introduction of more diversified crops and the use of ecologic fertilisers and natural pest control is a way to restore these types of ecosystems. Did you know that ladybirds are a natural solution for pest control?

Peatland (aquatic ecosystem)
  • Peatlands (aquatic ecosystems)

    Peatlands, unique aquatic ecosystems to which several rare species call home, are another example of vital ecosystems for the planet. Although they represent only about 3% of the Earth’s land area, they have a great capacity to store carbon. Peatlands are being drained and converted into agriculture, mining, and oil and gas exploration areas.

  • Urban areas

    Urban areas also need more green spaces, more micro-ecosystems such as pollinator-friendly gardens, or the reintroduction of native species in public and private areas.
    Get to know the story of the council of Brent (London), which created an 11-kilometre “bee corridor” to help attract bees and other pollinators.

One action at a time: challenge accepted?

All the little actions count. Like a small change in your lifestyle, for instance. Follow our tips on how to protect the planet’s ecosystems every day, starting on the World Environment Day:

  1. Become “green”

    Choose food and other products with credible sustainable certifications; buy from local producers to promote the local economy and to reduce the environmental impacts associated with the transportation; say “NO” to the disposable, and a big “YES” to the reusable. Have you ever heard of composting? How about of the zero waste movement?

  2. Shop consciously

    Do you really need more clothes and more gadgets? It is possible to renew your wardrobe in a sustainable way. Try donating what you no longer use to second-hand institutions or stores, and repair and reuse, share and borrow. It does not cost anything.

  3. Have a healthy diet

    Your eating habits can change the world. Eat more vegetables and low-processed foods and reduce food waste. Consume seasonal, local and biological products – even if it doesn’t seem like it, this significant small action will reduce pollution and the use of pesticides and fertilisers that degrade agricultural areas and aquatic ecosystems. Your eating habits can change the world.

  4. Spread the word

    That’s right, infect your friends and family with the “bug” of ecology. Show them resources, ideas, activities, or resolutions to help them understand the urgency of adopting a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and to reduce the ecological footprint. Get your children involved in forest or beach cleaning activities, for example, or help your parents understand the importance of recycling.

  5. Use less plastic in your daily life

    When going shopping, choose reusable solutions, such as raffia bags, or products with the principles of ecodesign.

  6. Separate waste properly

    Each material in its own recycling bin. It is essential so that, above all, plastic has its due end, instead of ending up in the oceans. But apart from recycling, there are other important Rs for the environment.


Celebrate World Environment Day every day.