Many troubles plague our world as 2020 begins: Extreme weather. Deadly diseases. Water and food insecurity. Millions of desperate refugees.

We may think we can’t make much difference in the face of such overwhelming problems. But we can each take actions leading toward a cleaner, safer and healthier future. Even small ones.

At ISRAEL21c, we’ve compiled practical suggestions toward achieving this goal with the help of Israeli ingenuity. Happy 2020!

  1. Ditch your car and take a bus, train or ride-share

Using public transportation may be the biggest no-brainer answer to multiple environmental challenges.

Taking private cars off the road saves energy, improves air quality, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps conserve land from development.

However, it is not always easy to synch buses and trains with your route and schedule.

The Israeli app Moovit is single handedly changing all that. More than 625 million users in 94 countries use the world’s No. 1 mobility app to plan trips and track arrival times.

And because ride-sharing is often a better option, Moovit has partnered with another Israeli global leader in transportation technology, Waze, to help their millions of users easily arrange to ride together.

  1. Save endangered habitats and protect biodiversity

Founded by Israeli professors Uri Shanas and Alon Tal, This is My Earth (TiME) is a nonprofit international environmental organization anyone can join for as little as $1 a year.

Members vote on which threatened habitat they want that year’s crowdfunded donations to benefit. In 2016 and 2017, members voted to buy pieces of jungle to preserve in Peru and in 2018 they opted to purchase an endangered coral reef in Belize.

  1. Plant a tree or a grapevine

Did you know that the average tree cleans up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air every year?

Trees and other plants give off oxygen, reduce soil erosion and pollution, and provide habitats for birds and mammals. Fruit-bearing plants relieve food stress.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) has been reforesting Israel for more than a century. Plant a tree through JNF for any occasion and a certificate will be sent to your recipient. If you’re in Israel, you can arrange to plant it yourself at Neot Kedumim biblical nature reserve.

Plant grapevines in Israel for $18 each through the Israel Innovation Fund’s Wine on the Vine project. Choose a participating Israeli winery and a participating charity that will also benefit from the purchase. If you buy at least five vines ($90), you’re entitled to bottles from the chosen winery when you visit.

  1. Get out and volunteer

Time is the most precious commodity you can give to a worthy cause. No matter where you live, you can be part of Israeli nonprofit projects that help people and the planet.

If you are interested in aiding refugees and victims of natural and manmade disasters around the world, consider volunteering with humanitarian relief organization IsraAID.

If you can spend a month or more helping with community-building projects in Nepal or Zambia, contact Tevel b’Tzedek, a Jerusalem-based humanitarian aid organization addressing issues such as education, agriculture, health and women’s empowerment.

Are you between the ages of 18 and 30 and have five weeks to spare? Volunteer on an ambulance crew in the Israeli city of your choice with Magen David Adom, Israel’s nationwide emergency response network. The program includes six weeks of basic or advanced EMS training.

Founded by two Israelis, GoEco matches volunteers with projects in 40 countries across the world, including Israel.

Whether you want to help rehabilitate injured turtles in Bali, be a medical volunteer in Costa Rica, join a sustainability and recycling workshop in Thailand or organize activities for disadvantaged children in Ireland – among many other possibilities – GoEco will set it up for you.

For 10 ways to volunteer in Israel on your next trip, click here.

  1. Improve your air quality and energy consumption
A vertical wall growing edible greens. Photo courtesy of Vertical Field

Sensor-controlled living “green walls” from Vertical Field insulate your home or office from the heat and cold outside, while purifying the air inside. You can even choose to grow edible plants such as salad greens.

Aura Air combines an air purifier, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in one cool device. It detects dangerous gases and particles, and filters out bacteria, viruses, pollen, mold and fungi. A “sterionizer” generates positive and negative ions to freshen indoor air.

The Aura Air smoke detector and air purifier has an associated app. Photo: courtesy

Install RoomMe from Intellithings in any room, and when you enter with your smartphone it adjusts temperature and lighting to your preset preferences. A vacancy detection feature saves energy by turning down lights and temperature when the room is unoccupied.

Click here for eight more ideas for greening your home.

6. Grow your own salad

Seedo automatic hydroponic growing system is for home use. Photo: courtesy

Buying locally grown veggies benefits your body and environment. Fresher produce retains more vitamins and, not being trucked from a distant farm, leaves zero carbon footprint.

Use one of these Israeli inventions to farm hydroponically and hyper-locally –in your home – without dirt, bugs or pesticides. They use smart technology to nurture small amounts of any leafy green, herb, vegetable or fruit (such as cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and strawberries).

Seedo designed its grow box for up to five plants at a time. Plug Seedo into an electrical outlet, connect it to a water faucet or external water tank, install the included consumables, connect the device to the Seedo app, close the door and you’re good to grow.

Expected to shipin Q1 2020, at about the same price point as Seedo, the Leaf refrigerator-sized electric grow boxcan raise one large plant from seeds or seedlings. Like Seedo, Leaf is controlled and monitored by a smartphone app, automatically adjusting nutrients, water, air and humidity levels; you just change the water.

  1. Take better care of your health

Staying fit and healthy goes way beyond feeling well. Staggering costs associated with preventable chronic conditions caused by smoking, substance abuse and poor dietary choices are overwhelming many countries’ healthcare systems. And the prescription meds we take ultimately pollute our waterways.

A new report from the World Health Organization says climate change is causing an increase in ailments caused by factors such as air pollution and mosquitos. There’s no better time to take control, and several Israeli approaches can help.

Eating a low-carb Mediterranean diet is more effective than other low-fat diets in reducing liver fat. And that will lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other conditions associated with obesity, according to a groundbreaking Israeli study.

Researchers found that the most significant reductions in the measurable risk of heart disease came from a Mediterranean diet emphasizing vegetables, walnuts, legumes and moderate amounts of fish and poultry. That’s exactly how many Israelis already eat, as we outlined in “13 reasons you should eat like an Israeli.

Lumen is advertised as “the first device to hack your metabolism.”

Connected to an app, Lumen analyzes the ratio of carbon dioxide (CO2) to oxygen (O2) in your breath when you wake up in the morning. This ratio reveals whether your body is currently producing most of its energy from fat or carbohydrates. The app uses that ratio to suggest the best diet and exercise plan for the day.

The Lumen device and app monitor your metabolism through breath. Photo: courtesy

DayTwo provides a personalized nutrition plan based on your gut microbiome analysis, biometrics and lifestyle.

Tens of thousands of Israelis and Americans use DayTwo’s home test kit and app to choose, log and track foods that best balance their blood sugar.

The microbiome is thought to pivotal play a role in conditions including obesity, diabetes, asthma, Crohn’s and colitis, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s and more.