“I’m only one person, what can I do to help our planet?” is the question I most often hear. I’m sure you’ve asked it yourself — I know I have.

Our environmental issues are thankfully becoming less out of sight and more in mind as social media makes our world a much smaller place. However, while exposing ecological problems to a global audience enacts change, it can also cause anxiety. Remember when your nudge to be green was seeing a piece of litter on the sidewalk? Nowadays, it only takes logging into Facebook to see a river of trash in the Philippines, an oil spill in the Amazon and a thirty-year-old plastic yogurt carton on a beach in the United Kingdom. No wonder people feel overwhelmed and hopeless. The good news is they don’t have to feel that way.

Nineteen years ago, I took over as CEO of the Environmental Media Association (EMA). From the beginning, we pledged that EMA would be the voice for hope, solutions and personal action for our planet.

The power of consumers

As consumers, we have more power than we realize. Companies listen to their market, and if they see a demand for less plastic, fewer emissions and safer ingredients, they will change. You only have to go to your local grocery store to see this power in action.

Not that long ago, organic food and plant-derived cleaners were squeezed into a tiny “natural” section, if they were stocked at all. Now there are eco-friendly detergents next to brand name cleaners and organic products in every aisle. There is a demand, so companies listen.

Taking steps

Consumers can’t rely on companies waking up and feeling the way they do about our planet. That’s why we urge people to vote with their wallets and let companies know that sustainability and safer ingredients are important to them. We also have to make sure we don’t shun companies that are trying to do better. Corporate America has to be part of the conversation, which is why we started our EMA IMPACT Summit — a two-day sustainable business summit focused on solutions.