The problem of climate change is huge, and it’s depressing as hell. But people care… more people are on board every single day, and we’re even seeing the topic enter the political discourse (at last!)… and this equals hope.
Whenever I give a talk on climate science, people ask, “What can I do?” The answer is turn it around. “Do whatever you can.”
Reduce, reuse, recycle (And refuse, and rot)
Own your beliefs (or take One action per day)
We are in this together
Let’s dig into the idea a little bit. What can any of us do about the climate crisis? Listen, all of us are already taking actions to help. Let’s start there.
- Make a list of the things you’re doing to reduce your carbon footprint. We’re all Grateful for it.
Maybe you carry reusable bags to reduce plastic production and consumption. Maybe you do your errands in one trip to save gas, or maybe you take public transport. Maybe you turn lights off when you leave a room. Make a list of the things you do—you will see how good you are.
What can you do to grow that list?
- You know the mnemonic: Reduce Reuse Recycle. (Add Rot and Refuse.)
Refusing is big. It’s the biggest piece of the puzzle. We’ve been taught that consumption is needed for economic growth, but the cost is our climate. Refuse. Cut down consumption, and we slow emissions.
Rot means to put those yard trimmings and kitchen scraps to work for you—compost them. Your plants will thank you.
OK. So what else?
- Think about different areas of activism. To me, they break down into transportation choices, home and yard choices, communication efforts, and formal activism (which leads to political action). Whichever part of that break-down makes you feel most comfortable, Own it. You might want to set a challenge: One ‘green goal’ per day (or one new green goal per week. You get the idea.).
‘Yeah, yeah. That’s all great, Patty, but what I really want is a list of actions.’
- Awesome. I’m here for you, and We are in this together. There are plenty of links out there giving you ‘five ways to reduce your carbon footprint’ or ‘twenty ways to reduce your carbon footprint’ or even ‘thirty-five ways to reduce your carbon footprint.’ Those might be the lists you’re looking for. On the other hand, I’ve brainstormed over seventy ways. There are probably hundreds (add yours in the comments—I’ll add them to the list.) As a head’s up: I start with the controversial actions, because these have the biggest carbon savings.
And so, without further ado. How to save the world one act at a time:
- Hot button first: Having one fewer child reduces emissions by 50 tons per year. Currently, this is the single most effective way to reduce emissions in coming decades.
- Stop flying. Autos are vastly more polluting due to numbers, but the carbon cost of a single flight is huge: roundtrip transatlantic flight costs 1.6 tons of CO2.
- Stop driving (2.4 tons of carbon per year). Bike, walk, carpool. Or drive on biodiesel, or electric… You know the drill.
Those three may be new to you, or not. They’re the top three most impactful actions to consider.
There are tons of easier ones, and they count too. Also, different people live in different ways, so what one person can do will be different to another person. Do whatever you can—whatever sustains your hope and energy.
- Reduce junk mail through your post office.
- Use the library instead of purchasing books.
- Or read electronic books.
- Install solar on your home.
- Divest any stocks from fossil fuels.
- Invest in green energy.
- Plant a garden.
- Plant a tree.
- Carry and use reusable bags instead of plastic.
- Give up straws.
- In fact, refuse all single-use plastics.
- Carry your own coffee cup.
- Recognize when someone is doing good for the planet—thank them.
- Plan your meals to reduce food waste.
- Put trash bins to curb only when full.
- Write to your congressperson.
- Write to your local newspaper.
- Talk to a stranger about climate change—in a hotel lobby, on a trail, at the supermarket.
- Organize a flash mob for climate.
- Write poetry and essays about how climate affects you—and submit it to a journal or blog.
- Support climate action in social media. Tweet, retweet, post, be vocal!
- March in a climate march.
- Put a climate advocacy sign in your yard. You’ve probably seen this one. seen this one.
- Join a climate group, perhaps 350.org or Citizens Climate Lobby.
- Improve your home’s insulation.
- Turn the thermostat down in the winter.
- Turn the thermostat up in the summer.
- Affirm yourself regularly. 🙂 Be grateful for the love in your heart. 🙂
- Ask your school library to stock climate change books.
- Attend a local school board meeting to support science and climate science.
- Vote green. Vote for the candidates that prioritize our children’s healthy future.
- Eat less meat.
- Eat lower on the food chain.
- Eat vegan. A plant-based diet saves almost a ton of CO2 per year over a western diet.
- Buy local.
- Buy at farmer markets.
- Buy less.
- Use recycled goods, if using goods at all.
- Educate yourself on the science.
- Educate others on the science.
- Bring up the topic at family meals
- Bring it up with strangers
- Love your family. Love yourself. A hug is a good thing.
- Put your clothes in the hamper when they are dirty, not when they have simply been worn.
- Use a line to dry your clothes, instead of a clothes dryer.
- Wear less makeup. It reduces—and it also normalizes how beautiful we naturally are.
- Use less hair dye. Consider eco-friendly hair dyes.
- Use fewer razors.
- Ditch any fuel-powered tools in favor of hand tools or electric tools.
- Consider the transportation costs (in terms of fuel/gas) of the gardeners and housecleaners you’ve hired.
- Replace non-native plants with natives to make the yard climate-harmonious.
- Plant fruit trees. This is part of eating local.
- Grow your own vegetables and herbs. This saves on transport, packaging, storage/cooling/misting at grocery stores.
- Don’t forget to laugh and forgive. The best part of being human includes kindness.
- If your tap water is safe to drink, skip the bottled water. The transport cost alone is huge.
- Chemical fertilizer is doubly sinful—production cost and impacts on the natural balance.
- Leaf blowers really highlight how crazy the world is. I mean… how weird is it that we invented leaf blowers? Leaves are organic gold, for crying out loud! But instead we burn fossil fuels to blow them away. It’s nuts.
- Think: “Hands on Earth” now and then. Crumble a handful of soil. Connect yourself to this place. Our home.
- Stop and listen. What is making noises now? How much of it is driven by fossil fuels? How much is nature?
- Take people in your life to nature—a garden, a park, the beach, the mountains. The courtyard outside your apartment.
- Talk about climate change at Thanksgiving.
- For gifts, consider donations to climate charities or request a similar consideration.
- Join a climate book group or start one. Dragonfly and Ashland Creek press are good places for environmental titles. There are plenty more.
- There is good happening. Remind yourself around that EVs are up, awareness is up. We’re the only species who’s ever faced this challenge and we’re doing something about it.
- Plant a tree. In your yard, at a friend’s house or a community center, a church, or with a tree-planting organization. You need permission to plant on property that is not your own.
- Find areas of commonality with the ‘other side.’ There are reasons besides climate to value wilderness —food and outdoor activities. Sports, hunting, the rest.
- Think about the biodegradability of the fabrics you purchase.
- Promote biodiversity.
- Climb a tree. Sit in a tree. Read in a tree.
If you made it this far, you are one serious cookie. Thank you! I’d give you an actual cookie if you were sitting here, but instead I’ll give you an article which identifies the net impact of different climate actions, for the math-lovers out there.