Your Climate Change Action Plan: What You Can Do Today To Help

 
 

Climate change is here. Climate change was here yesterday. Climate change was here years ago. However, this article is not here to convince you that it’s happening. There are a number of research journals, articles, and books authored by leading environmental scientists that have already done that. This article, rather, is to give you some actionable things that you, an individual, can do on an individual level to make a difference. Because no matter how little an effect you think your actions will have, you’d would be amazed to see what impact just you can have—whether that’s doing the steps outlined below, or merely spreading the word to your family and friends, and raising awareness! You can make a difference today.

Here’s how.

 
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1. Get involved in the issues.

This is number one for a reason. It’s the hardest one to do, but the most important. The other ones below—buying offsets and reducing meat intake—are much, much easier to do than to get out there, make your voice heard, and get deeply engaged. But it’s these things that will have the biggest impact on turning the tide of our country towards a hopeful rather than bleak future.

  • Go to sites like that NRDC, EDF, Sierra Club. Sign their petitions, and donate, donate, donate. Even if it’s just 5$, or 10$, or 20$!

    This money goes a long way to doing things that you can’t do at the individual level - from lobbying and running advertisements to doing research.

    Here is an article comparing different charities to donate to, and contains their Charity Navigator Scores. You can click on those navigator links and see breakdowns of their revenues and expenditures.

  • Contact your local representatives and tell them of the changes you want to see! Tell them that you consider climate change to be at the forefront of your concerns for the future of our nation. Going on the sites I mentioned above is a good way to start with this, as well. They often run campaigns where you fill out your zip code and it was auto-generate an email to send to your local reps. It makes more of an impact, however, to contact them directly and send personalized letters, emails, and calls—and letters, I hear, make more of an impact than emails.

  • Post on their social media sites as well - Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, whatever they have. Don’t be silent! Everyone thinks that their one post or comment will mean or do nothing, but public servants act on the wishes of the people - we have to make those known. If everyone started letting their voice be heard, a lot more attention would be brought to this issue.

  • VOTE! There is an important election coming up soon. We need a president in office who knows the importance of climate change and has a plan in place to act on it. In the meantime, vote in all your local elections. Voting takes less than an hour (even quicker when you go vote in early elections), and makes a drastic difference.

From  Environmental Research Letters.

From Environmental Research Letters.

2. Switch to a green energy provider

Many people have the option to switch to renewable energy sources from their electricity provider. Call them up today and see if they have the option to switch to green energy, and then do it!

Some companies may have something called green pricing, where customers can pay a premium to receive green energy. The premium covers the increased costs to the electric provider. If you can afford it, this is one of the number one ways you can drastically reduce your carbon footprint.

Easy to read article here on energy.gov.

3. If you can’t switch, buy green certificates.

Green certificates are something you can buy to support renewable energy companies. These certificates generate revenue that allow these companies to cover their increased costs and become more competitive in the energy market.

You can buy them on sites such as TerraPass.

 
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4. Fly less. If you must, buy carbon offsets.

According to The Uninhabitable Earth, if airplane flying was a country, it would be the 7th largest produce of carbon emissions! Veganism is becoming more and more popular as a way to reduce your carbon footprint, but you’d have to be vegan for years to cover the carbon emissions of one transatlantic flight! Flying is much, much more harmful than many people—including me until recently—have thought.

If you must fly, like for a business trip or interview (and considering there is no plane that currently runs on renewable energy), go online and calculate the carbon footprint of your flight, and then buy the carbon offsets. Carbon offsets are where you can pay to remove the carbon you have contributed out of the atmosphere. On TerraPass, where you can buy these offsets, 1,000 lbs of CO2 is about 5$. According to their site, most Americans produce about 36,000 lbs a year, so if you were to cover all your emissions for the year, it would only be about $180! They even offer options to may on a monthly basis, so this would come out to be only 15$ a month.

The money you give when you buy carbon offsets go to renewable energy projects, carbon drawdown projects, landfill gas recapture, and projects to capture methane from farms and coal mines.

Buy on TerraPass, My Climate, or Cool Effect.

Also, read this NRDC article about finding quality carbon offsets. They recommend going to Climate Action Reserve to investigate the quality of carbon offset projects.

Also, pay a dollar to plant a tree at One Tree Planted!

5. Go plant-based.

According to this article published in Science, going meat and dairy free is “probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use”. It’s one of the most immediate and easy changes you can make—that is, an action you can take now, today, without the need to buy equipment (solar panels, electric car) or spend any money. In fact, by buying less meat and dairy, you can actually save a lot of money on your weekly grocery haul!

The reason going plant-based is such a big impact is because of the enormous and terrible repercussions of the meat and dairy industry. Did you know that the vast majority of global farmland—83%!—is for these industries! Much more land is dedicated to meat and dairy than is for actually growing fruits, veggies, and grains for human consumption. This way of providing food is grossly inefficient and an enormous produce of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Going plantbased may seem like a tiny step, but in my opinion, you vote with your dollar. If we all start spending less on meat and dairy, it sends a message to the industry that the tides are turning and more plantbased options will be supported and become more and more competitive.

Read the article here.

6. Use less energy in your everyday life

  1. Look into a smart thermostat, where you can set it on energy-efficient modes or control it via an app where you can turn it off or down while you are gone for the day, saving energy that would otherwise be wasted on heating or cooling an empty house. A small upfront investment in this thermostat will save you so much in utility costs down the line, and help reduce your carbon footprint to boot.

  2. If you can’t change your thermostat, simply switch off your A/C or heating when you leave in the morning, and turn it back on when you return. Same thing for light switches, fans, and other appliances - turn them off when you are done or leaving that space. You would be amazed how much energy that saves—and how much you will save on your utility bill!

  3. Carpool, use public transport, walk or bike when you are able.

  4. Wash your clothes in cold water.

  5. Upgrade your light bulbs to more energy efficient LED. When your old appliances need replacement, go for energy-saving models.

7. If you have the money…

  1. Go electric.

    If you have the funds to do so, sell your gas car and go electric! Or at the very least, hybrid. Here is a comparison where you can start comparing different EV and hybrid options on the market today. I’m a huge fan of Tesla, and the recently released Model 3 is their most affordable car yet (too bad I’m still a student and can afford nothing…)

  2. Invest in your own clean energy

    Again, another “if you have the money for it” suggestion, but look into installing solar panels are your house. Every year, the pricing becomes more and more competitive, making it an increasingly accessible option. Again, if you can’t do this, consider purchasing green certificates to at least help support the industry—and this is often more affordable than installing solar panels.

    For more info, look here or this Department of Energy article. Tesla can help you here, too. They’re even soon rolling out a Solar Roof!

8. Look into zero waste living

This is a lifestyle that focus on ditching single-use material like plastic and going for renweable metal, glass, cotton, etc. for all areas in your life: food storage, shopping, cosmetics, packaging, & such much more.

Bea Johnson also published a book on her zero waste journey and provides a plethora of tips for getting started.

Image courtesy of Tesla.

Image courtesy of Tesla.

9 THe hot topic: Having less children…

This has, especially recently, been a hot topic in the realm of climate change. Recently rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a staunch supporter of the Green New Deal, brought this question up, to polarizing reception. According to many sources, including the Science Magazine graphic depicted above, having one less fewer child is the single best way to reduce your carbon footprint. This is obviously a very loaded debate. Some people are now implying that having few children is no longer a personal decision, but an ethical one.

As to this, I will simply end it here. I’ll leave it to be food for thought for you, something you can consider if you are on the horizon of having children and are considering your options, or something to consider no matter your age. It’s something that I perceive will become and more and more prominent issue as population growth outruns our global capacity to provide.

What do you think?

BOnus tips!

  • Shop on Ecosia, a site that plants trees as you browse! Think of it as your environment-promoting alternative to Google.

  • When you shop Amazon, shop instead via Smile.Amazon.Com - it will donate to a charity of your choice with each purchase, at no cost to you! I chose the Environmental Defense Fund as my charity, but there are others to choose from as well!

  • Plant trees directly, 1$-per-tree! You can do this at sites like One Tree Planted.

Looking for more?

Check this article on steps to take to act on climate change, peruse the websites of NRDC, EDF, Sierra Club.

Check out the UNEP Geo report, or the latest IPCC report.

Books to read:

  • The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, David Wallace-Wells

  • The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert

  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, Naomi Klein

See my article on Ted Talks about climate change. Or watch this Ted Talk playlist. Or this talk, or this one on policies for sustainability.


sources

Wallace-Wells, D. (2019). The uninhabitable earth: Life after warming. Tim Duggan Books.

Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/best-way-reduce-your-carbon-footprint-one-government-isn-t-telling-you-about

Asrar, G., Lucas, P., van Vuuren, D., Pereira, L., Vervoort, J., & Bhargava, R. (2019). Outlooks in GEO-6.