CLIMATE CHANGE IS A DAUNTING REALITY
The past six years have been the warmest on record. Most of this can be attributed to the excessive release of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere from industrial and human activities in the past several decades.
While warmer temperatures may not seem so bad from a surface level – climate change is very harmful and can negatively influence almost every aspect of life as we know it.
The good news is we have power to be resilient and overcome climate change through stronger advocacy and action. Here are five simple actions you can take today to reduce your carbon footprint and become a climate warrior!
KNOW YOUR CONTRIBUTION
Calculate your carbon footprint here. This neat tool developed by the Nature Conservancy will give you how many tons of carbon dioxide you generate per year and compare that to others in the United States. Knowledge is power. Knowing where you fall and where you can improve is a great first step in making small changes to a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
BE ENERGY EFFICIENT AT HOME
Around 20 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions are tied to household consumption – largely from heating, cooling, and powering homes. From making simple changes in our habits at home, we can all collectively reduce these emissions greatly. Consider the following as simple first steps in making your household greener:
- Turn off your lights and unplug electronics when not in use.
- Exchange your lightbulbs for LED lights – which use up to 85 percent less energy than incandescent lights.
- Use less hot water. Turn your water heater down to 120 ͦF. This simple measure can save up to 550 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Wash your clothes in cold water.
- Reconsider the way you are heating and cooling you house. Using a programmable or smart thermostat can save anywhere between 10 – 30 percent on your energy bills. For those without a programmable or smart thermostat, try only cooling or heating your house at the lowest setting that is comfortable to you. The closer to outside temperatures, the less energy used in regulating your household temperature.
- Purchase Energy Star product when you are in the market for new appliances. These are certified energy-efficient products.
- Reduce the amount of water you are using. Try shortening the length of showers you take. Avoid leaving water running while brushing your teeth, washing your hands, or even when you are washing dishes.
- Use renewable energy or offset your household carbon emissions. You can use this link to find renewable energy suppliers in your area, and for those without renewable energy suppliers, consider purchasing a carbon offset to reduce your overall impact.
FLY LESS AND DRIVE LESS
Transportation is one of the greatest contributors to carbon emissions. For instance, New York Times reporter Tatiana Schlossberg calculated that one round-trip flight between New York City and California would generate approximately 20 percent of greenhouse gases an average car emits over a single year! As for driving, the EPA found that the typical passenger vehicle emits around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which accounts for about 30 percent of the average American carbon footprint. The moral here is to try reducing your dependency on flying and driving when possible.
- Try walking, biking, carpooling, or public transportation whenever available and safe.
- When flying is unavoidable, consider purchasing an offset. These are small donations through certain airlines that go towards sustainability efforts. Here is an example of offsetting your flight through Delta Airlines.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
A classic message, but nonetheless important since the average person generates around five pounds of trash per day. With all the trash we make, around only a third of this is recycled or composted. These three simple actions can minimize the emissions associated with energy needed to produce and transport new products, along with the disposal of waste and trash. Here are some quick suggestions to partake in all three!
- Reduce. Look for products that require and use less packaging. Purchase items in bulk whenever possible. Purchase with intention. This will help you avoid buying extra or unwanted items that may just be thrown out later. Go digital when paying bills, tracking receipts, and reading the daily news. This cuts back on the amount of paper products used.
- Reuse. Considering buying used or refurbished products instead of new. This includes electronics, furniture, and even clothes. Purchase and prioritize reusable products like grocery bags, coffee cups and water bottles, silverware, and towels to minimize the amount of disposable waste you generate on a daily basis.
- Recycle. See if your local trash service or landfill has a recycling option. Double check to know what products are recyclable in your area. Consider composting if possible. Some towns and cities have composting companies that will even come take care of your food scraps so you do not have to!
REVITALIZE YOUR PLATE
Prioritize plant-based foods over animal-based foods. While both have a place in our diet, research continues to reinforce eating more plant-based foods for both environmental and health reasons. Along with sprucing up the plate with more plant-based foods, reducing the amount of food we waste is another way to revitalize your plate. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates we waste about 30 – 40 percent of food in the entire food supply. Most of this occurs at the retail and consumer levels.
- Start small and consider participating in Meatless Monday! This would simply mean going without any meat one day of the week. Consider preparing fun vegetarian meals on Monday night with family or friends to help encourage others to participate too.
- Make your plate colorful. Add fruits, vegetables, and grains that represent the rainbow. This can be a unique way to try new foods while increasing the amount of plant-based options on your plate.
- Buy food in bulk. This reduces the amount of packaging used to get food from the grocery store to your home.
- Plan out your meals and keep an inventory of what you need to cut back on waste. Many of us usually throw away rotten vegetables because they were forgotten from a few weeks ago. Instead of spontaneously going shopping weekly for groceries, try to be more intentional around what you normally eat and plan accordingly.