THE LEADERS OF THE WORLD met in Paris last week for their annual climate conference, but the rest of us don’t need to sit around twiddling our thumbs while we wait for our leaders to fix things. Climate change is a worldwide problem, but that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty you can do yourself, right here and now to make the air cleaner and the world an overall better place. Here are some simple things you can do today to help stop climate change.
Turn off your heat.
You probably think that you’re good about saving energy because you flick off the lights when you leave the room, right?
Well, while this is a good thing to do, lights actually eat up a pretty miniscule amount of energy when compared to larger energy sucks like home heating. So if you want to make a much bigger difference, turn off the thermostat, put on some warm clothes, and maybe invest in some better insulation.
Greenify your home.
On top of turning off the heat and A/C, there are a lot of other things you can do to reduce your energy consumption. Here are just a few:
- Unplug your TV and computers while they aren’t in use. They still suck energy while plugged in.
- Hand-wash and/or hang dry your clothes. Washers and dryers are big energy sucks.
- Use cold water when you can. Hot water uses up more energy.
- Get greener light bulbs — fluorescents, LEDs, and EnergyStar marked bulbs are much greener than incandescents
Unfortunately, airplanes are huge greenhouse gas emitters. Whenever you can, take a motorcoach or a train instead, and if you’re going to drive, carpool to divide up your total emissions. The modes of travel that cause the least pollution change depending on how many people you’re traveling with, but the Union of Concerned Scientists put together this handy chart that breaks down how to travel greener.
Dust off your bike.
So much of the news when it comes to stopping climate change revolves around technological advances — electric cars, alternative energy, or even geoengineering — but it may be that the best fix is the simplest one. The one that already exists: bikes.
Cars and trucks account for one-fifth of our total emissions as a country. Bicycles, on the other hand, don’t contribute to emissions, and are good for you. While biking to work might not be an option, since so many people in the U.S. live in sprawled out communities, you can still use your bike for trips to the store, or trips to the coffee shop.
My parents have been composting their food waste for years. Each spring, they take the composted food from the pile in the back yard, and they spread it on their vegetable garden. The vegetables they grow are absurdly delicious.
And tastiness aside, it’s really good for the environment: garbage that ends up in landfills doesn’t decay as quickly, and tends to produce methane, a greenhouse gas that’s much more potent than carbon. Composting food cuts back on these emissions by reducing your waste.
Eat less meat.
Meat and dairy production accounts for 18% of our total emissions. Livestock takes up land that could otherwise be used for farming crops for humans (or even for carbon-sucking forests), takes up a ton of water, and on top of this, cows fart methane. Seriously.
Obviously the best solution is to cut meat out of your diet entirely. But if that’s not possible, or if it’s just not in your temperament, you can still make a difference by cutting back on your meat consumption. Have at least one meat-free meal a day, or maybe introduce “Meat-Free Mondays” to your home. Any cutback helps.
Get involved politically.
You can do a lot on your own to fight climate change. But you can’t win the battle on your own: ultimately, saving the planet needs to be a collective choice. Fortunately, we live in a democracy, and you can tell your Representative you’d like him or her to support environmental efforts, or, if they aren’t receptive, you can support another candidate. Here’s a tool for finding your elected officials.
If you’re more into non-profits and want to donate to charities, Project Greenify put together this list of the highest rated charities that are fighting climate change. If you want to get involved in not just philanthropy but in activism, Grist (which is a great climate news souce) made this list of some of the best activist groups to get involved in.