10 Ways You Can Help Fight Climate Change
Hurricanes, wildfires, extreme heat, drought, air pollution, flooding… Almost every day, people around the world are suffering the impacts of climate change. Thankfully, there are organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on the front lines fighting to ensure the rights of everyone to clean air, clean water, and healthy communities.
As the 10:10 website says, “Climate change sucks. Let’s do something about it.” But where to begin? If change really does begin at home, then that’s the logical place to start. Here are 10 simple yet effective changes to fight climate change and lower your carbon footprint.
1. Unplug devices
Electric devices such as smartphones and cordless vacuums and power tools use energy even when they’re not charging. American homes, on average, have about 65 devices connected to a power source. That’s a lot of “idle load,” or the electricity consumed by devices when not in use. It’s equal to the output of 50 large US power plants. Unplug rarely used devices as well as your fully charged phone, tablet, or electric toothbrush. It saves energy and will extend the life of the battery. (Check out NRDC’s Home Idle Load Self-Diagnosis and Action Guide.)
2. Use a surge protector
At the very least, use a power strip/surge protector, especially for monitors, printers, and other accessories. (Some power strips even have USB ports to charge your devices. Win-win!) If you’re not going to use them for extended periods, turn off the power strip switch to prevent drawing power even when shut off. If you don’t use a power strip, unplug extra equipment when it’s not in use.
3. Adjust your temperatures
Automatically adjust temperature settings when you’re away or sleeping—a higher one in the summer and lower in the winter. You could cut energy use by 20 percent to 30 percent. If your thermostat is WiFi or Bluetooth enabled, you can your adjust settings directly from a smartphone and save yourself some energy.
4. Use LED bulbs
LED bulbs have come a long way from their old weak, yellowish tinge and long load time that seemed to take forever before the light was at full capacity. LEDs use around 85 percent less energy than bulbs. If every US household replaced just one incandescent with an LED, it would prevent 7 billion pounds of carbon pollution per year, the equivalent to the emissions of about 648,000 cars. Make sure you choose bulbs with the ENERGY STAR label and use this guide to select the right LED bulb for your home.
5. Grow your own food
If you’ve got a green thumb, you can produce your own food and offset carbon emissions from shipping food by growing a container garden. You don’t need a lot of space to grow a crop of vegetables. You can even reuse plastic bottles for a hanging garden or egg shells and an egg carton to start a seedling planter.
6. Eat less beef and dairy
If cattle were able to form their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitters behind China and the US, according to the World Resources Institute. Because livestock like cows, sheep and goats, emit methane (even the energy needed to grow feed for these animals generates climate-altering pollution), beef production creates five times more greenhouse gases than pork or chicken, and 11 times more than staples like potatoes, wheat, and rice. NRDC estimates that if we each cut out just one quarter-pound of beef a week, it would be like taking 10 million cars off the road for one year. By also cutting down on other carbon-intensive foods like cheese, yogurt, and butter, and eating locally produced food, you’ll keep food from traveling long distances by planes, trains, trucks, and ships, all of which consume energy and spew pollution. Anybody for Meatless Monday?
7. Switch to reusable water bottles
We’ve all seen the horrific pictures of our beaches and oceans strewn with miles of plastic. By investing in a reusable, refillable water bottle, you’re saving our marine life and cutting down on the fossil fuels used to manufacture and ship bottled water. Some reusable bottles even come with a built-in filter.
When you use plastic or other forms of disposable materials, be sure to recycle it. (Only about 31 percent of plastic bottles were recycled in 2015.) Better yet, reuse and repurpose it if possible.
9. Walk more
There’s no question that many of us depend on our cars. There’s also no question of the damage to the planet being done by those vehicles. Walk, bike, use public transit, and telecommute when you can. For each mile of driving you eliminate, you can keep one pound of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere. The EPA estimates that by leaving your car at home just two days a week, you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 2 tons per year. Even when you DO drive, five minutes of daily voluntary idling ranges from 220 to 440 pounds per year, depending on the size of the engine. Cut back the carbon pollution by skipping the drive-through, parking the car and walking inside, or turning off the engine while idling.
As legendary Pete Seeger said in 2007, “If there’s a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things.”
Let’s all rise up and be a small part of those millions.