To put the climate crisis into perspective, I like to start with a thought experiment.
Imagine a frog swimming in a pond, and the water suddenly starts boiling. The frog will immediately jump out and be perfectly fine. Now imagine a frog swimming in a pond and the water starts slowly heating up. The frog doesn’t even realize it’s in danger until it boils alive.
While this is a rather morbid example, the frog scenario fits uncomfortably with our current situation. The only difference: we have known climate change is an issue for quite some time and scientists are tracking how Earth is literally heating up. In fact, most people today recognize climate change is an issue. So, why are we still fighting an uphill battle?
Of course there are many reasons, but they begin with, simply, climate change is complicated. The climate crisis is a huge issue to tackle with no one solution, so many people push it to the back of their minds and continue about their day. It can also be hard to find the impact in small actions. While drinking out of metal straws and biking to work isn’t going to miraculously decrease the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, doing something is better than nothing, and to start saving the world, individuals should start with themselves.
No really… how can an individual make a difference?
I know, it’s such a huge issue, and each action can feel like too little, too late. Unsurprisingly, everyone feels like that, which only slows down progress. While making personal lifestyle changes will not solve the climate crisis, studies have found that the footprint of the US household sector is approximately equal to the entire emissions of France. Collective actions can go a long way, but only if each individual decides to do their part.
Let’s look at some examples
FOOD: accounts for 30% of a household’s carbon footprint in higher-income countries, so we need to make a shift towards lower-carbon foods. This means shifting towards plant-based diets because it takes a lot more resources to produce food from animals than it does from plants.
HOME HEATING: accounts for about 20% of a household’s carbon footprint. There are many different ways to reduce the impact of your home’s central heating/cooling system, like installing a low-carbon heating system; try air-source heat pumps that extract heat from air outside the home and remove cold air from the inside! However, a simpler solution is to just work your heating/cooling system less and adjust it closer to the outside temperature.
TRANSPORTATION: accounts for 34% of a household’s carbon footprint. Buying electric vehicles can help significantly, but so can taking more public transportation, walking/biking to close destinations, and even driving just one less place a month!
A sustainable lifestyle becomes even more relevant for people advocating for climate action in their community, as research suggests:
The public is more likely to support systemic action if those advocating for it have a low carbon footprintJeff McMahon
What can you do to reduce your personal climate footprint and help your community?
One of the first steps to action is recognizing how much you emit personally and where those emissions come from. Try getting an energy audit for your house to see what ways you can reduce your energy consumption! Or, take a couple of minutes right now to look at your personal climate footprint through these online calculators:
Then, try changing your own lifestyle or start practicing climate advocacy.
To encourage these lifestyle changes and promote advocacy opportunities, every week, I create a #climatechallenge on the social media (@ncstrikesback) for the North Carolina Climate Action Team. These encourage people to think about different ways to make lifestyle changes or engage in advocacy in North Carolina. Check out my challenges below!
Now, what do you think? Contribute ideas below!
(also try this link)
My Response NOW: Climate Action BINGO Contest!
I incorporated the climate challenges I run every week into a cumulative Earth week (April 19 through April 25th) action and encourage more people to participate! I partnered with the North Carolina Climate Action Team to create a Climate Action BINGO Contest (and YES, I absolutely encourage everyone here to enter)! Several people helped out with logistics, notably Yume Iwakura, who is collecting submissions. Thanks also to Kate Harrison who came up with the idea to use e-gift cards as prizes and is helping organize funding and prizes! I publicized this contest at my school and sent it to many other people I am connected with through different climate organizations to publicize with members, other schools, and other organizations. Thanks especially to 350 Triangle for spreading the word!
Check out the full version of the contest I sent out here!
YOUR TURN: ENTER
Check the boxes as you complete actions. Get 5 in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, then submit a picture below! Tip: to submit it, edit on your phone, print and submit a picture, or print to pdf annotator on a laptop. Each 5 in a row is one entry into our lottery for a small e-gift card from a sustainable business!
Additional Information & Resources
2. Start a garden: find a couple of reasons why gardening helps the environment in this article. Tip: try using seeds from fruits or vegetables in your house! It’s a great planting season!
3. Next trip/order, buy no single-use plastics: find a couple reasons why reducing single use plastics is so important in this fact sheet.
5. Talk about climate with 2 new people: Help spread the word! Also: maybe you’ll learn something new:)
6. No food waste for 6 meals: Find more actions to take to reduce waste here.
8. Create 3 personal climate goals: How can you make an impact on your climate footprint beyond this week? Try picking a couple challenges to continue or researching your own! For more climate challenges, try: Turning Green Classroom and Ecochallenge.org.
11. Make heating/cooling system 3 degrees closer to outside temp: Continue all year and reduce annual carbon emissions by 0.5 tons! Learn about the energy usage of your heating/cooling system from NPR. Find more ways to save energy here.
13. Care about our Earth: Together, we CAN make a difference. Thanks for everything you do!
14. Limit 1 go anywhere or order anything: The average commute to work is 32 miles round trip, and not driving to work once per week saves 0.7 tons per year. Think how much you’re helping your carbon footprint by properly social distancing!
15. Join a climate organization: Some climate organizations include Sunrise (find a local hub here), United States Youth Climate Strike (scroll down to find a chapter here), Extinction Rebellion (find a local chapter here), ZeroHour (find a chapter here), 350 Triangle (check out the website here), Climate Reality (find a local chapter here), and Citizen’s Climate Lobby (find a local chapter here).
16. Take 3 min showers for 3 days: Shortening showers by 5 minutes can reduce 0.41 tons of carbon emissions per year! Find some suggestions for continued action here.
18. Go meatless for 3 days: If you cut ¼ of your annual meat consumption, you can reduce annual carbon emissions by at least 0.83 tons! Find some vegetarian recipes here.
19. Call a local rep, ask about climate: Find local representatives here.
20. Use reusable dishes: Learn more about reusable dishes here.
21. Schedule an energy audit: Actions like insulating walls, ceilings, caulking, weatherstripping around doors and windows, and insulating your water heat can reduce annual carbon emissions by up to 2.2 tons- and getting an energy audit is the first step to figuring out where to focus your sustainability efforts!
23. Register to vote: Voting and supporting climate action candidates is one of the best ways to make large-scale sustainable action happen! Register to vote online here
24. Wash laundry on cold: A great way to have a quick impact! Each household that makes the switch to cold-water washing reduces annual carbon emissions by 0.41 to 1.21 tons.
Check out my works cited.
Please let me know what you think and include any suggestions in the comment section below!