How do we talk back to Harvey, Irma, and Jose? Is there anything we can do in the face of hurricanes with 185 mph winds, “rain bombs,” rising sea levels, and devastating wild fires?
One thing we can’t do is wait – wait for our politicians and policy makers to act or wait for our government to catch up with other nations who are already working to address climate change. We can work individually and in our communities to limit global warming by reducing carbon emissions.
The following suggestions for tackling the climate crisis are culled from Al Gore’s “Averting the Climate Crisis,” (see the TED Talk) and National Geographic’s “14 easy ways to reduce your own carbon footprint.”
How to tackle the climate crisis
Reduce carbon emissions from the energy use in your home by using efficient insulation and green electricity. Make sure your lighting is efficient. LED light bulbs use up to 80% less energy than traditional lighting and they last longer. (See Karen Johnson's guest blog, "Smart people use smart light.")
Adjust your thermostat up in warm months and down in cold ones, especially when you’re not home.
Use cold water for washing clothes, then line-dry them.
Consider getting solar panels for your home or buying renewable energy credits.
Reduce emissions from your car and other transportation. Save on gas with an electric, hybrid, or super fuel-efficient car.
Maximize fuel efficiency, no matter what model you drive: Keep tires inflated, avoid speeding, keep your trunk free of excess weight—and above all, avoid driving when you can walk, bike, carpool, or take public transit.
Reduce your flight travel where you can, and remember that, unfortunately for your personal comfort, first- and business-class seats have a higher carbon footprint than economy ones.
Be a green consumer. Buy the most energy-efficient appliances and other products you can find.
Replace old appliances, such as refrigerators, washing machines, water heaters, and clothes dryers with smarter models. Look for ENERGY STAR certification.
Eat less meat. By one estimate, consuming a pound of beef gives off more carbon than burning a gallon of gasoline.
Make a decision to live a carbon neutral life.
To find out how, go to climatecrisis.net or https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/ to use the carbon calculator to find out what your carbon emissions are and what you can do to reduce them.
Recycle. The EPA estimates that recycling glass, aluminum, plastic, and paper could save 582 pounds of CO2 per year, equivalent to more than 600 miles of driving.
Reuse. Bring your own bags and buy in bulk when possible to reduce packaging. Pack lunches or picnics in reusable containers. Consider the global impact of acquiring more stuff.
Buy and use less plastic. Reduce your consumption of bottled water and other packaged drinks. In general, driving up demand for plastic means doing the same for fossil fuels.
Make your business carbon neutral.
Integrate climate solutions into all your innovations, whatever you create and do.
Invest sustainably in companies and funds that are part of the solution.
Become a catalyst for change. Learn about reducing your carbon footprint. Talk about it.
Raise awareness in your community.
Become politically active. Speak up. Contact your elected officials. Make our democracy work.
Urge the US to join the rest of the world community by committing to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Rebrand “global warming.” Call it climate crisis or planetary emergency. Al Gore suggests this as a way to help depoliticize the subject. We have been arguing over the cause, even the existence, of global warming for too long. Now we must face the effects of a climate crisis together.
Toni Albert, M.Ed., is an award-winning author of more than 40 books. Her lifelong love for nature, children, and books inspired her to commit her publishing business, Trickle Creek Books, to “teaching kids to care for the Earth.”