Things We Can Do

Things we and our families can do about climate change that will matter. (You may be surprised.)

Our Vote and Influence
Stuff We Use
Energy We Use

Things We Can Do: Your VOTE and Influence

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead

To say the Trump administration is a setback on federal climate action (and international cooperation) is an understatement. In the first year alone, the president has “proudly pursued an agenda of repealing environmental regulations, opening protected lands and waters to oil and gas drilling, withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord, shrinking the boundaries of federal monuments, and appointing top officials who have questioned or denied the established science of human-caused climate change.” A recent study documents removal of the words “climate change” from government websites, and a widespread effort to delete or bury information on climate change program.

In the 2016 general election, 59.3% of people who could have voted for president actually voted. (This includes people who hadn’t registered, but could have). Of those who did vote for president, 46% voted for Trump . So…this administration was chosen by 27% of all the people who could’ve voted.  One could say, indeed, a small group of committed voters changed the world.

To meet climate challenges, we need big big things to happen…like carbon pricing to change markets and drive innovation, countries working together to come up with fast-acting workable plans to reduce global emissions, and redefining the measure of good government in terms of human well being and happiness rather than GDP and economic growth. These aren’t things any of us can do on our own. Ah, but together we can, by choosing leaders that embrace science and can effect change.

Below are some resources you may find helpful. Please share other suggestions you may have. Thank you!

Vote – #1 Thing WE Can Do for Climate Action

 Environmental Voter Project, mission “get more environmentalists to vote in every election”

League of Conservation Voters, works “to turn environmental values into national, state and local priorities.” Of high interest, LCV Scorecard – scores sitting legislators on their environmental voting record, nationally and by state. Quick & easy!

Encourage Others to vote

How to Organize a Voter Registration Drive (American Association of University Women)

Can I Vote (National Association of Secretaries of State) “nonpartisan” web site to help eligible voters figure out how and where to go vote

Join and advocate, see Work with Others

walk the talk (talk it too!)

At the 2015 National Council for Science and the Environment Conference on Energy and Climate Change, with two days of esteemed international panelists, one of the biggest applause lines came when an audience member asked,”What is the most important thing we can be doing?,” and the speaker simply replied, “Walk the talk.” And MAREA would add, talking the talk too!

Take every opportunity to share what you learn and know about climate change, actions you are taking, and ideas you have for inspiring and informing others. Use your words and actions to spread good information, and good will, about the challenges we face and the things we can do together. Talk openly and often–with family and friends, on social media, in letters to the editor, public meetings and conversations with strangers (friends you haven’t made yet)–about the realities of climate change and what you know and are doing.

Don’t underestimate your ability to inform and inspire others. (Something or someone has inspired you!) Listen too;  and, you may be very surprised at the agreement you hear back. There’s often more shared thinking to build upon than we may at first realize.

Helping to build this shared understanding is one of the most important things we can do. To turn this ship,we need many of us leaning on the rudder, in the same direction.

Run for public office (and support those who do)

Things you can do: Consumption

Earth, of course, has natural limits—there’s only so much of anything, and the systems that create good conditions for people to live in (comfortable temperatures, enough to eat, fresh water to drink) have limits too. We can only push these systems so far, until they fall apart and we can no longer count on them. Many argue that this is already happening. To save our own skins (and that of our kids and their kids), we need to slow down how much we taking from mother nature.

All day and night, we use nature’s resources—we eat, drink and breathe; we drive cars and live in houses; we wear clothes and play with things; we do all kinds of stuff! And all of it requires natural resources, both to produce and power the stuff and (just as important) to deal with whatever is left when we’re finished. When we burn fossil fuels, for example, the leftovers have to go somewhere. They usually end up in the atmosphere or ocean, where they causes changes to temperatures and chemistry that affects other things (like the ability to grow shells).

A recent study shows that 80% of our climate change impact comes from producing the stuff we buy. (The other 20% comes from direct use—like burning gasoline in our cars.)

The amount of stuff the whole world buys is, of course, the amount each of us buys times the number of people on the planet. Or, per capita consumption x population.

Below are some resources you may find helpful. Please share other suggestions you may have. Thank you!

 Family Size

The best way to reduce your carbon footprint is one the government isn’t telling you about (2017) Science

Lifestyle Choices Affect U.S. Impact on the Environment (2006) From Population Reference Bureau, “informs people around the world about population, health, and the environment, and empowers them to use that information to advance the well-being of current and future generations.”

Why current population growth is costing us the Earth (2011) in The Guardian

Buying Stuff

Yes, Consumption Really Does Drive Climate Impacts and Resource Use (2016), Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Consumers have huge environmental impact (2016), Science Daily

Both of articles above reference the 2016 article “Environmental Impact Assessment of Household Consumption” in Yale’s Journal of Industrial Ecology. Notably, the article “advances the understanding of the impact of consumption by distinguishing between direct impacts (e.g., CO2 emitted when driving a car), indirect impacts (CO2 emitted by a truck transporting products to a supermarket which are then purchased by consumers) and indirect foreign impacts (CO2 emitted when the products are manufactured in China and then sold in another country). This perspective is important: The research shows that 80% of the impacts that can be attributed to consumers are not direct impacts, but are the environmental effects from actually producing the goods and products that we buy.”

Here’s Proof Buying More Stuff Actually Makes You Miserable (2015), Time magazine

2017 World Happiness Report, following UN High Level Meeting on happiness and wellbeing. OECD has committed itself “to redefine the growth narrative to put people’s well-being at the center of governments’ efforts

Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE), mission is to advance the steady state economy, with stabilized population and consumption, as a policy goal with widespread public support.

Study shows that during the Great Recession, mortality rates declined faster in areas where the unemployment rate grew faster. (NPR, 2018, Hidden Brain: Great Recession Deaths)

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (EPA), in that order. “the most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place. Making a new product requires a lot of materials and energy – raw materials must be extracted from the earth, and the product must be fabricated then transported to wherever it will be sold. As a result, reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, protect the environment and save money.”

 Buy and invest with principle

Investing In The Age of Climate Change (2017), Forbes

Fossil Free: Divestment, an international network of campaigns and campaigners working toward freeing communities from fossil fuels.

Things You Can do: Energy Emissions

About 20% of our individual emissions are “direct” emissions—they come from things we own or control, like heating and air conditioning our homes or apartments, burning gasoline in our cars, and using electricity for our appliances, electronics and lights. Unlike so many other things, reducing these emissions is largely in our own full control!

Starting with simple behavioral changes (like turning off things not in us and small thermostat adjustments) can bring quick rewards in reduced emissions and saving money.  Follow these up with things like a home energy audit and weatherization improvements and you’ll soon have a bigger impact—cutting emissions more and saving more money, in the long run. Similarly, update your driving habits (plan and make fewer trips, carpool, maintain your car) and you’ll soon be saving gas, money and time. Be careful, energy saving can be a slippery slope! When you buy your next car, make efficiency a top priority. Over time, consider generating some or all of your electricity using solar or buying solar on the grid. Use it in your home and to charge your car. Now you’re really saving—emission and money—and contributing to the wellbeing of others.

Below are some resources you may find helpful. Please share other suggestions you may have. Thank you!

new habits to save electricity and fuel (and $$$)

What’s My Carbon Footprint?, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Carbon Calculator, from The Nature Conservancy

Carbon Footprint Calculator, from US Environmental Protection Agency

Transportation

Ways to Use Less Gas that go Beyond the Obvious (2017) the Balance

 WazeCARPOOL

2018 Fuel Economy Guide, shop for fuel efficient vehicles. Find and compare cars (including different model years) and much more info at fueleconomy.gov.

DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, find alternative fueling stations near an address or ZIP code or along a route in the United States

Home Energy Performance

Energy-Efficient Home Design (energy.gov)

Energy Savings at Home (Energy Star)

Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET)

Professional Home Energy Audits (energy.gov)

Building Performance Institute (BPI)

How to drastically reduce your energy costs using home automation (2016). Home energy monitoring (SENSE). Automation for energy savings (nest).

Use Clean Renewable Energy

Go Solar! Check out MAREA’s full list of resources for going solar. Let us know if you have questions!

Community solar (energysage)

PAPowerSwitch (PA Public Utility Commission)

Renewable Energy Credits (terrapass)