Climate Change - What You Can Do

climate change

Climate change is caused by a lot of things, and it will take a lot of people to fix it.  There's a role for big thinkers, power players, those with deep pockets....and the rest of us!
One person can slow global warming.  Scientists, businesses, governments....and you can create paths to cut carbon emissions.  Below is a guide to some of the planets best ideas.  As you review each idea, envision how you can contribute.  We are all in this thing together, and it will take all of us to divert what could be a catastrophic and irreversible change in our global environment.
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30 Things You Can Do

1.  Turn food Into fuel
The initial push for using food stocks as alternative fuels is being carefully reviewed for their practicality.  However, celluloses ethanol, fuel made from municipal wastes, wood pulp and leftover grain and corn husks are very attractive.

2.  Get blueprints for a "green" house
Residential energy use accounts for 16% of greenhouse-gas emissions.  Incorporating low-tech, pragmatic techniques will maximize you new homes efficiency. 

3.  Change your light bulbs
One of the simplest things to do.  Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) may cost four times as much, BUT they use 1/4 of the electricity and last several years longer than a incandescent bulb.  A 26 watt CFL is comparable to a 100 watt incandescent light bulb. 

4. Light up your city
Ask your city leaders to research light emitting diodes (LEDs).  Similar to CFLs but on a larger scale, these fixtures light up public areas.  Although they cost two or three times as much as more traditional lighting fixtures, they use approximately 40% less energy and last three or four times longer.

5. Ditch the McMasion
Carefully examine your housing needs.  Larger houses generally require more energy to heat and cool than smaller ones, even with efficient appliances.

6. Hang up a clothes line (an oldie but a goodie)
An interesting note to begin with...60% of the energy associated with a piece of clothing is spent in washing and drying it.  I know this sounds like the stone age, but clothes do dry on the line and would conserve quite a lot of energy.  However, if this is not practical, wash in warm or cold water, wash a few large loads instead of several smaller loads, and use the most energy efficient appliances.

7. Give new life to your old fleece
Patagonia is collecting used clothing (regardless of brand) made from Polartec and Capilene to melt and make into new fabrics and clothes.  Making new clothes from old (instead of using new polyester) results in a 76% energy savings and reduces greenhouse emissions by 71%. 

8. Purchasing "vintage" clothing
High-end hand-me-downs (or even lower end) are more ecologically sound than new clothes because second hand clothing avoids consuming all the energy in producing and shipping new ones.  Instead of having a Tupper Ware party, why not a clothes swap with your neighbors and friends????  Or better yet, the clothing you don't want...take to a second hand store where others may benefit (you may get a tax write-off as well).

9. Ride a bus
I know ... sounds good but seems impractical to many.  But check your community for possible options.  One promising alternative is "bus rapid transit" (BRT).  It features extra-long carriers running in dedicated lanes.

10.  Pay your bills online
Of course this reduces paper thus saves trees.  It also helps reduce fuel consumption by the trucks and planes that transport paper checks.  And to avoid unnecessary carbon-dioxide laden car trips, ask your employer to directly deposit your paycheck.

11.  Simple things at home
Most of the 24 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each American is responsible for each year comes from the home.  Instead of air conditioning, what about opening a window or using an electric/ceiling fan?  Adjusting your thermostat a couple of degrees higher during the summer and a couple of degrees lower in the winter would reduce energy use.   

12.  Ask the experts for an energy audit at home

Most utilities offer this service.  If not, you can possibly perform a "do-it-yourself" audit.

13.  Buy green power at home
More than 600 utilities in 37 states offer green energy, but unless you read the fine print on your bill, you may not know if your power company is one of them.  To find out....visit Green Power Network.

14. Check for the Energy Star label
This Environmental Protection Agency's rating system identifies appliances that are more energy efficient.  By using Energy Star appliances at home, you can reduce your utility bill by as much as 30%.

15.  Cozy up to your water heater
Most water heaters over five years old are constantly losing heat and wasting energy because they lack internal insulation.  A simple test it to touch its surface.  If it feels warm to the touch, you are losing energy.  Wrapping your heater in an insulation blanket would save you $ as well as reduce your households CO2 emissions by 250 lbs/year.  And while you are at it, what about the possibility of turning down the thermostat on your water heater?

16.  Skip a steak every once and awhile
Currently, the international meat industry generates roughly 18% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.  Much of that originates from nitrous oxide from manure and methane from cow "exhaust."  Nitrous oxide and methane have a greater warming effect, 296 and 23 times greater respectively, than carbon dioxide.  This industry is expected to grow!

17.  Support your local farmer
Fruits, vegetables, meat, and milk produced closer to home rack up fewer "petroleum miles" than products trucked across-country to your table.  Visit Local Harvest by zip code for farmers' markets, greengrocers and food co-ops in your area.  This website also identifies restaurants that specialize in regional and seasonal ingredients.

18.  Have a green wedding
Wherever you celebrate, you can reduce your CO2 impact and often save money by giving your wedding a local touch.  Buy wine from the nearby vineyard or beer from a neighborhood brewery.  Get your wedding cake from a local bakery, and use seasonal flowers, not imports.

19.  Remove a tie
In the "cool biz" summer of 2005, Japanese businessmen swapped their trademark dark blue business suits for open collars and light tropical colors.  This allowed the government to reduce the cooling needed in their office buildings.  During that summer, Japan reduced their CO2 emissions by 79,000 tons.

20. Shut off your computer
A screen saver is not an energy saver!  75% of all the electricity consumed in the home is standby power used to keep electronics running when those TVs, DVRs, computers, monitors and stereos are "off."  The average desktop computer (not including monitor) consumes 60 to 250 watts a day.  Compared to a computer left on 24/7, a computer used 4 hours a day and turned off the rest of the time can save you about $70/year.

21.  Kill the lights at quitting time
Either assign someone to be the "switch-off" person or install motion detectors that will automatically turn on the lights when someone approaches and then switches off the lights when people have left.  This can also be done with heating and cooling systems.

22.  Rake in the fall colors
How many times has your peaceful Sunday been interrupted by the whining of a 2-cycle leaf blower?  In just one hour, it can suck down one pint of gas/oil while emitting greenhouse gases.  And with more than 30 million acres of lawns in the United States, it is a high price to pay when a simple tool called the rake can do just as well (if somewhat more slowly).

23.  Recycle and buy recycled paper
Americans recycle 42 million tons of paper each year - 50% of what we use.  900 million trees are consumed to make this paper...trees that absorb carbon dioxide.  For each ton of recycled paper produced and purchased, 4,000 kW-h of electricity and over 7,000 gallons of fresh water are conserved.

24.  It's all in the packaging
Why are products packaged and repackaged.  Some are for safety and health concerns but others are just to attach the see of the consumer.  Before buying a product, see if the same or comparable products comes in less packaging.  Corporations understand the benefits.  Hewlett-Packard has switched to lighter packaging for their printer cartridges thus reducing carbon emissions by the equivalent to removing 3,500 cars from the road each year.  Wal-Mart plans to cut packaging 5% starting in 2008 - enough to prevent 667,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. 

25.  Make your garden grow
The U.S. spends over $5 billion on fossil-fuel created fertilizers.  Instead of fertilizing your yard with man-made fertilizer, try leaving your mowed grass where it lays.  Both provide essential nitrogen to the soil and plants while grass also provides materials to help build up your topsoil.

26.  Fill up with passengers
Single drivers reign supreme.  However, some states and corporations are providing incentives for drivers to team up.  Washington State is providing a tax credit to businesses that is encouraging their employees to car pool, ride the bus, walk or bike to work.  The results - since 1991, about 20,000 fewer vehicle trips each morning, saving commuters $13.7 million and 5.8 million gallons of gas, and reducing 78,000 tons of air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

27.  Check your tires
Giving your auto a tune-up can improve gas mileage by 4%.  Replacing a clogged air filter can boost engine efficiency by 10%.  Maintaining properly inflated tires improves gas mileage by more than 3%.  Need I say more?

28.  Drive green on the scenic route
Want a rental with good gas mileage or use biofuels?  Several rental companies are making the plunge.  Zipcars can be rented by the hour or day around the Washington DC area.  Bio-Beetle automobiles use bio-fuels in areas around Los Angeles, CA and Maui, HI. 

29.  Be aggressive about passive
Passive homes utilizes extra insulation and state-of-the-art ventilation that recycles the energy from passive sources such as body heat, the sun and household appliances to warm the air.  The result - lowering your energy costs by as much as 90%.   

30.  Consume less, share more, live simply
Live simply, consume less and think more.  E.F. Schumacher praised that philosophy this way in Small is Beautiful:  "Amazingly small means leading to extraordinary satisfying results."

Source: Time Magazine, April 9, 2007