How can I fight climate change in my day-to-day life?
The idea of making the planet harder to live on because I and my fellow human beings can’t keep their fossil fuel burning under control feels like children who are addicted to candy: you have been told it will eventually rot out your teeth but you, in the moment, simply do not care enough to stop.
Well, I care. I might not have any children, but I do have nieces and a nephew. Friends of mine have kids. I don’t want to be part of the cause for the environment to be crappy because I didn’t take the time to at least try to tackle the low-hanging fruit of helping fight climate change. So this blog post is me thinking out loud about what I can do to fight climate change without significantly changing my habits, i.e. stuff I can do which if I don’t act on I’m basically an environment jerk. My hope is that I can come up with things which I can implement today and that won’t require something drastic like moving.
It’s all about efficiency #
If you view climate change as caused by the burning of fossil fuels, that would suggest you should aim to cut back on the burning of fossil fuels on your behalf. So how do you cut back on your consumption of fossil fuels?
You fight climate change by being more energy efficient. By scaling back your energy use you simply end up needing less fossil fuels, so even without changing your energy source you are fighting climate change. You are also saving money by lowering your energy costs, so that’s a plus. And if you change the source of energy all together to a entirely clean, renewable source then you effectively made your efficiency be 100%, so it’s solving the same problem in the most drastic way possible.
What can I do? #
Try to use less energy with what you already have #
Turn off the lights when you are not in the room. Shut down your computers when you are not going to use them for the rest of the day. You know, the kind of things that Bill Cosby would have taught you to do if you grew up watching the Cosby Show (e.g. I remember an episode where he explained to Theo why he should think about what he wanted in the fridge before opening the door instead of standing there perusing with the door wide open, letting all the cold air out). In other words expend a little bit of energy to switch something off to effectively use less total energy in the end.
Buy more energy efficient things #
If I was doing this blog post before the holidays I would say buy LED Christmas lights, but I’m not so try to remember for next year. =)
But speaking of LED bulbs, consider replacing all of your incandescent lightbulbs with LED ones. Countries like Canada and the US have already banned the wholesale purchase of incandescents so sometime in 2014 when supplies run out you are going to have to switch anyway the next time that lightbulb you’re using burns out, so might as well start saving energy now. And I recommend LEDs over CFLs as they last longer, don’t contain mercury, turn on faster, work with dimmers, etc. And if you are a renter, then pull out all of the incandescents that came with your place, put in LEDs, and then when you move out just swap back in the old bulbs and take the LEDs with you (they last over 2 decades so expect to have them in your house longer than a newborn that eventually leaves for university).
Food also comes into play with all of this. Red meat uses the most fossil fuels per gram than any other food source, so if you’re trying to choose between the beef and the chicken, choose the chicken. And if you’re trying to choose between chicken or not, go with not as vegetables use even less energy to create (this is all inherent in having the base energy of plants be used higher up the food chain, so the energy expounded to convert plants to meat is a lot).
And in terms of fruits and vegetables, buy local when possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean buy organic, but it does mean e.g. not buying tomatoes when they have to be shipped from Argentina because they are out of season in the northern hemisphere. If you have local farms or co-ops in your area (e.g. in Vancouver there is Barefoot Farms which is run by a friend of my wife, among many other options in that town) then that is just short of growing it yourself in your backyard. It’s all about cutting down on the energy required to get food to your plate.
Thess kinds of improvements never end if you own a home. If you own your home you can get double-paned windows to save on heating costs and cut down on outside noise. You can upgrade your appliances if they are from the 1990s. If you live in a warm climate you can paint your roof a reflective colour (which (Los Angeles is mandating for all new and refurbished roofs).
Buy less, recycle more #
Energy is needed to make things, so the less you use, the better. And if you can resell or recycle something so that someone else doesn’t buy something new that also helps. This is why some studies have said buying a used, fuel-efficient petrol car is better than buying a new hybrid. But this is also why if you are at all an avid reader you should buy an ereader since you will save on energy after about 20 books compared to the manufacturing of the equivalent physical books. Plus it’s nice to be able to get public domain books for free to read instead of paying $5 for the paperback (or using the energy to go to the library). =)
Use cleaner energy #
The penultemate solution is to completely change what energy sources you use. If you are getting a car the best solution is an EV. If for some reason that doesn’t work for you (e.g. you are a renter and can’t get a charger for your place), then go diesel for the cleaner energy burn and better mileage (and the torque is great =). If you can’t bring yourself to do that, get a hybrid. And if even that doesn’t work, at least get a petrol car that has good gas mileage.
For your home you can change your energy supplier. In certain states in the US, power is de-regulated so you can choose your power supplier. That means you can use sites like ChooseEnergy.com to select a renewable energy supplier for your home if you live in the right state. Taking this as far as you can and you can install solar panels to make your own energy when you can, and when you can’t generate enough on your own you then use your clean energy supplier.
You can lead a more efficient life without compromise #
That’s what I have learned from thinking this through. I’m not saying don’t fly in an airplane or you must live off the grid where the weather is perfect to not require heating or cooling. All I’m saying is that it seems to me there is stuff as simple as turning off the lights or swapping out old bulbs for LEDs that will possibly last longer than the length of time you are living at your current home. There are dead-simple things one can do that that even yuppies wouldn’t frown upon.