One of the best things you can do to make a real impact

How to Talk to Friends and Family About Climate Change

Life

Even though we're all hyper-aware climate change is happening and of the dangers it poses, it's usually the last thing we want to talk about. Some of the time, a conversation about climate change can feel like an uphill battle about a polarizing topic. But most of the time, it just isn't a fun conversation to have. We'd much rather discuss fun birthday parties, travel plans, or the latest show we binge watched!

But according to scientists, one of the best things you can do to combat climate change is to talk about it (1), which is why we put together a guide of helpful resources on how to talk to friends and family (and even a separate guide for kids!) about climate change. These tips and tricks will help make talking about climate change so much easier.

Why we need to talk about it

Even though climate change is a serious international problem, there seems to be a disconnect between knowing about climate change and talking about it. In fact, even though about 71% of adults in America believe global warming is happening and that it will harm future generations, 64% of the same adults rarely discuss it (1). What's worse, only 25% hear about global warming from a media outlet at least once a week. If we're basically all worried about it, why aren't we talking about it more?! Staying silent about a major issue like climate change, makes it easier to pretend the problem won't impact us as individuals. But if everyone is suddenly talking about climate change, it makes it impossible to ignore. Just take a look at Greta Thunberg- what started as her own school strike turned into a global movement with a huge impact. Just by talking about climate change, Greta made the issue impossible to ignore and inspired countless others to advocate and help put pressure on politicians to create real climate change mitigation policies. That's why we think it's so important to continue to discuss climate change; one small conversation can help create meaningful change.

Tips and Tricks

We know that climate change isn't always the easier subject to talk about, which is how our tips and resources come in. And don't forget- practice makes perfect!

1. Lead with personal impacts

When someone is a climate change skeptic or just not interested in the topic, it's often better to have a conversation about the personal impacts of climate change rather than scientific facts or abstract concepts. Personal examples of how climate change is impacting someone's life like "we've been seeing more ticks this summer, which means more bites and more potential for vector-borne illnesses" or ""wildfires went from once in a while to a constant threat every year. We might move. What about you?" can be much more persuasive than melting icebergs thousands of miles away. Personal anecdotes show that issues caused by climate change are real, local, and are already impacting their lives.

2. It's a conversation, not a lecture

When having a conversation about climate change, it's just as important to listen to the other person's thoughts and opinions as it is to discuss your own. A big part of climate change education is understanding where someone is coming from so you can educate without offending core values of beliefs. And even if someone has dramatically different views than your own, you can always try to connect over shared values. Things like nature, outdoor recreation, and wanting a good world for your children are appreciated and wanted by almost everyone. Connecting with shared values like these can drive home the personal impact climate change can have on our daily lives.

3. Keep Trying

Let's be real, you probably won't change someone's mind on climate change after just one conversation. That's why it's so important to continue the conversation about climate change whenever you can. Every conversation can help move the needle forward and change someone's mind about climate change. Persistence is key!

Climate Change Communications Resources

Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2020

"These maps show how Americans' climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy support vary at the state, congressional district, metro area, and county levels."

What is Climate Change Communication?

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication is an excellent resource for recent studies and news articles about climate change.

The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: talk about it

This TED Talk by Katharine Hayhoe gives a great overview of why climate change can be a polarizing topic, and how to lead a successful conversation with someone whose views differ from yours.

How Do We Talk About Climate Change? – Speaking of STEM

Rutgers University gives a brief overview of climate change communications and how to go beyond politics while discussing the topic

Speaking of Climate Change | Harvard Public Health Magazine | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health

C-Change Conversations, whose mission is to discuss climate change with moderate and conservative audiences by meeting them where they are, gives expert advice on how to talk about climate change with someone who has opposing viewpoints.

Persuading Conservatives — Climate Chat

Even though it feels like it shouldn't be a polarizing issue (it's just science, after all), your views towards climate change often align with your politics. Check out this helpful resource for tips on discussing climate change with conservatives.


References

  1. https://www.pnas.org/content/116/30/14804
  2. https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/
Science

Can Individuals Actually Make a Difference When it Comes to Climate Change?

A deep dive into carbon footprints and who is responsible for making change

Have you been trying to reduce your carbon emissions throughout the years? Maybe you're trying to drive less, eat meat only a few days a week, or change all of your light bulbs to LED. Are you curious if it's actually making a difference for the planet? There has always been a debate on whether or not it's worth it for individuals to make changes in their own lifestyle because many claim it has no effect on the grand scheme of climate change. That sparks the question, can individuals actually make a difference or is it all up to the large corporate systems and current policies? Keep reading for a breakdown of the carbon footprints of both individuals and the different global sectors of the economy, and to learn ways we can all work to slow down climate change and build a healthier planet.

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is basically a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide (1). The reason scientists determine a carbon footprint is to bring awareness to the current emissions from creating the product or the impact an individual can have on the environment and then use it as a way to push industries or individuals to reduce their total emissions. Carbon emissions are a serious issue because the more these companies and individuals emit carbon dioxide, the more the planet warms causing other issues like ocean acidification, glacier melting, sea levels rising, and more frequent extreme weather events (3). According to scientists, in order to limit global warming from going above 2℃ or about 35℉, a point at which long lasting or irreversible environmental damage could occur, carbon dioxide emissions are needed to decline by about 25% by 2030 and reach net zero by about 2070 (7). Meaning reducing carbon emissions should be a major goal for everyone!

Ever since the term carbon footprint became popular, many organizations have come out with carbon footprint calculators that help individuals and families determine how much carbon dioxide they are emitting from their lifestyle and provide them with a list of ways they can work to reduce it. If you want to check how much carbon dioxide you emit check out this online calculator! You have probably seen ads or campaigns aimed at getting individuals to reduce their carbon footprint by making life changes like flying less, eating less meat, driving electric cars, or wearing less fast fashion, and many more (2). You might have also heard about the carbon footprints of different industries and sectors like agriculture or transportation, among others that are associated with high carbon footprints. But now that we are clear on what a carbon footprint is, who has a higher carbon footprint, individuals or the different sectors of the economy?

Who has a larger carbon footprint?

When we talk about the different sectors of the economy we mean industries like electricity production, food, agriculture, and land use, industrial work and factories, transportation, and buildings. All of these industries combined equate to about 90% of all global carbon emissions. Broken down even further, electricity production accounts for about 25% of emissions, food, agriculture, and land use is about 24%, industrial work and factories are about 21%, transportation 14%, and buildings equate to about 6% (6).

All of these industries combined contribute about 50 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere. Clearly, these sectors account for most of the carbon dioxide emissions globally and this makes the argument for more individual changes difficult. For the most part, we as individuals do not have control over a lot of these industries. Most people can't pick which type of energy their power grid runs on, what type of building they work or live in, or don't have a choice of driving a car when the city they live in doesn't have any public transportation (4). Seems a little suspicious that most of the blame gets put on individuals when these sectors are doing most of the damage. But before we get distracted, let's compare the individual carbon footprint to these different sectors!

The average American carbon footprint is 16 tons/year and the global average is 4.8 tons a year per person. Americans have one of the largest carbon footprints along with Canada, Australia, and oil rich countries like Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan. The top five things that contribute to this carbon footprint are having children, driving, flying, energy use, and eating meat (2). For individuals to really reduce their carbon footprint, they essentially need to do the opposite of those five things and even if they did all of these things perfectly, the average person would make almost no impact compared to the different sectors of the economy. If we compare the average American carbon footprint (16 tons) with the global carbon footprint of all of the global sectors combined (50 billion tons), the average American's contribution is about 0.0000000003%. Statistically that is 0%! So statistically one person's emissions may just be a drop in the bucket, but that is why we need as many people as possible working towards reducing emissions (4,6).

What can individuals do?

One thing we all need to start doing is talk about climate change! Many studies have proven the benefits of having open dialogue with friends and family about climate change and how it results in further discussions and adoption of scientific facts. This means that when you talk to your friends and family about climate change and the status of the environment, it persuades people to continue discussions with their social circle and do more research to be able to understand and talk about the issue more thoroughly (8,9,10). Another reason talking about climate change has a positive impact is because when individuals take action it encourages others to take action. An example of this is the Great Thunberg effect! Climate activist, Greta Thunberg, has become so influential due to highlighting environmental injustice, that people who are familiar with her and her actions are more likely to take collective action to reduce global warming (11). Many studies have shown similar impacts and other studies have also discussed how making something a social norm pushes other people to take action (12). An example of this would be recycling! Eventually recycling became a social norm and now it is pretty taboo to not recycle. Just imagine what we can do if we make all environmentally friendly habits a social norm! By influencing just a few people we can start a chain reaction of change and passion for fighting for the environment. Instead of shaming others for not bringing a reusable bag or not composting all of their food scraps, we need to be encouraging others to try and make changes that fit their lifestyle and work to create a more united front that we can use to push corporations and policies that can make real lasting change.

Another great way for individuals to fight against climate change is to get involved in any way they can. There are so many opportunities out there to get involved either through volunteering or working for an organization that is pushing for larger change. And if you have always wanted to get involved, but don't know where to start, try this exercise that the hosts of the podcast How to Save A Planet by Gimlet media mentioned on their episode on carbon footprints. Think about what you are good at, what issue you want to target and feel passionate about, and what brings you joy. At the intersection of all of these questions you will be able to find an organization that is the right fit for you and that would benefit from your specific skill set. And if there isn't one that focuses on the issue you're passionate about, you can start one! Pushing for environmental change doesn't have to become your full time job but if you can volunteer or do things after work to get involved you can make a big difference. Remember, a team of people will always be better than one individual when it comes to fighting these corporate systems that are responsible for so much environmental damage.

Even though it may not seem like the changes you have made in your own life are making that big of a difference, just know that you could be inspiring people all around you to make similar changes, spreading positive change everywhere. So if you love vegetarian cooking, Instagram or blog about it and bring others along. If you have time to get involved in local environmental organizations or join campaigns to get more bike lanes in your neighborhood. Do that instead of worrying about every single lightbulb in your house that isn't LED or that you forgot to bring your reusable bags to the store that one time. Every action can help reduce the global carbon footprint, but if you are able to push corporations or change policies by doing something you are passionate about and enjoy, that can make a huge impact!


Sources

  1. Wiedmann, T. and Minx, J. (2008). A Definition of 'Carbon Footprint'. In: C. C. Pertsova, Ecological Economics Research Trends: Chapter 1, pp. 1-11, Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge NY, USA. https://www.novapublishers.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=5999.
  2. Jones, C. M., & Kammen, D. M. (2011). Quantifying Carbon Footprint Reduction Opportunities for U.S. Households and Communities. Environmental Science & Technology, 45(9), 4088–4095. https://doi.org/10.1021/es102221h
  3. Jackson, R. (n.d.). The Effects of Climate Change. Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. Retrieved May 7, 2021, from https://climate.nasa.gov/effects
  4. Hawken, Paul. Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. , 2017.
  5. https://gimletmedia.com/shows/howtosaveaplanet/xjh53gn/is-your-carbon-footprint-bs
  6. https://www.drawdown.org/drawdown-framework
  7. Summary for Policymakers—Global Warming of 1.5 oC. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2021, from https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/
  8. Goldberg, M. H., Linden, S. van der, Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2019). Discussing global warming leads to greater acceptance of climate science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(30), 14804–14805. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1906589116
  9. Heald, S. (2017). Climate Silence, Moral Disengagement, and Self-Efficacy: How Albert Bandura's Theories Inform Our Climate-Change Predicament. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 59(6), 4–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/00139157.2017.1374792
  10. Geiger, N., Swim, J. K., & Fraser, J. (2017). Creating a climate for change: Interventions, efficacy and public discussion about climate change. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 51, 104–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2017.03.010
  11. Sabherwal, A., Ballew, M. T., Linden, S. van der, Gustafson, A., Goldberg, M. H., Maibach, E. W., Kotcher, J. E., Swim, J. K., Rosenthal, S. A., & Leiserowitz, A. (2021). The Greta Thunberg Effect: Familiarity with Greta Thunberg predicts intentions to engage in climate activism in the United States. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 51(4), 321–333. https://doi.org/10.1111/jasp.12737
  12. Wolske, K. S., Link to external site, this link will open in a new window, Gillingham, K. T., Link to external site, this link will open in a new window, & Wesley, S. P. (2020). Peer influence on household energy behaviours. Nature Energy, 5(3), 202–212. http://dx.doi.org.proxyau.wrlc.org/10.1038/s41560-019-0541-9
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Life

Look for the Climate Neutral Certified Label

Fight climate change with your purchasing choices

This Earth Day, conscientious consumers will certainly notice a plethora of different certification labels related to the environmental, social, and ethical practices of the brands producing everything you buy. In 2019, we launched Climate Neutral Certified–a new label that signifies brands who have certified their net-zero carbon emissions. This spring we're seeing more adoption of Climate Neutral practices than ever before. Over 230 brands, including many household names, have now achieved the label "Climate Neutral Certified." Hundreds of others will join them in the coming months.

So what is Climate Neutral Certification, and what does it mean for you?

Climate Neutral is a nonprofit organization founded in 2019 with the mission to decrease global carbon emissions by getting brands to offset and reduce all of their carbon emissions, and giving consumers a trusted climate label. Together, these brands and consumers are working together to drive the world toward zero net emissions, which science says we need to achieve by 2050 in order to maintain a livable climate.

Climate Neutral Certified brands have offset over 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions–that's like taking over 150,000 cars off the road for a year. In addition to offsetting their carbon footprint, those brands have made plans to reduce their emissions through actions like transitioning their factories to clean energy.

How does Climate Neutral Certification Work?

To earn the Climate Neutral Certified label, brands must annually measure, offset and reduce their total carbon emissions from making products or services and providing them to customers. These emissions are caused by heating offices, manufacturing products, shipping parts, and countless other activities. We develop tools and standards to help companies measure their carbon emissions quickly and credibly.

Once they have measured their carbon footprints, brands must purchase high-quality carbon credits equivalent to a year's worth of emissions. A carbon credit is a certificate generated when someone takes an action to eliminate a metric tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, such as reforestation initiatives or projects that replace fossil fuel energy with wind and solar. When carbon credits are purchased to zero-out a person or organization's emissions, it's called a carbon offset.

Carbon credits put money into real time climate change solutions, while we work to reduce our carbon emissions altogether. To this end, all Climate Neutral Certified brands must also create Reduction Action Plans to curtail their emissions over the next 12-18 months.

You can search a directory of all Climate Neutral Certified brands online, or look for the label when you buy anything from shoes to mattresses.

What brands are Climate Neutral Certified?

Climate Neutral Certified brands can be found in over a dozen industries. Whether you're shopping for products or services, you can choose Climate Neutral options. Here are a few well-known examples:

Allbirds - joined Climate Neutral in 2019

This popular shoe company is on a mission to "prove that comfort, design and sustainability aren't mutually exclusive by making premium footwear from renewable materials, designed for everyday life." Allbirds has measured 7.6 kg of carbon emissions from making and delivering each pair of its shoes, and fully offsets all their products' carbon footprints.

REI - joined Climate Neutral in 2020

As a cooperative committed to getting people to "opt outside," REI has been publishing an annual stewardship report since 2006. This year, the report includes REI's Climate Neutral certification, earned for measuring and offsetting 250,422 tonnes of CO2e. Climate Neutral is also included on REI's list of Product Impact Standards.

Reformation - joined Climate Neutral in 2020

Founded in 2009, Reformation began by selling vintage clothing and, "quickly expanded into making our own stuff, with a focus on sustainability." Not only has the company offset 28,745 tonnes of CO2, but they also track all their clothing's environmental impact through an internal tool so you can see how much CO2, water, and waste their products use.

What can you do to help?

Businesses and consumers all have a part to play in stopping climate change. Together we can have a large impact. By using your dollars and voice, we hope to transform the way businesses operate. How can you encourage businesses to make the transition and take responsibility for their carbon emissions?

  • Look for the Climate Neutral Certified label when you're shopping for things.
  • If your favorite brands are not Climate Neutral Certified, urge them to measure, offset, and reduce their emissions using the hashtag #beclimateneutral.
  • Let your friends and family know about Climate Neutral.
  • Talk to your friends and family about climate change. Your voice and choices will help the world accelerate along the path to net-zero emissions.
Food

Is Climate Change Making Your Food Less Safe To Eat?

The role of climate change in foodborne illnesses

Do you have big cooking plans this Thanksgiving? Us too! We love cooking when the holiday season rolls around, but did you ever think that climate change is something you would think while prepping your food? Well, the raw ingredients in your kitchen contain harmful microbes that can cause foodborne illnesses, and climate change has been linked to an increase in these diseases.

As the global temperature rises and rainfall patterns change, bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other harmful vectors flourish. These changes in climatic factors increase disease transmission efficacy and improve survival rates of these vectors (1). In other words, climate change has allowed these harmful microbes to evolve and be better equipped to cause diseases. On top of that, they are more resilient and harder to kill.

So what should you be on the lookout for? Good question. Below are just a few examples of agents that may be altered by climate variability in the United States (1, 2). All of them can potentially be found on the foods that we consume.

  • E. coli O157: this specific strain of E. coli is particularly prone to climate change. We ingest this microbe through contaminated foods such as raw or undercooked ground meat products and raw milk (3).
  • Salmonella: Salmonella is caused by a bacteria that lives in the intestinal tract of animals. Just like E. coli O157, Salmonella can cause foodborne illnesses through consumption of contaminated ingredients.
  • Campylobacter: almost all raw poultry you see in the grocery store contains this microbe. This bacteria causes foodborne illnesses by cross-contaminating other foods and by surviving in undercooked meat. This makes Campylobacter one of the most common causes of diarrhea in the United States.

Overall, changes in climatic factors will be the largest culprit of food-related illnesses and mortality (4). This accounts for under-nutrition, communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as vector-borne diseases.

The good news is that these foodborne illnesses are highly preventable!

While climate change may improve the environment in which these microbes thrive, we can take steps to prevent foodborne illnesses from happening in our own kitchens. The USDA recommends the Be Food Safe prevention steps (5):

  • Clean: Wash your hands and cooking surfaces frequently.
  • Separate: Don't cross-contaminate your foods. Keep your meats and veggies separate.
  • Cook: Cook ingredients to their proper temperatures.
  • Chill: Refrigerate foods promptly.

By following these guidelines, the vast majority of these harmful microbes can be removed or killed. Keep yourself and your family free from foodborne illnesses!


References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996910002231
  2. https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/foodborne/basics.html
  3. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/e-coli##targetText=Sources%20and%20transmission&targetText=E.%20coli%20O157%3AH7%20is%20transmitted%20to%20humans%20primarily%20through,meat%20products%20and%20raw%20milk.
  4. https://www.who.int/foodsafety/_Climate_Change.pdf
  5. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/cleanliness-helps-prevent-foodborne-illness/ct_index

We know climate change poses a real and serious threat; scientists have observed Earth's temperature steadily rise by one degree Fahrenheit over the last 100 years (1). But when we think of climate change, an image of a polar bear on a dwindling iceberg usually comes to everyone's mind. There's so much emphasis on the environmental impacts of climate change, we often forget that climate change is also negatively impacting our health. How? Read on…

Air pollution

Even though you can't see it unless it's a super smoggy day, air pollution is a huge threat to our health. Burning coal, oil, and gas are big contributors to climate change, and they also release harmful air pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere. These pollutants have been linked to serious diseases, and can cause severe symptoms in people with heart and lung conditions. When you breathe in, these pollutants get trapped in your nose, travel to your airway, and even enter into your bloodstream. Exposure to these pollutants have been linked to death in people with heart or lung disease, heart attacks, irregular heartbeats, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, and increased respiratory symptoms (2). It is estimated that 4.2 million people a year die from air pollution (3).

Extreme Weather Events

Nowadays, it's hard to not hear about extreme weather on the television or radio no matter what time of year it is. Extreme weather events like heat waves, drought, floods, and hurricanes are increasing both in intensity and frequency due to climate change. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions created an interactive map that highlights just how many extreme weather events occurred in the past decade. The Guardian also has published a visual guide of the human toll from 2018 climate disasters. In 2018 alone, Europe faced both heatwaves and freezing weather, Argentina suffered through droughts that decimated croplands, India experienced record high flooding, and the United States endured hurricanes and fires. That same year, 10,373 people lost their lives due to disasters, and 61.7 million people were affected by natural hazards (5). As climate change continues, these numbers will only get worse.

Increased Vector-Borne Disease

Very few things can ruin a beautiful summer day, but a swarm of mosquitoes is definitely one of them. Just the thought of their buzzing has us lathering on bug spray and lighting citronella candles! Unfortunately, with worsening climate change, we are in for a lot more buzzing.

Changes in temperature, rainfall, and humidity brought on by climate change have allowed vectors like mosquitoes, ticks, and rodents that carry infectious agents to migrate to new areas (6). With the expansion of their habitats and breeding grounds, these vectors are coming into contact with more people, and more interactions with people means more chance of infection. We've seen higher incidences of diseases like malaria, Lyme disease, and West Nile virus in recent years. To make things worse, a warming climate also allow vectors and the microbes inside of them to grow and reproduce at a faster rate (7).

What You Can Do

While the statistics on climate change are sobering, there's a lot you can do to protect your health! Being prepared and taking small precautions can keep you safe no matter what a changing climate throws at you.

  • If you are travelling to a heavily polluted area, you can limit exposure to harmful pollutants by wearing an air mask. Look for masks called a "particulate respirator" with the word "NIOSH" and either "N95" or "P100" on the package information. Make sure to replace your mask with a new one every few days (if the mask if reusable to begin with).
  • If you live in a buggy area, apply bug sprays before going out to ward off disease-carrying insects and reapply when necessary. Check out our insect repellent guide to find out which repellent is right for you!
  • And if you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters, purchase or assemble an emergency kit to store in your home. There are kits that are specific for flooding, hurricanes, heat waves, and other natural disasters. Make sure to have these kits readily available know how to use them.


References

  1. https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/health-and-environmental-effects-particulate-matter-pm
  2. https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/nasa-knows/what-is-climate-change-k4.html
  3. https://www.who.int/airpollution/en/
  4. https://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights/report-findings/extreme-weather
  5. https://reliefweb.int/report/world/2018extreme-weather-events-affected-60m-people
  6. https://www.iamat.org/blog/5-must-read-articles-on-climate-change-and-infectious-diseases/
  7. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mosquito-borne-diseases-on-the-uptick-thanks-to-global-warming/
  8. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/safer-bug-spray-natural-bug-repellents#1
Home

Easy Ways to Lower Your Carbon Footprint at Home

Help fight back against climate change without leaving your house!

There's no denying it, the planet is warming. Countries around the world saw record-breaking temperatures the past two months. July 2019 was the was the hottest month in recorded history and June 2019 following closely behind in second place. On top of the extreme heat, sea ice has fallen to unprecedented lows, nearly 20% below the average (1). We're already seeing the negative impacts of a changing climate, which is why we need to take urgent action in our day-to-day lives and take steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

The following tips and strategies will not only allow you to do your part in the fight against climate change, but also have the additional benefit of saving you money!

How Electricity Use Contributes to Climate Change

Climate change is caused by the emission of greenhouse gasses namely from combustion of fossil fuels for energy. In order to use energy for transportation, heating, and electricity, fossil fuels are burned and the process releases unnatural amounts of gasses like carbon dioxide and methane. The chemical composition and structure of these gasses make it difficult for the sun's energy to pass through them, and the result is that they trap the sun's heat in the atmosphere, warming the planet (2). The greenhouse effect is a natural process necessary to sustain life on Earth, but human activity has caused concentrations of these greenhouse gasses that are beyond the capacity of normal climate fluctuations.

What You Can Do To Save Energy at Home

Electricity production is the second largest source of fossil fuel emissions, second only to transportation. Use the following tips to change your consumption patterns and live a more sustainable life!

  1. Turn off the lights and unplug appliances that aren't being used - it might seem like this individual action would only save minuscule amounts of energy, but it really adds up! The World Health Organization calculated that switching off five unused lights in your home when they are unused can avoid about 400 kg of CO2 emissions per year (3).
  2. Purchase energy efficient light bulbs! Although these are more expensive in the short term, they last way longer and help you save on energy costs, saving you money in the long run. Switching one light bulb to an energy efficient bulb in your home could avoid another 400kg of CO2 emissions in one ear (3)
  3. Limit water usage by taking shorter showers and turning water off when brushing teeth. The average shower uses about 5 gallons of water per minute. If you shorten your shower by 3 minutes, you can cut your water use by 15 gallons! (4)
  4. Use air conditioning efficiently! AC accounts for nearly 6% of household energy usage in the United States. Your AC consumption (and electricity bill) can be significantly lowered through the use of high efficiency air conditioning units. If you're not in the market for a new AC unit, regular cleaning and filter replacements for your current AC can do wonders for efficiency (5).
  5. While we're on the subject of AC… use air conditioning less. You can save money and keep your home cool in ways that avoid AC use altogether! Seal and insulate air ducts, walls, cracks, openings, and doorways to prevent heat from sneaking in. Make use of ceiling fans and natural ventilation, and refrain from cooking inside on hot days (5).
  6. Install energy efficient solar curtains… and keep them closed! Energy efficient curtains help prevent heat from getting in during the hot months and prevent it from escaping during the colder months, allowing you to save on both heating and cooling energy and costs. Keeping curtains closed when possible enhances their effect (5).
  7. Power down computers and activate sleep and hibernation settings. Putting your computer on sleep mode can reduce its energy consumption by about 87%. When you go to sleep, your computer should too (4)!
  8. Wash your clothes in cold water. The majority of energy spent washing laundry is through the heating process and can be conserved simply by using colder wash cycles. Your clothes will still get clean in cold water!
  9. Talk to your energy provider. You may be able to look at a breakdown of your energy consumption and see where you could cut corners. Many energy providers now also have the option to source your energy from wind or other clean sources. There are a lot of great options out there!

The list above outlines so many different ways you can adjust your habits to live a more sustainable life, but remember Rome was not built in a day! Make changes that are manageable for you and try to stick with them. Small changes can have a big impact over time. And remember, anything that saves you energy, is also saving you money! Try out a few tips this week!


References

  1. https://www.noaa.gov/news/july-2019-was-hottest-month-on-record-for-planet
  2. http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/climate-science/greenhouse-effect
  3. https://www.who.int/globalchange/publications/fact...
  4. https://www.bu.edu/sustainability/what-you-can-do/ten-sustainable-actions/turn-off-the-lights/
  5. https://www.energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-i...
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