Rising sea levels. Raging storms. Searing heat. Ferocious fires. Severe drought. Punishing floods. The effects of climate change are already threatening our health, our communities, our economy, our security, and our children’s future.
What can you do? A lot, as it turns out. It’s important to remember the vital contributions that can be made by private citizens—which is to say, by you.
Healing the planet starts in your garage, in your kitchen, and at your dining room table. Here are a dozen easy, effective ways each one of us can make a difference.
What’s the single biggest way you can make an impact on global climate change? Talk to your friends and family, and make sure your representatives are making good decisions. By voicing your concerns—via social media or, better yet, directly to your elected officials—you send a message that you care about the warming world. You can help protect public lands, stop offshore drilling, and more.
Power your home with renewable energy
Choose a utility company that generates at least half its power from wind or solar and has been certified by Green-e Energy, an organization that vets renewable energy options. If that isn’t possible for you, take a look at your electric bill; many utilities now list other ways to support renewable sources on their monthly statements and websites.
Weatherize, weatherize, weatherize
Building heating and cooling are among the biggest uses of energy. You can make your space more energy efficient by sealing drafts and ensuring it’s adequately insulated. To help you figure out where to start, you could also get a home energy audit, which some utilities offer free of charge.
Invest in energy-efficient appliances
When shopping for refrigerators, washing machines, heat pump water heaters, and other appliances, look for the Energy Star label. It will tell you which are the most efficient.
Reduce water waste
Saving water reduces carbon pollution, too. That’s because it takes a lot of energy to pump, heat, and treat your water. So take shorter showers, turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, and switch to WaterSense-labeled fixtures and appliances.
Actually eat the food you buy—and compost what you can’t
Approximately 10 percent of U.S. energy use goes into growing, processing, packaging, and shipping food—about 40 percent of which winds up in the landfill. Recycling food and other organic waste into compost provides a range of environmental benefits, including improving soil health, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, recycling nutrients, and mitigating the impact of droughts.
Buy better bulbs
LED light bulbs use one-sixth the amount of energy to deliver the same amount of light as conventional incandescent and last at least 10 times longer. They’re also cheaper in the long run: A 10-watt LED that replaces your traditional 60-watt bulb will save you $125 over the light bulb’s life.
You should read: 5 Ways to Make a Positive Impact on Your Community
Pull the plug(s)
Audio and video devices, cordless vacuums and power tools, and other electronics use energy even when they’re not charging. This “idle load” across all U.S. households adds up to the output of 50 large power plants in the country. So don’t leave fully charged devices plugged into your home’s outlets, unplug rarely used devices or plug them into power strips and timers, and adjust your computers and monitors to automatically power down to the lowest power mode when not in use.
Drive a fuel-efficient vehicle
Gas-smart cars, such as hybrids and fully electric vehicles, save fuel and money. And once all cars and light trucks meet 2025’s clean car standards, which means averaging 54.5 miles per gallon, they’ll be a mainstay. Before you buy a new set of wheels, compare fuel-economy performance.
Maintain your ride
If all Americans kept their tires properly inflated, we could save 1.2 billion gallons of gas each year. A simple tune-up can boost miles per gallon anywhere from 4 percent to 40 percent, and a new air filter can get you a 10 percent boost. Also, remove unnecessary accessories from your car roof. Roof racks and clamshell storage containers can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as 5 percent.
Rethink planes, trains, and automobiles
Choosing to live in walkable smart-growth cities and towns with quality public transportation leads to less driving, less money spent on fuel, and less pollution in the air. Less frequent flying can make a big difference, too. If you must fly, consider purchasing carbon offsets to counterbalance the hefty carbon pollution associated with flying.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle
Reduce should always be the number-one priority. And to reap the environmental benefits of “recyclable” goods, you must recycle according to the rules of your municipality, since systems vary widely by location. Search your municipality’s sanitation department (or equivalent) webpage to learn exactly what you can place in the recycling bin, as counties and cities often differ in what they accept.