9 Surprising Ways You Can Mitigate Climate Change

Though climate change is a global problem, many of the solutions to it are local and dependent on the actions all of us individually take to reduce the build-up of the greenhouse gases that are causing global warming.

You’ve probably heard that you should fly airplanes less or drive an electric car or install solar panels to help use less coal, oil and natural gas, because burning fossil fuels causes climate change. But buying a new car or putting solar on your roof may not be within reach.

Here are 9 actions that definitely should be within reach, and you can take them right now.

1) Eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat. It takes a lot of energy to produce meat. More than one-third of the fossil fuels produced in the U.S. are used to raise animals for food, says this Care2 analysis. That’s because of the large quantity of resources it takes to produce the grain and soybeans needed for animal feed. It’s also because it takes a lot of energy to slaughter the animals, truck them to processing plants, process them, then get them to the grocery store. Plus, the hundreds of millions of farm animals raised generate methane, which in itself is a potent global warming gas. Switching to a more vegetarian diet would reduce fossil fuels burned and methane gas emitted. Here’s how you can get started eating a more plant-based diet.

2) Swap and share more, and buy less that’s brand new. Producing anything new requires a new infusion of natural resources, other materials and of course energy to run the entire operation. But once those goods are produced, very little energy is consumed—and few greenhouse gases emitted—to extend their life through sharing, swapping, lending, borrowing or buying it gently used from a thrift store. Sure, you might like something new, but does it have to be brand new? The planet says “no.”

3) Choose ENERGY STAR appliances. The ENERGY STAR program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has inspired appliance manufacturers to produce highly efficient appliances to help consumers save energy. If you’re in the market for a new refrigerator, washer, dryer, air conditioner or electronics, be sure to purchase a model that sports the ENERGY STAR logo. You’ll save more energy and not even notice it. And remember, any time you save energy, you save money. One more thing: keep your refrigerator coils cleaned so this appliance, which runs pretty much all the time, will run as efficiently as possible.

4) Tighten up your house and program your home’s energy use. Some homes may waste as much as 20 or 30 percent of the energy they consume because their windows and doors leak and the attics and crawl spaces aren’t insulated. First steps: get a home energy audit to see how much energy you’re actually wasting, then take advantage of state and federal tax credits to pay for improvements. At the same time, install a programmable thermostat so you can automatically turn the heat down when you go to sleep or when no one is home and up when you’re active in the house.

5) Buy renewable energy from your local utility company. Many utility companies now offer their customers the option to purchase energy that’s generated by wind or solar. The utility will purchase power from a wind or solar supplier and pass that along to you. It will cost a few pennies more in most places, but it’s generally affordable. Contact your utility or go to the company’s website to explore the options available to you.

6) Support family planning and birth control. People need energy to live, and the more people there are, the more energy the world needs. Family planning gives women access to birth control so they can have as few or many children as they wish. The Bixby Center  for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco reports that providing contraception and abortion services for 225 million under-served women worldwide would cut more carbon than even solar and wind. You can read their entire report here.

7) Replace these 5 lights. The U.S. government’s Energy.Gov website recommends replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with ENERGY STAR models. You’ll save $75 a year on energy costs. The most frequently used light fixtures are usually the overhead light in the kitchen and bathroom, table lamps in the living room, and outdoor porch lights. Here’s a sample of the energy-saving bulbs you can choose from.

8) Wash clothes in cold water. The arrival of detergents formulated to work in cold water means you don’t have to heat water any more when you do your laundry. ENERGY STAR estimates that almost 90 percent of the energy consumed by a washing machine goes to heating water, so making the switch to cold water washing would use far less energy and save about 1,600 pounds of the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.

9) Plant three trees. Planting the right tree in the right place will help you save energy at home by providing wind protection, shade and cool air. Plus, trees add beauty, privacy and wildlife habitat, says the Utah State University Extension Service. Deciduous trees—those that lose all their leaves each fall—provide summer shade, but then allow for direct solar gain into homes that have windows on the south facing side of their structure. Evergreens, on the other hand, save energy by slowing cold winds in the winter.

What other ways have you found to save energy at home and reduce your climate change impact? Please share.

55 comments

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer2 years ago

I do some of these.

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Melania Padilla
Melania P2 years ago

Sharing

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Michael Friedman

Glad to know I already do most of these, except #5 - Buy renewable energy.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Nina S.
Nina S3 years ago

good tips

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vee s.
Veronica-Mae s3 years ago

Several comments here that suggest these ideas are "old hat, " but they cannot be repeated often enough until EVERYONE gets the message, not just the enlightened few. And to those not yet aware, these ideas ARE surprising, as they are not always obvious to a lot of people, who might think they cannot make a difference so do not bother to do anything. Those with their halos already shining brightly can always forward this article to others and spread the word.

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Sen Heijkamp
Sayenne H3 years ago

Thank you

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