I’ve been sitting on the news that came out of the recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). If you missed it or have been taking a break from the news, in a nutshell, the IPCC warns of dire circumstances if we don’t do something about climate change, like, yesterday. It’s not good news. In fact, it’s downright depressing, especially as a person who does the best they can to reduce their environmental footprint.
There is nothing in the report that is ‘new’ news. There are millions and millions of lives at stake. The world as we know it will not be the same (in as little time as 2030). Food supplies will be affected. What was once known as ‘extreme’ weather events – floods, hurricanes, drought, forest fires, heat waves, etc.,
will have already become the norm, and will only continue in frequency.
The report did give some tips as to how we can move forward. Heavy carbon taxes for one, and two, to drastically change every single governmental policy in place right now. Across the world. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve noticed us going in the opposite direction lately. So yeah, that’s great.
Life as we know it WILL change. And in our lifetimes. And if that wasn’t enough, what have we given our kids?
No, the report came out with nothing new. It only gave us official scientific permission to freak the F out.
News like this is stressful and anxiety-triggering. It causes me so much mental clutter I can’t shut my brain off. It is discouraging when I try so hard to do my part, yet somehow it seems like it is never enough. I become frustrated and angry with those that I (make assumptions about) think don’t care at all.
- making assumptions
When I pull out all these emotions and feelings, I notice that this type of mental clutter is not productive. Is getting angry and discouraged going to solve our climate change problem? No.
Is it going to even make a small dent in it? No.
And you know what? It may even make it worse.
The negative types of mental clutter that I mentioned above, all come from fear. This is what it comes down to:
I’m scared. Scared of the unknown. Scared of the future.
But being scared is debilitating, not motivating (as much as some people may think it is).
It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to be frustrated. It’s ok to be discouraged.
Let yourself process those emotions. However, the important thing is not to ‘be there’ too long.
So you know what I think this recent report means? I think it means it is time to step up our game. It is time to make some changes. It is time to be vulnerable. And yes, change is hard. Being vulnerable is hard. Change and being vulnerable is uncomfortable. But you know what?
The forecasted future looks a heck of a lot more uncomfortable. And change is already happening. It’s happening whether we believe in it or not. It’s happening whether we think humans are to blame or not. These arguments are distracting us from the real issue, and are simply reflections of our fear of change.
I seriously don’t care about any of those arguments anymore. They are a waste of time and energy. This is happening. It is now up to us to determine how much ‘change’ we are going to allow to happen to our earth and to our future.
So, what can we do about climate change?
The change is going to have to come from all different directions. We can no longer choose to wait for someone else to make progress. It is going to have to come from individuals all the way up to huge policymakers. A popular solution is a carbon tax. I’ve seen a number of fellow eco-influencers point out that there are 100 companies producing 71% of the world’s carbon (this has been the case since the 1980s (seriously)), and a carbon tax would help. However, while pointing this out, they are also saying that it’s not about making small and individual changes anymore to make a difference. And while I do agree with that on some part, because we need to get serious about holding these companies accountable, I do think that there is still lots of progress to be made on the individual level, which can influence above.
On a personal front, I know that as I continue to make changes to a zero waste lifestyle, I am more apt to look for companies that also follow my lifestyle. I talk about it more to my friends and family and about why it is important to me. I tend to look for policymakers that also value the environment in the same way that I do.
So while I do agree that we need to really start putting the pressure on policymakers and big organizations, I also think there are still many things we can do on the home front. And plus, by making changes at home, we may inadvertently switch our support away from the big offenders.
It may be hard to know where to start, but there are many, many things we can do as individuals to influence change:
- Vote: Those of us in the US have a big election coming up this November, and now is the time to prepare.
- Make sure you’re registered to vote. You can find out how to do so here.
- Study up on all the big and important to you topics. I subscribe to TheSkimm which is an awesome, easy to understand news source. It’s a free daily email. I highly recommend it. They have a comprehensive guide on all the big issues. Check it out here.
- Vote with those dollars: Money talks. It talks loudly. Use it.
- Donate to environmental organizations working on fighting climate change. You can find some specifically focusing on climate change here or here. Be sure to do your research on any organization before you give money, to make sure what they are doing matches your values. Sites such as Charity Navigator can help.
- Support companies that value the environment. There are many great ones out there. And bonus – while the practices are environmentally friendly, the ingredients are also good for you and your family. I love the app by the Environmental Working Group – the Healthy Living App. The app rates over 120,000 food/personal care items to help you make the most informed decision. Plus – it has a scanning feature!
- Boycott companies that are known to negatively impact environmental and social issues. There is an app called ‘Buycott‘ where you can put in companies you don’t want to support with your dollars. If you’re out shopping and are unsure if a particular product is manufactured by that company (or a company it owns), you can scan the product and the app will tell you yes or no. The app is simply based on the information you give it, so does not sway one side to another.
- Learn about carbon taxes: This isn’t going to a be a topic that is going away anytime soon, since it has been named one of the top solutions for our climate change problem. Expect it to come up a lot between now and the elections, and for a long time after that. I’ve provided some basic information about what a carbon tax is, how it works, and pros and cons. Use these resources as a base to jump off of to become knowledgeable in the topic.
- Find out your environmental footprint. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in our own thoughts that we are doing a lot and don’t need to do more because of (insert reason here). Check out this environmental footprint quiz to find out how many planets we would need in order for everyone to live like you do. It is pretty eye-opening.
- Take a look at your commuting habits. When I took the environmental footprint quiz, one of the biggest areas I could reduce was commuting. And considering ALL of the gas companies are in the list of the 100 companies producing 71% of carbon emissions, I know I’m not alone.
- Consider taking the bus to work. I used to take the bus every day to work. I enjoyed it. I didn’t have to worry about sitting in traffic, could read books, relax, and listen to music or podcasts. I lived within 5 minutes of the bus station. It was a perfect scenario. However, after my husband and I moved, the nearest bus station (without my commute taking two hours and multiple bus transfers) was 15 minutes away, and the bus only came once every half hour during ‘rush hour’ and every hour the rest of the day. Unfortunately, having a kid in daycare doesn’t allow for me to have to potentially wait an hour for the bus to come, the drive back to my car, then driving to daycare to pick him up if needed in an emergency. So, I started driving. I get it, having a full-time bus commute may not be feasible for everyone. However, I would recommend checking into it if you haven’t in a while. Maybe you could swing one day a week (I’m looking into this option).
- Work from home. If taking the bus isn’t an option, see if you can work 1-2 days a week at home. Save money, wear and tear on your car, and be able to throw some laundry into the washer on your break!
- Revisit your travel methods for shorter trips. Driving around town can quickly eat up gas and contribute a lot of emissions. Could you walk? Carpool with a friend and run errands together? Take the bus? It may take a little bit of adjusting your normal routine, but remember, now is not the time to stay in our comfort zones.
- Local foods: Try and prioritize purchasing local foods and/or grow your own food. Why? There are a number of benefits:
- it keeps money in your community/it can save you money
- helps support local and small businesses
- keeps the number of ‘food miles’ down. What are food miles? Food miles are the number of miles it takes for our foods to travel from farm to plate. On average our food travels 1500 (!!!!!) miles. Less food miles = less carbon emissions.
- You can support locally through:
- your local co-op
- buying any type of local food your grocery store offers (vote with your $)
- farmer’s market
- a community garden
- backyard garden. Heck, you can even grow many vegetables in pots on your front porch. I wrote a monster guide (practically an e-book) on how to grow your own vegetables in any sized space. Check it out here.
- You can support locally through:
And while we are on the topic of food – mind that food waste.
40% of all food is wasted. 40%! That number never gets any less shocking to me. Planning your meals around food waste is a great way to help at home. Check out my guide on how to do that here.
- Increase the number of plant-based meals you eat: Along with paying attention to ‘food miles’, another food-related way to help reduce your environmental footprint is by eating less meat and dairy and going more plant-based. I really am not interested in getting into a debate about this. I know there are very strong feelings either way, but I felt like it would be irresponsible of me to not include ANYTHING about reducing meat and dairy since they do have a negative environmental impact. And if going completely vegetarian or plant-based isn’t right for you or your family right now, that is OK. I repeat, that is OK. But you can reduce the number of meatless meals you eat each week. I know vegetarian and vegan/plant-based sounds intimidating. It did for me as well. But my family and I were inadvertently forced to start eating more plant-based meals due to food allergies, and I quickly came around. Not only did I feel better, but we also saved money from buying less meat and cheese. I have found some WONDERFUL bloggers who have DELICIOUS, and I mean DELICIOUS plant-based recipes, where you don’t even miss the meat and the dairy. And coming from the smack dab middle of the mid-west, and a very close neighbor to cheese-loving Wisconsin, that’s saying a lot. I have come to LOVE and look forward to our plant-based meals. Here are some of my favorite bloggers (check out their websites and your local library for their cookbooks):
- Minimalist Baker – Easy plant-based recipes with 10 or less ingredients, recipes that take 30 minutes or less, or are one-pot meals.
- Thug Kitchen – Plant-based meals mixed with colorful language. Their motto? Eat a damn salad, already.
- Oh She Glows – Delicious plant-based recipes that mimic old favorites. I personally LOVE LOVE LOVE her cashew cheese sauce. It tastes JUST like a creamy cheese sauce. Seriously.
- Mama Eats Plants – She focuses on low waste and plant-based recipes.
- Budget Bytes – While not exclusively plant-based recipes, she has a lot of vegetarian and vegan ones. Super easy and budget-friendly recipes.
- Pinch of Yum – Like Budget Bytes, Pinch of Yum is also not an exclusively plant-based food blog, but she also includes a lot of vegan and vegetarian recipes which are DELICIOUS.
- Run your home with renewable electricity: My husband and I dream of one-day having solar panels on our roof to run our home, and selling back the excess energy to our local electric company. Until that dream becomes reality, we started looking for other ways. This may not be a viable option for everyone, but it is worth looking into. Our electric company offers the option to purchase your electricity from renewable sources (solar or wind), and after we looked into it, found that it only costs us an average of $5 extra a month. By doing this, 100% of our electricity is 100% renewable. Check in with your electric company to see if this is an option for you. Talk about an easy switch!
- Buy second hand: Buying second hand not only saves money, it also helps reduce waste in the long run. Did you know that over half of the waste produced for an item happens BEFORE an item is fully manufactured? So you are not only saving that waste from landfills, you are also saving the resources used to grow the clothing material, the transportation emissions, and more. There are so many great second-hand shops nowadays that it is easy to find quality items. Here are some of my favorites:
- Other items (including clothes)
- Spread the word: The last thing you can do is spread the word. You have more influence than you know. I promise, you do. Share your actions with friends and family. Share this post. Share, share, share. It’s so important.
Looking for additional ways to reduce your waste? Check out other zero waste posts here:
- 19 Super Simple and Budget-Friendly Ways to Save Money and Reduce Waste!
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