Here are a few personal ways we can each individually act on climate.
Although our individual actions may not achieve the drastic reduction of greenhouse gasses needed to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change, we still have power in our voice, our vote, our dollars and our actions. Simple changes in our behavior can have an impact on consumer demand and help promote a cleaner and greener future.
Vote — Get out the Vote
The biggest action we can take is to vote consistently in every (federal, state, local, municipal) election for candidates who are committed to taking action on climate change. Help get out the vote and encourage others to become consistent voters. Check out Elders Promote the Vote to learn how you can help mobilize voters from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
Communicate about the Climate Crisis
Let elected and appointed people in seats of power know that climate action is important to you as a voter. Elected officials often say that they do not hear about climate change from their constituents. We must consistently contact our Members of Congress, Governors, Mayors, state and local Representatives, Corporation Commissioners/Public Utility Commissioners and City Council Members and demand a climate action plan to protect the wellbeing of our communities.
Contact businesses and corporations and demand they work to lessen their emissions and green business practices.
Write op-eds or letters to the editor of your local newspaper and express the urgency of climate action and intergenerational action. See ECA letter templates here.
Talk to your family, friends and neighbors. Plan to attend events, meetings, and take actions with those you love.
Switch to 100% green power
Around two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to burning fossil fuels for energy used for heating, electricity, transport and industry. Options exist to help green up your power consumption. If you can’t afford or don’t have the ability to go solar check with your energy service provider to see if they provide an option from a renewable source. If renewable energy is not provided by your local energy company/public utility commission, demand it.
Converting to green electricity supports the phase-out of coal. By switching to renewable sources we can help increase the demand and accelerate the move toward green energy and directly reduce CO2 emissions. In addition, by switching to green power we can help build the energy infrastructure so that all communities will be able to access renewable options.
Saving energy not only saves you money – it also helps to cut emissions too. Here are a few ways to save energy:
- Have an energy audit done on your home, weatherize/insulate your home.
- Change you energy use behaviors
- Install programmable or smart thermostat
- Install LED or CFL light bulbs
- Use energy efficient appliances when possible
- Turn off and remove plugs on devices when not in use, use Smart Power strips
- Line dry your laundry
- Turn off extra lights
- Install a shower head that uses less water
- Add solar lighting to your landscaping
- Minimize the number of devices you own
- Reduce your water heating expenses – use less, turn down your heater, insulate pipes.
Protect our forests and plant more trees
The biggest and best method of reducing greenhouse gases is to protect our forests and plant more trees. A research team at ETH Zurich has compiled some fascinating figures: Two thirds of man-made CO2 emissions could be removed from our atmosphere if we were to reforest 900 million hectares of forests worldwide. Forest restoration “isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said the lead scientist, climate change ecologist Tom Crowther.
But we should not only focus on reforestation measures, but also stop the deforestation of huge areas at the same time. Beyond the logging and destruction of our forests, in the past year we have seen a dramatic loss of forests due to wildfires. Help plant trees in your community.
Green your diet — eat less meat
Greening your diet doesn’t mean that everyone has to become vegan or vegetarian – even a small shift in our diet, with a reduction in meat and dairy products, and more plant-based foods instead, can significantly reduce the greenhouse gases created by agriculture. Limiting our diet to meat once a day has a substantial impact on agricultural emissions.
Here’s a few tips
- Bring your own reusable produce & grocery bags to the store.
- Eat seasonally when possible.
- When buying fruits and vegetables, try to buy organic wherever the options (and the price) will allow. Organic foods are usually healthier and grown without harmful chemicals.
- Check your community for ways to support local organic farmers by signing up for community supported agriculture shares or buying from the local farmers market, thus also helping to cut down on the emissions caused by transporting produce throughout the world.
- Better yet, grow your own garden or start a community garden in your area. Build a food forest in your community and inquire about composting!
Avoid plastic wherever you can
We can see that plastics, produced by fossil fuels, have found their way into our oceans, waterways, roadsides, cosmetics, clothing and even our bodies. The convenience of plastic has made it appear in nearly every aspect of our lives from toothpaste tubes, toys, food storage, to medical devices and more. The ease of using plastics while alluring, presents major challenges in our environment. There is a close connection between our global plastics addiction and the changing climate. At every phase of their life plastics emit greenhouse gases. Avoid plastics wherever you can. Here are a few quick suggestions:
- Install a home in-line water filtration system
- Glass or stainless steel reusable water bottle
- Reusable Coffee Cup
- Reusable storage containers for your next carry out meal.
- Reusable Bamboo Cutlery set & Straws
- Reusable grocery and woven produce bags
- Reusable Beeswax wraps (in lieu of plastic wrap)
- Reusable Fabric or Silicone food storage bags (in lieu of Ziplock)
- Glass food storage containers
- Purchase toys made of natural materials for the grandkids!
- Purchase clothing and household goods made of natural materials. (cotton, bamboo, hemp)
Own less, share more.
Own less, share more. Reduce, reuse, recycle. If we can buy more things used and repurposed and fewer new, and we collectively share more, fewer goods need to be produced. We are seeing global trends in sharing cars, exchanging clothes, lending and borrowing tools — ultimately saving precious resources. Consider your options before you buy… it will save you money and carbon emissions!
- Avoid buying new. Check with friends or thrift stores before buying an item new.
- Let friends and neighbors know you welcome sharing! Start a sharing program in your community, like the Buy Nothing Project.
- Donate your unwanted items to organizations in your area.
- Learn more about your fashion footprint click here
Reduce your digital footprint
Did you know that our digital data contributes to our carbon footprint? Every search we type, every email we send or receive, and every video we stream requires energy to produce the data, and therefore causes CO2 emissions. Simple fixes like limiting screen time, switching to a “green” search engine such as Ecosia that plants trees, cleaning your email inbox and limiting the number of devices you own will help minimize your digital footprint.
Avoid flying (buy offsets when you can)
Think before you fly. On average, a plane produces a little over 53 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile. Therefore, flying is the single largest contributor of CO2 by an individual in a short amount of time. For flights you can’t avoid, if you can, purchase carbon offsets. It is relatively inexpensive. Carbon offsets help plant trees, help fund innovation and technology, and help fund projects that actively draw down carbon in the atmosphere.
Our friends at Yale Climate Connections suggest, “To protect your wallet, you can buy offsets that have been authenticated by third-party certification programs, such as Verified Carbon Standard, Gold Standard, and Green-e Climate Standard. Those programs help confirm that projects actually exist and that you’re not wasting your money.”
Analysis by Barry Saxifrage, National Observer (CA), Jan 7, 2020
The global aviation industry has started burning jet fuel like there is no tomorrow. Its climate pollution is rocketing upward. And hoped-for “solutions” like biofuels and electric planes are being buried by the rising flood of emissions. In response, a growing number of climate-concerned people, including the world’s most famous climate champion, Greta Thunberg, are advocating less flying.
Get on your bike or use public transportation
How we get from point A to point B is important to many elders. In many cities you can travel faster by bike than by car, bus or train. For the nimble, the number one form of sustainable transportation is the bicycle — but we can also reduce our impacts by driving less, carpooling and using public transportation when available. More and more options for electric cars, electric scooters, and electric bicycles are becoming available. Electric vehicles are an emerging market in the US but a booming market in other countries. We can help pressure auto manufactures for alternative fuel options while also supporting more sustainable public transportation options in our community.
Make informed choices as a consumer and as a citizen
Did you know the 100 largest companies in the world are responsible for more than 70 percent of global emissions? Our strength and power lie in our choices — how we choose to spend our money, what companies we choose to support, and who we vote into seats of power. As consumers, WE HAVE THE ABILITY to change the practices and behaviors of corporations through our purchasing power. If there is less demand, there will be less production. By consuming more carefully and responsibly, and supporting organizations that account for their environmental practices, we can help build a more livable future. Before you vote and before you buy goods, find out who is committed to climate protection in your city, region and country and make your choices in favor of climate action.
Divest from Polluters: Make sustainable investments
When making investments and choosing a bank keep the climate crisis in mind. Most of us don’t want our hard-earned dollars inadvertently funding the polluters who are making our planet sick. Consider social, ethical and ecological aspects as well as financial aspects – and make sustainable investments. Invest in reforestation and renewables, rather than fossil fuels. Fight against climate change with sustainable financial management and help keep the money away from funding polluters.
Watch this great video from our friends and partners at divestinvest.org
And perhaps, most importantly — GET OUT and MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
We’ve read countless reports stressing the urgency of taking action now to reduce the greatest threats of the climate crisis. In 2019 we have seen an amplified plea for action, but so far too little has happened. But our voices are getting louder and more unified. It is critical that all generations come together to take action on the climate crisis. The youth are transforming the movement and we Elders must be there to support their efforts and actions.
Speak to others in your community about climate change and the importance of climate action and help mobilize other Elders. Link up with other local organizations to collaborate on actions and events for your community. Push for a climate action plan within your town, city or state. Talk with your friends, family, neighbors, and elected officials.
Visit the ECA Action Tool Kit to find tools to help you at events, rallies, and more.