Simple, inexpensive things you can do to help the planet
Archive for the ‘Air’ Category
“Sometimes, you have to stand up.”
-Greta Browne, quoted in the New York Times
Greta Browne is a 65 year old, Unitarian minister from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She just finished walking more than 1,100 miles (1,770 km) from New Orleans to New York in an effort to raise awareness of global warming. During her time on the road, she survived on her Social Security checks and small donations made by people she met along the way.
Preaching to the choir
It’s easy to forget that many people do not share the same level of commitment to helping the planet. Ms. Browne encountered reactions such as “Oh, you are preaching to the choir. We already recycle.” While important, recycling by itself is not enough to make the kind of change that’s needed.
Standing up doesn’t mean you have to abandon everything and hit the open road armed with nothing but your convictions. It can take the form of talking to people around you about the problem and why it’s important to do something.
If you convince just 1 other person to reduce their impact, you’ve just doubled yours.
Eating less meat, riding your bike to work, bringing your own shopping bags to the grocery, using a clothesline. These are all excellent steps we can each take to reduce our impact on the planet. The truth is, though, that the impact any one of us can have on the environment is relatively tiny compared to changes we can make collectively.
Some argue that sites like this one are actually harmful because they let people off the hook, making them feel good about making a difference while turning a blind eye to the larger, systemic problems that are the real source of the climate crisis. While a valid point, we believe that small actions by many people can add up to significant change.
For better or worse, most of us are not cut out to be full-time eco-warriors. That doesn’t mean we can’t influence the systems that have the capacity to make the big changes.
In this hyper-connected age, it’s easier than ever to be an armchair activist. All it takes is a few minutes to record your thoughts and a click of the “send” button to make your views known to politicians, newspaper editors, and corporations.
Note: Though the title of this post is “Write a letter”, we advocate contacting decision makers via the internet. The carbon cost of a physical letter is higher than submitting an online form!
The following organizations are either focused exclusively on fighting climate change or run global warming campaigns as part of their mission.
Publishing a letter to the editor is still a good way to make your voice heard.
- PublishALetter.com – allows you to send a letter to any of hundreds of news editors around the world
- firstname.lastname@example.org – New York Times
- email@example.com – The Wall Street Journal
- firstname.lastname@example.org – Washington Post
- L.A. Times
- email@example.com – Times Online
- firstname.lastname@example.org – The Economist
It’s government officials who will make the big decisions, so why not contact them directly?
- President of the United States
- U.S. House of Representatives
- U.S. Senate
- U.S. Envionmental Protection Agency
- European Union
- United Kingdom Parliament
- German Bundestag
- French national Assembly
- Parliament of Canada
- Parliament of Australia
- New Zealand Parliament
- National Congress of Brazil
- United Nations
Do you know of other good sites where you can make your voice heard? Tell us about them in the comments!
Ask anyone, they’ll tell you, the first step to making change is to admit you have a problem.
If you’re reading this, chances are your activities produce more carbon and other greenhouse gases than the average human being. If you don’t know how much more, now’s the time to find out.
The truth shall set you free
The simplest way to calculate your carbon footprint is to use an online calculator. Here are a few of our favorites.
If you live in the United States, one of the best is the Cool Climate Carbon Footprint Calculator by The Berkeley Institute of the Environment. Another excellent calculator for Americans is provided by The Nature Conservancy It takes into account home energy, transportation, diet, and recycling habits. Also USA-centric, Yahoo! offer an easy to use calculator, though it’s perhaps a bit too simplistic.
Our UK readers may want to try the Ecological Footprint Calculator by Best Foot Forward, winners of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development in 2005.
For the rest of us, the calculator at Carbon Footprint lets you choose the country in which you live. It requires entry of specific amounts of different types of energy used to calculate household use, which can be tedious, but should give accurate results.
Resurgence Magazine offer both quick and detailed carbon calculators, developed by Mukti Mitchell, designer of zero-emission yachts. The quick version lets you calculate the carbon produced by your energy use by asking you how much you spent on different types of energy over the past year while the detailed version asks for kilowatt hours used.
We’ve talked before about the importance of eating less meat to the environment. The Low Carbon Diet Calculator helps make our point by showing the relative impact of different kinds of food. (Of note is the fact that tofu is not much better than beef or lamb in terms of carbon produced!)
A quick and easy way to compare the carbon impact of different modes of travel is to use the CO2 emissions calculator from Transport Direct.
Lastly, if you’re an iPhone user, there are several applications (several of which are free) that can help you calculate and track your carbon emissions, such as Carbon Tracker. Go into iTunes and search for “carbon calculator” for more.
Knowing how much carbon dioxide is produced by what you do every day is the first step towards reducing your impact. Best of all, it’s free to find out.
Do you have a favorite carbon calculator that we missed? Link to it in the comments!