The problem of climate change is disconcerting. Many people are frustrated. They would like to do something, but are uncertain about whether any action they take can make a difference.
A couple dozen—myself included—of these millions of concerned people gathered together at a recent Meetup event in my community, Rockville On Tap. The topic of the evening was “Climate Change on a Community Level.” The guest speaker was Doug Weisburger, Senior Planning Specialist for Sustainability Programs with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.
Since one of Weisburger’s most important points that evening was that social communication is key, I thought I’d type up my notes and share them with you. The items below are in the order of presentation at the event, which was a bit random, as Weisburger took questions from the audience throughout.
As a disclaimer, I am not a scientist or policy specialist. But I am a concerned citizen and a writer—and I can take notes with the best of them (which Weisburger was kind enough to review for accuracy). So here are the lessons shared that evening about what you, as an individual, can do to help prevent a global catastrophe.
So put on your superhero cape, and let’s go!!
Avoid wasting food.
I was surprised to hear that this is the third most important thing that people can do to fight climate change. Food production and delivery are huge contributers to global warming. Americans are notorious for wasting food. Don’t do it!
Choose electric heat over gas heat.
This is particularly important in states with high and growing percentages of renewables in their electricity grid. Locales with aggressive “Renewable Portfolio Standards” include D.C., New York, California, New Mexico, Hawaii, Washington State, Nevada, Maryland, Vermont, and Oregon.
Talk to people about climate change.
Social learning is key. This can make a significant difference. Don’t give up on the problem of climate change. We need to come together now. According to the environmentalist and author Paul Hawken, this is not game over. This is game on! He says it’s very clear where our hearts belong: this is our job in history.
Vote at every level of government.
Elections matter at every level: federal, state, and local.
Work to influence decision makers.
Activists make a difference.
An audience member recommended the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, grassroots advocacy organization that works to fight climate change.
Eat less meat.
Plant-based diets are significantly more carbon friendly than meat-based diets. It takes 30 times more energy to produce a pound of beef than a pound of corn. This is the fourth most important thing people can do to fight climate change.
Support small, local, organic farms.
We need to transition away from agriculture that destroys the ecosystem. Regenerative agriculture is a term that refers to farming that reverses climate change by rejuvenating the soil and restoring biodiversity. Buy food that is labeled either “USDA Organic” or “Certified Naturally Grown.” Support local, organic farms.
Weisburger said that if you want a great overview of regenerative agriculture, check out the award-winning indie documentary The Biggest Little Farm. As it happens, I recently saw this movie! It was fabulous. The cinematography was incredible, and the story was even more amazing. Do check it out if you get a chance.
Curious to learn more, I poked around the Internet and found this website on regenerative agriculture. Here’s a quote from the site:
“If you’ve never heard about the amazing potential of regenerative agriculture and land use practices to naturally sequester a critical mass of CO2 in the soil and forests, you’re not alone. One of the best-kept secrets in the world today is that the solution to global warming and the climate crisis (as well as poverty and deteriorating public health) lies right under our feet, and at the end of our knives and forks.” —Ronnie Cummins, Regeneration International Steering Committee Member
Use clean energy.
Put solar panels on your roof. If you can’t afford to do this on your own, join a solar co-op. If trees block sunlight from reaching your roof, buy a subscription to a solar farm for your home energy.*
Wind farms are another source of clean energy.
Take advantage of programs offered by local governments and electricity providers.
A local program in Maryland offers free home energy checks.*
There is also a program in Maryland whereby you can pay a small amount to receive an energy audit. This makes you eligible for a large amount of savings when you make any home improvements that reduce energy consumption.*
Replace incandescent and CFL lightbulbs with LED lightbulbs.
There are even programs that will give you free LED lightbulbs in exchange for your incandescent lightbulbs (if you still have any).*
Use electric cars.
Gas-powered vehicles damage the environment. Some of the newer models of electric cars have a great range: many have a range of over 225 miles, and some have a range of over 300 miles!
Take fewer airplane flights.
A round-trip flight from New York to Los Angeles equals 10-12 percent of the average American’s annual carbon footprint. If you have to fly, choose nonstop, if possible, since the takeoff and landing account for much of the footprint.
Renewable energy credits (RECs) work.
We ran out of time at the event and did not discuss this. But I found this website about RECs.*
Don’t release refrigerants into the atmosphere.
We ran out of time to discuss this one, too. So I’ll just say—don’t do it.
The time is now, folks. The earth is heating up.
How are you joining in the effort to fight climate change?
*Doug Weisburger sent an email after the event with further information. I have reproduced it here with his permission. Some of the following is applicable to everyone, but much of it is particularly for people in Montgomery County, Maryland.
1. Quick Home Energy Check-Up Through Pepco – This is a fast, easy way to reduce energy use in your home and save money. A contractor will come to your apartment/condo/house and provide you with energy savings upgrades such as LEDs (up to three, in exchange for incandescents), high-efficiency showerheads, etc. The entire check-up takes about 45-60 minutes to complete. For more information, check out https://homeenergysavings.pepco.com/quick-home-energy-check-up-program. Note that you can buy reasonably priced LEDs at local hardware stores and all the big box stores, as they are subsidized through the state. Also, here’s a blog post on LEDs versus CFLs and how to dispose of the latter: https://mygreenmontgomery.org/2018/cfls/.
2. Home Performance With Energy Star Audit Through Pepco – A contractor will perform a comprehensive Home Energy Assessment, typically valued at $400, for only $100 (because of a state subsidy). Following the assessment, you will receive a detailed report on the energy savings you can obtain by making the recommended improvements. This takes about 2-3 hours to complete. For more information, check out https://homeenergysavings.pepco.com/home-performance-with-energy-star-program.
3. Other Energy Assessments Through Pepco – For low-income households and multi-family properties, check out these additional Pepco incentive programs: https://www.pepco.com/WaysToSave/ForYourHome/Pages/MD/EnergyAssessments.aspx.
4. Clean Energy – You can put solar panels on your home (purchase outright or lease) or, if you can’t or don’t want to install panels, you can participate in what’s referred to as a “community solar” project. Essentially, you purchase a “share” from a local solar farm and receive credit on your electricity bill for the solar energy produced by your share (which varies depending on the amount of sun shining that month). During a really sunny month, your share might generate more electricity than you need, in which case you’re credited for the surplus. Community solar can actually be less expensive than your standard offer service. For information on available projects, check out Solar United Neighbors. Another option is to buy what’s referred to as Renewable Electricity Credits (RECs), which are the green attributes (bought and sold on the market like a commodity) associated with electricity. It’s a bit complicated, but with the purchase of RECs, you’re essentially helping to stimulate clean energy projects. Here is a useful article outlining these options: https://mygreenmontgomery.org/2018/buying-green-electricity/.
5. Montgomery County Green Business Certification Program – See http://www.mcgreenbiz.org/, a voluntary recognition program for businesses and organizations that go above and beyond in terms of greening their day-to-day operations. It’s for businesses that lease or own their space, since it’s not about the building per se, but everything that goes on inside.
6. My Green Montgomery – Here is a link to Montgomery County’s one-stop-shop for green living: https://mygreenmontgomery.org/.
7. Rare’s Analysis of Top Behavioral Changes – Here is a link to the Climate Change Needs Behavior Change report by Rare, in which they evaluated the GHG reduction potential of the top behavior change solutions gleaned from Paul Hawken’s Drawdown.