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ABCs of Climate Change: (C)all Your Reps!

Hi Everyone! Told you I’d be back soon 🙂 Welcome to part 3 of my 10 part climate change series. First part is here and second part is here.

Now that you’re all caught up, let’s go on to letter C–Call your reps!

As many people have mentioned, smaller personal actions have much less impact than governmental or corporate actions. That’s not an excuse to opt out of personal responsibility, but it IS a good reason to bother your elected officials about climate change! I’d say it’s the most important issue you can call them about. I’m hugely concerned about gun violence, particularly in our schools. However, I know that unless we get the climate under control. we’re running out of time to discuss that issue! The clock is so seriously ticking on climate change, and unless we act soon, we will miss our window to avert catastrophic loss of human life. I’m not going to harp on how bad it will be–you’ve all seen the headlines. But please know it’s way worse than starving polar bears. Entire cities will disappear underwater as the oceans rise. Island nations will cease to exist. Yes, rich people will be able to move, as one Congressman suggested. But the vast majority of people affected will not be so lucky. The rich (us, the United States) are causing the bulk of this problem, yet others will be the ones to bear a disproprortionate amount of the cost. I don’t want the blood of millions of people (that’s not an exaggeration) on my hands, do you? Okay! So let’s make some phone calls.

 

First off, how do you find your reps? That’s easy!! Use the internet! If you google “find my reps” you will find many different tools to use. I like this one because it lists federal, state, and local reps as well. Remember, states can move on climate change too! Many states have, in fact, frustrated with the lack of federal work on this. So you can (and should) call your senators and representative, but also call your governor and local legislator. The state level folks get fewer calls and you’re more likely to talk to a real person and get a real response.

 

So now you know who to call–great! What to say? This is the part that trips people up. Now, I’m a talker. Anyone who’s ever met me knows this. So I have no problem unloading my feelings on the poor kid who answers Lankford’s phone. But many people are not so loquacious as I. So what do you do if you care, you want to tell someone you care, but you just don’t have the words? I have an answer for that, too!! Many organizations have sample scripts online. Here’s one from Citizen’s Climate Lobby (it also handily gives you your reps’ numbers if you put in your zip code).

Here’s another one from Protect Our Winters–a good one if you’re from a state that gets tourism dollars from winter sports.

You can also mention the latest article/headline you’ve seen. “Hi, I’m calling about the latest USA Today article that mentioned the XYZ Scientist Report. I’m concerned that…..” Sometimes I find it helpful to have the article in question open in front of me when I call so I can easily reference the title and date.

But you don’t need an article, or a bill in front on Congress, to tell them you’re worried about climate change!!!  Just call and ask what your rep is doing to combat climate change. Here are some talking points that I borrowed from Jennifer Hodgdon’s blog:

  • We need to protect the environment that we all live in, and preserve it for future generations.
  • We need to base our policy decisions on science and facts.
  • It is a fact that storms and extreme weather have a large adverse effect on people, plants, and animals (including agricultural plants and animals).
  • It is a fact that pollution has many health effects and economic impacts.
  • The Defense department has concluded that climate change impacts worldwide political stability.
  • Therefore, we need to take action to mitigate climate change and pollution.
  • What is Rep. XYZ doing to help combat climate change???

Don’t just vent–request info. Politely ask for a response from the Congressperson. Keep asking until you get an answer. I call once a week–Thursday afternoons. Set an alarm on your phone! Put aside a time to do it so you know you will get it done. You’ll feel so good when you do it! Even if your reps, like mine, don’t care about climate change and are doing jack squat to fix it. I get joy in knowing that I’m forcing them to think about it and hear about it, and know that they’re not getting away with it.

 

Which brings me to my last point–VOTE THESE JERKS OUT WHO DON’T BELIEVE IN CLIMATE CHANGE!!! According to a Yale/George Mason study, 69% of all Americans believe in climate change. (Why? Because it is a SCIENTIFIC FACT.) Your elected representatives should be among that number!! We don’t need any flat-earthers running our country–too many lives depend on it. So if your rep doesn’t care, show them the door. Press all candidates on this issue–find out where they stand and hold them accountable. It’s too dangerous just to vote along party lines here. Hurricanes and wildfires don’t care who’s Republican or Democrat when they start wreaking deadly damage. Our planet is in dire danger, and we must do everything we can to halt to procession of death. That means voting for people who can pass the laws that will make the difference. Ireland and the UK have already declared a climate emergency and are acting to mitigate the damage already done. We need to do the same, and it won’t happen unless we have smart, science-motivated people in the government. ‘Nuff said.

 

If you’d like to make a call but still aren’t sure how to get started–reach out to me! I would be thrilled to help you come up with the words that are right for you. I know it’s not easy to do–sometimes I’m still nervous to make calls, and I do it weekly!! But I know how important it is. Congress has too much to do to focus on each and every issue–they focus on what their constituents bother them about. So let’s make sure they’re out of excuses when it comes to climate change, okay? People want change–let’s keep demanding it until we get it.

 

See you next week for D–ditch plastic!!

 

 

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ABCs of Climate Change 2: (B)uy Less

Hello Everyone!

 

Well, it’s been an embarrasingly long time since I posted the first one of these, but better late than never, right?

That’s actually an important message in climate change–doing something, ANYTHING, is better than doing nothing at all. Like, even refusing a straw one time at a restaurant means one less straw wasted. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s not Whole 30 here. Making an effort is truly making a difference in the battle against a warming planet.

Have you seen the fatalistic articles lately that say we’re all doomed? I know I have!! Ignore them. I mean, don’t, because it’s deadly serious and we are definitely without a doubt on a trajectory towards a mass extinction, but we CAN change that! We CAN avoid that!! We need to:

a) pressure lawmakers to get it together NOW to lower our emissions;

b) vote for lawmakers in 2020 that will lower our emissions;

c) do everything in our power as ordinary citizens in the mean time to cut down on waste and lower our emissions.

 

Which brings me to letter B: Buy less stuff. This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do as a consumer to fight climate change. It’s easy to remember, hard to do! But I have a few tips.

 

Why should we buy less stuff? Well, stuff takes energy to make. Every bag of chips, every tee shirt, every dollar store dinosaur toy (just me that buys these all the time? Okay then) was manufactured in a factory. That factory burned fossil fuels to make your item, then burned more to ship it to the store where you bought it. Not to mention the energy used, as well as water, to power the lights, a/c, bathrooms, etc. at the factory. Did you know it takes 9 gallons of water to make a single disposable diaper? It does!

Then once you have your stuff, you don’t keep it forever. And when you  throw it out, it takentakes energy to get the stuff to the dump or incinerator. where it either takes more energy to burn (thus releasing the chemicals in your stuff into the air) or it just…sits there, leaching chemicals into the soil, taking up space, and releasing gases into the atmosphere. Contrary to popular belief, most stuff in landfills does not break down. There have been studies of landfills done where intact heads of lettuce have been found wrapped in newspapers from the 1940s. Because of plastic bags and how packed landfills are, it’s basically an anaerobic environment, which does not allow for things to decompose like they naturally would. If heads of lettuce aren’t breaking down, what do you think is happening to your disposable diapers? (Sorry about all the diaper talk. With a newborn headed my way in about a month, I’ve got diapers on my mind.)

But you recycle, right? Well, sort of. First off, not all cities recycle. Secondly, many cities end up burning or trashing their recycling rather than actually recycling it because we’re recycling too much and the recycling infrastructure can’t take it. Recycling programs are not federally mandated or funded, and they’re only as good as the time and energy people spend on maintaining them. China used to buy 90% of our recycling and process it there, but now they take almost nothing from us. So, don’t feel better just because you tossed that can into a recycling bin–best case scenario, it will burn energy to get recycled! And there are many more worse scenarios possible. 

 

So, we need to buy less. This is just inescapably true. It’s hard, I know. I myself am guilty of strolling through the dollar spot at Target, pondering whether the foam numbers for the bath will make my son smarter. Our culture is obsessed with more, bigger, and better. We buy things all the time to treat ourselves, as a pick-me-up, and as gifts for others. We buy hoping this next product will make us happier, more organized, prettier, or better parents. But the hard truth is that most of them won’t. And we’re killing the planet to lie to ourselves about it. Here are a few easy areas to start cutting back–

  1. avoid fast fashion. Besides the horrific human rights abuses perpetuated in factories worldwide, we’re wasting tons of energy making tee shirts we’ll wear once then throw out. Target, Old Navy, Forever 21, H&M…these places do not sell you high quality clothes that will last you season after season. I’m not suggesting that you buy all designer clothes–that’s not feasible for most of us. But I am suggesting you consider what you really need. I shake my head every time I pass the huge 4th of July displays at stores. Do I really need another star-spangled tee shirt? Can’t I just wear last year’s, or better yet, something I own that’s red, white, or blue?

So, skip the single use outfits. Shop second hand or vintage. Trade with a friend who’s a similar size. Shop thoughtfully and invest in some high-quality staples that will last you more than one use. ESPECIALLY with kiddos–I’m as guilty as anyone of dropping some serious cash on a cute outfit for a kid, but I know he’ll outgrow it soon and that there are scores of cute outfits at the secondhand shop that have only been worn once or twice! When you buy clothes, consider if they are really meeting a need or just a temporary pick-me-up.

 

2. Shop in bulk bins when you can. Food waste is coming up in a later post, but grocery stores give you a heck of a lot of stuff you don’t need. Plan ahead so you don’t make impulse purchases that end up rotting in your fridge. Think about ways to cut down on food packaging (like making your own spice mix instead of buying those little packages of taco seasoning–everything you need is probably already in your pantry.) Get a big tub of yogurt instead of little tubs. Buy a huge bag of goldfish instead of individually wrapped snack packs. Just stop buying snack packs, if you can. Bulk is better. Bulk is your friend.

 

3. Use the internets!! Facebook marketplace/poshmark/ parenting lists/ebay/etc all sell used stuff at great prices. It takes a little hunting sometimes, but you can score a great deal on used merch and do Mother Nature a solid as well! I bought my double stroller for $60 on facebook marketplace instead of paying $350 for it new and it’s barely used and in great condition. Let’s go back to our hunter/gatherer roots and barter for the things we need from our neighbors.  Even ordering something from poshmark and having it shipped to you is more energy efficient than buying new. Anything at all you can buy used instead of new is a big win.

 

Making used a part of your lifestyle takes some getting used to. You might not be able to find exactly what you want right at the second you want it. But won’t that make finding it all the sweeter when you do? I challenge you to try it for a week–other than essentials (groceries, toilet paper) can you go a whole week without buying a book, toy, or clothing item? See how long you can go! Your closet thanks you, your mental health thanks you, and your planet thanks you too.

 

That’s it! Coming soon (much sooner than 6 months I promise), C! C is for “call your reps.”

 

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ABCs of Combatting Climate Change: A(lways consider your carbon footprint).

Hello everyone, welcome back to the ABCs of fighting climate change! I was really heartened to see so many comments…it seems that more people are worried about this than I originally thought. One of the only things I love about the internet is that it helps bring like-minded people together. So, welcome to the Green Army! We’re going to do our part to fight climate change.

The first thing to do (and these are in alphabetical order, not order of importance! You don’t get more brownie points for doing things higher up in the alphabet. ANYTHING you do is important and a good start!) is Always Consider your Carbon Footprint.

So…what exactly is a carbon footprint? I have to admit, I wasn’t 100% sure on this when I started out. Here’s a little primer on climate change basics–feel free to send them to your Congresspeople!

“Global warming” refers to the average temperature of the globe. (That’s why we can have a harsh, snowy winter and global warming can still be real. Weather =/= climate!) Since the Industrial Revolution, the average global temperature has been increasing. In the past 50 years, it’s been increasing at a steadily faster pace…and it’s only getting faster. 15 of the 16 hottest years in the past 134 have been since 2000, according to the NRDC.

Why is the temperature rising? For that, we have to go back to 8th grade science. Between the earth and the sun, there’s the atmosphere, aka the layer of gases that makes our planet habitable for humans. (Remember the ball-shaped shield from “Spaceballs”? It’s like that. But without the combination lock 🙂 Normally, the sun’s rays go from the sun –> through the atmosphere–>to earth, where they either become heat for the planet (which we need) or they reflect off of the earth back out into space.

http://astrocampschool.org/greenhouse-effect/http://astrocampschool.org/greenhouse-effect/

That process: sun–>atmosphere–>earth–>atmosphere–>space, happens even if there are no humans on earth. What we have added to this cycle is the release of gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), into the atmosphere. These gases collect in the atmosphere and act as giant mirrors, re-reflecting the heat that’s trying to escape out to space back to earth. This is known as the “greenhouse effect” (because sun comes into a greenhouse through the glass exterior but remains trapped inside the structure, which makes the inside of a greenhouse much warmer than the outside temperature.)

http://www.livescience.com/37743-greenhouse-effect.htmlhttp://www.livescience.com/37743-greenhouse-effect.html

 

In short, humans are responsible for releasing gases into the atmosphere that are interfering with the planet’s process to release excess heat…so the planet is getting warmer.

Each person has a “carbon footprint,” which is the total number of emissions that person produces. Using electricity, taking a flight, driving a car, and even eating a hamburger increases a person’s carbon footprint. Each nation on the globe must reduce their carbon footprint in the next ten years to avoid a catastrophic rise in global temperature, and each person on the globe can do their part to reduce their own footprint. (And to those who say, “it’s all the fossil fuel industry anyway, what can one person do, it’s stupid to pretend we can make a difference,” I hear you–so put your money where your mouth is and lobby the heck out of the government to pass regulations to curb emissions on that scale! But also, you can either do nothing or do something, and I choose to do something. My little footprint might not be the tipping point that saves the planet, but it could be!)

Basically the entire rest of this list (B through J) is about reducing your carbon footprint in different ways, but I wanted to cover two big ways to do it today.

–Shop carbon-smart for cars and big appliances. When you’re choosing a car, put real weight in the MPG/emissions factor. If you have to sell it to yourself as saving money on gas, do that! (You really are–I used to drive a Jeep Liberty and now drive a Honda CRV. They have almost identical cabin sizes but I get a lot more MPG on the CRV, which saves me $$ at the pump!) Consider a hybrid if you can swing it. With many environmentally-related things, you pay a bit more up front but make money in the long run. It takes a bit of planning, but it’s worth it.

Same story with washers/dryers, dishwashers, and refrigerators. Look for the energy Star label at the very least–that means they voluntarily meet a higher efficiency standard than the federally-mandated minimum. You might shell out a bit more at the store, but you’ll save as you go. (We bought a gas-powered dryer, which was maybe $100 more expensive, but our energy bills are markedly lower. This stuff is real!)

Do a little research if you’re unsure–there are some super smart people out there who do this for a living. They can recommend the most environmentally-friendly versions of just about anything you’d like to buy. Your wallet (and our planet) will thank you!!

—  Buy carbon offsets when you fly. This one is not without controversy–critics claim it just makes people feel better about flying, when really they need to fly less. I agree with that–flying is a HUGE source of CO2 emissions, probably most people’s biggest offender. Whenever possible, it’s best not to fly. That’s a non-negotiable fact. However, most of us aren’t going to skip Christmas with Grandma in Vermont for the planet’s sake–it’s just not reality (me included! I fly A LOT.) So, if you’re going to fly anyway and you can’t change that, I highly recommend carbon offset programs. Simply put, you pay $$ into programs that are reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere (so you’re effectively neutralizing your own contribution due to your flight.)

There’s a ton of options out there, and all carbon offsets are NOT created equal! Make sure that your dollars are actually going to carbon offset projects and not into somebody’s pocket. I’m a fan of Gold Standard, which is rigorously vetted. You can calculate your carbon footprint (by the year or by the flight, for example) and find out how many tons of carbon your travel will emit. Then you choose which project you’d like to support right there on the website, where price per ton is clearly listed. It does make you feel a little better about flying. I track my flights at My Flight Radar24, which adds up your carbon as you go. At the end of the year, I offset all my flights. This is a near-painless way to make a difference, and it’s pretty cheap to boot!

 

So those are my two big-ticket ways to lower your carbon footprint. More to come soon! Stay tuned for B–Buy less.

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Let’s Talk about Climate Change: How You Can Join the Green Army

Hello Everyone! I know I haven’t blogged in an awfully long time, and it’s been an even longer time since I blogged about anything but Star Wars. But it’s a new year (Happy 2019 everyone!) and I’m using that as an excuse to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time…talk about climate change.

Almost everyone has heard of climate change, but very few people are sure of what it is or what it means for us as humans. Most of us are concerned, at least in a vague way, about the melting arctic ice caps (the polar bears, daddy!) and the increasingly horrific wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods that are happening around the globe. But even if you lie awake at night worrying about the state of our world, you may not know what to DO about it.

DISCLAIMER: Look, everybody knows I’m not a scientist. I have no claims to actual expertise on any of the topics I will be discussing in this series. But what I am is a very concerned, involved person who has studied A LOT of research and statements by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Greenpeace International, the Environmental Protection Agency, and many other groups, as well as the work of various climate scientists and activists. Simply put, I read a lot about this stuff. I take their suggestions very seriously. And I want to give you the Cliff’s Notes of what I have learned so that you can feel hopeful instead of hopeless.

Make no mistake–it’s easy to feel hopeless. The latest IPCC report, in particular, gives us as a planet 10-14 years to significantly reduce our carbon emissions to avoid hitting 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels. If we hit 1.5 degrees, 70-90 percent of the world’s coral reefs disappear. Ice-free summers in the arctic happen once a century, which affects water levels across the globe. The weather events we’ve been experiencing–wildfires, floods, etc.–will get much worse. If we hit 1.5 degrees, life as we know it changes drastically. This is a not some nebulous “let’s save the earth for our future,” it’s “let’s save the earth so we don’t end up living in either Waterworld or Mad Max: Fury Road in ten years.” Being Americans won’t save us from the ravages of a warming world. We have no other planet to which we can escape. Climate change is a more pressing threat than just about anything else other than nuclear war–the consequences are just as widespread and irreversible. And they are already in motion, right now, barreling towards us.

But climate change is not inevitable. It can be stopped. We are in the position to stop it, if we just decided it was worth doing. It goes without saying that governments and leaders around the globe must unite and devote every resource possible to getting carbon emissions under control. Climate change must be our number one priority as a species if we want to continue being a species on this planet for longer than 10 more years. However, we cannot wait for governments to save us. We have to take action, too. That’s what this blog series is about–how you, Some Random Person, can actually make a meaningful difference in the fight against climate change.

I’ve come up with ten key suggestions for the ten years we have left to halt the warming. To help you remember, they’re in alphabetical order–the ABCs of Regular Joe Climate Action. None of these steps require any special skills or equipment other than time, patience, and a willingness to rethink how things have always been done.

FYI–things that will not be on this list because of the significant amount of investment involved, but things that I would be remiss if I did not mention (due to the fact that they are agreed to be, by far, the most effective things that citizens can do) are:

  1. give up your car
  2. give up flying
  3. become a vegan
  4. have fewer children (each child you have increases your own carbon footprint by 6x!)

I understand if you can’t or won’t do the above. I personally live in an area without public transit, so #1 is a no (but we did buy a hybrid car). I fly all the time and I am a hopeless carnivore. But I do buy carbon offsets when I fly (more on that later), and I also have instituted Meatless Mondays (and Wednesdays, but that doesn’t sound as cool) at our house. The point is–I’m trying. I am making decisions with the earth in mind. And while each individual decision may seem small, the cumulative effect is large. Remember, the ocean is made up of small drops. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Margaret Mead,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing thing that ever has.”

I want to be a part of that small group, and I hope you do, too. Yes, it will take time to adjust to some of these suggestions…but our planet is worth it, don’t you think? I’ve been thinking about how the world pulled together in WWII when things were rationed. They made do with what they had, and there was a spirit of camaraderie–they were “in this together.” Let’s be like the Victory Gardeners of yesteryear and all pitch in for the common good, okay? Let’s be a part of the Green Army…uniting across our lovely planet and doing whatever it takes to save her.

 

Thanks for reading! I welcome civilized discourse–dialogue is how we grow. Stay tuned for part one of 10 for 10: the letter A!

 

 

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