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40 Green Actions You Can Start Today

simple green actions to start todayFor the past month I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of a climate change discussion group in my community. We’ve been reading EAARTH, and discussing the realities of climate change both world wide and within our own small part of SW Wisconsin. And we’ve been trying to envision what action looks like for us.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by how big this problem is, and how little it seems like our personal actions are. The Tanzanian’s have a saying, “Haba na haba hujaza kibaba.” Which translates to “Little by little the bucket gets filled,” and that’s important for us to keep in mind. Yes, we may have seemingly little say in the policies enacted within our own states and country, let alone in the worldwide cooperation that is needed to tackle our energy, and resource issues and our greenhouse gas emissions. But we can start taking simple, concrete actions now. And as we successfully implement each habit, it will be easier to take the next step. Little by little, we’ll fill the bucket.

So with those thoughts in mind, here’s a list of actions you can start taking right now to increase conservation, decrease energy use, and reduce your carbon footprint.

40 green actions you can start today

1. Switch out your incandescent light bulbs for LED light bulbs.

2. Plug your electronics into a power strip, and turn off the power strip when you’re not using them.

3. Turn your thermostat up a few degrees now (and down a few degrees in the winter).

4. Sign up for your local power companies green energy program, you’ll pay a little extra for your energy, but you’ll get it from renewable supplies and tell your power company how important it is for them to invest in renewables.

5. Set the temperature on your hot water heater to 120 degrees or lower.

6. Hang dry your laundry.

7. Stop watering your grass.

8. Plant something edible.

9. Shop your local farmers market.

10. Bring reusable bags along for all your shopping trips (not just to the grocery store!)

11. Purchase dry goods like beans, grains, and pasta from the bulk bins.

12. Start a compost pile.

13. Clean with vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap.

14. Walk if your destination is less than a mile away. Work your way up to two miles away.

15. Look for opportunities to carpool or take public transportation.

16. Add meat-free meals to your repertoire.

17. Purchase humanely and ethically raised meat.

18. Unsubscribe from catalogs

19. Unsubscribe from “junk” mailings

20. Refresh yourself on your communities recycling capabilities and look for opportunities to expand your recycled materials.

21. Carry a reusable water bottle or coffee mug.

22. Use reusable bags or glasses for food storage.

23. Eat fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown in your area.

24. Support local small businesses and local trades workers.

25. Shop consignment or second hand stores for clothing, rather than buying new.

26. Share infrequently used appliances and tools with your neighbors, like lawn mowers.

27. Shovel your snow instead of using a snow blower.

28. Set up a clothing swap among your friends and neighbors.

29. Support local conservation by visiting your state parks.

30. Let your grass grow a bit longer between mowings.

31. Purchase “made in America” and recycled materials.

32. Donate your own no longer used items to second hand stores.

33. Cook more meals at home.

34. Make your own coffee.

35. Use mulch on your garden to cut down on watering needs.

36. Wash your clothing on the cold cycle.

37. Switch from paper napkins, towels, and tissue to cloth.

38. Check out books from the library.

39. Sign up for electronic statements.

40. Sign up for electronic bill pay.

Again, these simple actions aren’t going to save the world from climate change, but they will start a habit of mindfulness about consumption and energy use. These small actions can help pave the way for you to start taking bigger actions, and they can start conversations with your neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers.

Do you have others to add to this list? Send them my way!

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Things making me go wtf this week

The Joy Cardin show on Wisconsin Public Radio had a local meteorologist as a guest on Friday morning to talk about the changing season and what sorts of weather to expect this fall and winter.  A guest called in asking if global warming is really caused by humans (insert massive eye roll and side eye here), and the meteorologist dodged the question by saying he didn’t think there was enough scientific knowledge yet to decide one way or another. He also said that he thought it would take us 50 to 100 years to make a decisive scientific verdict on the question. When people called in to continue  the discussion (and presumably to correct this man’s view of where the science stands) Joy stated that the purpose of the show was to talk about the weather, the season changing, and what to expect for this years winter, and they would not be taking call-ins regarding climate change. She then let the meteorologist re-state his dodgy stance that we just don’t know yet, we don’t have the science yet.

I had to change the radio station a couple times during this drivel because I was driving and I could feel my blood pressure sky rocketing as I rage-listened to this meteorologist.

It turns out that the this meteorologist’s view point is not uncommon among meteorologists. So here is an important public service announcement: Meteorologists are not climate scientists. They are NOT EXPERTS IN THE FIELD OF CLIMATE SCIENCE.

The Joy Cardin show was followed by NPR’s On Point, during which Tom Ashbrook covered the recent report showing that CO2 numbers in the atmosphere are soaring at a record rate.

Can we please stop giving climate change deniers a public platform? The science has shown every time that rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere are causing global warming, and the rate that CO2 levels have risen since the industrial revolution is unprecedented. This isn’t a question anymore, folks. Shouldn’t this meteorologist have been vetted on the subject before hand? Joy Cardin’s producers couldn’t have honestly thought that if they had a meteorologist on the show the subject of climate change wouldn’t come up, could they?

And now, to make me feel a little bit better about this whole thing: Who’s a Climate Scientist?

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A Bit of Background, Part 1

I’ve always been a nature lover. We spent many summer trips hiking through the woods at my grandparent’s house; camping in state parks; canoeing in the boundary waters; and getting pruney in the water at the nearest lake beach. My dad’s house sits atop a hill that has been having erosion trouble for years. Many spring and summer weekends during high school and summers home from college were spent planting various ground covers on the hill, a crop of strawberries along the path, and herbs in the back yard. I remember talking with my dad about bee keeping and how cool it would be to have our own hive, planting flower gardens in small patches of the yard, and hunting for raspberries or blueberries on various camping trips.

building earth autumn trees

But I don’t think it was until I was living in the mountains in Tanzania during my time in the Peace Corps that I fully grasped my connection to the earth. You’d think the fact that I’d joined the Peace Corps in the first place would have tipped me off to my crunchy-hippy-tree-hugging nature before then. But for whatever reason it took until probably about 9 months into my stay in Tanzania for me to realize that nature was my church, and appreciating and caring for the earth was my prayer.

When I left for the Peace Corps my intention was to return in just over two years and start applying to grad school programs in the area of aeronautical engineering. I intended to be an astronaut. Or at least as close to one as possible, working in the space industry. But, as so often is the case, plans changed.

building earth succulant

I lived amid subsistence farmers. Farmers with no running water and no electricity. No plows, nor tractors, nor work animals to ease their burden. These families were at the mercy of their own physical abilities,  the land (in this case mountain clay) and the weather to make their living. And they were living with the effects of ongoing climate change. The rainy season was shifting and growing more extreme in the Usambara mountains. For generations my neighbors had known when to prepare their fields and plant their crops in preparation of the oncoming rainy season. But recently the rains have been coming weeks or months late. And when they do come, they have been torrential downpours rather than the slow, steady rains they had once been, washing away their mountainside farms, and their income for the year.

Living in a community that so relied on the earth for their livelihood was one of the experiences that began to shift my post Peace Corps plans.

building earth light house

We may not have the ability to change or control the weather, but we can help each other live with the effects of climate change. And we can reduce our negative impacts on the earth and replace them with positive impacts. We have such a beautiful and bountiful rock on which to spin around the sun. I think we need to take care of it. Because that’s what you do when you have nice things.