With sea levels and temperatures rising, it’s no wonder many of us feel like lobsters succumbing to a slow boil. 2017 will not go down as a year where we came together to fight climate change—in fact, it will be known as the year Earth-troller-in-chief Trump pulled us from the Paris Climate Agreement and turned our national monuments lands into prospects for the prospectors.
But, there’s no crying in earth ball. Drop the cynicism and apathy. 2018 can be better—if we give the powers that be what they don’t want: a fight. This pale blue dot is worth it—and environmental warriors like the Washington, D.C.-based Astrid Caldas, the senior climate scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)—are here to remind us that we have the power to change the tides with small efforts in our everyday lives.
“It has been a good and a bad year,” says Caldas. “The federal government is attacking from the top down a lot of environmental protections. But, from the bottom up, a lot of things have been done to fight climate change and protect the environment.”
Here are the top steps you can take from the bottom up:
Forget Trump, conquer the Hill
Trump is a figurehead whose only real power comes from the cooperation of congress. So, who are your representatives? Find out and turn a laser focus on them. “They don’t want to lose their job. They’re going to do what their citizens ask. It just requires critical mass,” Caldas says. “Write to your representative. Check his or her votes.” If you’re having trouble starting a statement, UCS has a nifty guide here. “Don’t make it rambling. Make it to the point, make it specific, make it clear. You have to do your homework a little bit,” Caldas advises. Not much of a writer? Give them a call.
Stop being such a car diva
How do you get to work? Run errands? Pick up coffee? Try swapping the incredibly inefficient method of one *lonely* person in one car for public transportation, a bike or—gasp!—walking. “Transportation is huge,” Caldas says. “Carpool, use public transport. Fuel is a big waste. A lot of it just goes up in smoke, so to speak.” If you can’t drop your car everyday, consider going car-free on weekends. Take small steps to reduce dependency.
The eco house rules
“We advocate people to try to reduce emissions by 20 percent by doing several things,” Caldas says. Those reductions start in the home. Use programmable thermostats and energy efficient appliances. Buy power strips for your home entertainment center to avoid phantom power use from racking up your energy bill. Tap into renewable sources—contact your provider and ask about wind and solar options, or mix. Even relatively small adjustments can make a difference. “Do your washing in cold water. Hot water uses a lot more energy,” Caldas says. “Reserve hot water for full loads of towels or things like that. The detergents these days are so good, you don’t need hot water. And always do a full load; avoid doing smaller loads that use the same amount of energy.”
Cut down on burgertime
Caldas has simple directions when it comes to diet: “Eat local, and less red meat.” She says the UCS doesn’t advocate going vegan, but “red meat is a big source of emissions because it takes a lot of energy to get one cow out there. In terms of carbon, red meat is the biggest one.”
Don’t keep up with the Jones
Buy less. We all know the three Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle), and the UCS says that abiding by that catchy strategy cuts back on pollution, lowers your emissions and helps combat global warming. However, the order of those three Rs is vital: The most sustainable purchase is buying nothing. Demand for new goods drives manufacturing, which ratchets up emissions. Before picking up another slick gadget or a new shirt from H&M, examine the urge to satisfy your consumer craving. Perhaps, that desire could be met in other ways, by catching up with a loved one or taking a walk in the woods to remember what it is we’re trying to save.