There really isn’t just one thing that can be done at the individual level, said Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with Climate Central. He put the climate crisis in perspective this way: “No one person fixes this, but no one person created it, either.”
That’s not to say there’s nothing that can be done at all. Individual actions, when adopted widely, can add up and have a real impact, Sublette said. “I always tell people, do what’s within your means,” he said.
Here’s some individual actions he suggests:
- Drive Less: Combine errands into one trip or opt to walk or bike if an errand is nearby.
- Don’t Waste Water: Even if you don’t live in a region where water is scarce, Sublette said, you can still reduce your energy consumption by using less hot water. Try to take shorter showers and wash dishes and clothes with cold water.
- Don’t Waste Food: Rotting food in landfills emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas that accelerates global warming. Be deliberate about using up food so it doesn’t get thrown away.
- Reduce the Use of Plastics: Stop buying single-use plastics and opt for a reusable water bottle. Plastics are made with petroleum, which is energy intensive to extract.
- Plant a Tree: Not only can trees absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they also help cool urban environments.
- Switch to Energy Efficient Light Bulbs: Replace incandescent bulbs with longer lasting, energy efficient LED bulbs.
- Change Your Thermostat: Turning your heat just one degree lower or your air conditioning just one degree higher can help reduce your energy consumption.
- Invest in Solar Panels or an Electric Vehicle: These are some more expensive options to reduce your carbon footprint, if you have the means.
Once you’ve begun, tell family, friends and colleagues about what individual actions you’re taking to combat the climate crisis and encourage them to join you, Sublette said. Getting others on board will help make the problem seem more manageable.
“It’s a big daunting concept of a problem to solve and nobody solves it by themselves,” he said. “It takes everybody to do a little bit where you can.”