Tomorrow a powerful storm is headed into the Northeast bringing unprecedented rain, wind and flooding. This seems like the same headline that we’ve been seeing all year. No matter where you live in the world, there are significant signs of climate change which are threatening all living things and our future.
Tackling climate change seems daunting:
· Transform the planet from burning fossil fuels to net-zero carbon impact
· Change from cheap, disposable products to those that can decompose and put nutrients back into the life cycle chain
· Rethink how our (humans) are impacting our earth environment and make changes to reduce or eliminate our impact
So, what can we do?
Here are 5 things you can do individually or as a family that can help transform our world:
Start composting – When curbside composting first introduced in our town, I was a skeptic: Does it really make environmental sense for a company to drive all around town to pick up bags of compost? Then, I realized how much food waste we were throwing out every week, even as empty-nesters.
Throughout America, millions of tons of food and organic scraps are buried in landfills or burned in incinerators every year. At the same time, millions of acres of rich soil are being depleted by intensive farming. Combined with climate change, this is putting increasing pressure on the precious farmland we have to grow crops. (My daughter knows this first-hand from the farms she has worked on each summer over the last four years.) By composting you’ll be returning to the earth valuable and rich natural fertilizer. No place to dump your organics? Many towns in Eastern Massachusetts now offer curbside pick up of compost. See https://www.mass.gov/composting-organics
Say no to plastic – Yes, I’ve seen the studies showing that cloth grocery bags require substantially more energy and resources to produce versus a plastic bag. And, yes, they cost more, too. But plastic is everywhere—in our lakes, rivers, roadsides, vacant lots and oceans (The Giant Trash Island https://youtu.be/vrPBYS5zzF8).
How did we get here with plastic? I remember as a kid growing up in New Hampshire bringing paper bags full of trash out to the steel garbage barrels in our barn and then dragging them down our long driveway for pick up on trash day (our neighbors loved that sound of metal!). We had 7 or 8 cans (2 adults and 5 kids at home at the peak), there was no recycling and everything went to a landfill. Yet, today we line our kitchen trash basket (which is full of discarded plastic items) with a plastic bag and then bring it out to the garage to place it in the plastic town trash bag (which we have to pay a fee) in the plastic garbage barrel. In our town of Natick, MA that trash is hauled to the commercial incinerator in Millbury, MA and—you guessed it—is burned with natural gas.
So, just start saying “no” to plastic. Use paper bags or, better yet, try skip the trash bag liner completely! Will the kitchen trash bucket get dirty—of course. Just rinse it out as needed. When I was a kid, washing the trash barrels was a regular, quick chore at our house. How long could it take? And, it is keeping countless plastic bags out of the environment.
Plant a raised bed garden – Consider planting a raised bed garden next spring. Why? Because almost everything we eat involves huge carbon inputs (think of those fresh blueberries from Chile that you pick up in the winter months; they are flown or trucked great distances). The carbon footprint of food is gigantic. Commercial farming today is very carbon intensive (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intensive_farming).
A raised bed allows you to grow some of your own food locally in a small space. Some are as small as an end table, others are 10’ x 20” or more. Besides, you and your family will learn more about your food and eat better, too!
Drive less, drive green – Transportation produces a large amount of carbon dioxide. Every time you hop in the car or take a plane, you are burning a lot of fossil fuels which produces more carbon dioxide. Consider sharing a ride with someone instead of “taking separate cars” to the same destination. Besides, you’ll have company for the ride. Your therapist (if you have one) would likely recommend sharing the ride, too.
Many of you know that I bought my first electric vehicle (EV) in 2018 and our second in 2021. While many EVs are expensive, the number of new models has exploded this year and will continue to grow rapidly.
Why EVs? They produce as little as 1/3 of the carbon dioxide of an internal combustion powered vehicle. If you charge your EV with renewable energy (e.g., solar panels on your home), you can reduce your operating carbon footprint to zero.1 Many more affordable EVs are coming soon. Stay tuned. See Green Energy Consumers Alliance for more info (https://www.greenenergyconsumers.org/)
Get a home / work energy audit – While buying an EV is a good step, cars are not cheap. A more affordable step that can have significant impacts is to make sure your home is properly insulated and sealed up for the cold winter months (and the hot summer months, too). A great place to start if you are a Massachusetts resident is MassSave (https://www.masssave.com/).
Sponsored by the major utility companies in MA, MassSave has multiple energy efficiency programs for residential, commercial, multi-family and community organizations. The first step for in this area is to have them perform a no-cost energy audit. Then you’ll learn about next steps you can take to lower your energy consumption or even eliminate you carbon footprint.
These are just a few ideas to get you started in 2023 as you are thinking about what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. If you are a parent like me, you are very interested in making sure that your kids and their kids will still have a great blue planet in which to live.
Every little bit helps!
If you have questions about how to become more sustainable, give me a call. I’m here to help. You can schedule a quick call with me by clicking HERE.
Lyman H. Jackson
· 5 ways to reduce your carbon footprint now https://planwithfps.com/blog/5-ways-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint-now · Year-end tax planning tips for 2022 https://planwithfps.com/blog/year-end-tax-planning-tips-for-2022 · Avoiding a surprise tax bill https://planwithfps.com/blog/avoiding-a-surprise-tax-bill
1EVs involve the expending of fossil fuels to manufacture most of the parts that make up the vehicle. In addition, the batteries require rare earth minerals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel. These minerals must be mined. As with most mining operations, it creates huge environmental impacts and workers are subjected to poor working conditions. Clearly there is more work to be done to clean up mining of rare earth minerals. Fortunately, major auto manufacturers are already recycling EV batteries and/or reclaiming these minerals once the batteries reach the end of their useful lives.
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