Think climate change is too big of
a problem to solve? Think again. Small changes in our everyday lives can
make a big difference. Just ask Patrick
Gonzalez, a Nature Conservancy climate scientist who sits on
the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the
scientific body assessing global climate change.
As someone close to what
climate change will do to our planet, Patrick has made energy
conservation a permanent part of his lifestyle. He and his wife have given
up their cars and run all of their errands using public transportation.
Patrick’s desk is always bare because he saves paper by reading almost
everything online, rarely printing out documents.
"Climate change threatens natural communities and human
well-being," Patrick said. "Each person can make a difference because one
small positive act multiplied millions of times produces immense
We can all lower our carbon
emissions by following Patrick’s top energy and climate-saving
You Can Do To Help Our Climate:
- TIP: Travel light. Walk
or bike instead of driving a car. Cars and trucks run on fossil fuels,
which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In the United States,
automobiles produce over 20 percent of total carbon emissions. Walk or
bike and you’ll save one pound of carbon for every mile you travel.
- TIP: Teleconference instead of
flying. For office meetings, if you can telephone or
videoconference, you will save time, money, and carbon emissions.
Airplanes pump carbon emissions high into the atmosphere, producing 12
percent of transportation sector emissions.
- TIP: See the light. Use
compact fluorescent light bulbs. These energy-efficient bulbs help fight
climate change because they reduce the amount of fossil fuels that
utilities burn. You will save 100 pounds of carbon for each incandescent
bulb that you replace with a compact fluorescent, over the life of the
- TIP: Recycle and use recycled
products. Products made from recycled paper, glass, metal and
plastic reduce carbon emissions because they use less energy to
manufacture than products made from completely new materials. For
instance, you’ll save two pounds of carbon for every 20 glass bottles
that you recycle. Recycling paper also saves trees and lets them
continue to reduce climate change naturally as they remain in the
forest, where they remove carbon from the atmosphere.
- TIP: Inflate your
tires. If you own a car, it will get better gas mileage when
the tires are fully inflated, so it will burn less gas and emit less
carbon. Check your automobile monthly to ensure that the tires are fully
inflated. Follow this tip and save 300 pounds of carbon dioxide for
every 10,000 miles you drive.
- TIP: Plant native
trees. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air and use it as
their energy source, producing oxygen for us to breathe. A tree in the
temperate zone — found between the tropics and the polar circles—can
remove and store 700 to 7,000 pounds of carbon over its lifetime. A tree
that shades a house can reduce the energy required to run the air
conditioner and save an additional 200 to 2,000 pounds of carbon over
- TIP: Turn down the
heat. Heating and air conditioning draw more than half of the
energy that a home uses in the United States. Turn down the heat or air
conditioning when you leave the house or go to bed. You can easily
install a programmable thermostat that can save up money and carbon.
- TIP: Buy renewable
energy. Electricity generation produces 40 percent of carbon
emissions from the United States. A growing number of utilities generate
electricity from renewable energy sources with solar panels, windmills
and other technologies. If your utility offers renewable energy, buy it.
If not, send them a message asking for clean energy.
- TIP: Act globally, eat
locally. If you shop at a supermarket, the food you buy may
travel in a plane from the other side of the world, burning fossil fuels
the entire trip. Shop at a local farmers’ markets and you will find
fresh and healthy food, and help save our climate.
picture credits (top to bottom, left to right): Photo © Tony Rath
(tree); Photo © A. Pinckard (Patrick Gonzalez).