Letting your voice be heard is probably the single most important action you can take to address climate change.
Let your elected representatives know your views on climate change – and ask them to act accordingly. Our representatives get lots of angry calls from voters against climate change policy, but few supporting calls. Yet research shows that the vast majority of Americans want action on climate change. Find contact information for your Congressional Representative and Senators.
Do the basics: Wash clothes in cold water and hang to dry, switch bulbs out to CFL or LED, turn your temperature up in summer and down in winter, use a Kill A Watt® meter to find the electronic and other power hogs in your house and then use power strips to really switch them off.
Next steps: Get a home energy audit. They can help with advice, including replacing old inefficient appliances like that old refrigerator (Energy Star calculator). That'll save money and emissions.
Ideally, you'll reduce your energy consumption before switching to cleaner, renewable sources like solar or wind (if available in your area). But going straight to renewables is still a great option.
Install solar panels, or buy renewable energy from your utility if they offer it. If they don’t, ask why not.
Transportation accounts for over one-quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (see our Science page).
Commute via foot, bicycle, mass transit, or an efficient electric, hybrid or gas vehicle. Combine vacations to reduce flying. Two people flying round-trip between Chicago and Las Vegas put the equivalent of about 4,600 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere (Berkeley Cool Climate Calculator documentation).
Most people don’t realize how much greenhouse gases are produced in the manufacture and distribution of “stuff”. For example, just manufacturing a new laptop computer generates about 200 times its weight in greenhouse gases (data from Apple).
So when you decide to buy, choose quality products that will last - and take care of them.
Meat, especially beef, has a large carbon footprint. A quarter-pound burger results in as much greenhouse gases as driving a new car about 8 miles (calculation details).
Producing a quarter pound of beef results in about 6.6 lbs. of CO2 equivalent (see Univ. of Michigan's CSS Carbon footprint factsheet). The average new car gets about 28.6 MPG. A gallon of gasoline produces about 18.9 lbs CO2, and refining, delivery etc adds about 27.5% to the emissions, for a total of 24.1 lbs of CO2. So it follows that eating a quarter pound burger is the equivalent of driving about 8 miles. Of course, your mileage may vary. Oh, and that’s assuming you don’t supersize it.
Try going meat-free a few days a week. If you choose to eat meat, go with smaller portion sizes. Better for you and the planet.