Heartbroken about the Paris Agreement? How to be "Still In" in Your Own Life

by - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

#Iamstillin how to support the paris agreement and decrease your household emissions

Like so many people out there, regardless of political party affiliation, I was absolutely crushed last week when our president announced his intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. To me, it was the worst day of the presidency so far, and many liberals and conservatives spoke out agressively against this decision. Because it's terrible. Seriously! What the heck!

In his speech,the president asserted that the Agreement did not work for American interests, but this, to me, couldn't be further than the truth. How can we be world leaders if the world is moving on without us? He also argued that the private sector will basically do it without the agreement. In some cases, this seems to be thankfully true (many companies fought against this nonsense), but if I have learned anything from two years of writing about companies and consumer culture, it's that many companies will always to the cheap thing, not the right thing. All in all, his speech only made me feel more despair and less respect.

Ok, so these guys are going to make even more unchecked and immoral amounts of money. What are the other upsides to this? And don't even get me started on "Christians" who cheer this blatant refusal to be stewards of this world. 

Since then, a lot has been said about what this president can actually do (including not actually leave the Agreement until 2020, leaving Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship as key issues in future elections) and what the agreement actually does (including that the terms are voluntary). Many American cities and states are standing up to continue participation, and the hashtag #Iamstillin has taken off. (Dear Mayor of Pittsburgh, I truly love you and your sassy tweet). 

Thank goodness we have leaders, both political and not, standing up for what is right. It's okay to feel powerless for a minute, but we owe it to our God, our country, and our children to pick ourselves back up and do something.

Maybe you haven't taken too much interest in the environment before. Or maybe you wanted to do a little more to help, but you weren't sure where to start. I have you covered. Now is the perfect time to make changes in your own life so that you have a positive impact on the environment. You can decrease your footprint and make your life better by just taking a few small and simple steps. No cursing our politicians if you aren't willing to make some changes yourself.

 If you are still in (I know #Iamstillin), and you want to help our country cut its carbon emissions,these are my best ideas for how. 

1. Sign Petitions, Send Thank Yous, and Call your Representatives

Need somewhere to start? Make your commitment to the Paris Agreement known by signing the "I am still in" petition here.

Trump and his EPA chief are nowhere near done, so it is up to anyone who cares about our stewardship of the environment, to pay attention and to keep speaking up. Get involved (or on the mailing list) for groups like The Sierra Club, 350, Moms Clean Air Force, Plastic Pollution Coalition,  or best yet, environmental groups local to you. Join, get involved, see if there are ways you can help. It is through a combination of more responsible personal decisions and larger political action that we can fight Climate Change.

It seems like a strange time for gratefulness, but already states and cities are stepping up against our president's reckless and greed-driven decision. We have to thank and support the politicians that are willing to do the right thing.

The list of cities, states, and organizations grows everyday (thank God), so I feel like my complete list is never quite caught up, but you can read about the Climate Coalition here and read the "We are still in" letter here. Poke around for cities near you, and write a quick note of support.

There are 9 states committed to fighting climate change thus far. Do you live in one of them? If not, it is time to contact your representatives. We have to put political pressure on leaders who are cowering to fossil fuel lobbies instead of the interests of the country.

If you are mad about something, don't just post on facebook or rant in private about it. Call the people you elected to represent you. If you need help, the simple website 5 Calls can hook you up with numbers and even language to use if you are even half as awkward as I am.

THIS IS NOT JUST A LIBERAL THING! In fact, if you call and say "I am a Republican I won't vote for you again if..." when you get stated, I promise you will get their attention more than I ever could. You don't have to come from a specific background to care about the environment, and if you voted for Trump for "insert reason here" not because he only stands for big business (and white supremacy), now is as good a time as any to tell your leaders so.

Make those personal changes for sure, but let leaders know this is important to you as well.

#Iamstillin how to support the paris agreement and decrease your household emissions - eat less meat

2. Stop Eating So Much Meat

When you hear "Cut emissions" the first image that comes to mind is probably a car. But cows should be right there next to them. Meat production, especially beef, has a really high environmental cost. Not only does the carbon dioxide have a warming effect, but the methane cows emit have even more warming power. From 2004 to 2014, Americans dropped their carbon emissions by 9% merely by changing their diets to include less meat. We still have further to go; Americans eat the third most beef of any country in the world, and beef still accounts for 34% of our dietary carbon-emissions.

So, you want to make a pretty easy change that will save you money, help your body, and lessen your footprint? Eat less beef. Eat less meat in general. I won't even tell you to eat NO beef or NO meat. But the more you can cut back portion sizes and eliminate meat from some of your meals. We do Meatless Mondays in our house. You could also eliminate meat from your lunches or breakfasts. Learn to love other protein sources like mushrooms or black beans (I have finally come around myself). Eat smaller portions of meat and more vegetables.

This is one of the easiest and most effective steps to take. Angry at the president about the Paris Agreement? Give up or cut down on beef until we as a country are committed to combatting Climate Change.

Simple right? On to the next challenge.

#Iamstillin how to support the paris agreement and decrease your household emissions carpool

3. Bite the Bullet and Carpool

Drive less is an easy command to give. Simple right? For the average American, our daily driving accounts for about a third of our yearly emissions.

So just use less fossil fuels. Of course, actually doing it depends massively on whether that option is even available to you. If you are in a city with good public transit, of course you can walk and use it more. But not all cities have great options this way and rural areas have barely any options.

So, if you have good public transit, use it. Even if it is a little less convenient, it's time to take the dive.

Don't have good public transit? Don't kid yourself into thinking you don't have options. You still can make a difference and have the responsibility to try.

First, whenever it is time to buy a new car, prioritize its environmental impact. Get a hybrid or an electric car if you can. They are becoming more and more common. Go smaller, not bigger. We bought our first new car this year and we got a hybrid. It is so nice to not constantly be buying gas, and I would never go back.

Second, if you are only a few miles from work or where you want to go, WALK or BIKE. In some areas and cultures this is normal. In others, not so much. You can get where you are going using the power of your own body and cut tons of carbon dioxide out of your emissions. Healthier, happier, maybe slightly more sweaty, but a lot more green.

Last, carpool. In my hometown, I don't know many people who choose to carpool, but I know lots of households where multiple adults are going the same place, but they all drive separately. Just stop it. Make a plan and go together. Maybe you won't be there exactly the second you want to, but that little bit of time will add up to cutting your emissions in half.

All of these choices are less convenient and come at a cost. But we spend so much time angry with big oil, and it is time to own up to our own addiction. It's like being mad at Walter White for being so terrible when he is YOUR dealer. Of course they will go to extreme lengths! It makes them money! If you want things to change, you have to change as well.

#Iamstillin how to support the paris agreement and decrease your household emissions buy less stuff

4. Just Buy Less

Studies continue to find close connections between our culture of over-consumption and climate change. Buying too much makes us miserable. Our homes are overfilled with things- the average house has 300,000 objects in it. How many objects do we really need?

This has a high environmental cost- studies like this one from the journal of Industrial Ecology shows that consumerism- from pens to knick knacks to our breakfast cereal- accounts for 60% of global greenhouse emissions. 60-80% of that is from household consumption.

Wow. So driving less can lessen a third of your impact, but buying less could do even more.

The wisdom now is that buying begets buying, especially in American culture. We all have too much stuff, and it consumes our thoughts and time. It sucks away our happiness. It is like any other addiction- we think buying that thing will make us feel better or solve a problem, and it often does, but only for a minute. But then another problem arises. And then you have to address the problem of how to store all the stuff. And then you need a bigger house to hold all the stuff. And then you need new furniture to fit into that house. The cycle never ends, and in fact studies show that it continues to escalate.

Now, saying just stop it is easy enough, but like any cycle, it's harder to break than that. It's a lot of what this blog is all about. Here are some suggestions for buying less.

Join the Buy Nothing Project. The Buy Nothing Project began in Western Washington to create sharing communities in hyper local neighborhoods. If you join your local group (or start one), you can begin gifting objects that you no longer need, but you can also ask your neighbors for things before you rush off to buy them. Being part of one of these groups connected me to our new community and shifted my whole perception of our stuff, not as permanent belongings, but things to be used and then passed on when they are no longer useful. We have saved thousands of dollars and prevented so many purchases.

Borrow. Ask friends to borrow, check out tool lending libraries or your local library for movies, books, tools. Try something like Rent the Runway instead of buying a one time use dress.

Make lists and plans. Have a grocery list before you get to the market so you don't overshop just because it looks good. If you are somewhere (like Target) and you think "Oh, I need that" write it on a list on your phone or on paper. You can buy it the next time you go if it still seems important. Often, it won't.

Pick another goal. We don't buy toys in our house. We go on adventures. Pick a goal that isn't material- a trip, a membership to a museum or zoo, a meal at a fancy restaurant, paying off school debt. Every time you want to buy something, ask yourself if you want it more than that experience.

Buy fewer gifts and experience gifts. We have so much pressure to gift gift gift all year. I love gifts. Maybe more than anyone, but now I see the value in gifting experiences and thoughtful gestures instead of loading up our loved ones with a pile of stuff. Gifting is a love language, but I try to think about how to say something loving succinctly.

Stopping this cycle is so difficult. I certainly haven't figured it all out. But the more you fight the constant cultural push to buy, the happier you will be and the more you can fight Climate Change.

#Iamstillin how to support the paris agreement and decrease your household emissions buy used and local

5. Buy Secondhand and Local

We often think about the fuel it takes to move us around (many of us pay for it at the pump, so it is easy to track!), but have you ever thought about how much fuel your stuff uses? 

A 10 hour flight uses about 36,000 gallons of fuel. If you go shopping for clothes, buy three pieces all made Elsewhere, all three of those things have to travel across the world to get to you, that's three 36,000 gallon trips. The cost may be subsidized, but the fuel use is the same, and the tremendous network of shipping accounts for as much of our impact. 

So how do we fight huge shipping emissions? When you have to buy something, buy things that have traveled much shorter distances. 

First, buy used. Consignment stores will have gotten its merchandise locally, so it traveled much shorter distances. In a perfect world, we would be buying at least 50% of our purchases in secondhand stores, especially clothing. 

When you can't get it used, get it local. Buy made in America, because your stuff will have traveled much shorter distances. Buy food from local farms and vendors whenever possible (even better- grow some of your food yourself!). Americans only buy about 10% Made in America objects, and there is an assumption that "everything is made in China nowadays." Not true, and I have 2 years of writing to prove it. Check out my Giant List of Shopping Lists to see made in America options for most everything you buy. You will lessen your emissions, add American jobs (bonus!), and send the message to companies that you will invest in American-made goods. 

#Iamstillin how to support the paris agreement and decrease your household emissions stop using plastics

6. Plastics are Big Oil. Stop Using Them

Just today, another article came out explaining how deeply invested Big Oil is in plastics. 6 to 8% of our fossil fuel use is now plastic. That may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but the damage plastic does is deep and completely preventable. Plastic is terrible for us on every level and one of the huge battles of the millennial generation is to undo the decades of plastic-dependence that we were raised in and that came before us. Because plastic is evil and destructive.

And they know it. Plastic lobbies around the United States are viciously fighting against plastic bag bans, but we as the American people have to fight for our own interests, and that means giving up our plastic habits.

If you are angry about the Paris Agreement, stop using plastics.

 One time use plastics- coffee cups, plastic straws, plastic bags, and plastic bottles- most of all. When you grocery shop, use reusable bags and produce bags. Always ask for "no straw" when you go out to eat. Bring a coffee cup with you. Drink water out of the tap when you can (because that's all bottled water is anyway). Pick food with less plastic packaging (it's better for you too). Avoid plastic toys. Use bar soap. Harass companies when they have plastic packaging. Fight plastics.

#Iamstillin how to support the paris agreement and decrease your household emissions plant trees

7. Go Plant Something

I know it sounds quaint, and we can all conjure up a cutesy picture of a toddler with a seed in their hand, but adding green life to this planet can offset carbon emissions dramatically if we all do it. Plant a tree. Plant 5 trees.  

Trees fight Climate Change on the most local level all the way out to global impacts. Three trees can offset all the carbon your car produces in a year. Even if just the 59 million people who voted against this administration went out and planted one tree each, that is 59,299,381,000 KG (or 130,732,756,814 pounds- that's BILLIONS of pounds) of CO2 offset. 

The simplest way to start is to plant in your own backyard. Not only will trees offset your carbon, but the shade and placement can also cut down on your energy costs. If that's not an option (no yard, no more room, etc), hundreds of American cities have now committed to continuing with the Paris Treaty. Of these cities, many already have greening your city initiatives (here is Seattle's- here is San Jose's, here is Pittsburgh's). Does your city? Look it up and be surprised! If not, you could start a re-greening group where you live!

If you don't have the time for that, you can put your money where your mouth is and donate to the Arbor Day Foundation or the Plant a Billion Trees campaign. Buy people tree donations as gifts. Ask only for tree donations for your birthday or Christmas! Contribute to this important mission!

8. Have More Clean Power. Use Less Dirty Power.

This can be as broad as looking into clean energy options for your home to turning things off when you aren't using them.

Recently, Google posted a solar calculator where you can see whether the building you live in is a good qualifier for solar energy. It is a big investment, but the people I know who have gone for it love it, and it pays itself back. Elon Musk recently announced a solar roof that will cost less than normal roofing, which will hopefully be the norm in 10 years.

 If that option is way out of your league (I know it is for us), check into your city's options for getting green energy- I know in Seattle, you can opt in to a sustainable energy program. Also, talk to your city leaders and push them to become one of the MANY American cities that are now working towards running purely on renewable energy.

If you can't do much about where your energy comes from, you have a lot of control about how much you use. Turn things off when you aren't using them! Hang dry clothes and keep lights off in the summer. You are just shaving energy use away, but those shavings can add up. You have to shift your habits, but once you do it, it's not so bad.

#Iamstillin how to support the paris agreement and decrease your household emissions

This is just the tip of the (melting) iceberg. None of us can do everything to offset emissions, but we can all do something and we can all do more. Stand up against Climate Change and for the Paris Agreement by taking these steps and letting your elected officials know you are doing it.

Want to make your home greener? No matter the size or location, you can limit your waste and make your house have a more positive impact on the environment. Check out the Green Home Page for thousands of ideas on how to do it. 

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  1. I like how you gave people options to do something that they cared about. They may not agree with the decision but they can still do some things to help the cause. Secondhand shopping is in the rise!

    1. Oh yeah! I feel like everyone has to do what works for them, but everyone can do something.

  2. Great post! I try to buy second hand whenever possible. Thanks for raising awareness.

    1. Buying secondhand is so important! Hope it just gets more momentum.

  3. These are all great tips. I have been buying things second hand and have been reusing plastic bags. Global warming is a serious thing and we need to do something about it.

    1. So true. Buying secondhand is so great because you save money and do good! Such a win, I hope it catches on even more.

  4. You got this mama! These are great ways we can be active advocates for change in our lives and communities. Thanks for the reminder because so many of these SMALL steps add up to little things each day, its why we take small steps to cloth diaper, shop local, and I'm working on eating less meat.

    1. That's awesome! If we all take some small steps, it really will make a difference. Good luck on cutting out meat- I know it can be tough!

  5. We are definitely being more proactive in the cause. I love the line buy experiences and not things. I can't count how many times I've seen my children waste products I opt just to go to a park of the beach. No need for trinkets!

    1. Right! It's amazing just how fast they get bored with toys. So much better to help them learn to entertain themselves with creativity and adventure, not stuff!



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