The Five Areas of Your Life That Have the Most Impact on Climate Change
When it comes to climate change, there are endless lists out there on what you can do to lower your impact or contribution to the global crisis. These lists can get overwhelming fast. Everything seems important, so it can be hard to prioritize those lifestyle changes and make new habits stick. So what's an aspiring eco-friendly human to do?
Carbon Data and Behavior Change Models Help Us Identify Biggest Climate Opportunities
Using carbon data and a behavior change design lens, we can identify which repeatable habits will make the biggest difference for the planet. Many models focus on one-time or occasional life events: travel, growing a family, buying a car. But small, repeatable habits are really the key.
Yes, plane trips have an enormous pollution footprint. But when we only focus on those occasional decisions, we miss out on the regular and more frequent ways to reduce our carbon pollution footprint. These small, regular actions can really add up over time. And these changes can be (dare we say it?) fun!
The Four Areas That Account for Our Biggest Individual Climate Footprints
If you're looking to reduce your climate contributions, these are the five areas are where you should focus shifting your daily habits to make the most lasting change.
Driving accounts for about ⅓ of our carbon footprint. It's a major reason why when we shut down during the pandemic we saw tremendous gains in clean air in cities. If we can keep up with reducing our gas powered car rides in the future, we can hold onto some of these gains and continue to make a dent in carbon emissions.
What you eat makes up 1/6th of your carbon footprint — more of you are a big meat eater, much less if you are 100% plant-based. Veganism has become increasingly popular and more accessible with a variety of options in stores and restaurants.
What we buy and throw away account for about ⅓ of our carbon footprint. Some greenhouse gas accountants are even doubtful on how accurately we can incorporate all emissions into each product calculation.
While we can't really throw some things "away" we can let them slowly decompose in a landfill or burn it. However, both options contribute to climate change. Diverting waste through recycling and composting are two big ways to reduce your trash pollution footprint.
These four habit areas represent our most regular daily and weekly habits. Making small repeatable shifts here can provide a huge shift in our pollution footprint over time.
Why We Can't Forget About Advocacy
While we know that eating less meat and buying less stuff will reduce carbon pollution immediately, it's also important to start building the habit to support better climate policy. Being more active in policy advocacy may sound daunting. But, as with everything we do here at Tree Shrugger, it starts with a simple foundation.
Think and Talk About Climate Change More
- Start by reading for 10 minutes a week about climate change. Once a week or over your coffee in the morning. Keep your eyes out for new reports, inspiring progress made in other countries, different types of climate supporters that are making new statements, and news articles. Not sure where to start? We like New York Times Climate and Environment, Yale's Program on Climate Change Communication, and Grist.
- Share what you learn and new planet-friendly habits you are enjoying with friends and like minded people. They say the best way to learn is to teach. And when we talk about things like climate change, it can challenge us to keep clear on the issues. Plus it's a great way to keep the issue at the front of mind to encourage more daily engagement.
- Revise your approach for talking with people you disagree with on climate change. When you meet someone you disagree with, we've found it's best to seek to understand their perspective, not try and berate them with more evidence. If they aren't interested, you probably won't be able to change their mind in one conversation. Remember: most people in the U.S. and around the world consider climate change an urgent issue. Make sure you are connecting with people that share your concern with action-oriented conversations, not just picking arguments with the most strident non-believers. If you are looking for a burst of inspiration on talking about climate change, check out Dr. Katharine Hayhoe's Ted Talk!
Looking to Take the Next Step?
So you know the areas with the greatest potential for impact. You're ready to tell your friends about the delicious dishes you're enjoying on Meatless Monday. If you're ready for the next step, Tree Shrugger is here to support you along the way!
We're so excited about the potential for change with these habits, we've developed a digital tool to help you find your 1% carbon pollution reduction habit shift, perfectly fit for your life, in under 15 minutes! You can grab a copy of the Tiny Planet Pack, here, or reach out to us with any questions, ideas or insight! We'd love to chat, and look forward to hearing from you!