Okay – now is the time that people are making their lists for how they are going to have a better year, and, hopefully, help the planet. There are many possibilities… Certainly I won’t be able to get all of these done. But if we can all do at least three-four, progress will be made. With 7 billion (soon 8 billion) people, every square foot of this planet needs preservation help, and we all become responsible for helping save a portion. Every cubic meter of air that is less polluted helps grow trees and keeps the system running. I still feel very proud that my blog in the Washington Post about putting a green roof of my 19′ x 8′ front porch (whoop-ee-do some folks thought – too tiny to make a difference) inspired someone else to put a green roof of their front porch. I had helped save another 160 square feet of the planet, plus helped waterways downstream! [By the way, Washington DC is installing more square footage of green roofs than any other city in the US (though it often alternates with Chicago) – with a lot more square footage than that.[see my WashPost blog.]
Changes start with small steps that blossom – and New Year’s resolutions count. Here are some to consider:
Resolution Type 1 – Helping others help the planet.
This one is often the easiest, especially for folks with a little money to spare – but it doesn’t always require money. I mentioned a couple of these in my first post, but here they are again. Here’s what you can do; I put in blue whether I plan to tackle it or not:
- Donate to an established conservation/climate change organization – with experience in getting things done. I would first start with 350.org. (Me: Done (several times) ahead of schedule).
- Donate to Kickstarters – where new entrepreneurs are creating inventions to help. (Done. There weren’t many climate specific ones to the US – only four, but I did one regarding styrofoam recycling. First backer – we’ll see if this guy is able to pull it off (though he didn’t provide much background.)
- Donate your miles! Many credit card banks and airplane company mileage systems not only let you spend your miles on travel – but let them donate your miles or points to conservation organizations. I have no points at the moment, but two years ago I donated either Capital One or American Airlines miles for plane ticket for Conservation International. I thought that was pretty cool.
- Sign a petition getting communities to divest in coal, fossil fuels. For instance, I just signed the http://dcdivest.org/sign-the-petition/. 350.org has a good map on it for finding like-minded organizations.
- Spend a day every month or two volunteering on sustainable, environmental issues, such as tree planting. I do some via Green Neighbors DC (greenneighborsdc.org), but also just discovered Sustainable DC, which has a monthly calendar for volunteer events, which I will be checking out; I resolve to volunteer at least 4 times this year for environmental action. I already have plans on January 28th to help Green Neighbors folks do the Polar Bear Plunge (I am support this year – I did my bit freezing for the environment in 2014.), and just now, on the 16th to help the Student Conversation Association clean up Anacostia Park. I’ll gather up some other ideas and post – send some for your region! (haven’t done the other three times! aie!)
Resolution Type 2 – Out and about
- Take a train trip. I mean, really, why are people driving so much? The tolls from DC to NY, for instance, take up half of the price of a train ticket. But via train, the chances of dying are less, and you have – wait for it – leg room. You also meet interesting people. I still remember the day I met a young college student who asked if I was retired or still working. I was 46 years old at the time. It is what Facebook moments are meant for. Anyway, train trips can be wonderful – Chicago to DC goes through mountains. Oklahoma to Texas has great scenery. My resolution – take at least one train trip when I would have flown or driven instead. Done! (see Training-Ourselves)
- Or take the bus. $35-50 roundtrip DC to NY. (REF links). Often they play movies. But the train is better, more comfortable, and far better bathrooms. (If you do take the bus, make sure it is one that makes a stop at a rest-stop on the way, because you do not want to use the bus bathroom.)
- Join people on the move. January 9th will be a 50-state protest against climate change: find out more about this and other January events, including a student walk out on the 23rd, at 350.org. I promise to join at least one protest, besides the Women’s March. However, see my concerns about protests in my first blog “Sending the Climate Message.” (haven’t done – wound up with pneumonia during the March for Science.)
- As noted in an earlier post – join a bikeshare. Now there’s a resolution for you – lose weight and help the planet! My resolution – once it gets above 50 degrees – bike to work at least twice a week. (didn’t do – pneumonia, then bronchitis, then some half-hearted attempts – this will be big in 2018)
Resolution Type 3 – Help the planet at work
- Have more conference calls and fewer trips (this one is courtesy of Sharon!). (haven’t been able to do)
- Join (or create) a Green team at the office. I’m on the waiting list for a rotating seat on mine. (Done! Now on the team.)
Resolution Type 4 – Help the planet directly at home.
- Caulk your windows!! I cannot emphasize this enough. Caulk your windows. This makes the biggest energy savings of all (Ref1., Ref2.) I am still amazed how when I first moved into my old row house – once I caulked about half of my windows (inside and out) I brought my heating bills down from $250 to $180. Now, with the rest caulked and various improvements, my bills are down to $90-130 a month – my goal is $50 a month. (In summer, they are $30 a month). My New Year’s resolution in 2017 is to get my winter heating bills to $50 a month. (Not yet close, but five new windows replacing leaky ones next week.)
- http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/learning-to-love-caulk-5-ecofr-124103 lists some eco-friendly caulks.
- Insulate your attic. My bedroom stays nice and toasty now because I have R-25 fiberglass insulation directly overhead (donated by a friend from his house renovation leftovers. Score!). My New Year’s resolution is to insulate my attic hatch door. (in process).
- Install a programmable thermostat. Yep – they do wonders. Done in 2014.
- Sell those awful leaf blowers! Leaf blowers generate more pollution than the worst truck! (REF1 – well-written and funny!, REF2, REF3 ). I don’t have one, but my new year’s resolution is to write one landscape firm and ask them not to use them.
- Via Bruce H.: “the Dollar Tree has LED bulbs for…, you guessed it, a dollar. Lowes and or Home Depot’s best price in an 8 pack is about $3.25 a piece. I replaced every bulb in my home for about $45.” (!) All my bulbs are either fluorescent or LED – but I will buy a set of LEDs for my parents, who I am sure will gladly welcome that as their mother’s/father’s day presents. (did! Also to my mom’s friend and caretaker.)
- Get an energy audit – usually free via a local utility. It is a process that uses infrared sensors and other tools to search for air leaks, and finds other ways to improve your house. (Here is a video of one). Be careful of scams, however! http://www.ktre.com/story/20007972/fox19-investigates-energy-audit-scams. The best thing to do would be to call your local energy utility, and ask for them to refer you to organizations. (Plus it will show the utility that you care….: double action counts more). My resolution – finish insulating one room and get at least two windows replaced – then by the end of 2017, get an energy audit. (won’t make 2017, but will do in 2018)
- Acquire building, home renovation, and misc supplies and goods via salvage yards and thrift stores. Habitat for Humanity’s Restores are fantastic – and are far more prevalent than one thinks. Second Chance in Baltimore so ROCKS! So does Community Forklift in Hyattsville, MD. Mom swears by one of the thrift stores in Henderson Texas. My resolution – utilize salvage paint only; with quality paint at $5 a gallon at Community Forklift, I don’t mind. (did only 70% of the time)
- Lease your roof for solar, or buy. If every roof had solar on it, the entire US would have enough electricity – no more coal power plants. Two active in the DC metro area are: Solar Solutions, and Solar City. My NY Resolution is to refinance my house, so that I can next either buy solar, or lease my roof for solar. I promise to at least have some quotes and hopefully begin installation in 2017 – despite the fact that the new administration will probably take away incentives. (so worrisome!!). (Did – refinanced anyway, still need to scope out solar; that’ll be 2018.)
There are soooo many other ideas out there, via ThisOldHouse.com and others for how to improve energy efficiency at home.
Resolution Type 5 – SEND A MESSAGE
See my first post for this, such as writing Congressmen, or buying a bikeshare. Some additional hints include:
- Wired magazine has a writeup about some recycled clothing. Help send the market a message! https://www.wired.com/2016/11/patagonia-recycled/. I promise to buy one clothing item that is made from recycled fibers. (haven’t done yet, but haven’t bought clothes yet this year either.)
- Just to update the status on a couple – I have written zero congressmen so far: 535 Senators and House members to go. (still zero!!! – this is bad. I need to do this.)
- A friend (Scott) let me know about a guide for how to make a difference politically. Look for it at IndivisibleGuide.com. (have my copy, but haven’t read yet!)
After I build up some more of these – through friends and our public Facebook Group (Climate Steps), I will start organizing these into separate Pages on the site, for easy access. So please send more ideas!