Relationships

The Most Important Thing You Can Do About the Climate Crisis

cape cod dunes

Many wonderful Cup of Jo readers have asked for a series on climate change, and we would love to kick off the conversation and hear your thoughts. (We will also have many more posts coming up.) First off, here’s the single most important thing you can do…

Climate change has been shown to be one of the largest threats to the global economy, national security, and, you know, the existence of humankind. It’s such a daunting topic that many of us (most of us?) often feel too overwhelmed by information or frozen with fear to talk about it — or perhaps we just don’t know what to say, so we say nothing at all.

Turns out, that’s a big part of the problem, according to climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who directs the Texas Tech University Climate Science Center. “The most important thing any single one of us can do to fight climate change is talk about it,” she told me on the phone. Because, right now, the most urgent threat to our climate is the lack of understanding around it and our role in its future.

So, what is really happening and what do we do? And does any of it actually help or are we just doomed? On that last one at least, the answer is simple: No. While the situation is dire, hope is certainly not lost.

With Hayhoe’s help, we’ve put together a list of helpful — and actually doable — things we can take on to make a difference.

What can we do? A lot, actually!

Faced with this huge, complex problem, it’s so easy to throw up our hands. Do any of our personal changes matter at this point? YES. In fact, they’re necessary. Think of this as a three-tier process: Individual action, community action and policy change.

1. First, Individual Action

Start by figuring out the biggest piece of your personal carbon footprint. Hayhoe suggests using a detailed carbon calculator. “Each of us has a different lifestyle, so the biggest bang for our buck in reducing our own carbon emissions could be very different from someone else’s.” It might be your daily commute, your heating system, your food choices, or where you shop. Hayhoe also recommends checking out Project Drawdown which ranks 100 different solutions to climate change — from composting to eating a plant-rich diet to choosing LED lighting — based on how much carbon they would reduce. Once you find out what makes up your own footprint, then consider the solutions that might help you reduce it.

2. Second, Community Action

Many of our personal changes can then be implemented at the community level. Take the goal of reducing food waste — a huge factor, especially in this country. We throw out a third of the food we produce, according to Hayhoe. “If global food waste were a country,” she says, “it would be the third biggest emitter of heat-trapping gasses, after China and the U.S.”

You can start by addressing your household food waste, and at the same time, look into your local groceries to see what their policy is on misshapen apples and other “unsellable” produce. “There are many nonprofits that collect these items and distribute them to low-income households which may not be able to afford fresh produce.” Is your supermarket working with one? If not, perhaps start researching organizations yourself. Email your local officials and put it on their radar, too. You don’t have to be an expert or a full-time activist. Just get the ball rolling.

To find organizations in your area, you might start by searching for nonprofits in your region on Charity Navigator or GreatNonprofits. You can also look at your local government website to see what initiatives your community is working on, and how you might get involved. And check out the solutions detailed on Project Drawdown, which offers great (and doable!) ideas for both individuals and communities.

Doing the work in your own home and your neighborhood, no matter how big or small, does have a meaningful impact. “It’s a win-win,” says Hayhoe. “You’re reducing your carbon footprint and modeling that behavior to your larger community,” which then sets an example for the next town over, then the county, then the state. That’s how individual actions can become policy change.

3. Lastly, Policy

Individual and community action are necessary, but as Hayhoe points out, our personal choices can only control 30 to 40 percent of national emissions. We need major policy changes in order to address the large-scale damage done by corporations, industries, and government regulations (or lack thereof). “What we have to do is convince our elected leaders that this is really important.” And, frankly, a lot of us don’t realize it is. Current data indicates 70 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening. Only 61 percent are worried about it. Only 41 percent think it will have any impact on them.

And right now, research shows, most of us never discuss climate change at all! As long as the public — especially the voting public — remains divided and under-informed, we won’t be able to put that necessary pressure on our leaders. If we want this to be the kind of issue that politicians pay attention to, it’s up to us to make it one.

That’s why, Hayhoe affirms again, “the most important thing that any one individual can do,” says Hayhoe, “is talk about this. And I don’t mean talking about all the science-y details. I mean, talk about what we’ve done in our own lives, the way climate change affects us where we live, and how there are positive solutions.” Did you start composting? Tell your mom! Are you going meat-free during the week? Spread the word! These conversations, she says, should be had with everyone in our lives: friends, colleagues, neighbors, kids, parents. If we never talk about this issue, it will never be addressed. “And until we all understand and believe that there are solutions that can fix this, we’re not going to do them.”

Policy change has never happened spontaneously, out of the goodness of the government’s heart. Civil rights, marriage equality, women’s reproductive rights — all major social and political change has been fueled by vocal, unified individuals. Political change starts when we make it personal.

So, let’s talk! Please weigh in: What changes have you made to reduce your carbon footprint? Any great tips or smart articles you’ve read? We’re eager to hear.

P.S. A quiz that tests your climate change knowledge, a designer committed to zero waste, and the people who will be hardest hit by climate change.

(Photo by Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy.)

  1. Robin says...

    I was shocked to hear on the news today that much of Canada’s plastic recycling isn’t processed and is instead sent in containers to Malaysia. Learning this made me feel very naive – if Canada is doing this, other developed nations are likely sending their waste to developing ones to deal with. The scale of our trash boggles my mind. I do my best to recycle as much as possible, but this news really drives home that REDUCE is the first and most important “R”.

    • K says...

      Um yeh we did this for years with China

    • Ker says...

      Yes, it felt like a betrayal when I heard about this!

      And I recently learned that it links to a larger story reported on Planet Money at NPR. Back in the 70s or 80s when food and beverage corporations were switching over to single use plastic packaging, an environmental movement tried to fight back. But the corporations pushed an anti-littering and pro-recycling message to essentially distract all of us from the “reduce” side of the issue. The onus for action then ended up back on the consumer (don’t litter! recycle!). Infuriating.

  2. Sara Rectenwald says...

    Thanks for talking about this.

  3. E says...

    Thank you for this post, and for all the comments. To echo some previous commenters:
    1. If you live in a traditional suburban area, get rid of your lawn. You may think that the largest irrigated crops in the U.S. are corn and soy, but in fact it’s turfgrass – and no animal or human eats it. The amount of fossil fuels, water, chemicals (and time!) we devote to mowing, fertilizing, irrigating and weeding our perfect emerald-green lawns is staggering. Find native plants for your area, and explore water-friendly xeriscaping.
    2. Stop buying vitamins and supplements. These have been proven again and again to have no efficacy and their excessive packaging is rarely if ever recycled. Take the money you spend on vitamins and buy lots of vegetables or a CSA membership instead.
    3. Support small farms in your area, but ask questions at the farmers’ market. We have “farmers’ markets” here in Colorado notorious for greenwashing – they buy in truckloads of fruit and vegetables from California and Mexico, then resell it at markets that are not grower-only. Know what’s in season in your area; if I see tomatoes here in April, I’m definitely asking where they came from. And ask farmers if they deal in seconds; many have imperfect produce that they can’t offer at full price, but they’d love to still sell it. If you’re going to can or freeze it, seconds are ideal.
    4. Stop buying eggs from “vegetarian-fed hens.” Any poultry keeper will tell you chickens are omnivores – they eat grubs, worms, grasshoppers, mice and more. If the egg carton boasts that the hens were vegetarian-fed, you know those hens have never seen the light of day. Battery laying hens live the worst lives of any animal in our country’s commodified food system.
    5. Avoid seafood, in all forms. Although minimizing beef and dairy helps, the oceans are under a much higher threat level, and a lot of seafood we eat is farmed under horrific environmental and human rights conditions. Omega-3s are available in nuts, seeds and other plant-based options.
    6. Start composting. Minimizing food waste is an important step, but our landfills are packed with organic matter (lawn clippings, food scraps, etc.) that could easily be composted. Compost isn’t smelly or messy when handled correctly, and it’s by far the best fertilizer money can’t buy.

    Despite all the above, I have absolutely no hope that we can solve this. I am a small organic farmer, I have chosen not to have children, I don’t drive, I live in a house without heat or A/C, I only buy secondhand and I grow almost all of my own food. But for every one of me, there are at least ten people in my rural, deeply red area idling their Dodge 2500 pickups outside of Walmart and throwing their energy drink cans on the side of the road. We’re just plain outnumbered. I’d love so much to be more optimistic and less gloomy, but I spend my days in an alternating cycle of rage and despair. I don’t believe we can vote/compost/recycle our way out of this, and yet I still can’t give up. I hope beyond hope that I’m wrong in my fatalistic attitude.

    • Karyn Hinkle says...

      I feel your despair, E, and I love your list and thank you for everything you are doing.

    • Alexandra says...

      Thank you E, for all that you do and for the great list. I think I don’t realize how “the other half” thinks, living in the bubble of the San Francisco Bay Area, where there are lots of electric vehicles (but also lots of SUVs, and a tremendous amount of excess, as well as a lot of homelessness and trash). I do have kids, and I am trying to instill in them how important it is to care for the environment, not produce waste, cut down on plastics, and I am trying to be hopeful that we can slow down global warming. But then I see starving polar bears and burning forests, and I so hear you with your despair. I go to the grocery store with my cloth bags and jars for bulk items, and around me are people that wrap each onion into a separate plastic bag ….. what difference can one person make? I sincerely believe though that we have to start with ourselves, and hopefully, can convince other people to do little steps as well. It’s not perfect and has been keeping me up at night.

  4. Sasha says...

    Flying less is definitely important, but my daughter’s grandparents live in Europe. Should we not visit them? I once teared up when I calculated how many more times I am likely to see my grandmother, using my frequency of visits.

    I am very concerned about climate change, but honestly think that the planes will fly whether or not I am in them. The main culprit, I think, is business-related travel. I fly much for work than for my once a year personal vacation. If you have the power at work, bring this up and suggest a skype or conference call instead of an in-person meeting that necessitates flying to another city.

    • I think the ‘planes will fly whether I’m on them or not’ is a really common thought. In fact, when the NY Times asked a pretty popular ‘zero waster’/put-all-my-trash-in-a-jar person about this…she said the same (she also posted photos from a cruise which is a terribly wasteful form of travel).

      Yes, that one flight will still take off, but if most of us change our approach to flying there will be a difference…and I think it’s a really important one. Since most emissions happening during take off, you can also do your best to fly direct. You could also look into offsetting your emissions.

      And since seeing your grandparents is a priority, if there were other trips where you might fly to (maybe a winer vacation or something) you could change your approach and stay local, within driving distance (or maybe a train trip).

    • Janie says...

      I listened to a program last week in which the interviewer stated that the person being interviewed (who flew to the interview site) had totally invalidated everything the interviewer had done in the past year to combat global warming and reduce his carbon foot print. Hard to believe….any other thoughts or verification?

  5. annie says...

    another thing i’d say is just look around and start seeing trash. and maybe… just maybe… set aside some time to pick it up. whether with a group that you organize via reddit or nextdoor or however, or just by yourself with your own two hands and a bucket. some days i’m entirely disheartened watching people walk right on by a plastic bag hanging from a shrub or an empty plastic cup on the street (sometimes right next to a trash can). just pick it up and throw it away. i think a lot of people are self-conscious, and also worried about the ick-factor when it comes to picking up garbage. well i am here to say that you’re allowed to be picky (there are some things i wouldn’t pick up with my bare hands for SURE), but for many trash items, this isn’t an issue. your skin is a great barrier, and you can wash those hands right off!

    • that’s wonderful!! great reminder.

  6. Angela says...

    I am echoing the chorus on many of the changes mentioned here. One thing I am starting to explore is more work at home (WAH) days. I work for a Fortune 50 company and when I think about how many people drive into work just to sit in a building everyday, I scratch my head. We have the technology to do extraordinary things- AI and machine learning, automation, etc. Why are we not employing these same technologies to keep our employees OFF THE ROAD and cut back dramatically on our carbon footprint? Maybe we can organize a “day without a commute” weekly/monthly and get the ball rolling on promoting a culture that WAH rather than coming into an office (the overhead!!) daily. I feel fortunate that I get WAH days twice weekly, but I can do my job at home EVERYDAY. Ask yourself how often you REALLY need to come into the office to do your work and start the conversation there. For me, I understand the need for networking and face time with colleagues, but maybe I can maximize that time by cutting back to 2 days a week. BTW I have a 45minute-1 hour commute, each way. I think it is high time corporations take some responsibility and this is an easy fix.

    Also, as I tell myself “I can’t afford xyz” maybe limiting my consumerism in other areas, will divert money to better alternatives.

  7. Jenny T. says...

    Thank you thank you thank you for covering this– it’s the most important issue our generation will face. I work at an environmental nonprofit and did a project on what the most important thing people can do to effect change and your post is spot on – 1) talk about it with family and friends, 2) ask your representatives to take action, and 3) make changes in your own consumption habits.

    Since that project, I’ve made a conscious effort to bring up climate change more often, cook more vegetarian meals, buy less stuff, leave my car parked for trips under a couple of miles, and telecommute one extra day a week.

    My husband also got an electric cargo bike. Besides being so fun, it’s so functional– we’ve hauled kids, groceries, plants from the nursery, and even a keg.

    • Kathrin says...

      Great post and totally agree!

  8. Amelia says...

    the MOST important thing an individual can do for climate change is go vegan!

    Cheese and eggs are delicious but is it really worth more to you to enjoy cheeses than having an Earth to give to your children and grandchildren?

    • hallelujah. science is very clear that animal agriculture is the number one threat to our planet, and there needs to be more conversation about this. since watching Cowspiracy, I’m back to a vegan lifestyle, and it feels so good. It’s not only great to know that I’m making my footprint exponentially smaller, but also not participating in an industry that is cruel to other living things. Plus the health benefits!

    • liz says...

      agree, except I think that is second to not having (more) kids. Not creating more humans (we have plenty) and literally more ~100-year American carbon footprints (the worst kind) would do more than you could ever as an individual. It’s obvious most people will not make this decision but it should be acknowledged as a fact.

    • KG says...

      Yes Liz!!! Why is this not discussed?? After taking a human ecology class WAY back in my college years, before most people were concerned about global warming, it became obvious to me that the root of all of our problems is overpopulation. We do have one biological child but we adopted our second child because of this. We’re also vegetarians and work hard to reduce our carbon footprint, avoid plastic, etc, etc, but, sadly, all of our efforts can’t come close to not contributing to population growth in the first place. And even more depressing is the number of children throughout the world who are desperately in need of loving homes.

    • Ker says...

      Thank you Liz!

      Going vegan for a year saves 0.82 tonnes of CO2. Having one less child saves 58.6 tonnes of CO2 per year.

      I tend towards veganism because of the animal rights issues (and saving 0.82 tonnes of CO2 per year is nothing to sniff at). But if we’re strictly thinking about carbon, an SUV-driving, meat-eating non-recycler with one child is way better for the earth than a bike riding vegan with two or more kids.

      It’s awful to talk about fertility decisions this way but we can’t afford not to.

  9. Whenever I read you, it’s like a mini-vacation for me. Thanks for the post and keep posting.

    • Rose says...

      I feel EXACTLY the same way!! As much as I’d love to, as a mom to 3 kids 5 and under who also works outside of the home, it’s hard to find the time. But even if I can’t during the week, my ritual on Friday evenings is to have a glass of prosecco alone with Cup of Jo after the baby is asleep and while my husband watches our little boys. I look forward to it all week!

    • Laura says...

      Vejibags truly do work at extending the life of produce, especially leafy greens. My hubby was completely down on the idea and money spent until he saw lettuce a week old that looked as good as new. Significantly cuts down on our food waste.

      A friend also gave me a used personal handheld collapsible grocery basket (brand is RSVP i think). Sounds dumb but it is amazing. I just throw whatever produce I want in there without any plastic bags or packaging, and also limit all of my grocery purchases that trip to what I can fit in the basket and carry myself. Saves me from buying misc snacks or things that catch your eye but you don’t really need.

      Canning at home. We have only ventured into tomatoes but I want to explore more. Esp at farmers markets you can buy produce in bulk on the cheap, or get the ugly bruised ones.

      I want to get rid of dairy but the hubby isn’t willing, though now he buys organic milk. I buy oat milk to use personally, as I did some research and found that all the other milk substitutes (almond, cashew, soy, I am looking at you) use a RIDICULOUS amount of water to produce. No thanks. Recently tried my hand at making my own oat milk at home… still needs work but I’m determined!

      If you can’t make something at home, buy the version of it in a glass jar at the grocer. Reuse the jar.

      Makeup: I haven’t made the jump yet to go makeup free, maybe in the future. In the meantime I’ve switched to sticks to avoid additional plastic. Eye shadow sticks, lipstick sticks, etc. Easier to pack too.

      In our apartment to help reduce heat loss in winter and improve cooling in summer we applied plastic window insulation. Comes in kits, super easy. Yes it is plastic, but because we don’t own we can’t replace with more efficient windows, and it saves so much on electric usage. You don’t notice once it’s up, and we plan to leave it there for the next tenant to secretly enjoy.

      Stick a bucket outside to collect rainwater, then water garden.

      Find your local dump and see what services they offer, or what items they collect. Those places are rather amazing. Sign up for neighborhood newsletters, go to hazardous or toxic waste collections, etc. Collect batteries to recycle, not trash.

      Don’t buy aerosols. No one in this century needs PAM. Shave with soap, it’s fine I promise.

      Get an electric toothbrush over disposable (anyone found a bamboo one that has good bristles? Or just bristles that don’t fall out?). Reduces your dentist bill, too.

      Donate to charities. For our birthdays this year we asked for donations to the National Forest Foundation, which plants a native tree for every dollar donated. Older family members already think we are crazy, so why not?!

      My number one motto: use what you already have. Don’t throw out the plastic tupperware in order to buy some fancy schmancy metal tin. Do those fossil fuels justice and use what ya got.

  10. Kathrin says...

    Thank you for posting this! I work for an international environmental organization and agree we need to talk more and help spread good information. Having worked in this field for a decade and doing lots of research on how best to live my life sustainably, here are my 5 tips on how to be part of the solution:
    1. Talk about it – as the article says the more we talk to friends and family the more this becomes a national conversation. Talking also builds community and helps you realize you’re not alone. Something we need more than ever right now.
    2. Tell your elected politicians- a phone call or email (not form email) telling your elected officials, regardless of party, has huge weight. They want to get re-elected and really pay attention if people are taking the time to call in about issues. Be constructive and concise. Just demand climate action because you’re concerned about the planet. You don’t need to get into scientific detail.
    3. Tell companies what you’re looking for. If your natural face cream has too much packaging, send feedback to the company to tell them you’d like to see less packaging that’s more recyclable. Companies make product decisions based on what sells and what their customers want. This works!
    4. Donate! I’ve worked with environmental organizations big and small and they are filled with really smart and passionate scientists, researchers, policy analysts, fundraisers and operations people. These are the best experts to figure out the solutions we need and get them implemented. But we’re all hugely underfunded. Environmental organizations only get a small percentage of charitable dollars – to do work to save the whole planet! These organizations can accomplish a lot on smaller budgets than most companies and governments, but we do get very little. Even $10 or $20 per month adds up to help change the world. Research the organization that does work that you believe in. Some good ones include WWF, Environmental Defence, Conservation International, and many more local and regional charities are doing great work.
    5. Use common sense and ask questions. So many things we do today are because they were set up that way before we knew better and we keep doing them because we don’t stop to question or think how we can do it differently (plastic bags, cups, bottles vs. bringing your own, driving instead of taking transit). Review your habits and make small changes. Its fun to involve kids and challenge yourselves to waste and buy less. You might also end up spending more time together and maybe even save money!

    Oh and plant native plants in your garden!!!!! This one is huge as you’ll see birds, butterflies, and bees return to your neighborhood right away. We desperately need more nature in our cities. Thanks for reading and I love seeing all the great posts and ideas here. It gives me hope. See you at the climate marches today!

    • <3

    • Jenny T. says...

      Yes to all of this, from a fellow employee of an international environmental org. :)

    • rose says...

      These are very good, considered tips, thank you. And thanks for working in the field! I know how hard it is – take care of yourself emotionally! ?

  11. Laurie says...

    This will be a great new series and a sizable forum for education and outreach! Will you do an article with experts weighing in on the ecological costs of plane travel? It seems that despite wanting to do good things for the planet, many of us (myself included) still insist on hopping on a plane three or four times a year to check out Portugal or Nashville or wherever is hot. Travel for pleasure by plane has become inseparable from our lifestyles and I’d love to know:
    1) how we got here
    2) how bad it really is
    3) and what are some reasonable plane travel goals.

    Thank you! I’m sure Portugal is great, but we gotta find other hobbies that don’t involve airplanes, right??

    • r says...

      Or book a sail!

  12. Mari says...

    My husband is a home remodeler, and it drives him crazy when homeowners want to gut their kitchen/bathroom/whatever and bring in all new stuff when what they have is great! It is staggering how many giant dumpsters ONE home renovation can fill.

    Try staining or repainting cabinets rather than replacing. Work with existing spaces rather than gutting them. Do you really need a stainless steel dishwasher, or will the old black one work just as well? Can you get your couches reupholstered instead of buying new?

    I’ve seen a number of blogs touting wasteful remodels (including some linked in CoJ!). One in particular that you linked to a couple of weeks ago where the designer ripped out a ton of beautiful wood beams and drywall and replaced with a fancier wood. Of course the design is beautiful, but it’s clear that waste was not a consideration. Just something to keep in mind as you read those sorts of “inspiration” pieces.

  13. F says...

    I am not sure how that would work with ACupOfJo’s business model, but I would like to see less encouragement for consumption, and more posts on sustainability. Yes, the new season is in, but I no longer feel comfortable about eyeing the new JCrew arrivals, for example… Or the sale at shopbop… Or the new decorative items to spruce up my home… I would like to see more collaboration with brands whose first mission is to transform their business model to address the environmental challenges we are facing. I am not sure how to do that, as I love this blog for its lightheaded posts too. Perhaps focus more on posts that highlight human relations, interaction, art, quality time, sustainable travel. I wonder what others think of this.

    • Jenna says...

      Excellent point. I was thinking the same. Especially that promoting fast fashion and/or companies like J Crew who take no strides toward sustainability.

  14. CathyMA says...

    We have been a low waste family for the last 15 years. It started as a cost savings thing, to actually seeing less waste. My kids have only known this way. When they were very little I started them helping me make our own laundry detergent. It was a fun activity for them. We made small changes a little at a time in our household. We wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t control what anyone does in their own house, but I can control how we live in our house. There are many on line sources I have found helpful over the years that helped us make small changes at a time. Take your time with it. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Everyone can make a positive change.

  15. Laura says...

    I work in climate finance and deal with the everyday realities of funding efforts that address climate change. I want to just say a big thank you for having this post – and I hope there are others to come in the future to continue the conversation! Thank you also for focusing on actions we can take (that are realistic and at multiple levels – not just policy or just individual action), and for featuring a scientist – both are approaches that are missing from many popular media pieces about climate change. While I agree with Darcy and other readers that there are more ambitious actions that can be suggested, this is a good entry point post and does highlight the most important thing – talking about climate chagne. Glad to see this discussion kick off in a meaningful, science-based, non-political, context on Cup of Jo.

  16. Anna says...

    1. Don’t fly. 2. Don’t drive. 3. Don’t eat animals or their by-products.

    The first two have been easy for me to achieve; the third is tough. I don’t eat meat but struggle to give up dairy. Currently my days are about two-thirds vegan, breakfast and lunch, but by evening I cave in and eat cheese. I’m working on it. My kids are vegetarians but again – cheeeeese.

    I also try not to buy anything I don’t need. So no new clothes, no fancy toiletries other than bar soaps, etc. Again it’s a work in progress. The hardest thing is cutting out the plastic crappy toys my girls want every time we walk to the shop.

    I’ve never used pesticides in our garden and it’s lovely to see the insects and amphibians we end up with even in our tiny patch. Next stop, dig a pond, plant a native tree and build a wormery. Sometimes I feel hopeless but I’m trying to improve every day and at least feel the process is making me a better, more mindful person.

    • Annie says...

      Thank you for stating this so simply, Anna. I would love to travel the world with my family. I’d love to see my sister in Italy, I’d love my boys to visit their grandmother in Ireland but we simply can’t do that anymore. My children are 18 and they have accepted this knowing that plane travel is an option we can no longer justify. The argument that the planes will fly anyway is ridiculous. As Greta Thunberg says,’ People are dying!’ Does she fly? No.

      For everyone talking about using paper towels and composting their carrot peelings, that’s good but also fiddling at the edges somewhat. Just stop flying, stop driving and stop eating the meat of ruminants. It’s pretty straightforward and it needs to happen straight away. Talk about it by all means but also act. Good luck with it and join me and my family in enjoying the world remotely and spending time with your far-flung family and friends on Skype. Or travel to see them by boat, coach or train.
      Watch Sir David Attenborough’s BBC documentary. You’ll cancel your flights tomorrow.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9WyLPgyuqo

    • Amelia says...

      but is your pleasure from the cheese worth the damage it does to the earth?

  17. Genevieve Martin says...

    So true that community action and policy are the only ways we can really start to make a difference.
    In the end people can only choose from the options they are given – like with packaging! All this effort to persuade people to go out of their way to only buy vegetables loose etc, but if all the supermarkets just stopped wrapping them then noone would have to think about it.
    Or if you can persuade your office to stop putting disposable cups by the cooler, in one action that probably saved more plastic from landfill than your personal efforts at home over an entire year! (Depending on the size of your office obviously)

    • Amy says...

      Excellent points Genevieve!

  18. Janey says...

    We live in the UK and have recycling bins, glass bins and composers on every street so no excuse not to recycle! All our family have good quality refillable water bottles which we take everywhere we go as well as refillable coffee cups. I use reusable food wraps and covers and no longer buy plastic. We are trying to eat less meat (unpopular with my house full of carnivores!!) We don’t use a dryer, instead hang laundry outside or on a pulley in the kitchen to dry. I buy refills for all our soaps/shampoos Tec instead of throwing away the dispensers. We are committed to taking only one flight a year (even this is too much) and use the train more.
    These are all such small things which do not really impact our lives…..I have a feeling we are going to have to step up our efforts and need to have a family discussion soon

  19. Deb says...

    Fun (OK not so fun) fact: The biggest man made object on earth is a RUBBISH DUMP. Let me say that again. A rubbish dump. It’s on that island off Manhattan. It used the be the Great Wall of China, now it’s a rubbish dump.

    Thank you for covering this topic CoJ you always do the sensitive things so brilliantly :-).

  20. Allie says...

    I’m seeing transportation pop up a ton, which is great – depending on where you live, it’s likely a top contributor to climate emissions. Not driving is one of the biggest things we can all do, but that also means we need policies (and electeds) in place that prioritize investments in transit, sound land use planning (big tie in to affordable housing), and safe places to walk and bike for people of all ages and abilities. Beyond that, it’s critical to remember the first “R” – REDUCE (followed by reuse and recycle). To that end, we’re on a quest to consume less. Step 1, we (gasp) quit Amazon. And we’re surviving.

    • Amy says...

      Oh Allie it is so on my mind to quit Amazon. We live in a small town and the selection around here for ANYTHING is terrible! It weighs on my heart though.

  21. Laura says...

    Gosh so many things. If this helps just one person make a change in their own life, it’s worth it. Talk!
    Coming from a mid 30s couple living in an apartment in Indiana, in no order:
    – we share one vehicle, a 2005. Use it til it dies, then plan to buy a used electric which are starting to come about now. We also did the math that the premium gas, while more expensive up front, gets us more miles per dollar. Win.
    – buy green energy credits via the electric company, essentially meaning we make our electric company buy wind energy
    – get the most energy efficient household appliances possible (at the very least energy star certified)
    – we do not buy beef. Occasionally we cave and order beef while out to eat, but it doesn’t exist at home and we don’t miss it. Bison is a good substitute if you’re craving.
    – use the seafood watch app from the monterey bay aquarium before buying any seafood either for home or while out
    – rely heavily on local farmers markets. We make a date out of it every Saturday morning. Also veggie CSAs both in summer and winter if you have a farm capable. Considering egg or meat (pork, chicken, lamb) CSA. Local bakery for bread or make it ourselves (truly cannot recommend Jim Lahey’s no knead bread enough). Only go to grocery stores rarely for milk and such. Look at labels, pick whichever has the fewest.
    – avoid any and all products with palm oil
    – everywhere I go I always have with me a metal spork, reusable straw, travel chopsticks (fold in half), a tea towel, a reusable grocery bag, water bottle, and 16oz zojirushi travel mug for coffee/tea, covers hot and cold. Its remarkable what you can avoid. Don’t even need the towels in public restrooms!
    – reuse food packaging as much as possible. Think beyond mason jars. Ideally bring a bag to baker to bring it home, but when we lapse we reuse plastic bags from other purchases. I even put popcorn we made at home into a store bought tortilla chip bag (the paper kind lined with plastic) to bring to the movies! Old PB jars, salsa jars, whatever. I once heard a grandma completely avoided tupperware parties because “all food comes in reusables already”
    – we couldn’t do home compost in the apartment, but there was a service in townwho picks up every other week
    – when I cave and buy via Amazon I saved all the boxes and packaging supplies. Started selling unwanted clothes/accessories on Poshmark and would use all that old packaging. Literally never had to buy a single packaging supply besides tape.
    – best kitchen tool EVER is a vintage cast iron pan we bought at a home vintage goods warehouse. Love that thing.
    – we got super nice coffee table/side tables from a small company that salvaged wood planks from torn down rowhomes.
    – our bedroom set is midcentury vintage from an online auction (ebth I think), bought at a fraction of the cost of a pottery barn or west elm or the like
    – Etsy or poshmark or vintage stores (which have become a fun hobby anytime I travel elsewhere) for clothing
    – I do buy new shoes but save up $ for solid quality so they lst forever
    – if we have to fly we try to get direct flights as often as possible. Yes, it costs more, but flying is one of the worst offenders for individuals when it comes to carbon footprint, so less fly time is better overall and actually MUCH more pleasant
    – find a local seamstress if you aren’t blessed with the gift. I’ll buy vintage or even gently used items even if too big because she can fix it, also she has patched nearly all my jeans at this point and no one would know ?
    – same for a cobbler. He has saved my brown leather boots that are approaching 10years old now!
    – wash clothes in cold water. There is nothing that needs hot water, I promise you. Dry everything on a rack. Jeans don’t get washed-the freezer trick works great. Actually nothing gets washed after just 1 wear except underwear (but not bras) and workout stuff (sometimes). Spot cleaning works wonders and delays a full wash cycle. Also FYI dryer heat kills elastic so those undies, swimwear, expensive workout gear, etc will die faster than you want
    – washable shower curtain
    – green household cleaning products, plus lots of vinegar
    – if I can’t get something gently used I now buy only from ethical companies. The definition of that varies widely, but with so many small sort of start up companies focusing on transparency, materials, fair wages, etc it’s easier than it has ever been to make a conscious choice
    – avoid takeout or delivery when possible. Even for pizza-do you know people actually go out to eat pizza at a restaurant?! Met our favorite bartender that way
    – no more paper towels or napkins. We now have a stack of vintage tea towels and cut up old towels. Only the nice looking ones appear for dinner guests
    – who gives a crap bamboo toilet paper (added benefit is that its the strongest tp I’ve ever used)
    – took old fading jewelry to a jeweler to have it replated in gold, to fix the broken strand of my grandmas necklace, etc instead of buying new
    – buy only used books. Start neighborhood library
    – put the temperature in the apartment on a timer so it only kicks up when we are home around dinner and again in morning when we are getting ready
    – gave up soda. If we have a craving while out or at the airport only buy a can, not a plastic bottle, as aluminum is immensely recyclable
    – window garden (basil, etc)
    – read “Give a Shit” by Ashlee Piper. I think I doggy eared every other page.
    – VOTE
    – join local environmental groups in your community
    – and finally, we don’t yet have children but I cannot bring myself to have more than one of my biological own. Perhaps consider adoption after, we will see. But the exponential effect of having just two children, who in turn have two children each, etc etc. This planet can’t sustain the number of human bodies currently in existence, so I cannot personally justify having more, both for my child’s sake and that of society.
    xo

    • Kimmie says...

      Thank you for all these ideas, I just ordered the Who Gives a Crap TP, I am so excited about it! I wanted to shared on tiny thing – I’ve been buying toilet paper rolls wrapped in paper for some time now, and reuse the paper wrapping to clean the glass in my house. The only time i ever missed paper towels was when cleaning glass, and now I don’t miss them at all.

    • Ker says...

      Bravo Laura! What a list. I’m seriously pasting this into my notes and coming back to it again and again. (And on that last point — yup. So well stated.)

  22. THANK YOU for bringing this to your blog. It’s the most important thing we should all be talking about and reading about now.
    Besides talking about it, we must cut WAY down on beef, lamb and dairy. It’s so easy and so necessary.
    Second, stop blasting the A/C and ask your workplace and other places to stop it. The U.S. way overuses A/C and the associated emissions are one of the biggest polluters.
    Another easy change–stop supporting fast fashion. I’d love to see your style posts reflect responsible choices in fabrics, production, etc.

  23. Laura says...

    We are doing what we can and it’s something I particularly love talking to my 4 and 6 year olds about. They really get it and it feels like talking about food waste also helps them finish their dinner? ;)

    But what I really want to post is this link. https://www.instagram.com/p/ByGmb-EJ45q/?hl=en
    We’re all taking small steps to get somewhere better. Let’s support each other!

    • Amy says...

      GREAT link, Laura!!

  24. Nicole says...

    The biggest thing I have chosen partly for climate issues is to not have a biological child. And hopefully the most impactful thing will to vote with climate in mind

    Other lesser choices we have made include
    – minimalist wardrobe
    -try to wait on amazon purchases till there is a collection to ship together
    – eat more plant based
    – live in an urban walkable (fun!) neighborhood and walk to places to eat/drink/shop
    – reusable bags, including sandwich bags
    – rely on my soda stream and growler refill at the brewery (need to do better on this one!)
    -compost

    Really I think a lot rides on the 2020 election. Trying to not be too anxious about it, and I agree that the more we talk about these issues in our every day, hopefully more people see the crisis at hand

  25. Katie says...

    As director of strategy at a leading climate nonprofit, I’d like to add to this list. And thank cup of jo for this wonderful post!

    4. Take the train or drive, just don’t fly! Flying in a plane is your single biggest carbon emitter. Any other ways you can reduce carbon intense transport are big successes!

    5. Invest your money responsibly. There’s great mutual funds and ETFs available that are “green” and “responsible” meaning they don’t invest your money in fossil fuels, and other dirty industry (cigarettes, etc.) You can put your money in these funds, and they do really well! You can also divest from funds that do include carbon intense industry. I did this recently and it took 15 minutes online! Feeling extra ambitious? let your HR rep know you care about your company’s retirement account options too!

    6. Vote! Vote for politicians who arent taking money from the oil, gas, and coal sector. If they are, they’re liking supporting major energy subsidies that encourage the use of fossil fuels by keeping it cheap, and allow environmental harm through drilling, like in our public lands. Write an email or postcard to your rep, telling them your care about this issue and will be watching thier votes on climate policy and fundraising in the fossil fuel sector. A 10 minute call to your congressperson on your lunch break is a big win!

    Thank you so much for taking care of this earth!

  26. Caitlin says...

    More posts like this please! I will enjoy scrolling through all of the ideas in the comments for more tips. The past few years my husband and I have tried to really be more conscious about our consumerism. Here are a few things that we do:
    -no more yogurt cups. We make our own or buy the giant tub of it for the week if we don’t have time. Then divy it into reusable containers for breakfasts/lunch.
    -no more buying ziplock bags. We still have some left from when we used to buy them and simply wash, dry and reuse those ones.
    -biggest thing we’ve done: change our mindset in terms of consumption. We do not buy things we do not need. I know people who go out shopping because there is a sale or they got a coupon. Nope. When we need something (need a button down for work, etc.) then we will buy it and we go to our 3 local thrift stores first. It can be tempting to see a cute decoration or something at a big box store like TJ Maxx, but when you start to really think about it, it doesn’t feel worth it. I’ve saved so much money and space in my house!
    -We try to grow as much as our own food as we can in the summer and then can and freeze.
    -No grabbing a to-go cup of coffee if I forgot my travel mug. I will survive.

  27. Helena says...

    I think this blog is part of the problem more than it is part of the solution, though. You guys are always trying to get people to buy new things every time the wind changes. You constantly advertise apartments with new furniture, models with new clothes. Creating a demand for new things costs energy, costs our environment. Would like to see more thought put into stories where people are using the things that are already here. Innovating reusability. Cherishing and repairing the things that we have. Being resourceful.

  28. I think there are two parts of climate change and sustainability that should be addressed. There’s the human factor (labor conditions, etc.) and the product factor (what you’re actually getting). The human factor: I have had friends who work on onion farms in Georgia and hear that they get paid either 10c per foot of onions planted or $25/5x5x3′ bin picked. The environmental factor: that cheap onion ends up in X grocery store for less than it costs to pick and transport it because it’s considered a loss leader and will bring you to buy other, more valuable things.

    I think the best suggestion I have for people is to support your local farmers’ market if you can. If you normally spend $3, spend $6. If you go for a specific ingredient, try buying all of your produce (or meat, seafood, cheese – whatever is available!) there. And support it after Labor Day when attendance normally trails off.

    People have mentioned food waste is a huge carbon emitter in this thread, but transportation of food is also an issue. I often wonder if people pay $3 for X at the grocery store for a product that would be the same price or slightly more at the farmers’ market, how much does that really cost by the time freight and emissions are factored in. Math isn’t my strong suit, so I may never know!

  29. I am a beef producer, and I was prepared to be really disheartened by the comments on this post, but I’m totally not! Diet is such a small piece of the puzzle (especially in the US where we have a very efficient agricultural system) that I’m so glad to see y’all talking about things like food waste, packaging, composting, commuting, energy use, etc. because those things are much, much more impactful than diet, despite what celebrities and the media tells us sometimes.

    We are trying so hard to go zero waste eventually, but we are in a season with young children and my bandwidth is kind of zero. I’m trying hard to support sustainable (ie less waste, compostable packaging, sustainably-sourced ingredients, etc.) companies, we don’t use much single-use plastic (hopefully 2020 is our year to use zero!), and tend to buy clothes secondhand (there are SO many great consignment and thrifting options online now!). Obviously, we also raise cattle so we do what we can there, too, and rarely water our lawn although I think that’s more because we don’t have neighbors and hate to mow, haha.

    2020 goals: ZERO single-use plastic, recycle *all* recyclables (a big feat where we are, the recycle bins are 30 miles away), get our compost on, no food waste, support more “sustainable” and low-packaging companies for consumer goods and textiles both, have less stuff shipped to the house (again, a feat because we’re so rural and Amazon Prime is, well, kind of lovely to have where we live), have less STUFF in general (hoping to save $$$ in the new year!) And, of course, guiding consumers to understand that meat is not the bad guy it’s made out to be, and helping folks connect with farmers and ranchers to understand where food comes from.

    • Joaquina says...

      Diet is NOT a small piece of the puzzle! Are you kidding? Or justifying your industry? Look at the environmental impact of animal ag much more closely, please. I am incredulous that anyone could gloss over how meat & dairy contribute to air, water, soil pollution. Not to mention the deleterious health impact. Look at how working class people of color are negatively affected by pig farms in NC then get back to us about how your industry is “not the bad guy”. Woe. Just wow.

    • Joaquina says...

      Diet is NOT a small piece of the puzzle! Are you kidding? Or justifying your industry? Look at the environmental impact of animal ag much more closely, please. I am incredulous that anyone could gloss over how meat & dairy contribute to air, water, soil pollution. Not to mention the deleterious health impact. Look at how working class people of color are negatively affected by pig farms in NC then get back to us about how your industry is “not the bad guy”. WJust wow.

    • Kate says...

      Cutting your beef and meat consumption is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. According to the U.N., animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of all human emissions, of which beef is responsible for half! Reducing your beef consumption is a fantastic, healthy way to reduce your carbon footprint. That said, we all love a good steak as a treat: if you’re going to have one, buy local, from a grass fed farm and avoid beef that’s traveled far too far to you. Much of the carbon intensity from beef production comes from land use change (deforestation), methane (from cows), transport, and feed intensity. Selecting high quality, local beef means a tastier meal and less greenhouse gases!

    • Yael says...

      The reality is that meat production IS a huge part of the problem. Which is why multiple studies suggest that the 3 biggest things humans can do to reduce their carbon footprint are: 1. Have one less child 2. Stop eating meat or eat less meat 3. Stop flying or fly less (in that order)

    • Cait says...

      I would actually be really interested to see a post from someone like you in this series, Cassidy, to try and see what those in the agriculture industry are doing to fight climate change both in your jobs and on the side. I am vegetarian, but my husband is decidedly not and I don’t forsee him ever wanting to be, so it would be interesting to know what to look for in a meat provider (outside of humane conditions being the most important.)

    • nathalie says...

      Cassidy, I’m sorry to say but I really do not think you have a very efficient agricultural system ( i could write an essay on this) and reducing meat consumption is one of the key action any individual can take to help us transition to a low carbon and inclusive society. All the other actions matters of course. The “change maker” actions in dramatically cutting individual carbon footprint are reducing meat and transport, any carbon footprint calculator will tell you this. By the way I am not vegan or vegetarian. Maybe in the US “meat” is the elephant in the room but in Europe it is now widely accepted as a fact.

    • Everyone needs to watch the documentary Sustainable on Netflix! It was incredibly eye opening. Everyone needs to learn about regenerative agriculture because from what I’ve learned about it and it’s ability to reverse many of the problems the planet faces, carbon capture being the main thing, I believe farmers could actually the heroes that save this world.

    • Thank you for all of these comments. I, like Cassady, have a small family farm with my husband where we rotationally graze cows, chickens, and sheep. We barely break even financially, but we do our best to survive because of the environmental impact. We use a silvopasture model for our animals, meaning they graze our forests, pastures, and gardens. We rotate each group every few days and by doing this, we are pulling carbon dioxide out of the environment. Silvopasture is ranked 9th according to Project Drawdown for helping the climate crisis:

      https://www.drawdown.org

      I understand the desire and impact of being vegetarian/vegan and we still eat several meals a week meat-free as we only eat what we produce, which means there isn’t enough meat for every day. But I would say that roasting one pastured chicken from a local farmer, eating from it for an entire week, then using the carcass for broth might be better for the enviroment than vegetables trucked in from 500 miles away or bananas flown in from South America. Having said that, every little thing each of us does helps!

    • Chiara says...

      Thanks for chiming in, Cassidy! My husband is also a farmer. We farm about 1000 acres of organic cereal grains and have about 80 head of cattle that we raise on a grass only diet, and I have done a LOT of research on the environmental impact of beef. The reality is that conventionally raised beef is a green house gas producer, but pasture raised beef where farmers care for the grassland actually are net carbon negative! We usually think of forests as carbon sinks, but grass land, including pasture, is also a carbon sink. Small amounts of locally raised, pastured meat is actually better for the environment than a standard vegetarian diet. Most of the research on meat consumption and carbon footprint considers feed lot beef, but any study that mentions grass fed acknowledges it’s the exception.

  30. Joy says...

    Joanna and team — thank you for this!

    Would love a post on low-waste (dare I say zero-waste?) parenting, especially for babies. I’m expecting my first child in November.

    Some things I did: Joined my neighborhood’s Buy Nothing Group (thanks to a COJ comment!), where I managed to get nice things for free (including a baby swing and a tub!) and also just “put the word out” to other Brooklyn moms—especially women in my building with older kids than me! Received a free dock-n-tot, pack ‘n play (it’s pink floral and I’m having a boy but whatever!), 2 carriers, and bought a very cheap second-hand bassinet. So the second-hand stuff makes me feel good.

    But that being said…. cloth diapers have me feel very disheartened. I don’t have a washer and dryer, first off. (And I kind of want to ignore anyone who swears by this route yet has the luxury of in-unit laundry, haha.) Second off, people recommend services (specifically Diaper Kind in BK), but let’s be real: It’s pricey!! I just don’t think it’s in our budget. Thirdly: my mother (in the 80’s!) did cloth diapers with me. She now babysits a little one who wears disposable, and swears that disposable keeps the baby MUCH dryer (and the baby has less diaper rash). So conflicted!!

    Anyway, how to be a less wasteful parent would be a great post! Maybe a motherhood Monday/Climate change mash up :)

    • Lauren says...

      Do not feel disheartened by cloth nappies Joy!! I use a combination of both cloth and disposable and feel that every time i avoid sending one straight into landfill is a win for the planet. At the risk of sounding gross/ completely discouraging you, my tip is to use cloth nappies for the rest of the day after they’ve done a big poo (easier to predict when your bub is a bit older), because dealing with a code brown sux at the best of times. Good luck and enjoy ur precious baby :)

    • Annelies says...

      Hi Joy,

      Sounds like you’ve already really put some effort and thought into how you be a low-waste parent. For me, I think the best approach is to do what you can. I use cloth diapers but we have a washing machine in our house. I couldn’t imagine doing it without my own washing machine. What you could do is look up brands of disposable diapers that are less wasteful (and contain leds chemicals). I’ve heard of brands that are even compostable. Same for the wet tissues. I’m from Belgium so I don’t know which brands are available in the US but it’s worth a shot!

      Good luck with your first baby!

    • Jordan says...

      We are expecting our first child in November too! Congrats! We are also considering cloth diapers at least after the newborn stage. But we also have a washer and dryer at home. If we didn’t I would not be able to do it. With all that said here are a few counter points to the ones your mom made: Cloth diapers have come a LONG way since the 80’s. It’s been almost 40 years. Here is the thing about the wetness of the cloth diapers though… the longer a baby sits in a wet diaper the worse the diaper rash will be. So the cloth diapers automatically reduce that time baby is in a wet diaper because the baby can feel it, therefor reducing diaper rash. Disposables have so much crap in them that yes they technically keep the baby “dryer” but they really aren’t dry. The baby just can’t feel the wetness, so disposables cause more diaper rash. Just my two cents! Good luck!

    • As mom who did cloth diapers for 2 kids – I definitely had the luxury of a washer/dryer. It’s a longer conversation than for this reply – but I would say, DON’T let the idea of the baby being dryer and with less diaper rash deter you. Yes, you change more often (honestly, I worked, and we hired a nanny that was willing to do this for us (most daycares won’t, and a nanny was cheaper in our area), and yes, we definitely dealt with diaper rash, and some stuff didn’t really go away until they were potty trained but it was minor and didn’t bother my sons. But I think an even better idea is get them out of diapers ASAP! Research “elimination communication”. Both of my kids were out of diapers while awake by age 2. One was better with it than the other (both boys!) so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away. And my younger one is 3.5 and still has occasional accidents and does the pull up at night, but no diapers during waking hours is AMAZING at an early age.

    • Christy says...

      Joy- I also really wanted to cloth diaper, but it was just too much work if I was going to do the washing or too expensive with the washing services. So, we did normal diapers and then didn’t delay potty training- doing it as soon as my son showed readiness signs at age 2. Quitting diapers even 6 months before we may have otherwise prevented a lot of diapers from going into a landfill.

    • Angela says...

      Not trying to sway you into CD’ing….but I cloth diapered twins and my mom had to eat her words. Cloth diapering today is not your mama’s cloth diapers. My kids NEVER had diaper rash and were a breeze to potty train.

      Also, very jealous of your haul! That is amazing the things you got second hand.

    • Heather says...

      I used a diaper service with all three of my kids. It was a bit pricey, and you have to change them more frequently. I found, however, that because cloth diapers let a toddler know when they are wet, they potty train much more quickly (mine were all trained before age 2), which I figure was a big savings over the economic and environmental cost of disposable diapers.

    • Marisa says...

      As others have said, the cost of a diaper service will be less than disposables because your kid will be out of diapers much earlier with cloth. We had all our family and friends get gift certificates for the diaper service as their only gift. Both my kids were completely out of diapers by 18 months and rarely had rash issues. It is painful to think of the amount of landfill space taken up by diapers.

  31. Michelle says...

    My husband and I have started (trying!) to shop plastic free. This means we buy all our dry goods in bulk in our own reusable containers – think, rice, dry beans, pasta, cous cous, powdered laundry detergent – so on. Then anything else in reusable or redeemable containers.

    I think it’s important to note we are two-income household with no kids. This means we can spend more on food with out a big cut to our budget, but what we have found is with a little digging (and a harm reduction mindset!) plastic use in daily life can be reduced, or, hopefully eliminated. It’s all about picking a practice, mastering it, then moving on to your next practice elimination goal. I say, start by trying to always bring your own thermos for your morning coffee. That alone eliminates a cup, straw, and lid from entering our waste stream. Or, stop using those plastic produce bags at the grocery store – just bring your own!

    Also, call your legislators.

    • Nilla says...

      The cup and straw is a good start! I would also look closely upon the fuel of the car, how energy efficient the house heating or cooling system is and encourage the use of led-lights. We can do this!

  32. Anj says...

    For the last few years I have been experimenting with my diet and trying to find something that will not contribute to climate change. Initially, I thought I would become vegan but then I realized that many foods that I would eat to replace meat was also causing the earth harm. Avocados are amazing but the forests are being cut down to farm them and then they are shipped in non-recycled material using fossil fuels as they are not local to my region. I am now reconsidering cutting out animal products completely. My new plan is to research local farms and purchase vegetables, fruits, and some animal products from my town. I am also toying with the idea of starting a compost pile and a vegetable garden in the backyard next spring!

  33. Erica Nicksin says...

    I grew up with the earth in mind. My mom was and is aware of our impact. My dad, who became an environmental lawyer when I was very young, always instilled water conservation (Los Angeles in the 80s) and we recycled everything. That was back when you had to take it somewhere, they didn’t just come get it! To me, some good things you can do are to buy products that don’t come with a ton of packaging which is so ridiculous these days, pick up other people’s litter and recycle as much of it as you can, and keep your electricity use as low as possible. Also, as someone who lives near water and fishes a lot, I am completely dumbfounded by the amount of trash, fishing lines and other unnatural debris people leave EVERYWHERE. If you see something that shouldn’t be there, pick it up! I carry a special bag for that purpose. It feels good and it does good. We aren’t all perfect but if we all make whatever effort we can, the earth is better for it.

  34. KA says...

    My daughter (10) has a big, green heart and is trying so hard to make choices and start habits that are good for the environment. I support this whole heartedly, but I had been a little uncomfortable when she’d openly criticize other people (for using plastic bags and eating meat and wasting stuff). Well, I’ve gotten over that! Grown ups should be shamed by kids for what they are doing. She spent our last visit with my in-laws saying “I can’t believe you guys drink bottled water! It’s so wasteful.” (They do! Because it’s convenient! It’s bonkers!) And making a big show of filling her cup up at the sink and using her water bottle and really ragging on them whenever they drank a bottled water. A year ago I might have told her to knock it off, but now I’m past the point of being polite and way past thinking she should respect the choices of grown ups when they show an absolute disregard for her future.

    • Anon says...

      Yay! Love this.

    • M says...

      I agree with you… i used to think, it could veer towards disrespect but having kids consistently display the ‘right behaviour’ will yield results in a few seasons. In India, displaying firecrackers at a household level during a major festival has been (such!) a fun thing for us but we’ve all stopped because our kids have been exerting their muscle in talking* to all about so many aspects of it( air pollution/ scary to animals and old people/ child labour in firework sheds etc etc) … that at a national level, firecracker purchase and usage is declining year on year!!!

    • Yael says...

      Absolutely! She is going to have to live with the impact of the poor choices past generations have made! She has every right to be pissed off.

    • Genevieve Martin says...

      Overall on a personal level I think it’s about consuming less over all.
      Before buying something new, think could you use something you already own? Could you get something second hand? (That’s especially true for big items like furniture and electronics!) Then if you’re going to buy is there a slightly more sustainable option?
      Ultimately keeping your plastic lunchbox until it wears out is much better than immediately replacing it with a sustainable bamboo one if you see what I mean!

      Similarly always go for reusable things over disposable. Cloths rather than paper towels. I’ve had an epilator for 10 years and it must have saved well over its weight in disposable razors! (Even though that wasn’t why I bought it back then)

    • Genevieve Martin says...

      Oops wasn’t meant to be a reply sorry!

    • Maggie says...

      Kind of love this. Sometimes I wonder how much more effective I’d be if I weren’t so worried about people’s approval all the time.

    • Sarah says...

      Your daughter sounds amazing!! Encourage that activism all you can! How wonderful and heartening to read this morning!

  35. Kim says...

    I try to be as sustainable as possible. This year I started using, really using everything I have. I don’t buy anything unless I need it. I used to be a bit of a product hoarder. I try to vote with my dollars. I don’t shop at TJ’s for example. I mean they package everything, including produce. It’s ridiculous.

    I don’t think the collective “we” makes as much of an impact as large corporations. One thing I’ve really been reconsidering is travel. I hope everyone looks into the carbon footprint of their travel and thinks about that.

    One way to make an immediate impact is to start getting involved locally. Go to your neighborhood park clean up, or create an event like that. Contact your representatives. Keep pushing for better.

    What has me really sad and curious is the state of recycling in the US. Where are the recyclables going, now that China is no longer taking our waste?

    • Anon says...

      Great point about travel. Here is
      an invitation to readers: research and reconsider. This industry requires a rethink.

    • Anna says...

      Fantastic comment. As well as doing what we can as consumers, I think there needs to be more pressure and attention on the role that industry plays – in the manufacturing process, the types of products they use, who/where they choose to get things made and how (and how far) it is shipped and what happens to the end product (eg, what happens to that plastic bottle the drink came in or that cheap plastic thing that broke after two uses).

    • maggie jones says...

      In reference to the TJ’s a lot of their plastic wrap is compostable!

  36. Tracey says...

    The next thing on my list is ethical finance. Shifting my money from banks and superannuation funds (I think USA calls them 401k) who invest in coal and detention centres and moving it to those that invest in wind farms etc.

  37. Holly says...

    I bought a menstrual cup 4 years ago and haven’t used single-use, disposable sanitary products since then – same cup still going strong! Other perks beyond reduced consumption: reduced spending, reduced leakage, reduced brain space taken up by my period.

    • Elise says...

      Oh man, beyond being so much less wasteful, having a menstrual cup changed my LIFE. I’ve been using one for 6 or 7 years now and I never feel anxiety about having my period (like running out of supplies or leaking). And I swear, cramping was cut in half. I know shape can be an issue for some women but I encourage everyone to give it a try!

  38. Angela says...

    Thank you so much for this post! I, like so many, feel overwhelmed!! My biggest question is HOW can I minimize all the plastic waste with young? It feels like everything comes in a plastic bottle(medicine, lotion, body wash, etc, etc.)!

    • Angela says...

      With young kids**

    • Sophia says...

      I always think about the packaging before I buy anything for my kids. A small bottle of medicine tablets instead of a large bottle of syrup, an actual pear instead of a container of diced pears or pear baby food (don’t get me started on the go-go applesauce packets which are packaging overkill and will be found a thousand years from now), etc. There are things that are going to be unavoidable so I try to at least buy those items in recyclable or reusable/compostable containers (I have yet to find an easy solution to sunscreen). Nothing is going to be perfect as obviously an infant is going to do better with liquid medicine than a tablet but question before you buy and a lot of times you’ll find a different option that you didn’t even know about.

  39. HB says...

    A few more ideas! Wholeheartedly agree with others above such as relying on a plant-based diet.

    (1) Have dedicated car free days–24 hours with no car.

    (2) Use Ecosia as your search engine! Ecosia uses ad revenue to plant trees. Sounds scammish, but my research hasn’t turned up negatives yet. Ohio State University adopted Ecosia as its default browser. Add the extensions to your computer browsers and the app to your phones instead of Safari, etc.

    (3) Plant native plants! They are more drought tolerant and support ecosystems and animal/insect species that are dying out because of climate change, like the monarch butterfly. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center has a wonderful native plant database if you’re unfamiliar with native plants in your area (https://www.wildflower.org/plants/). Increase biodiversity where you live!

    And for those with climate anxiety, this is the article I turn to time and again which somehow makes me feel better. It’s a NYT article about a carbon-neutral British village. Favorite quote: “We just think everyone should try to clean up their patch. And rather than going out and shouting about it, we just do it.” I love their kindness as they tackle this daunting problem.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/22/science/english-village-becomes-climate-leader-by-quietly-cleaning-up-its-own-patch.html

  40. Vanessa says...

    I would love for CoJ to dive into the children & climate change argument. I am still solidly on the fence on having kids, and for a time thought about framing my decision to perhaps not have any in terms of their environmental impact. But then I read other arguments that limiting children logically follows into a societal power struggle over WHO gets to have children (and that has an ugly underbelly politically).

    • Yael says...

      The best thing you can do is have less children. We are planning on having one less child then planned, and have eliminated meat (but not fish) from our diet. We have also decided to limit our flying. We live in Israel so we do fly to America and England to visit family about once a year, but we have decided to cut out short flights (proportionally terrible). And will not fly from Berlin to Brussels for example, but will travel by rail instead. Open to other suggestions!

  41. Miranda says...

    I really like this post, and subsequent discussion and tips from everyone!

    Here is what I try and do:

    – Rarely buy ”new” clothing – I echo many others in saying I love thrift shopping. I disagree with ”fast fashion” cheap clothing for many reasons.
    – Don’t own a car and catch the bus, but also walk as much as I can – have particularly gotten into this in the last 4 years or so and really enjoy letting my thoughts wander along with my legs
    – Rarely buy bottled water – bring my own drink bottle or ”keep cup” or make a cup with my hands! And tap water is usually fine to drink in many places – have refilled my bottle from many a washroom tap when travelling
    – Very rarely buy takeaway food or coffee – bring my lunch to work from home most days and make a cup of instant in the office kitchen
    – I can’t take the credit for thinking of this, but on the rare occasions I do get a takeaway coffee, I don’t take a plastic lid with it – if the coffee isn’t full to the brim you don’t usually need one! Ditto for the stirrers or often the cardboard sleeve if it’s not piping hot – yes of course be safe etc, but I just splash in the milk and then carry the whole cup lid-less. A few less items for me to be throwing away only moments later after finishing.
    – I wash and re-use plastic bags as often as I can, and for most fruit/veg at the shops I don’t put them in a bag at all – I’ll always wash them before using anyway.
    – You may have guessed by now that I’m a keen bargain hunter and budgeter too, so I’m always scouring marked-down items at the supermarket. If I can buy it for cheap and cook it up, I will – hate seeing food go to waste

  42. Elaine says...

    One thing I do is refuse to eat animals and animal products. So many resources are available to assist during the transition. Those who don’t want to go whole hog (tsk tsk) can eat less meat.

    Check out this infographic: https://www.culinaryschools.org/yum/vegetables/

  43. Christine says...

    Things I do for the environment.
    1. Try not to throw away food, plan meals so that every veg is used. Use less meat. Less candy that we don’t need.
    2. Try to shop food that’s made neat by so it don’t need transportation, or plastic rapping.
    3. Try to stop using single usagesitems for makeup removal, tissues, dipers, also a moon cup when menstruating.
    4. Try to shop for clothes second hand and take care of it and use it for a long time.
    5. Transportation, I don’t own a car and uses public transportation or walk
    6. The most important one. Furniture! I do two things, first I only have furniture that is used. Second I startet a little instagram to sell, and inspire others and show others how to resturate old furniture from the 50s, 60s and 70s back to original state. This both hinders that old furniture become junk, and it hinders production of new things. So you save the environment in many ways. Use less resorses, no more transportation of timberland metal, and no gasses that comes from the factory. I love to inspire and help others this way. https://www.instagram.com/p/B2ti7qCoH9O/?igshid=hbwqjurdpywn

    • Caitlin says...

      Yes to buying used furniture! Used furniture doesn’t have to mean junky furniture! When my husband and I were ready to invest in a solid, nice dining room table and chairs we randomly started checking CraigsList. We found a gorgeous handmade Amish set that will last forever and never go out of style. I kept thinking DUH, I can’t believe I was ready to purchase something new when that was totally unnecessary. Made local and gave it a second life.

  44. Kirsten says...

    Love that you called it a climate crisis and love that you are finally, FINALLY tackling this topic on the blog! Thank you!

    I for one am a soil proselytizer. Building carbon in the soil is long-term one of the best ways to reduce desertification, cool the surface of the earth, stabilize rain/flood patterns, and pull carbon out of the atmosphere! If we don’t do that it doesn’t matter how electrified we get, we’re still screwed. So I’m all for supporting groundwater recharging and sound agricultural practices in any way you can. Have a yard? Create a rain garden and divert water flow from your driveway/roof runoff into it. Have a lawn? Either rip it up and plant plants with deeper root systems or never let it get shorter than 4″. But most importantly, for those that can I think it’s incredibly important to try to support small farmers who are practicing restorative pasturing and growing practices. Everyone is yelling about NO MEAT, and while yes, it takes a lot of water to grow a cow, and I am in support of overall increasing plant-based eating, the fact is that mob-grazing and silvopasturing large animals is one of the fastest ways to revive land that’s been essentially killed off by decades of extractive agricultural practices. So don’t hate on all cow production without the facts. (There’s a short video called “Soil Carbon Cowboys” that is a great short primer for anyone interested)

    • Kate says...

      Love this!

  45. Jana L White says...

    We must elect people who prioritize this issue! Not much else matters.

  46. Amelia says...

    Thanks so much for posting about the climate crisis! You’re right that it’s vitally important for us to normalize discussions about global warming. I dealt with profound eco grief when I realized the extent of the crisis (it’s what finally got me to go to therapy) and one of the worst aspects was feeling like I was the only person worried about the future of our planet. Everyone else seemed to be carrying on like normal while I freaked out over the latest IPCC reports. I try to live conscientiously and be a good steward of the planet by eating a veggie-based diet, using public transport, buying second-hand clothes, avoiding plane travel as much as possible, etc. BUT study after study has shown that while reducing individual carbon footprints is helpful, by FAR the most important thing we can do is advocate for policy that’d enact large-scale societal change. So whether you’re canvassing for a 2020 political candidate or volunteering with an environmental org (I’m now a volunteer chapter organizer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby), pushing change outside of your own life is one of the best (and most meaningful!) things you can do. Plus there’s the added bonus of community building and the sense of fulfillment that comes from devoting energy to a cause you deeply believe in.

  47. MICRO changes make MASSIVE changes. I tell this to myself every time I get frustrated.
    Just make the decision to make one micro change every single day, whether it’s cutting out meat from a meal, remembering your reusable cup, buying recycled TP that doesn’t come from trees, etc.
    If we all make a change every day, it will have a rising tide affect.

  48. Ellen says...

    I’d like to see some discussion about climate change in rural areas. I live in a small isolated town that is 400 kilometers away from the nearest city. We have a lot of barriers to climate change action on the part of the individual, including no public transportation, terrain and distances that are too much for electric cars, and little choice in consumer items unless you drive the 400 kilometers to the nearest city (for things like ethical fashion, organic food and thrift stores). However, we do have a lot of good things going for us, like an abundance of local farms, and generally minimalist lifestyles due to a lack of local shopping opportunities. And, 75 of the 80 students at our school are doing a climate strike tomorrow! An article considering the differences between rural and city life would be great.

  49. Jessica says...

    Given the majority of Cup of Jo readers are women, one big change you can make is switching to a menstrual cup. I switched from disposable menstrual products to the Diva Cup, and I can’t say enough how much I LOVE this product. You really get to know your own anatomy quickly! But frankly that’s a good thing . And as a science nerd, I love being able to actually measure my flow every time I empty it. I find it to be more comfortable than traditional products which were starting to irritate my skin. Given how much personal waste it diverts from the landfill, my only regret is I did not discover it sooner.

  50. One thing-

    I decided to not have children.

    I know each woman has the right for whatever, and it boggles my mind when I see women with multiple children. We’ve never faced a crisis like this, and of this magnitude. Why would I want to leave them with such massive issues like food and water scarcity. For me, that’s an act of love.

    Yes, I understand the body has material urges, but that may not mean we have to act on them multiple times over.

    I’m certain my comment but spark judgments and yet this is a fundamental value for me. AND thank you for taking up this topic with more concern.

    • Anonygirl says...

      No judgement from me. I’ve also opted not to have kids, for myriad reasons beyond the climate issues we’re facing. Most people find my decision very selfish, but my decision was not come to rashly or without a lot of thought and soul-searching. Not having kids is the right one for me. At least, not biological kids. If I ever end up in a long-term relationship, the door to adoption is not closed. I would love to give a child who already exists a home. I sometimes wonder if that makes me a hypocrite, but again, that’s a decision I have to wrestle with.

    • Robin says...

      I’ve learned that not having kids, or limiting the number of kids you have, is the single biggest thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Yet this is hardly ever talked about! I think it’s sad that we’re in a time where people are choosing not to have kids because of climate change. One of my university instructors told the class that he and his wife decided not to have children because of the environmental impact of it, and that he regrets that choice. Maybe we don’t talk about going child-free because it’s not something that most people find as a palatable solution to climate change.

    • Betsy says...

      I’ve reached the same conclusion. It’s not a judgment I feel toward parents as there are many reasons they may choose to procreate (especially when I think about this rising generation of children and youth that are working toward a solution – woot woot, Greta Thunberg!), but in my personal pros/cons list, the cons were just too weighty.

    • I do not agree with you but I do appreciate your honesty and candor!

    • Julie says...

      I really struggle with the emotional cravings for a child and weighing that against the future. It is definitely something to think about, and I appreciate sharing your thoughts.

    • Ann says...

      Ashley,
      I recently made the same decision as you and have elected not to have biological children. With the data currently available about rising temperatures, air and water quality, and the increase in natural disasters, I have serious concerns about what our planet will be like for future generations. My husband and I are strongly considering fostering and adoption, but the thought of bringing new life into the world is just too scary for me.

    • Alex says...

      Thanks for bringing this up. For me, this is an obvious and big one, but rife with judgement. I understand why it’s sensitive topic but it should be discussed as an option. I can understanding having one or two children tops, but given the threat of overpopulation, it seems illogical to me to have larger families.

    • Megan says...

      We chose to have one child; it was a big decision for us. I understand the wonder around having more than one, too. What will this world be? It scares me. We also drive hybrids (will get battery cars when ours die) don’t eat meat, compost, have a large food garden, and just generally try not to BUY many things. It’s hard and overwhelming! But so important. We also give monthly to 350.org and the Sierra Club.

    • Katie says...

      I totally agree with this. I decided not to have kids largely because of climate change. It’s great to see that I’m not the only one, because sometimes it feels like it.

    • Joanna says...

      Agreed, Ashley. I also decided not to have children for these reasons.

    • Callie says...

      Thank you for sharing! I’ve been feeling very much the same way – worried about bringing life into the world when I am unsure what world they will live in.

      My worries stem from my concerns about my ability to provide financially for my child – I feel that given the child had no say in his/her existence, it would be unfair of me to raise my child for his/her first 18 years then expect them to completely fend for themselves. AND also not knowing what their existence would do to the environment. I think the world is vastly overpopulated as it is.

      But there is also a part of me that wants a family. This is something I’m very much working through at the moment.

    • Mary says...

      I never really gave much thought about climate change when I gave birth to my two children: ages 3.5 years old and 10 months old. Never really bothered me honestly. Until recently when extreme weather conditions ravaged our country. My husband wants another baby, and I think I’ll stop at two. It really worries me what the world will be like for them.

    • Anon says...

      … and it will also spark comments of support, like this one. What you are saying is true. Bottom line: the world is overpopulated. Unlike the past (when having as many kids as possible was best for survival), choosing to have less kids has become the new act of hope.

    • Laura says...

      As someone who is currently pregnant with her fourth, I understand that my opinion also “will spark judgments” and am grateful to live in a time and place where both you and I can make our own choices regardless of the judgments of others. I certainly thought about the impact on the environment of this decision, but in the end having another child is what aligns with MY fundamental values. It was not, at least for us, dictated by “material urges.” But, I see you, and I’m ok for us to rank our values differently without judging over it.

    • Nicole says...

      I am also on the no biological kids train. The hardest part is that I have a friend who talks to me about having a third kid and I haven’t been honest with her about how I feel inside. I just change the subject because it’s such an emotionally heavy topic, though I wish it wasn’t. Maybe CoJ could do some interviews on this topic in their follow ups on this series

    • Jen says...

      Thank you for sharing this! I have 2 kids because I grew up in a sad, tiny family and really wanted children, but not having kids is an important piece of the solution puzzle, too.

    • Deb says...

      Me too and I’m so pleased this comment has lots of support :-)

    • Kathryn Black says...

      Thank you so much for this comment! This is such a massive issue that is very rarely spoken about.

    • Chris says...

      The idea of not having children as a way to contribute to conservation need not spark any judgment, but when you imply that people who do have multiple children have done so because they are unable to keep from acting on “material urges,” and that these people “boggle your mind,” the judgment is coming from you.

      I’m glad to see that you’ve found support here and that so many people are this conscious of the impact their decisions are making on the environment, but there’s no need for blanket statements. You don’t know what else parents with multiple children may be doing to offset their footprint or what other factors went in to their decision. I’m glad you raised an important part of this discussion, but surely it could be done in a more thoughtful way.

  51. Dani says...

    Loving these comments. My dear friend’s husband has a fantastic YouTube channel all about the small choices we can make that contribute to the bigger picture. The vids are short, informative, funny and thought-provoking with features on smart brands like Klean Kanteen and Birks; their zero-waste wedding and ethical wedding rings ; food waste and handling eco-anxiety (which is such a thing, isn’t it?!). Hope some folks enjoy :)

    https://www.youtube.com/user/The100LH/featured

  52. Anna says...

    THANK YOU for this post. You guys are wonderful.

    I practice many of the individual habits to lower my carbon footprint (e.g., cloth napkins, reusable makeup wipe, composting, no more plastic bags, purchasing foods from bulk supplies, taking public transit, etc.), but would really appreciate tips on some other regular habits that I haven’t quite figured out how to address:

    1) Packaging from routine skincare products. Toners, face wash, lotions, serums, etc. come in all these small bottles and I’m not sure how to reduce the amount of waste created by my purchasing these products regularly.

    2) Contact lenses. I wanted to switch to daily disposables, but couldn’t stomach the amount of packaging I’d be throwing out daily, so I’ve stuck with my two-week disposable lenses, but it still feels wasteful. Barring expensive (and scary, to me) Lasik surgery, how can I improve on this?

    3) Clothes washing. I try to wear my clothes a-near excessive number of times before washing them (I believe that people are, in general, overly worried about how “dirty” they are), but the approximately once-a-month use of my washing machine and dryer still feels like it’s not great. (I have a clothing rack but it doesn’t fit all my clothes and my apartment is too small to have a second drying rack.)

    4) Toilet paper and tissues. Cutting out napkins and paper towels and Swiffer pads was simple, but ughhh toilet paper and tissues…what’s the best way to cut down on this? I rip my tissues in half when I use one, I installed a bidet in my toilet (but that hasn’t really helped to reduce toilet paper use so far), but…it doesn’t seem like enough.

    I’m all ears for tips!!! Thank you!!

    • Lee says...

      Agreed, packaging on skincare and toiletries feels so excessive!

    • Anne says...

      I have greatly simplified my skin care which has also reduced packaging waste. I wash my face with water (just scrub my face under the shower water with my hands). I moisturize with a few drops of almond oil. Sometimes I also use about a teaspoon of almond oil and a face cloth to wash my face, which moisturizes and exfoliates at the same time. This system reduces my use to only 1 product, and there is no waste other than the bottle that the almond oil comes in, which lasts about a year. Previously, I used different bottles of product for cleaning, exfoliating, and moisturizing, and with my new 1-product system I have not noticed any changes (positive or negative) in my skin.

    • Tis says...

      Anna, I think you’re doing an amazing job! And rather than doubling down in your own home, maybe it’s time to start spreading some of your enthusiasm outward. Can you spearhead some easy ideas at work? Within your social group? Maybe it’s time for you to really mobilize and start thinking about policy. High five!!

    • Sarah says...

      I use handkerchiefs instead of tissues. Better for the environment — and my sensitive nose!

    • Tenley says...

      If you’d like contacts that last longer, I’d suggest looking into hard contacts vs. soft ones. They take a bit to adjust to, but they don’t expire!

    • Megan says...

      Agreed. Packaging on household items is ridiculous- especially if you buy online.

    • Amanda Gwaltn says...

      Anna – For your #2, Bausch & Lomb partnered with TerraCycle and has a contact recycling program! They take any brand of contacts, and all you have to do is collect the contacts and their packaging and then print off a free shipping label!

      https://www.bausch.com/our-company/the-one-by-one-recycling-program-faqs

    • Jana L White says...

      We use old t-shirts cut up into 6-8 in squares for “Kleenex”. Launder with rest of laundry, I usually do them with the whites. Handkerchiefs were commonly used in the past. Now if there is a cold in the house, a box can be purchased or TP used. We have done this for over 10 years with no ill effects. They do get dryed in dryer-too many small things to hang up.

    • Jess says...

      Check out Meow Meow Tweet!! They have awesome packaging, all their packing peanuts are corn based and are biodegradable. They offer a recycling program where you can send your containers and plastic parts!! They sterilize and reuse them! You can also purchase stuff in bulk to refill your containers. Their face wash is incredible and I love their sunscreen and body powder as well!

    • Jen says...

      For tissues – handkerchiefs! You can get a big pack of cotton men’s handkerchiefs for a very reasonable price and have enough to rotate them and throw in your normal wash.

    • Katrina says...

      Wash your clothes in cold water, use natural cleaning agents (I use soap nuts and love them), hang everything to dry wherever you can.
      You can wash smaller amounts in the sick or tub too.

    • Lindsay says...

      For me, I have just started to cut down on the number of products I use. These days I wash my face with oatmeal (it’s amazing!) and spread a little Vaseline on afterward. I use a shampoo, no conditioner, and bar soap. I also use eyeliner, mascara, and sunscreen, and I have some face powder and blush for occasional use. That is basically it for products. I’m trying not to paint my nails or take unnecessary meds. I swear my skin has never been this nice! I think we’ve all gone a little nuts with skincare. Maybe for the sake of the earth we need to cut down. Hope that helps!

    • Flora says...

      #4…handkerchiefs (for the tissue question)! I sew my own and wash them out in the sink they are super! To buy, Liberty have some really pretty floral hankies if you want to avoid the very plain masculine ones.

    • erlin says...

      Plaine Products has great shampoo/conditioner/body wash/body lotion! They come in metal containers which you send back :)

    • Linds says...

      Linen handkerchiefs are delightful; softer than tissues and easy to wash (I never bother ironing them).

    • mado says...

      Glasses! I was pretty much 100% contacts for something like 15 years, but then i gradually shifted to wearing my glasses and now i haven’t worn contacts in years and i don’t plan to ever go back. It did take some adjusting (they made my face feel “dirty” at first) but now they feel natural (and i have bad eyesight, -6.5). My 4 year old said the other day “why don’t you look like my mama?” when i took them off. Not trying to tell anyone they’re doing it wrong but if you are feeling bummed out by your contacts for any reason, just try it!

    • Anna says...

      Wow I’m blown away by all the great advice! (And your kind words, Tis!) Amanda, I’m so excited to learn about the B&L/Terracycle contacts recycling! And will also check out Meow Meow Tweet! Thank you all again!!

    • CS says...

      Just putting this out there…

      I was reading something written by a skincare “guru” who said the most interesting thing: her clients with the best skin are invariably the women who do the least to their skin – the ones who use less creams, wear less make up, wash their faces less often. In fact, this expert recommends that every woman have at least one day a week where they put no products on their face at all. I know this solution isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth considering. Maybe we’ve just been sold this idea that we need to put on product and then we need to remove those impurities and then we need to put cream on to restore the moisture that we just finished stripping from our faces when we removed the impurities… etc. Maybe just skip all those steps and leave your skin alone? It’s best for the environment and maybe for one’s face, too. PS: I am totally in the ‘leave my face alone camp’, and honestly people are always commenting that I look very young for my age. Plus, I rarely break out. It might be worth a try for some people. :)

    • Hey Anna! I think you’re doing a wonderful job so far. I can give a tip in regards to toilet paper as we recently made the change to 100% recycled paper with whogivesacrap.org. They’re an Australian organisation who use 100% recycled paper and also donate half of their profits to help build toilets for communities in need. I’m based in Ireland and I’m able to buy in bulk for £26 for 48 rolls. If you’re feeling fancy and can afford it, they also sell Premium rolls that are 100% bamboo and so soft on your toosh! x

    • Nilla says...

      For no 4, paper is renewable and not that bad. Used paper turns into soil.

    • MM says...

      TerraCycle has programs for many types of packaging, and as another commenter mentioned, Origins stores accept makeup packaging from any brand for recycling. For toilet paper, have you considered the brand Who Gives a Crap? Good luck! You’re doing great!

  53. annie says...

    i LOVE this and am so happy that you’re opening up the floor for conversation.
    my great idea for you all is this: plant native plants/flowers/grasses/etc. in your lawn and STOP MOWING (and fertilizing/spraying)! treating + mowing lawns is wasteful, detrimental, unnecessary, loud, and it’s a chore most (though not all, i know some people really love mowing!) don’t relish.
    if you need help figuring out the native plants aspect, just google your state + native plants and you should be presented with many university and/or city resources, including lists of native plants, where to find them, and even landscaping plans! my tips are: cover your lawn with cardboard and leave it over the winter. (this helps kill the grass and prep your yard for digging come spring.) get the kids involved. they love dirt! and above all, let go of the worry that your yard looks messy for awhile. this seems to be a concern for many. but your neighbors can cope, and soon you’ll be rewarded with birds, butterflies, and a carbon sink that gives you time and money back.
    P.S for people with HOAs, i’d love to see you to fight the power. it’s high time HOAs got with the climate crisis and stopped encouraging fertilized lawns, pesticides on rose bushes, etc. ALL of these things are bad for all of us (and the planet of course).

    • Tracey says...

      Our garden is a literal hive of activity since we stopped poisoning anything. We weed by hand which was tedious at first but now all the other plants are so healthy it all has reached a point of stasis and the bees are DELIGHTED!

    • Suzanne says...

      What about city ordinances? We’ve gotten tickets for our grass being too tall. Curious how that would work.

    • Pam says...

      Yes!! A lawn in a park well-enjoyed by many is one thing, but enough of the pointless front lawns.

    • Deb says...

      OMG Suzanne what?!!! The US is all “individual freedom! bring on the guns and if you get sick that’s your tough luck!” but you get fined for having your grass too long? Bonkers.

    • annie says...

      @suzanne… yeah. i hear that. this is where creativity comes in! ideas: there are some native grasses that aren’t super tall and there are even some ‘no-mow’ types that could work (not sure where you’re from, but in the midwest, these exist). but really, if you can plant anything OTHER than grass that needs to be mowed, i’d say it’s a win. in the midwest, things like wild geranium and wild ginger offer good ground cover while also not requiring mowing. and of course, you can do a flower garden or veg garden too–hopefully those are within ordinances. such a drag to be ticketed… i’ve been there. hopefully you have options!

  54. Daisy says...

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I look forward to reading through comments to see what else I can do to what I am already doing- less shopping overall, carrying my own cutlery when I travel, composting, buying produce at Farmer’s market without packaging, going through this summer without AC, small produce garden to name a few. The bummer at times is at times when you think, you are making a green choice, only to find out that it is not necessarily green. Aside from the tote bag I carry to stores, I have been using mesh grocery bags for more than a year to pick up veggies/fruits. Recently, I ordered 30 packets of the mesh grocery bags to gift to friends, only to find out each of them came wrapped in plastic packaging. I ordered 48 dinner spoons online, to stop using compostable use and throw spoons only to find out each of the spoon came wrapped in a plastic cover that cannot be recycled. At times, it is just frustrating that the onus to go green is entirely on the consumer

    • Ali says...

      It’s amazing—and heartening—to see all the action taken in these comments. I’d love to learn more about financial investments and climate action. Any recommendations for how to change 401k investments or put pressure on banks, etc. to create more green investment options? I can only assume that my investments in index funds and mutual funds have some terrible things mixed in that counter all the changes we’re making at home.

  55. Alex says...

    Yes! I would love to see CoJ highlight organizations that are actively working to make change. One great organization based in NYC is FabScrap, a nonprofit working to reduce fashion and textile waste. It is run by smart, passionate women who are creating a model for systemic change in an extremely wasteful industry. (I may be biased because it was started by a childhood friend :)

    https://fabscrap.org/

    • YES! Ditto

  56. Elise says...

    Thanks for talking about such an important topic, and thanks for always being willing to talk about not so fun things and being so gracious when readers give you critical feedback. The things you have mentioned here are very important but I also want to add my two cents:
    Like some of the other readers, I would put policy action at number 1. While individual action is important for obvious reasons, only middle class to wealthy individuals can participate in most of them. In most places in America, it is impossible to get by without a car. It can be really hard to dress professionally in second hand clothes if you are not in a big city. Many places in America are far from grocery stores that have the option of organic or even fresh food. Poverty fuels the demand for many single use and environmentally unfriendly products, which is why policy that promotes income equality, education, public transportation and infrastructure is so important. Putting pressure on individual brands to reduce their waste can also have a huge impact. While I think people should do what they can, I think the conversation needs to be more about getting governments and corporations to do what THEY can, as they are the ones massively profiting from unsustainable practices right now, and the consequences are going to effect poor people first.

    • Jillian says...

      Yes, Elise! I could not agree more. Income inequality should be a part of this conversation (for all the reasons you just mentioned) and it is so often overlooked.

    • I could not agree more. The tactic of larger and more coordinated entities to exploit the lack of coordination in the general public is a standard play. Placing all onus on individuals gave us things such as unmitigated advertising to children (including cigarettes) until the public support to stop it convinced the FCC to take a stand. Before that the “responsible parent” would need to monitor the TV him/herself and shut it off if they wanted to shield their children. If you are poor/feel that all these efforts place an undue burden, I could not blame you. I think the major benefit of talking is therefore the knock on effects it might engender in a functioning democracy (namely government involvement)

  57. Amanda says...

    Hi, Thanks so much for this post. I would love to see COJ address how the fast fashion industry contributes to climate change (as well as other problems). I often find myself wishing the frequent posts about seasonal trends, sales at giant retailers, etc were balanced with more of a focus on sustainable fashion and overall, the value of consuming less. As a woman who sews a lot of her own clothes, I would love to see a week of outfits series featuring women who are doing the same. Thanks for listening! I love this blog.

    • Kirsten says...

      YES! I love that idea! I also sew a lot of clothes and do mostly secondhand for my family and would love to see that featured more. And I have to say, I’ve been reading COJ for 10 years now and I doubt I’d ever stop reading because I love this blog, but I get more and more irked as time goes by by all of the sale! new things to buy! posts. I mean, I get that revenue comes from advertising which comes from pushing consumption of particular brands in this world, but it just is beginning to seem like a lot. I have a hard time stomaching that content now, in this space and in others.

    • S says...

      I second this!! Thank you!

  58. Jillian Jackson says...

    It’s great to see this post, and – of course! – it’s always great for us to reflect on our individual impact. But I sometimes get frustrated with our conversations about accountability. Climate anxiety is so real for me! I sometimes obsess about using one plastic straw! And like others have said, that anxiety can be paralyzing. It makes me sad to think of all of us little people who care SO MUCH agonizing over paper or plastic when 90% of the damage is done by corporations.

    I just sometimes feel like the attention should be so much more on corporate greed and how that greed is destroying the planet. I’m happy to see some of that here under the policy umbrella, but it should be so much more than a side note. It’s great to eat less meat, but unless we tackle corporate greed, corporations will continue to destroy the environment in other forms (soy/wheat/exploitation/etc). Individual actions matter, but the problem is so much deeper (sorry to get a little soapbox-y!).

    • annie says...

      yes, BUT: the more individuals decide to cut back on their single-use plastics, improve their composting, drive less or use electric cars, take the train, eat less meat (see: burger king + the impossible burger!), shop local, and ask for more ways to contribute in a positive way, the more likely it is that policymakers will take note. i completely get where you’re coming from, but individual actions DEFINITELY matter, because they add up to a major movement. (and thank goodness for it.)

    • Jessica says...

      And I would say this is a great place where conversation matters, and to encourage anyone who will listen to VOTE. Vote for progressive candidates who make climate action part of thier platform. Vote out greedy old men in the corporations’ pockets. Young people haven’t always had the best voter turnout records, so start encouraging all the young people you know to vote for climate action. We have to hold politicians accountable with our actions.

    • Ciel says...

      I would say you can vote with your dollars with those very corporations. It takes a bit of research but it’s worth it. The top causes of climate change are fossil fuels used to generate electricity and heat and fossil fuels generated by transportation. Also high on the list is agriculture.

      So we need to walk more, ride our bikes more, take public transit moreand unfortunately we need to travel by airplane a whole lot less – which means not as many cool photographs for our instagram feed. And when you do travel, travel responsibly. Find eco friendly tour companies, travel by train or public transport even when traveling abroad. Support eco hotels and lodges.

      The top drivers of deforestation (which contributes to climate change) are a handful of crops/commodities: beef, soy, palm oil, pulp/paper (for packaging, furniture, etc), and cocoa. Yes not eating beef is helpful. But if you really need a steak every now and again, buy from a local farmer and ask questions about how they raise and feed their cattle. Try to find furniture or paper products with FSC certification. Try to avoid products with palm oil — its hard because it’s not always clearly marked on the ingredients label.

      And tell companies you demand change! Social media makes it so much easier to reach out and be heard these days. Companies are listening. It may not seem like it, but they are. They REALLY need to hear from consumers that you want these changes. They want to know you will buy their product if they make the changes or STOP buying their product if they don’t make the changes. Most of the major consumer goods companies have entire sustainability teams dedicated to this and their job is to sell top leadership on the most important sustainability issues. But leaders are most likely to listen when there is a business case behind it – meaning they can do good and recover the costs of doing good.

      It’s also helpful if we are willing to make pay a little more for the necessary changes because doing the right thing is actually more expensive for a lot of companies. We have not been paying for all the negative externalities (like CO2 emisisons). There is a cost of ensuring the cattle, soy, palm oil, cocoa etc big companies buy doesn’t come from deforested land and that people on the farms are treated fairly. There is a cost to moving to more sustainable packaging.

      Do your research and VOTE with your dollars and tell companies what you want!! These are consumer insights they would pay to have. But you have to back up your voice with the dollars.

  59. This is what we do-
    1. We don’t use single use products- exception toilet paper.
    2. We consume less- fewer trips, number of dishes during meal, clothes etc.
    3. We take excellent care of our things. The care doesn’t depend on the price tag- the free stool found on the sidewalk is treated the same way as the $600 teapot.
    4. We take reusable bags everywhere- from the grocery stores to the mall.
    5. We reuse and re-purpose everything- yes, including using the both sides of papers.
    6. We use less “data”, and here is more on that-https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/global-warming-data-centres-to-consume-three-times-as-much-energy-in-next-decade-experts-warn-a6830086.html
    7, And lastly, we strive to strike a balance between convenience and conscience- looking for things that are good for us and the the Earth.

  60. Jane says...

    Thanks so much for posting about this, and I can’t wait to read more in the series. I’d also encourage folks to look at purchasing carbon offsets once they’ve calculated their footprint – it’s not a perfect system, but it is a great way to create a concrete tie between our lifestyles and the cost to offset our impacts (by planting trees, etc).

    We’re going to ask our 1 year old’s grandparents to all calculate their CO2 footprints and purchase offsets for his Christmas present this year – I can’t think of anything he needs more!

    • Rachel says...

      Love the idea of purchasing carbon offsets as a Christmas present!

  61. Amy C says...

    Well done! This post could not have come at a better time. I have been thinking all week about ways I can make changes in my daily life. Please, please, please make this a series with tips that can help create change for the better.

    You always get it right ; )

  62. We must consume drastically less. We must stop traveling by cars and flying on airplanes asap. Also, we must really think about our phones. I know it’s a sacrifice, but even cutting down the use of them because they require electricity to charge is worth it to save the planet.

  63. Owl says...

    So interested to hear what people have to say about this. Thanks for today’s excellent article on this topic!

    Personally, I try to: eat less meat, have conversations around the topic of climate change, buy less things (I try to bring less stuff into my home, and this includes declining “freebies” that I truly don’t want or need), and I try to get outdoors.

  64. JFS says...

    We just moved to the suburban US after living in a European city, where we walked, biked, or took public transit everywhere. Not owning a car for several years made us acutely aware of how much time we Americans spend in ours. Previously we used to drive to do the grocery shopping, schlep kids to/from activities, and commute to work. But coming home again, we realized we were prioritizing our own comfort and convenience at the risk of both the health of the planet and our kids’ safety (Car accidents are the #1 cause of accidental deaths in kids under 17!) So we’ve made some hard choices since we returned—enrolling in the walking-distance school, biking to the market with a trailer in tow. It’s going to get even harder as it gets cold and dark. But if not us, who? If not now, when? We realized that a lot of things we think we “need” aren’t actually needs; they’re choices.

    • Jill says...

      YES! Walkable communities are a huge part of the solution. I live in one and it allows me to take public transit, walk my son to school, walk to local shops and cafes, run into neighbours and friends, and waste less food (because I only shop for what I need and pick up extras during the week at local shops). You can’t be part of a community when you are seeing it through your windshield. If you see your local government making bad plannings decisions like building car-dependent suburbs, say something.

    • JFS says...

      “You can’t be part of a community when you are seeing it through your windshield.”
      — Love this, Jill!

    • MM says...

      “But if not us, who? If not now, when?” YES! This is my mind frame exactly: there are many inconveniences to living a more conscious life, but I have the capacity to do it and no excuse not to. A few things our family does: curbside compost (so lucky to have this in Brooklyn); pescatarian diet; avoid plastic bags (including produce bags; many companies make reusables for this); shop bulk bins; avoid single use plastics; meal plan to avoid food waste. We are also lucky to live in a building full of kids, so that all of our kids’ clothes lead many lives! I love seeing things my daughter wore 6 years ago on the 4th kid in the building to own them!

  65. Thank you so much for this – I love this, post! It’s so wonderful to read how many people are taking such amazing steps to improve our small parts of the world individually.
    We have a small family farm where we rotationally graze chickens for eggs and meat, 3 cows, and 2 sheep, and keep a kitchen garden. Our animals roam through our pasture and woods and gardens, then the chickens and then the sheep and so on. This type of silvopasture farming is one of the best ways to pull carbon dioxide out of the environment. And our animals live as nature intended, grazing, eating grass, and creating rich soil.
    It is helpful when tackling climate change to have hard and fast rules, such as to stop eating meat. But a larger issue might be destructive farming – growing the same corn and soy in the same 1000 acre plots over and over again and eroding the soil, can be just as bad as cows living on cement or forests being cut down to graze.
    We still have many meatless-meals every week, as we just eat the meat we raise, which means we don’t have enough to have it every day. And I think that might be a key to a healthier Earth – balance – eating a locally raised, pasture-grazed chicken once a week, eating off of it for several days, and then making broth with the carcass might be a nice alternative to eating an Impossible burger with transportation costs and packaging out of the freezer section of your local grocery store.

    • Kate says...

      Great points, Seja – your farm sounds fantastic!

    • Anj says...

      This!

  66. Maria says...

    The little things are fantastic but don’t forget the big stuff! I’m in the northeast (4 seasons) and we have solar panels on our home which brings our electricity bill down to zero. Definitely an upfront cost, but the system will pay for itself in 4-5 years. We also have one electric car, which was purchased at a steep discount because it was used (half price with only 11k miles).

    • Tanni says...

      The movie 2040 outlines a lot of ways individuals can make changes to improve the climate. Its a very positive movie and dosnt focus on the doom and gloom. We watched it as a family and made a lost of what we can realistically do.

  67. Kate says...

    Thank you, CoJ, for writing about this. I look forward to the follow-up posts, and reading comments about what people are doing is really inspiring and heartening. Sometimes I feel like a little bit of a weirdo for things like skipping take-out or taking the bus to meet friends — it’s great to hear everyone’s ideas and feel like we are in this together.

  68. AV says...

    My husband hardly gives a hoot about the environment, but as a very frugal guy, he still ends up doing his part by accident ;)

    He rides his bike 25km/day to work and back, he wears super-old clothes (like, ones his mom bought for him in high school. He’s 32), he never lets food go to waste. He finds scrap lumber and uses it in projects in our yard, and we buy almost all our furniture used. The heat is usually uncomfortably low (although we turn it up for unprepared guests, haha!), we don’t water the lawn in the summer, and because we pay for each garbage bin our house produces in our municipality, we’re excellent at recycling and composting and we also cook pretty much everything from scratch (he’s our resident bread-maker).

    Are we perfect? Nope. He has no interest in paying for free-range eggs, for example, and we are definitely still omnivores who have recently learned to like beans. But being cheap gets you pretty far in slowing down the environmental crisis!

    • Owl says...

      Such a good point to emphasize: being frugal tends to go hand in hand with the environment! I used to be extremely frugal and honestly I think it was the most environmentally responsible period in my life!

    • Meredith says...

      My husband is the same way! He cares about the environment, but is WAY more motivated by frugality. It has opened my eyes to lots of ways I over-consumed (and by extension over-spent!) before we met.

    • Kelly P says...

      OMG – are you married to my husband?!? Haha! We seem to have a similar dynamic. We do many of the same things for different reasons: for him – frugality, for me – it’s the environment. I figure either way it’s beneficial. I’m still trying to work on him with meat eating. We don’t eat much with our meals (very small portions of meat per person) but we have meat with almost every dinner. It’s my #1 thing to work on.

    • Joanna says...

      I so agree on the frugality point.

      What also goes hand in hand is what we put in our bodies (food, etc) has a similar damaging impact on the planet, for example unhealthy ultra processed foods heavy on Palm oil that drive deforestation and loss of habitat in SE Asia, plastic packaging, etc.

    • Julia says...

      I am fascinated by both environmental issues and frugality (although I could stand to do a lot better on both) and there is a tremendous amount of cross-over between the two! I’ve recently started trying to buy less brand-new stuff, and I’m finding it to be a really fun and rewarding way to shop–I just purchased a delightfully lurid $5 vintage tin at an antique store that I’m planning to transform into a planter for my best friend’s birthday. I can see some real problems with this style of shopping, however: 1) it takes a lot longer, and 2) whenever I find a cool, inexpensive, one-of-a-kind gift, my inner hoarder starts screaming “…YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO KEEP THIS FOR YOURSELF.”

  69. Ren says...

    I love you all even more now. x

  70. Anna says...

    I have a solar and wind-powered clothes dryer. It gets me outside. :)

  71. JK says...

    Thank you, CoJ, for confronting this. Now let’s keep going deeper, and let’s keep talking about it. I’d love to hear more about how to talk about it–to our parents, to our children, neighbors, co-workers, and especially to the people in our lives who refuse to “believe” in climate change. And CoJ, let’s keep talking about it here on the blog. Let’s go meat free in recipes, let’s encourage smarter consumption that also talks about dealing with the end of life of the product or packaging or carbon footprint of shipping when an affiliate link is put in, let’s make this part of what we talk about every day here. Let’s make this doable.

    • Daisy says...

      I made my son participate in a Science contest at school and we built a small composting pot. Atleast, it introduced him to the topic of composting. He watches us carry containers to stores to bring back left over food and he has himself said on occasions to not go to place that serves food in styrofoam containers. I think kids learn by watching what we do. I showed him video of a turtle that had plastic fork/straw stuck in its nostril, so that he would not mindlessly reach out for a plastic straw that is totally not needed.

  72. Bec says...

    Gosh I could not love this post more! CoJ you are perfect :)

    Several years ago, in my mid-20s, I started educating myself more on climate change and what individual actions I could take. It blew my mind to think most of the trash I’d ever created STILL existed..and that I had never though about it much growing up! AH! I joined the “zero waste” movement, created an IG to build community, and now am starting to volunteer with my local govt. Sending lots of love to anyone reading this, wondering what they can do, and feeling that classic 2019 mix of panic and empowerment!

    • Rachel says...

      “Classic 2019 mix of panic and empowerment” – omg, yes. That is exactly what this year has been!

  73. NK says...

    THANK YOU! My husband has been a tremendous influence in pushing our household for better practices. Of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” triad, he really showed me how you can REUSE so much.

    two of my favorites:
    -reuse a bread bag/pretzel bag/any bag and throw a smelly diaper in to contain the smell (no diaper genie here)
    – reuse old washcloths as Swiffer cleaners (instead of the one use wet pads – which are SO expensive). just spray your own cleaner on them, clean up, and then wash!
    -reuse toys! garage sales are so awesome. we haven’t bought a new toy in

    Other good habits:
    – if it’s under a mile and >32 degrees/<90 degrees, we WALK! no matter what!
    – buy local. say no to amazon. convenience often means a high carbon footprint. i'm so over all these amazon boxes, too.
    – check out garage sales in your area. every few months. we stock up periodically and then pull out "new" toys for treats, b-days, holidays. the kids don't even know (albeit they're young and may care soon).
    -BYO silverware. we bought some plastic, washable silverware from ikea and keep it in out car, lunch bags, purse, backpack. yes, it's plastic, but we've washed and used it for over ten years now.
    – i bought a few handkerchiefs last year, and just toss them in the wash at the end of the day. no more kleenex!

    overall mantra: if it's a one use product, we don't need it. we have a few exceptions (our popcorn maker, for example). it's just been TRANSFORMATIVE to see how much less waste we've had. we can all do more!

    • Meredith says...

      I didn’t even know popcorn makers were a thing before I met my eco-frugal husband. Please tell me you season yours with nutritional yeast too!?!

    • NK says...

      @Meredith – haha! nope, just peanut oil and salt here. the whirly pop is sooo amazing – never a burnt morsel. swoon.

  74. Elizabeth Bryan says...

    I’ve always been a lurker in the comments section, never a poster… I just wanted to send a heartfelt thank you to the CoJ team for using your platform for something that is truly important. Thank you for the resources and starting the conversation. It is so heartening to see that people do care, and that we are on this journey together. While never an activist before, I know it’s time for me to get over my anxieties and introverted nature, and start to act and to speak.

  75. Greer says...

    Just seeing all of these comments makes me feel more hopeful!

    Buying carbon offsets is an imperfect but useful way to mitigate plane travel, etc.
    https://www.nrdc.org/stories/should-you-buy-carbon-offsets

    If you’re looking for ways to limit your plastic impact checkout
    https://packagefreeshop.com/
    and buy a Guppyfriend bag for washing your clothes! https://guppyfriend.com/en/

    Finally, support organizations that help all kinds of communities engage with natural space! Check out the Trust for Public Land’s part equity work. If people connect to the natural environment, there is more incentive to preserve it! https://www.tpl.org/parkscore

  76. Caitlin says...

    These comments are so great! I love getting ideas of the small things we can each do to try and reduce our impact on the planet. To add to the list, here are some things our family is trying:
    1) Replace single-use makeup remover pads with washable bamboo pads
    2) Use cloth napkins instead of paper towels
    3) Reusable bags/skip the bags at the store
    4) Get a washable fabric shower curtain liner instead of disposable vinyl
    5) Buy used clothes
    6) Joined our local co-op grocery store
    7) Swapping a gas-guzzling commuting car for a fully electric (!) Nissan Leaf
    Keep caring, friends!

  77. I’ve been writing a blog this year covering some of these topics (just as a way to hold myself accountable for learning more). It’s called Every Slice Counts, and I look at the impact of consumer choices you can make. I’m also reading the book Inconspicuous Consumption, which is great and cover some similar topics.

  78. Kelly says...

    Most importantly, vote for candidates that understand this crucial moment in the climate crisis. If we could change our economy so drastically to win WWII then it is possible to do the same for the climate crisis. At least that’s what Bernie says and I agree.

    • Kim says...

      YES!

  79. Kaitlyn says...

    Thank you CoJ!
    I’m so so happy to get to share and learn from each other!

    What works for me —
    • Water bottle and coffee cup come everywhere with me – bonus if you live in the UK you can get a filter coffee from Pret for 49p with your cup!
    • my husband and I do our weekly shop with one large IKEA bag, works like a charm! And I take canvas totes with me in my bag everyday
    • Second hand clothing! Depop and charity shops are amazing!
    • veggie food! It’s cheapppp, it’s healthhyyyy, it’s delicious! My husband and I do our weekly shop for £30, not eating meat saves us loads of money
    • I do drink milk in tea, but it’s delivered from a local farm in glass bottles that are collected every week
    • taking public transport 90% of the time, I use buses and trains for commuting and going out unless we’re going on holiday or out into the country side

    Looking forward to reading what others do!

  80. Miriam says...

    Thanks for starting a series on climate change. I teach junior and senior college students environmental chemistry, and just finished grading their exam on the chemistry of climate change. It was nice to see this post as I finished grading. In the five years that I’ve taught this course, there has been increasing interest among the students in climate change & what we can do about it, which is encouraging.

  81. T says...

    OR STOP EATING MEAT.

    • Jay says...

      Yes! So many wonderful reasons to choose this option.

    • Sasha L says...

      ?

    • Lizzie says...

      Thank you!

    • Marisa says...

      Yep. Even the NYT has suggested that the world stop making fun of vegans, because we’re right. Any chef who thinks vegan food is boring or tasteless seems to me to be without creativity or curiosity.

      Secondly, please ride a bike if you’re able. My kids sometimes complain about suiting up for bike rides in bad weather, so we talked about how important it is to reduce emissions as long as our bodies work and we are capable of getting places by bike. Plus, it’s SO MUCH MORE FUN and boosts our mood every single time. (And we don’t live in NYC where you can easily be car free; most people where we live use cars.) Our kids turned the explanation into fart jokes about cars. And they believe we’re vegan because of cow farts. Everything can be appealing to kids if it’s turned into a fart issue.

  82. Hilary says...

    I’m so excited to read through these comments! A few small things our family has done lately:

    – Bring our own reusable tumbler to coffee shops
    – Switch from disposable to cloth napkins (Etsy has lots of affordable options and it supports small business!)
    – Use reusable bags when shopping (and not just the grocery store, but for Target, etc.) or declining a bag and just carrying things
    – Not buying new gift bags and reusing things we have to package gifts
    – Meal and snack planning, so we buy exactly what we need at the store and reduce food waste. We’re not perfect, but we’re trying to plan more “snack plate” nights to use up little bits of fruits/veggies/leftovers that we have.
    – Being a more conscious consumer, especially with clothes or beauty products. We’re moving towards a capsule wardrobe and our daughter has one.

  83. Carolyn says...

    Dear Cup of Jo team, thank you so much for this post, and especially for not suggesting that climate action lays in purchasing new things (eg. green washing). The climate crisis is big and scary and daunting and it’s really helpful to see a post that helps to channel fear into conversation, habit shifts and community building.

    Some other small, individual actions:
    – Buy high quality clothes made out of single substrate, natural fibers (eg. cotton, linen, wool). Natural fibers are easier to mend and easier to recycle when they come to the end of their lifecycle. Poly blends can cause pilling and are not able to be recycled or composted once they are worn out.
    – Mend worn clothes, either at home or with the help of a tailor.
    – Purchase shoes that can be resoled or fixed by a cobbler when damaged.
    – Fly less, or not at all if you can. If you’re lucky enough to live on the East Coast of the US (or even better in Europe!) then train travel can bring you to lots of beautiful places for vacation.
    – Plan to use less single use plastics, carry small utensil set and/or silicone reusable zip-locks for leftovers at restaurants.
    – Forgo or limit use of climate controls at home, keeping the AC at 78 degrees or higher if possible.
    – Look into your bank / mortgage to see how your money / interest is being used (eg. consider divesting from banks that are actively undermining the safety of the environment).
    – Eat fewer animal products, including dairy.
    – Compost, either through a municipal waste system, the farmers market or in your backyard.

  84. Remy says...

    Individual action as a consumer and a voter is wonderful and ALSO due to our emergency/almost out of time timeframe, directly confronting the big $ players who are holding us in this unsustainable chokehold makes tons of sense to me as well. Look up online to see who is doing non violent direct action trainings in your area and/or check out the nonviolent direct action group Extinction Rebellion. If you have a chapter that is local to you, go check out a meeting and see how you might get involved. Depending on your commitment this can be in a background role doing something like fundraising/working with the media/making banners and puppets/social media, or you might take a role in the street. There’s a spectrum of non-arrestable and arrestable roles you can take.

    • Annie says...

      Yes–this is such a great point. I’m writing my dissertation (in part) about how we as humans can comprehend climate change when it’ s happening on such a vast and incomprehensible scale. One thing that keeps coming up in the literature on this topic is that when people get absorbed in taking individual steps to combat climate change, they are less likely to focus on policy. I’m far from perfect, but I’m trying to make sure that for each small step I take (like reducing food waste) I also do something to hold those big $ players accountable (like contacting my representative or attending an event through my local environmental advocacy group). I would love to see this excellent list reversed so that policy comes first!

  85. TC says...

    A few years ago I read a major report that came out and essentially gave four main areas individuals should focus on to reduce their impact on the environment: meat/dairy consumption, energy use, fossil fuel/transportation and water. I try to remember to look at my big picture impact every time I forget my own coffee mug and am saddled with guilt. The issue is large and multifaceted and our view must be as well.

  86. Amanda Millstein says...

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I am a pediatrician, mother, and climate change advocate. I can’t thank you enough for publishing this. Climate change is about our health and we must talk about it NOW.

  87. Quinn says...

    Thank you for this! I hope to see more posts like it.

  88. JLT says...

    Something useful for readers of this site is the use of plastics in everything from hand soap bottles, shampoo bottles, toothpaste.

    When my husband and I first lived together, I was gobsmacked at how much toothpaste he used to brush his teeth (a whole strip), how much shampoo he used for his short hair (larger than a half dollar amount), how much dish soap he poured on his dishes, and how much toilet paper he would go through in a week (a roll every 2-3 days).

    Where I bought new toothpaste every 6 months or so (dentists say you only need a smear of toothpaste), and new dish soap every few months, he would go through a new tube of toothpaste every month, and a new bottle of dish soap every week.

    This is an enormous waste of plastic, and its unnecessary to keep us clean. The nitrates and phosphates in soap and shampoos are also bad for our water supply.

    It would be great to have a series to show the minimal amount of product that we really need to stay clean and to be good conservationists. Are you using too much product? I haven’t seen a series like this before and couldn’t find anything online.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is a great idea, JLT, thank you!

    • Nora says...

      The amount of plastic bottles in our bathroom shamed me so I switched to a soap bar and a shampoo bar. We are a family of four and used to all have our own bottle – now we use the same product and have instantly saved on plastic bottles. Other tricks for reducing waste in the bathroom would be welcome – maybe you could do a post on that?

  89. Hilary says...

    Thank you for this. I have long said we are becoming the movie WALL-E.

    • Megan says...

      Omg that’s the scariest comment I’ve ever read. ? (And the most necessary and maybe the most true… ?)

  90. Joanna says...

    We changed our household energy provider a few years ago to a 100% clean energy supply for both power and gas. Support reliable renewables in your country and that will attract investment and shift reliance on carbon.
    There are many providers, just check reviews online and go for the most suitable for your family. We saved £390 (USD 400+) the first year alone.
    Reduce consumption. Don’t rely on only recycling, we don’t have control on what eventually gets recycled in our country, but we can choose to NOT USE certain items or LESS of certain items (i.e. plastics, packaging, the 20th pair of shoes or jeans, etc).
    Thank you so much for starting this series!!

  91. Amanda says...

    The one driving me nuts is the K-Cups (think Keruig style) There are SO MANY K-Cups going into the landfill every day! Non-Biodegradable! The regular brewer filters will break down or better yet reuse a wire mesh filter. The grounds can be used for compost. The plastic K-Cups need to STOP, there has got to be a better way!

    • Sam says...

      The better way is single cup pour over! Still able to make one cup, it’s so fast and it tastes way better! Ultra-convenient food/drink items for everyday use needs to become a thing of the past.

    • Jay says...

      If you already have a Keurig and want to stop using the K-cup pods, you can buy a reusable coffee filter to use with the Keurig you already have.

    • Cynthia says...

      You can get a little wire basket that fits in a Keurig and buy ground coffee.

  92. jet says...

    Thank you! We are already experiencing climate change as it gets hotter every year in AZ We have planted trees, eat more plants and donate to politicians who get it.

  93. Megan says...

    Love seeing all of these ideas! Another great way to think about the policy angle is to, once again, think local!

    Federal and state policy on climate can feel so distant, but many municipal governments, even in smaller cities and towns, are putting policies and action plans in place to reduce emissions, change energy sources and much more. Definitely check into what might be happening in your local government and encourage them to make changes on a level that feels accessible and empowering to everyone.

  94. KP says...

    Obvs climate change is a huge deal and I am thrilled to see it discussed here. In the future, I’d love to see it tackled in smaller, bite size pieces. This feels a little forced or inauthentic, in my opinion, (or maybe just too broad for me to connect with) though I appreciate you responding to reader demand for the topic. In the past, I LOVED when Jenny answered a question on reducing food waste when cooking! We all love to share recipes and talk about food, but to see someone talk about how wasteful all the leftover bits are and have suggestions for what to do with it was so refreshing! Would love to see a post on composting (in a really practical way! how do we do it in big cities?!), or talking to kids about the environment/climate change, etc.

    • KP says...

      One more note – I did appreciate your compost-related link today and learned from it! I always thought composting was great because you get compost to use in the end, but had no idea that these organic matters are harmful in a regular landfill. I never prioritized composting because I figured organic stuff would just breakdown the same wherever it ended up. News to me and just the push I needed to try to tackling composting at home!

    • mari says...

      agreed!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you for your note, KP! yes, if it’s helpful, for this series, we wanted to start with more of an overview, and then do future posts on more bite-sized pieces (cooking, travel, etc.). honestly, it was hard to know how to start because it’s such a huge subject, so really looking forward to doing more posts. thank you so much xo

    • Alycia says...

      I live in Philadelphia and in my section of the city, there are at least two compost companies. Once a week I put my blue Circle Compost bucket out front, and the next morning around 5am I hear it being emptied. It is a great sound to wake up to! And now that we compost, our trash is so empty, we can go two weeks without taking it out.
      I bet your city has similar composting companies. I hope you can find them. Ours costs $18 a month for weekly pick up and they also offer a bi-weekly pick up for less. Since I started putting out my blue bucket, I noticed two other neighbors with blue buckets too. For once, it feels good to advertise!

  95. Caitlin says...

    Thanks for your work putting together this post. I strongly identify with this: “It’s such a daunting topic that many of us (most of us?) often feel too overwhelmed by information or frozen with fear to talk about it”

    One thing I’ve done (that anyone could easily do!) is email my local farmers market and ask if they’d consider a community composting program. They actually did it!!! (I’m sure it was not just because of my request, but it can’t hurt that they knew there were folks in the community who would use it!) Now I collect my food scraps in a paper bag in the freezer all week and drop them in the community composting bin when I go to the market on Saturday. Couldn’t be easier, and I make sure to help spread the word that it’s a local option!

    We also use cloth diapers for our two little ones, don’t buy disposable paper products except tissues and toilet paper, and eat vegetarian.

    One of our biggest areas to improve on is buying stuff and having it shipped via Amazon. So hard not to with little people, but I know it’s something we need to work on.

    • Anya says...

      Deliveries from Amazon are not necessarily bad, depending on which delivery option you choose. From an environmental perspective, same-day and next-day delivery is significantly worse than no-rush shipping which allows Amazon (and whatever other companies they contract out to, or other companies you may order from) to optimize delivery routes, combine items from orders into single packages, and piggy-back on existing postal delivery service.

      In many cases, a no-rush shipping option can even be more environmentally responsible than individuals taking trips to the store, depending on how they get there and how many errands they combine. Factors that may shift this balance include multiple delivery attempts, and ordering numerous items to try and then returning the ones that didn’t work out later.

  96. Lynsey says...

    Here is what my family has done in the last year. These steps took a bit of thought and research, but they work seamlessly with our life and haven’t been a ton of effort. Also, 350.org is a great resource for community work.

    – Interior storm windows: we live in the Northeast, where it’s cold, so we fitted our windows through Window Dressers (a nonprofit) to make our windows more efficient in the winter.
    – Insulation: We are re-insulating our attic this fall to prevent heat loss in the winter/regulate temps in the summer.
    – Electricity: We opted into our utility’s “green” option, which offsets our electricity bill with wind and solar generated in-state (check with your utility! I wish we could do solar panels, but our house isn’t a good candidate).
    – Food: I now shop almost exclusively at our local co-op, buying as much as I can in bulk, filling my own containers. This has cut down on packaging waste A TON!
    – Compost: we compost through a local service that is an “industrial composter” which means we can compost a lot more than we would be able to in our backyard.
    – Plastic: we have reduced plastic as much as we can (no more to-go cups, no straws, etc). But it seems impossible to rid of it entirely. When forced to buy plastic, I look for rigid plastic that can be recycled in our town. Also, Whole Foods accepts “stretch plastic” for recycling. Things like bread bags, etc.
    – Recycling: we pay close attention to local rules on recycling. Also there are other ways to recycle. TerraCycle allows you to recycle toothpaste tubes and razors. H&M takes textiles and old clothes for recycling. Nike accepts sneakers (any brand). Origins take any brand of beauty product containers.
    – Transportation: We needed a new car and so we chose a hybrid. We were driving a really old car, so this has made an enormous difference in our gas consumption. There isn’t much public transportation where we are; if there were, we would be on it!

    I feel overwhelmed by climate change a lot of the time. I think one of the biggest benefits of individual action is the feeling that I’m taking control. It makes me feel more powerful, and I feel better about spreading the word and encouraging others to make possible changes. Better than sitting around feeling hopeless!

    • A says...

      Wow, Lynsey, what a great list of steps. So glad you posted. I am inspired to look into the interior storm windows non-profit and green electricity! (We are also freezing and running up high heating bill 6 months out of the year here in ME and looking for way to change it.)

    • Angela says...

      Most of these were new to me! So helpful, thank you for sharing!

  97. Joanna M. says...

    Thanks for writing about this important topic! I’d love to hear some opinions from fellow CoJ readers about how all of this impacts the choice to have children in the future. I’m 25 and nowhere near that stage in my life, but am already feeling sad that having a child might not be the best move for the planet and for the child’s future.

  98. Jasmine Chiu says...

    For me personally, it’s been difficult to read all of the alarming environmental crises happening across the world (i.e. the Amazon fires, plastic pollution in the ocean) and try to feel optimistic about the positive changes that are indeed happening. I’ve made a lot of zero waste switches over the past two years, and I started a “green team” at my company to highlight opportunities for greener office practices. We’ve worked with our facilities team on building energy and water tracking and this week, I organized a Climate Awareness Week where we had a series of daily challenges, including participation in Meatless Monday and the elimination of single use materials. It has gotten a lot of buzz at the lunch counter and 1-1 conversations, so I’m excited that people are starting to TALK about it more!

  99. Katie says...

    Thank you for starting this discussion. I fall into the ‘paralyzed with fear’ categories where climate change is constantly on my mind (I feel like I can’t look at a piece of plastic or a bottle of wine in my house without feeling guilty). I struggle a lot because the #1 thing I love is travel abroad, which is so horrifyingly bad for the environment. I really wanted to show my daughter the world some day but I don’t know if my conscience will let me. I feel very overwhelmed by thinking of the future we have wrought on the planet and am sort of struggling to enjoy the day to day because of it. Does anyone have any good strategies for dealing with the enormity of climate change and being informed without having it be oppressive?

    • Kaitlyn says...

      Hi Katie! I wanted to comment, because I so so get this.

      I have anxiety and can suffer from panic attacks, not purely related to climate — but the climate crisis can spin me into that too. Climate Anxiety is real.

      For me, it really helps to share that anxiety, but also to accept that it’s okay that I’m scared— and really importantly, to recognize that I can’t change everything on my own.

      We can’t beat ourselves up for trying to do the right thing, and not being perfect. Society is not yet set up in a way that helps us much with this, and it can feel like a minefield navigating basic decisions like buying a snack.

      I have totally stood in my flat and berated myself for buying a snack packaged in single use plastic, and only recently did I realise that wasn’t helping me in anyway. Because fear so often paralyses, but hope motivates. I’m sure that isn’t true for everyone but I realised that for me, it is. I think the more little steps we take, and kindness we show ourselves and those around us, the better we’ll be long term. Look at how much you care to feel this way! That’s so beautiful and bound to be good for this Earth!

      I also think the more we each champion parts of it that matter to us, the better! So I love style, and now I only buy second hand and I share that experience with friends. It’s just one change, but it’s one that I can get behind with energy and hope!

      Have you checked out the slow travel movement? Maybe you’ll take your daughter on an epic 3 month long train journey across Europe and Asia?! Or drive in a solar powered car from coast to coast of the states! We can, and should, still enjoy our lives! It helps me to focus on what we can do. So it won’t be exactly the same? It might be much better!

      Above all, know that you’re not alone! I’m raising my glass of wine to you now!

    • Katie, sending you love. I know we live in an action-oriented culture where we are almost trained to feel guilty if we are not CONSTANTLY DOING BETTER. It can be so exhausting. I have a “suggestion” that perhaps a true activist would say lacks the requisite urgency of the situation, but might be a peaceful place to start. Here’s my suggestion: Have you cultivated a relationship with Nature? Can you give your daughter opportunities to cultivate her own relationship with Nature?

      I’ll leave you with a favorite poem. xo.

      The Peace of Wild Things
      By Wendell Berry

      When despair grows in me,
      and I wake in the night at the least sound
      in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
      I go and lie down where the wood drake
      rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
      I come into the peace of wild things
      who do not tax their lives with forethought
      of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
      And I feel above me the day-blind stars
      waiting with their light. For a time
      I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    • Lillian Chang says...

      Bravo Kaitlyn! I completely agree with everything you said. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so eloquently and encouraging us to all move forward!

      I agree about championing the parts that mean the most to us in helping the movement along (for me, that’s cloth diapering! I started teaching cloth diapering workshops to anyone interested, and for me, that’s my contribution to the movement, and I feel proud to be able to help encourage new parents if they are interested in trying it!) and to live lives that are in alignment with what we believe – this can be so inspiring to others as well.

      And above all, giving ourselves grace in the process.

    • nadine says...

      oh Katie, I understand your words a lot and I’ve felt the same. Thank you Kaitlyn and Joyce <3

  100. Jeri says...

    I just caught this video recently about the impact the fashion industry has on the environment. I was floored that fashion is the second largest contributor after the oil industry to environmental issues.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiSYoeqb_VY&vl=en

  101. Joanna says...

    Y’all should interview Emily Atkin, who writes the popular climate change newsletter HEATED: https://heated.world/

  102. laura says...

    vegan for the win!

    • Anouk says...

      Stop buying stuff. Use what you have, borrow, swap.

    • Morgan says...

      Ditto, Laura

  103. Nectar says...

    thanks for this!

    I did a bit of an inventory of where I waste the most (I’ve tackled everything in terms of waste in the kitchen). It seems like its mainly in the bathroom! For the past year I decided to switch to shampoo/conditioner/body soap bars, toothpaste tabs instead of tube, menstrual cups instead of tampons, reusable facial wipes.

    I’ve also talked my roommate into making our apartment paper-towel free! If anyone has suggestions for reusable cloths, swedish towels, it would be greatly appreciated!

    • Kay says...

      I keep a stack of reusable cloths under the sink for wiping up messes (haven’t bought paper towels in a few years now) and I find that the best replacements for paper towels are rags I already have from around the house:
      — old t-shirts with armpit stains — cut the arms off and cut it into smaller pieces
      — stained or ratty towels — very absorbent!
      — old dishrags that have seen their day
      If you’re not like me and just have these things hanging around, head to your local second hand shop and pick up some less than perfect things for very little money. I think you’ll be surprised how easy this transition is.

  104. Katie N says...

    Check out your local Buy Nothing Project! https://buynothingproject.org/ Since becoming a parent, I felt like my consumerism went through the roof. Kid needs clothing, gosh those toys look like fun… BN is all about local giving AND gifting – one man’s trash is totally another man’s treasure. Seriously – I’ve seen opened jars of pickles given away. For me, last year I sourced about 10 holiday gifts through BN – also eliminating all the Amazon orders/instead walking my neighborhood to pick things up. Not to mention it builds community; as we engage and share with neighbors we may also be more comfortable with community action.

  105. Sarah says...

    Something I have mixed feelings about: Studies show that one of the best things you can do to help with climate change is have no or less children.

    • Sonja says...

      Yes, and it’s almost like it’s a taboo subject to talk about limiting family size.

      My husband would love to have a HUGE family but the thought of being responsible for so many new American consumers (and their future dependents) is too much guilt. I have two children and sometimes feel like I am a bit greedy (especially when looking at how many resources our family consumes compared to a family in a less-developed country).

      I’m also frankly not sure the future world is going to be a very kind place for our children anyway.

      CoJ, would you care to tackle this subject?! I’d love to see this topic discussed!

    • annie says...

      i think about this all the time.

  106. Anna B says...

    This is great, thank you! I try to be conscious of what I consume and keep my shopping local, and this includes dairy and meat from small farmers I know and trust. I don’t wash my clothes as much as I used to (except pants and socks!) I try to get 2 or 3 wears out of tops, and about 5 out of trousers. I refill laundry detergent and washing up liquid at the farmer’s market (when I remember!) I’m a ways off where I’d like to be and I’m a demon for paper note taking, but I think, slowly, I’m taking steps to reduce my environmental impact. Most of all I need to remember that I can deal with inconvenience! Whether it be getting up earlier to walk into work or going without for a few days so I can fill up tupperware with grains at the Saturday farmers market instead of buying it in plastic from the supermarket.

    • Rachel Thompson says...

      Yes, I really like your statement: “Most of all I need to remember that I can deal with inconvenience!” I think this is definitely true for me! If it is important to me (in my head/heart), then it also needs to be important to me in how I use my time, money, energy, etc.

    • Kate says...

      I’m so impressed you can get detergent and bulk grains at your farmers market! I get them from my co-op, but that is really next level.

  107. Rebecca says...

    Thanks for this. I really think #3 should be #1. As Bill McKibben said in his NYT book review of Tatiana Schlossberg’s new book Inconspicuous Consumption, “fighting for the Green New Deal makes more mathematical sense than trying to take on the planet one commodity at a time.” We need to vote our way out of this! No politician who is not 100% committed to addressing climate change will ever get my vote. To that end, I just donated last week to the Environmental Voter Project – https://www.environmentalvoter.org/ — which works to identify non-voting, inactive environmentalists and turn them into voters and activists. I’d love to hear any suggestions for where else I can put my money towards policy change.

    Having said that, I don’t mean to belittle the importance of #s 1 & 2 also. I’ve heard people argue that getting rid of plastic straws is not going to save the oceans; maybe so, but getting rid of the mindset that we can continue to have our plastic straws and plastic bags and plastic everything, all sent via same-day delivery and eventually tossed in the trash, just might.

    thanks for this post!

  108. Erin says...

    I respectfully disagree with your point about the science-y details. While it’s important to talk about it, I feel that it’s wildly more important to LEARN about it! This always slightly irks me when this issue arises (as someone with a degree in environmental geoscience).

    What is the difference between weather and climate? What do greenhouse gases actually do (and did you know CO2 isn’t even the most abundant?). How do the ocean’s circulation patterns impact the atmosphere? What did the earth’s climate look like before humans entered the picture? Have you actually read the Paris Climate Agreement?

    Being informed (through reputable sources) is the first step, and it’s hugely (hugely!!) important to evaluate our personal choices to align with that knowledge, like you mentioned. But it’s hard to engage in meaningful dialogue with the goal of imparting change if you don’t at least try to understand what’s actually happening.

    • Erika says...

      Completely agree. Wish more people would take the time to study and learn what is actually going on.

    • Ciel says...

      Yes this!! I just got in a disagreement today with an uncle who published and article on FB that perpetuated VERY wrong information about climate change. And I was only able to address it with him because I was informed and understood the science. Although, I imagine not everyone has the time or wherewithal for this.

  109. Jeannie says...

    Yes, thanks for bringing up the issue of food waste! I had no idea it was one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters globally. Consumers in the United States and other wealthy nations (Australia, Canada, W. European countries), can totally create change by reducing food waste because OUR food waste happens at the household level and we collectively make as much food waste as THE REST OF THE WORLD. That stunned me. Wealthier countries create the most waste :-( Around the globe, other countries have food waste due to packaging, transportation issues, etc.

    Don’t fly around the world so much. For those who have access and resources: eat more locally grown produce according to the seasons, and less meat. Wear and buy natural fibers (cotton, hemp, wool, silk).Don’t fall for the trap of “recycled plastic” clothing – it still supports petroleum-based products, and sheds horrid microfibers.

  110. Pam says...

    Yes, all of this, and PLANT TREES. This is not hard. We all have space for these natural carbon-storing machines in our own yards, on our streets, in our local parks and school yards. Or volunteer – most cities and towns have either urban forest departments or other nonprofit tree organizations you can help out (those groups can also recommend good types of trees for your area). The difference trees make in climate change overall, and locally in reducing energy use, cooling cities, and also the way more tree canopy leads to happier and healthier humans makes this an easy win!

  111. Tania says...

    Thank you for this! Ay. It all feels pretty overwhelming. I sort of behave like an environmentalist but it’s really more a result of not having a lot of disposable income. My kid wears mostly hand-me downs, we don’t take trips that require flying much because of the expense, and I really try to use up the food we buy (which — because meat is expensive — tends to be more plant heavy though we do dairy.) Even if you do have more disposable income, you can act like a frugal person I guess? I imagine it would be harder to do (I’m not sure how I would behave if I had more resources). In a way, it’s a weird relief not to have the option.

    • jet says...

      Yep. There was a big push inAZ to have a barren rock yard about 20 years ago, and some of our neighbors did it. We literally can feel the heat.

  112. Elizabeth says...

    Thank you. I have been hoping and hoping that COJ would address the climate crisis, and I am so happy to see these suggestions. Feeling like you have no control over something can be paralyzing, so it’s wonderful to have concrete actions that people can take.

    We’ve made many bigger changes to address our carbon footprint, but a tiny change we’ve made is not using conventional wrapping paper anymore. We use newsprint or pretty pages from magazines taped together. At the holidays I’ve used fabric bows to add some color to the newsprint and then have kept them all to reuse again the next year.

    Last, our local food co-op posted this article which I thought was a really important consideration when thinking about the food you buy. It points out that it is more important to consider the farming practices behind the food you buy – not just whether the food is a meat or a vegetable:
    https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/life/2019-08-28-destructive-farming-is-the-issue–not-whether-you-eat-meat-or-vegetables/

    • Sarah says...

      Yes to going without wrapping paper! Last Christmas, my mother-in-law made reusable gift bags for the whole family; each person or couple got their own Christmasy pattern. All the links I can find are for the fussy drawstring kind; she just sewed three sides of rectangular fabric (inside out), and sewed about 8 inches of ribbon into the the top of one of the sides– and she made bags of all sizes. Seemed really easy, and such a cute idea. They still all look amazing bunched under the tree!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      going without wrapping paper is a great and doable idea. thank you!

    • Heather says...

      Oh my gosh, yes! I have not bought wrapping paper for years. It actually makes me cringe to see and touch.

      I just save tissue paper or other special paper or materials from gifts that I receive, and I have cloth ribbon to decorate which I hope the gift recipient would save and re-use.

    • katie says...

      Thank you for mentioning farming practices and the where you buy food, not the what you buy. The people promoting no meat, I’d love to know where they get their all of their food.

    • Rachel says...

      I like these ideas about alternative wrapping paper. I’ve recently started to reuse old paper bags as wrapping (from when I’ve accidentally forgotten my reusable bags at the grocery store). Put a bow on it after or ask your child to make a drawing on it to jazz it up!

  113. Audrey says...

    Thanks for bringing up this topic! I felt really discouraged after the climate school strikes to see so many comments of people online that STILL deny the climate crisis. Like what is happening??? Thank you for sharing these tips and encouragement!

    The biggest tips that work for me is:
    -BYO cup and utensils everywhere. Check out packagefreeshop.com for great stuff!
    -Ask your employer if you can work from home a day+ per week to avoid driving (or better yet, ride a bike)
    -Spend a little time each weekend meal planning and food prepping. It does take time but helps prevent food waste and take-out containers. Not to mention it saves money!
    -Buy 2nd hand or vintage. There are some great sites on Instagram (such as Noihsaf.Bazaar) that have GREAT slow fashion finds.

  114. june2 says...

    I’ve been vegan for 30 years and will be for life but want to mention that as I’ve learned how vital cattle are to the restoration and preservation of our grasslands – which in turn are a vital carbon bank – I think people who are carnivore’s should know that they can just eat sustainable meats as in days of old: small amounts just to flavor main dishes comprised largely of vegetables or grains. There is plenty of protein if you eat adequate quantities of greens and grains. I’ve know because I am literally never sick and I’ve had my blood work done. I’m extraordinarily healthy. You’ve got to realize that there is a great deal of ignorance about nutrition in the AMA and that the meat and dairy lobbyists are powerfully influential. Nutrition is not complex – eat mostly plants etc. . . as the saying goes. The thing to be aware of is that our nation’s soils are depleted due to chemical agriculture so that means food-based vitamins are essential – personally I also take 2grams spirulina tabs daily for micro-nutrients.

    I know people who are basically vegetarian but eat eggs weekly and meat only once a month or so and in that way even buying the best organic, grass-fed they save so much money. So cost is no excuse.

    • Amy says...

      As someone who works for a dairy farm I agree with this. Yes, dairy is nutritionally dense and a lovely food product, but it doesn’t need to be in every.thing. Our farm was able to start bottling their own milk on-site in reusable glass bottles, which is a first for our region. We’re also buying local products from a variety of suppliers and doing a weekly delivery route along with our milk, to help our community buy local (sometimes it’s daunting to figure out where to get your local, humanely-raised beef, or your free-range eggs, or your organic locally-grown-wheat bread, or your locally grown tea! – and everyone stopping individually at all those stores scattered across the area gets ridiculous for both time and gas). There are great CSAs already operating in our area so we’re leaving the produce to them :)

      I was also surprised to learn that grazing beef cattle help trap a vast amount of carbon in grasslands; if they were converted into grain/veg producing fields, they would release a TON of carbon into the atmosphere. The answers aren’t always simple or predictable!

    • Ellen says...

      I want to second the point about “small amounts of meat to flavor main dishes.” This is still very common in other cuisines (e.g., Chinese dishes that use little bits of meat to flavor tofu). In our household, when we eat somewhat bigger pieces of meat (more than just flavoring), we still use very modestly sized pieces, and supplement our protein with beans. (Most nights, we eat vegetarian.) I think it’s helpful to think of meat as a luxury!

  115. Jessica says...

    Marriage counseling and support to avoid divorce! Divorce creates two homes, cars, sets of household goods, etc. where before there was one.

    • Jenny says...

      I could not disagree more strongly. I am divorcing. I left the car with my ex spouse and happily live without one. Because I no longer use shopping to distract myself from unhappiness, I buy less. I’ve also consigned a huge number of lovely garments that remind me too much of my old life. I waste less food. Most of the furnishings in my new home are used. We split most of the household goods. I suspect that once we sell our house, our combined carbon footprint will be significantly smaller than when we lived together, because we’ll be living in apartments or row-homes, rather than a large single-family house. And, importantly, “No woman is required to build the world by destroying herself.”

    • Bb says...

      Great idea!!!

    • Lindsey says...

      Let’s not get carried away here. People going through the hell of divorce don’t need added guilt of climate change.

    • Kate says...

      That is one of the most ridiculous comments I’ve read on cup of jo. Let’s stay in abusive relationships to save the world!

  116. Erin says...

    Please look into Citizens Climate Lobby if you are paralyzed by inaction! I sank into a deep depression about a year ago, realizing that we are on a path to real destruction, and then found CCL. What I have heard CCL folks say time and time again is “The solution for despair is taking action,” and CCL is a bipartisan group that works to take action on policy. For anyone looking for a way to make a big impact, CCL really provides a way for individuals to make a difference. It’s a respectful and hopeful group (which is super important!), and I’m getting way outside my comfort zone and trying to start a chapter in my town. When my priority is saving the human race, I’m finding I can do more than I ever thought I could!

    And Cup of Jo, I’ve been a long time reader and love you all. Thank you.

    https://citizensclimatelobby.org

    • Love CCL!

    • june2 says...

      thank you for this link!

    • Erica Bollerud says...

      Fellow Citizens’ Climate Lobby member and Cup of Jo reader here! Joining CCL has been the single best, most hopeful, most PRODUCTIVE thing I have done since the last election. Marches are absolutely necessary and great, but joining CCL has offered me a path to feeling hopeful about climate action on the federal level – and a huge community of support – that I can’t recommend enough.

      Congratulations on starting a chapter in your town, Erin! I’m a group leader for my local chapter. It’s so much work, but it is so worth it!

    • Erin says...

      Erica, would you be open to giving me some pointers on being a group leader? I’d love to connect if you’re open…. CoJ, how can I do that without plastering my email address here publicly? :)

    • Ellen says...

      Thanks for the heads up! I’ve known about 350.org, but CCL is new to me. I just looked into my local chapter.

    • Caroline says...

      Thank you so much for this suggestion! I have also been depressed about the state of the climate but always feel better when I’m taking action. I’m excited to get involved with CCL!

    • Erica Bollerud says...

      Hi Erin- Happy to help! You can look me up on CCL’s community site via the Member Directory. I live in Maryland. Looking forward to connecting with you soon!

  117. Charlotte says...

    I am from Germany and here we also think about how to change this scary future. We as a family of 4 live outside Berlin in beautiful Potsdam and try to use our only car as little as possible. We aim for doing all errants by bike and commute to Berlin by combination of bike and public transport. It is much more healthy and relaxing as well. Here, we have shops where you can buy food unpacked and markets where you can put your fruits and vegetables directly into your own basket. This I do as well in the regular supermarket- and no fear of bacteria, we are very seldomly ill. In the supermarket I talk to the shop owners in case a product has more packaging than necessary. Other people do that too.
    We travel by train if possible and try not to fly for vacation.

    There are so many things about climate protection that make our lifes better and immediately more healthy and I can only envourage to try more of it. You may get to know new people, have interesting talks and see the beauty of the small things around you while walking or biking your way.
    Best wishes for all of us from Germany
    Charlotte

  118. Robyn says...

    I love this. It is practical and hopeful while remaining realistic. I expected nothing less but am still so pleased by how you have engaged with it, and am so excited for the rest of the series.

    I have stopped buying meat to cook at home, but occasionally still have it when eating out. I am slowly trying to cut out dairy, but am finding that difficult! I don’t buy eggs or milk, but love yogurt and find it hard to work out if I should buy local, dairy yogurt or something made form e.g. coconut milk which has been transported from far away.

    I live in the UK but have some weddings next year on mainland Europe (very lucky!) and have decided to take the train rather than fly. It will take a lot longer, but I am planning on sharing this with other friends/cousins that are going and seeing if they feel like coming with me and not flying, seeing more of the countryside and having some adventures along the way. Feels like a win-win-win to me.

  119. Ellen says...

    Our family doesn’t have a car…but we fly a lot. (My husband doesn’t drive, and our extended family–sibs, parents, everyone–is super-scattered all over the country.) Flying for visits is how we manage to stay connected. But I wonder if we should reduce our number of visits (maybe from two or three times a year to once a year?). I know that flying is *really bad* as far as carbon footprint goes… It’s so hard to figure this all out!

    • june2 says...

      Consider Amtrak (in the US)! I love the train for trips, such an adventure and totally comfortable especially if you have your own cabin – essential on overnight trips.

    • M says...

      Consider joining a carbon offset program when you fly!

    • Ellen says...

      We’ve taken the train & bus when visiting family 8-10 hours away, but have yet to do it (with kids) for longer trips (e.g., Minnesota to the West coast). In my pre-kid days, I rode Amtrak some. Because freight trains take priority, they are constantly behind schedule. (I once took a train from Minneapolis to DC that was 26 hours late!) With a toddler and six-year-old, long-haul train trips still feel a little daunting… But we’d love to do it some day.

    • Ellen says...

      And yes, I think we will do carbon offsets. Just thinking that we should also reduce our plane travel to some degree.

    • Caroline says...

      Ellen,
      We’re in a similar position and have decided to take half as many flights but stay for twice as long. The savings more than cover the cost of carbon offsets for the flights we do take. We’ve found the extra time helps us get into a relaxed flow on visits.

  120. Sonya says...

    Excellent post! Thank you for breaking it down into manageable, doable actions.

  121. Rebecca says...

    The biggest thing I have done is probably going vegetarian, although my primary motivation was animal welfare, secondary was environmental impact. I only really buy second hand/vintage clothing. I resole shoes instead of buying new ones as much as I can. Walk and use public transport a lot, although living in London that’s I know there’s so much much more I can do but it feels like this huge impossible problem.

  122. Betsy says...

    Thanks for posting this. I wonder if anyone has suggestions for reducing meat consumption with young kids. A few years ago, my husband and I were good about eating vegan or vegetarian several nights a week. Now, we have a picky four-year-old whose favorite proteins are ground beef, bacon, and sausage. He’ll eat some chicken, and we can occasionally fool him with vegan nuggets, but we haven’t had much luck with other plant-based proteins. He’s sensitive to dairy, so we can’t fall back on cheese or yogurt as protein sources. Anyone else dealing with this? If so, do you have any tips for making lentils or beans more appealing to little ones?

    • amanda says...

      Hey! Mom to a fellow picky eater here! Three things we have had success with: 1.) hummus (super easy to make on your own) with a wide array of dippers (carrots sticks but also pretzels, etc.) 2.) extra firm tofu that has been pressed and then either baked or sauteed to be crunch on the outside (smitten kitchen and pinch of yum, as well as dinner: a love story, have some good tips re: preparation) and 3.) chickpea flour, with which you can make pancakes, flatbreads and even chickpea fries (panelle). Good luck–I know having a picky kiddo can be so frustrating–but I’m cheering for you!

    • Allison says...

      do they like soups or stews? as a way to slightly reduce meat, I recently cooked down red lentils (they get very soft) and mixed them into ground turkey for meatballs (still turkey, but cuts down the amount!). i also pureed white beans and mixed into their favorite soup without them noticing. This sounds weird but i also made a grain free muffin based on pureed lentils and they were amazing – you could not taste it at all! It could also be possible to mix cooked lentils into rice like a pilaf. This has been my experiment as well lately… Wish i didn’t have to hide veggies and beans…but i’ll keep working at getting them to try new things!
      Also check out Oh She Glows (blog and cookbooks) – she has two little ones and amazing recipes.

    • Shannon says...

      There are some great recipes for lentil sloppy joes and tacos! As a vegetarian I like farm fresh eggs when I feel like I need a little extra protein (scrambled with vegetarian sausage on the side, quiche, egg salad sandwiches, egg sandwich/wrap, etc). I also follow a recipe that uses tofu instead of ricotta for stuffed shells and lasagna, and that has been a big hit! Good luck!!

    • Betsy says...

      Thanks, Allison! These are great ideas!

    • Alycia says...

      Tempeh! It cooks fast and has a great texture that you actually need to chew.
      How about encouraging your little guy to help save the planet by eating what you eat? Talk about the animals or places he loves and how by eating vegetarian/vegan, he is helping those animals or places. Eat green for the beach or for the narwhals, whatever works!

    • Rachel says...

      My two year old loves rice and black beans. Also, veggie sausage (Morningstar makes a yummy one!)

  123. E. says...

    Thank you for talking about this! We already drive small, fuel efficient cars (sadly, we can’t do without where we live), use energy efficient light bulbs, don’t replace electronics before they die on us, we recycle, compost, etc. I personally want to focus my efforts on two areas: consuming less, i.e, buying less, and also, flying less since the carbon footprint of flying is so horrendous. Besides that, political pressure is where it’s at:
    https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/the-highlight/2019/5/28/18629833/climate-change-2019-green-new-deal

    • Mari says...

      So well put. I completely agree.

      Sometimes I’m wistful looking at the fashion/home posts on here and get the itch to redecorate. But I’m happy with my old wardrobe (I’ve bought one dress and a pack of socks in the last year, that’s it!) and our entirely Craigslist/second-hand-furnished home. Sticking with second-hand stuff simplifies our life, saves so much money, and doesn’t make our lives any less beautiful and full.9

  124. Julia says...

    I love Cup of Jo, and I’m thrilled to see more political content like this post, but it feels odd reading about what to do about climate change on a blog that frequently promotes unnecessary consumption and is primarily funded by ads pushing for consumption. Joanna and the CoJ team have created such a lovely community on this blog filled with incredible people, so when it comes to #2 community action, what could we as a CoJ community do about climate change? It might sound extreme, but I think we could promote and encourage a less consumption-focused model of living. Less about beauty products, more about health; less about home remodeling, more about repurposing/crafting waste into something new; less about fashion trends, more about ways to make your clothes last longer!

    • Alix says...

      I wholeheartedly agree, and this is something I personally struggle with. I take so many steps to be a more conscious consumer, but purchase most things online since I have access to more eco-friendly options there. How can we reconcile this without feeling like “I haven’t done enough”?

    • Ellen says...

      “I think we could promote and encourage a less consumption-focused model of living.” Yes!

    • Celia says...

      I had the same thought. I truly believe you vote with your dollars. At the same time, we all have to make a living and I would dare to say that the majorly of the CoJ community works in something that is related to consumption. It’s so convoluted.

      Ultimately, I do appreciate this types of post and would also welcome more post about having enough and enjoying what we have.

      ❤️ To The World.

    • Kathleen says...

      I was also v curious to see how the team would integrate climate change content with the shopbop and ASOS and j crew and Sephora content. I applaud your work in terms of feminism but I find it really hard to square your environmental ethics with your sponsorships and encouragement to buy more stuff.

    • M says...

      YES to this!

    • Kathleen says...

      I appreciate your comment, Julia, and my guess is that the COJ recognizes this disconnect and is grappling with it. I’d love to hear some kind of acknowledgement of this in a future post as I think it’s a mindset shift we all need to start making but it can be challenging too, depending on our life circumstances. These are the hard conversations we need to start having more and more.

    • Jane says...

      I so agree with this sentiment. Over the last year, I have tried to decrease the amount of “stuff” that I buy across all facets of my life. Two things that helped were to unsubscribe from all marketing email lists and to stop looking at blogs quite so frequently so that I wasn’t tempted to buy. The latter is particularly hard when it comes to CoJ since so much content here is empowering and informative and I do miss the daily fix. But, when I read about beautiful homes, faces, and clothes, the temptation to buybuybuy is still there. When I don’t look, I don’t get the urge quite as often.

      Another person commented that addressing the climate crisis will require us to get used to being a bit uncomfortable. I wonder what changes are necessary to make change even though they will be uncomfortable (at least for the short-term). I hope the CoJ team will share how they have been wrestling with this and show leadership in making some uncomfortable changes.

    • Jill says...

      YES yes yes to this.

    • Nicole says...

      Yes I second this and is often the reason I have a love hate relationships with blog culture / content in general. But they have to make an income, so not sure what the remedy is???

    • Bonnie says...

      Maybe we’re closing in on a point where those of us who enjoy the non-sponsored content support the team’s efforts financially. I know I never feel more disenfranchised from this community than days when the posts include $98 tops or $30 lipsticks – I’ll never be in a financial situation where that is an option. Between saving for retirement and other financial decisions, our purchasing choices are much more modest when we decide to buy something. But to support freedom of thought and clever comments … that might be money well-spent.

  125. Tracee says...

    Thanks so much for making this a priority! And thanks for pointing us to the carbon calculator. Love that. Please discuss fast fashion. A lot of blogs are all about purchasing that cute new trend without thinking about how that cycle uses so much energy and causes so much waste (said with love, promise). Would also love to hear about how the growing wage gap makes it difficult for people in poverty to be a part of this discussion and make climate conscious choices even if they want to.

  126. Kiana says...

    Thanks so much for bringing this up. I am currently doing a green initiative in my son’s school. There is a lot of waste in elementary schools: worksheets, glitter, plastic straws, a lot of food thrown out and a lot of prepackaged snacks consumed. We’re taking steps to increase awareness amongst the kids about waste and little things they can do. It’s slow going to convince the school administration to take steps at all so we are making some progress but it’s not as simple as I thought. Something I try to tell the school administration is that this isn’t a top down idea. The concern is coming from the students themselves not just the parents. It sounds trite but this is their future and it will affect them.

    • Maddie says...

      Wow I haven’t thought enough about school-related waste. While our kids obviously bring their own water bottles, I use Planet Box lunch box and minimal baggies or prepackaged items I for one don’t do enough I am sure! I would love to know specifically more how we/schools can be actionable here. Especially when cost of change in a big district can be such a deterrent. Maybe more people will chime in!

    • Alycia says...

      Here are some of my ideas on cutting down on waste at school:
      Teach kids that paper towels come from trees and every time they use five paper towels, they are killing trees.
      Encourage more collaborative art projects so every kid isn’t bringing home 12 pieces of art a day.
      Make sure paper is used on both sides before it is recycled. There is no reason why a kid can’t do their homework or draw on the back of a PTO reminder stuffed in a folder.
      Stop with the food pouches and plastic utensils!
      I don’t want to stifle creativity or make life harder, but if we are going to change things, we all have to sacrifice, even kids and their parents. Talk about times in the past when people have successfully sacrificed and done without (the Great Depression and World War II are great examples) and see how they can be like them.

    • CK says...

      My son’s school has a nice lunch time routine down. There is a can for compost, recycling and then trash. My favorite part is the box for unopened food, kids place unopened items in there instead of throwing them away and those items go home with kids that can use more food at home. They also recycle their crayon’s and markers through Crayola.

  127. Ker says...

    So great to see this article! Thanks COJ.

    I just commented in another thread about this, but it’s much more relevant here: Sadly, it seems that having fewer children is the most significant individual action any of us can take (by far). Recycling, reducing food waste, going vegan, not taking transatlantic flights — all of these actions pale in comparison to the carbon impact of reducing one’s fertility.

    At a community level this means that we should probably start encouraging everyone to have the smallest number of children that feels okay for them. I feel awful talking about people’s reproductive decisions like this (and I LOVE babies, and want my friends to have big beautiful families). But I’m genuinely scared for the next generation and feel compelled to raise this perspective.

    Check out: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/12/want-to-fight-climate-change-have-fewer-children

    https://conceivablefuture.org/

    • Julia says...

      Thank you for making this point in such an elegant, respectful way. I completely agree and hope people will consider climate/future when making reproductive decisions.

    • Kathleen says...

      I am a mother of three (ages 6, 10, and 12) and I totally agree. I have been thinking lately about how if I was making a decision today about having children, I would probably make a different decision than I did a decade ago. I love my children and it is hard to imagine my life without each of them, but climate change wasn’t really on my radar the way it is now when we had each of them and I think I would consider stopping at one child, or maybe two, if I was making that decision today. It’s hard to talk about but it’s reality.

    • Carolyn says...

      Thank you Ker for posting this. I’ve been grappling with this decision (currently deciding to put even thinking about having a kid on hold for 5 years) but knowing now that Conceivable Future is out there makes me feel way less alone and less scared. Thank you.

    • Faith Harty says...

      Ker, thank you for adding this. I could not agree more, and while it’s disappointing that Cup of Jo didn’t address this, I appreciate you adding to the discussion. People who don’t realize the climate cost of having children are hiding their head in the sand.

    • Mims says...

      Agreed! I have one son, 20. I love children too! I come from a family of six kids, and think growing up in large family was wonderful (but not perfect either!) . But when my son was 18 mos old, my partner starting hinting about having another. I had him read the Bill McKibben book: http://billmckibben.com/maybe-one.html and we both decided our family was complete. Very rarely I wish my son had a sibling, but we are SO HAPPY we kept our family small! Sad thing is, that was almost 20 years ago and I thought the message was loud and clear back then, but apparently not. Thanks for bringing up this sensitive topic.
      We also own one car, invested in super insulation and a cool roof, rooftop solar, eat vegan, limit plane travel to one flight a year in addition to the more mainstream reduce, reuse, recycle.

    • I agree with you, but at the same time, so many of us advocate for reproductive freedom rights for women. I struggle with how to balance this out.

    • Alycia says...

      Josephine, I think of it this way. If we don’t have a planet to live on, we have no need for reproductive rights. There is a big difference between choosing to have a child or not versus having a big family because society or religion tells us to, planet be damned.

    • annie says...

      i love the thoughtful comments this comment has provoked. @kathleen, i really appreciate the insight as far as parents who had kids years ago, when these things weren’t as dire-seeming. and @josephine, completely agree. things are just so complicated. unless… they aren’t. maybe we as a generation just have to make the tough decision to have fewer children so that there is a healthy future ahead?

      anyway. thanks for all this food for thought.

    • Ciel says...

      If I have any children, I will only have one. But the thing that concerns me more than their contribution to climate change is the world I will be leaving my child to live in.. If the globe does not reduce emissions, the risk of climate-induced violence is fivefold under a business-as-usual scenario. And even if the world only warms to 1.5 degrees there will be significant impacts still. Example: If rain patterns change, rivers and lakes will dry up. Crops will no longer be able to grow in areas with limited to no rain. People will suffer from drought and food scarcity. These factors will cause people to migrate and then cause even more tension and violence than there already is. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg :( How do I explain to my child that I had the foresight that the world could get more difficult to live in and I still chose to bring them into it?

    • Nicole says...

      Yes to this. It is a hard and challenging conversation. One I have not had the courage to bring up with friends who want 3+ kids, but inside I cringe. Especially acknowledging the impact of adding a developed-world human to the planet. My husband and I have decided to not have a biological child for a few reasons, but one of those reasons is definitely the climate crisis (something else I heard a scientist say in a recent interview- we need to change the vocabulary we use in conversation. It is no longer climate change, but rather a climate crisis)

    • Ciel says...

      Nicole- I actually have differing thoughts on using the term climate crisis. It seems most conservatives and Republicans who deny climate change for one reason or another really do not respond well to “liberals” being alarmists and extremists. They were turned off even by Greta’s speech because it was too doom and gloom and too alarmist. I think the term “Climate Crisis” will turn them off even more. My thoughts of recent is how do we get Conservatives on the band wagon? And I was thinking maybe we have to change the way we talk about it? Make is less about climate change and more about human health and prosperity. Maybe the narrative becomes more about clean air, clean water, our farmers continuing to be able to farm where the live today, being able to continue to produce our own food and feed our own country, not run out of water, not be faced with more immigration issues then we have today, corporate profitability, etc. We need to find messaging that appeals to the priorities and interests of the Conservatives because they are our obstacle — or so it seems.

  128. Sarah says...

    I’m so interested in this topic. I would add that all people could benefit from a deep connection to nature. My father was very passionate about preserving ecosystems, even in the 90’s. He’d take me hiking and would never let me pick endangered wildflowers. When I would complain about all the bugs in Newfoundland (and there are many!), I would get a lecture about their importance in my own life and wellbeing. He would show me interesting things happening with the planets and stars in the sky. And that connection to nature persevered through the years. We were lower middle class, but feel so fortunate for my childhood. I was drinking water from in pristine brooks and eating wild berries on my hikes. And as an adult, that connection with nature let me understand the difference between a healthy and thriving ecosystem compared to a polluted one. It helped my understand exactly how humans are destroying the planet. In nursing school I learned that you cannot understand disease unless you have a concept of what health looks like. I would argue the same principal applies to our earth. All people and children especially need to get out in nature regularly as a part of their education. It is vital for their own mental and physical health, but it is critical for the planet as well.

  129. Danielle says...

    Yes! I’m extremely excited about this series, thank you.
    I try to be conscious about what I buy across the board and keep in mind the “do I need it, will I use it, do I already have something similar that would work” questions before buying. That said, I also have a new baby and we’re using disposable diapers. I don’t feel great about the daily waste, but I can only do so much right now!

    • Tis says...

      Congratulations! Hope you’re finding your footing. :)
      This was the only comment I saw about diapers, so I’ll say it here. For the record, cloth diapers were WAAAAAY easier than I thought they’d be. Especially if you happen to be exclusively breastfeeding. You can literally throw them in the wash…poop and all! They didn’t leak, they didn’t smell, they were easy and saved us so much money.
      Anyway, give that baby a squeeze for me!

    • Vanessa says...

      I do half and half! For the most part, I find it true what another commenter’s mum said about how disposables keep baby drier than cloth nappies, so I use disposables at night when baby (and everyone else) needs to sleep longer. Even though you’re still creating waste, you’re creating half (or even one quarter) of the waste if you keep that one diaper for the night, and nappies for poopy daytime.

      If you’re using disposables, buy the more expensive kind – they absorb more and last longer so you use less, and potentially get to save money this way.

      And to also respond to the other comment on how it takes ages to dry cloth diapers without a washer and dryer, I use the old school cotton muslin nappies, which spread out to a thin layer that dries fast. You’ll need a couple of towel racks though, because baby goes through them fairly quickly!

  130. rose says...

    I am changing my car to a hybrid until I can afford an electric. But right now electricity here is produced using COAL which is archaic but there it is. Otherwise it’s hydro-electric which is just as bad as it kills the river systems which are super vital to ecological balance. I’ve also mastered composting food scraps using a modified worm bin that is virtually hassle free.

    I really want to see utilities co’s establish solar and hydrogen alternatives as the norm but I tend to feel hopeless up against their apparently willful ignorance. I mean, I was a very young child during the 70’s energy crisis and I’ve never understood why these changes weren’t made then. Literally the entire country knew this was an issue whereas now there is so much active denial.

    I am also buying a house and seriously considering instead building an off-grid property out of sustainable, non-toxic building materials. I’ve been studying this for years and it’s time to make it happen.

    As AC is the number one carbon generator and that feels dire as the planet warms – I’ve been studying old school house design. There are a lot of common sense techniques such deep insulation, using solar fans to circulate cool air from the cellar, siting the house to capture established breezes, using correct window placement to maximize air flow, etc.

    • Karen says...

      I would love to hear about your worm bin!

  131. Thank you for taking on this incredible important and daunting subject and helping us all to keep the conversation going!

  132. Erica says...

    I think the most important thing Americans can do about the climate crisis is to vote Democratic in 2020. Individual choices matter, but they alone will not save our planet for our kids. We urgently need to start addressing this issue at the national (and international) level, and the Trump administration is perpetuating climate crisis denial while actively moving in the wrong direction on environmental policy – on every issue from energy generation to fuel efficiency standards to clean air.

    • Jessie says...

      Agree. Americans can recycle and compost until they turn green but it doesn’t amount to much if our federal agencies are owned by the Kochs and staffed by fossil fuel industry lobbyists and climate deniers.

  133. Darcy says...

    Tell your readers the below info is widely agreed upon.
    In no particular order:

    (1) Fly less.
    (2) Increase the plant-based food in your diet, decrease meat/dairy
    (3) Have fewer children
    (4) Don’t own a car, or own an electric car

    Take steps to change how you’re living. Caring, talking, reading….none of those things are changes that have an impact. Those things are passive, they feel like participation but they aren’t because they don’t make a measurable difference. TAKE ACTION TODAY.

    source: Jonathan Safran Foer

    • Ellen says...

      Thanks for the succinct summary of important choices individuals can make.

  134. Erin says...

    Thank you for beginning this discussion on CoJ! I am a big fan of Dr. Hayhoe. I am a graduate student in atmospheric chemistry, and something that has become a topic of conversation among climate scientists recently is how often and how far some of us are traveling to attend conferences, perform field research, etc., and whether the emissions that result from those activities are justified. Last year I was traveling a lot for both school and personal reasons. An emissions calculator told me that a massive percentage of my annual emissions we due to air travel. Since then, I have purchased “offsets” for every flight I take: https://www.offsetters.ca
    It’s not as good as giving up air travel entirely, but I feel like it helps.

  135. Louisa says...

    Let’s say you’re on a boat crossing a vast ocean and you barely have enough food. You know everyone is going to have to be *uncomfortably* hungry – but if we ration the food well, we can make it. But you look around and 10% of the passengers are raiding the pantry; devouring, hoarding, even burning food. The most important thing would be to change policy — make it impossible for anyone, even rich people, to do this. Because even if you personally forgo food, it won’t change the fact that we are not getting across the ocean.

    This is how I feel. It feels hopeless. I compost, use LED lights, take the bus, eat mostly plants… it feels ridiculous given the scale of things and the complete silence by our government.

    I worry that this piece and its recommendations might downplay how very serious this is. Individual composting isn’t the solution (but please do it anyway because you are a decent human!); we have to have enforceable policy that makes us all uncomfortable.

  136. Anne says...

    Nice work on such an important topic. And COJ featuring a woman who is both a top-notch scientist and a Christian? Awesome.

    • Alix says...

      I’m curious – how do you know she’s Christian? I re-read her quotes but perhaps I missed this bit.

    • Stacie Martin says...

      Alix – I knew her personally years ago and can vouch for this, but if you click through to her bio via the link in the article, you can ready more about her story. She is definitely a wonderful example of how faith and science do not need to be mutually exclusive!

  137. I think another major point to make is to not get stuck in feelings of guilt or shame. Where we are right now is the result of systems in power beyond our direct control. We may have felt things should change decades ago, and didn’t do as much as we would have liked (*raises hand), but the impacts happening go beyond personal choices. I think making those personal shifts now, when they are under your complete control, is great if you have the means. But also know that the more important thing is getting policies changed in order to eliminate the fossil fuel industry as much as is feasible.

    And also know that many of our personal decisions aren’t as clear-cut as they seem. Plant-based may help in one way, but if you’re eating processed foods or produce from across the world, it can have a bigger carbon-footprint than occasional meat from a regenerative farm, which has a “negative” net-carbon footprint. And new cotton totes, even organic, have an insanely larger footprint than any other type of bag, reusable and disposable. But these things aren’t widely known. So focus on the things you are passionate about, buy used when possible, stay open to learning and educate yourself, and yes, talk about it!!

    No guilt, no shame, just progress :)

  138. Anne says...

    A list of three different things – Joanna Macy, the Buddhist systems theorist, in her book Active Hope, says the world needs three things to allow us to manage the coming crisis. First, activism – and by that she includes the Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion, Standing Rock kinds of activism. Second, alternative models of relocalization and anti-globalization, such as those offered by the Transition Town movement. And third, a change of consciousness – that there is no “other” whether human, or plant, or animal, or acre of soil. What we do to anything else, we do to ourselves on some level. I highly recommend this book, as well as David Fleming’s book Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival, and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy.

    • rose says...

      Omg yes to Joanna Macy – I went to a workshop given by fellow deep ecologist, John Seed and it was amazing. I had already read Joanna’s work and while some deep ecology proponents can get a little out there – the basic concepts are entirely relatable.

      A related book rec:
      The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature by Stephen Buhner.

    • Vera says...

      Thanks for these recommendations!

  139. Emilie Hill says...

    Thank you so much for this helpful article! Climate change weighs on me so heavily, and I get overwhelmed to the point of inaction (like the writer mentions). I recently committed to eating less meat – for environmental reasons – and am trying to reduce single-use plastics in my life. The article has inspired me to find a group in Atlanta and to be more vocal about this issue. I’m having my first child in December and this is what I am most worried about for her.

    • Kyveli says...

      Hello, hello!

      I’m also Atlanta-based and would love to join forces with you on this!

    • Celia says...

      Hi – I’m also in Atlanta, well in a suburb. May I suggest you look into a group call Hike It Baby or the Free Forest School once your baby gets a little older. They are wonderful groups that have helped me get out of the house with my little one while enjoying the great outdoors.

  140. Anonygirl says...

    Shop locally (and just reduce consumerism in general). Use it up, wear it out, and do without. I am very into using things up these days, and haven’t been replacing most things, except for essentials. I’ve spent many seasons of my life living with only some of my things; it has only been in the last few years that I’ve had everything I own in one place, but I’ve learned to live without so much that I don’t even miss it anymore.

    Use the library for books. I keep my library cards active whenever I move (nobody has ever checked), so I have access to multiple library systems. If I have to own a book, I buy it for my Kindle. I’m not a re-reader of books, so I keep a few favorites and donate or re-sell the rest. I have a lot of signed books that I treasure.

    Use reusable products as much as possible. I don’t use paper towels or plastic bags. I bring reusable bags for groceries. I don’t put produce in plastic bags. It’s an investment to switch to reusable stuff, but it doesn’t all have to be done at once. Eliminate one thing a month or every other month.

    • Lena says...

      I love and live by a version of the same motto: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!

      As a mom, I think there are so may ways to reduce consumerism. Kids want and want, and forget about those little trinkets so quickly. So just don’t by cheap short-term use toys and don’t give out goody bags with cheap toys at birthday parties. And do exchange/pass along those winter boots, soccer cleats, bikes, etc. – they have a much longer life than your child/children can use.

      And more meatless meals is great for the heart and the environment. :)

  141. Lindsey says...

    As far as “ugly” produce waste goes, you should check out and see if Imperfect Produce is in your city. (I think it’s in New York now, and it’s in a lot of the major west coast cities, where it started.) They buy the perfectly good food that grocery stores deem “imperfect”, as well as surplus food that farmers just can’t sell–which, surprisingly, makes up the bulk of their inventory! It operates like a CSA. Each week, you can either customize what fruits and veggies you want, or just not think about it and let them send you whatever. And, they also partner with a lot of small businesses for some grocery items, including coffee, chocolate, granola, etc. It’s all delivered right to your door, and they’ll even pick up last week’s cardboard box from you to reuse. It’s an AWESOME company, and I recommend it to everyone! Such an easy way to support farmers, cut down on food that would have been just thrown away, and get lots of healthy nutrients delivered right to you. :)

    • Jeannie says...

      The company, Imperfect Produce, serves the purpose of moving non-aesthetic produce along to consumers at competitive prices; however, they don’t support smaller (less than 400 acres), family-owned farms and that is a big distinction. Imperfect Produce exists as a company because they rely on our broken industrial agricultural food system aka corporations run the show, and there’s “cheap” ugly produce to sell and make a profit. Imperfect Produce sources much of their veggies/fruit from industrial, giant monocrop types of farms, unfortunately (think very little diversity, lots of synthetic fertilizers, etc). I don’t consider them to be groundbreaking or anything; they’re making a good amount of money on smart marketing, and they haven’t made any statements about changing the food system.

    • Eliana says...

      That sounds amazing!

    • Kate says...

      I think that’s a great point, Jeannie. Imperfect is a step in the right direction, but supporting small, local, diversified farms with good practices is also a great thing. You can support small local businesses, your food travels less, and what this kind of farm can do in terms of soil health and carbon sequestration is awesome.

    • Katie says...

      Unfortunately these companies are probably more of a problem than we want to think and aren’t really supporting local farmers. They aren’t taking ugly produce from grocery stores, they’re taking produce that would otherwise go to food banks and other stores. This is a long but excellent Twitter thread explaining how produce is actually used and not used: https://twitter.com/SarahTaber_bww/status/1086055096843227136

      And here’s an Atlantic article about these companies: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/01/ugly-produce-startups-food-waste/581182/

    • elinor says...

      Actually, there’s quite a lot of criticism of the helpfulness/environmental friendliness of Imperfect Produce! Imperfect Produce (though they partner with some local businesses, they are a for-profit company) incentivizes overproduction and also undercuts local CSA organizations. Also, the major culprits for food waste are restaurants and consumers, which Imperfect Produce’s model doesn’t directly impact.

      Not to say the company is completely bad, but just wanted to point out that Imperfect Produce isn’t an unequivocally good thing!

    • Lindsey says...

      Thanks, all, for your links and replies. As always, there’s more research to do, more to think about and uncover, and more ways to improve. I also want others who might be reading this to not feel discouraged that something they thought was good, and a step in the right direction, is now “bad” or harmful. I firmly believe that a step in the right direction is better than no step at all; we all have differences in access, depending on our income and location. That being said, when you know better, you have to do better. That is all of our responsibilities.

  142. Calla says...

    I have always biked as my primary form of transportation and I really want to encourage others to as well. I have noticed that giving up daily use of a car for commuting is the thing people are the most adamant they cannot do. Everyone believes that their situation is particularly unique and impossible to alter. But here’s the thing, the more people that start biking and using public transit and carpooling, the easier it gets. More bike lanes get built, cars drive more safely, transit routes are expanded. So I would urge everyone to really think about if they can possible incorporate alternative transportation even one day a week. It’s not always easy, but you might find there are people in your community willing to help you.

    For myself, I think I could probably be better about eating less meat, which I eat a few times every week.

    • katie says...

      Yes! Obviously most of the US is set up to basically require a car to live but people need to think about taking that drive 20 minutes to Target to look for that cute thing they saw and be more mindful about their car trips when driving is the only option. And support transit, bike lane, and walkable projects in your town! So often towns make transit proposals and people hear anti-transit campaigns and decide they just are too expensive to be feasible but don’t give a second thought to the billions that go to actually unnecessary highway-widening and road construction projects that only encourage more driving and do little to nothing to address congestion (guess what-congestion only gets worse).

      Electric cars might be a bit better but they are still cars and still lead to increased demand for more roadway and parking space, which is unsustainable and terrible for the environment. Walkable, transit friendly, dense places are what most areas should be striving for!

  143. Katie says...

    Cut out single use plastic! (Thanks to Yoga With Adriene who chronicles and amplifies this)
    https://us.keepcup.com/

    • ginger m. says...

      To expound on what Katie says…Single use plastic, styrofoam and paper cups are the worst!! If you add up all the ice teas, coffees, smoothies, hot tea etc. that is bought in our country every day from Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, your local coffee house etc., the number of throwaway single use bottles and cups is staggering! Add in the thousands of throwaway water bottles used in fundraisers, sports etc. is crazy. Sure, we all buy our kids water bottles but I’ve been at events that have cases and cases of bottled water and people are drinking it and throwing away the bottles. So, my small start is to rarely, if ever buy any beverages while I’m not home, save the water in a glass at the occasional restaurant. My water bottle goes everywhere with me. I plan to extend shrinking my global footprint in many ways, starting with reducing food waste. We all waste so much without even thinking about it. And lastly, I sure wish someone would start a bulk buying store, like natural food stores used to be. Packaging from what we buy from our supermarkets, Trader Joe’s, Costco, Walmart etc. is filling up our landfills at an alarming rate.

    • The larger concern is why is it incumbent upon the CONSUMER to keep the planet clean while manufacturers are free to keep producing as much garbage as they want? NPR’s “Throughline” podcast did a really great episode about this topic … how the industry deftly framed the growing litter crisis of the 50s and 60s as the individual’s problem, not the producers–the source–of all the garbage. Check it out here: https://www.npr.org/2019/09/04/757539617/the-litter-myth

  144. Lisa says...

    Great post!

  145. Stacie Martin says...

    I am so excited about this post! I know Katharine from ages ago and not only is she an amazing voice for our planet and what’s going on with it (she has a podcast, too! “Global Weirding,” I believe it’s called), she’s also a generally wonderful human being and person of faith.

  146. Elizabeth_K says...

    The ‘throwing up my hands’ is often my default on this. It’s so … big. I never use plastic bags, we compost, I bike, etc. … but the messages are so often (and for so long) THE SKY IS FALLING and I know it is … but … I just kind of freeze. Thanks for talking about this.

  147. Laura says...

    Good good. I was hoping you’d raise this issue