Rethinking Your Carbon Footprint

January 22, 2018

Unfortunately, there’s no sugar-coating it: Climate change continues to be the most pressing problem we face as a global population. There’s no doubt that humans are the dominant cause of rising global temperatures and that we’re currently in the warmest period in recorded history.* And the temperatures continue to rise. It’s hard not to feel at least a little doomsday about it. Report after report shows the effects of global warming increasing and that drastic consequences are on the not-too-distant horizon. It kind of feels like we’re screwed.

As we’ve become more aware of the gravity of the problem, I’ve struggled to grasp how my actions fit into the bigger picture and how I can realistically take meaningful steps to reduce my own carbon footprint. It’s easy to want to just throw your hands up, put the blinders on and not change a thing. After all, I’m only one person and this is such a huge problem. And while that’s true, I think we all have a responsibility to make individual changes and also to push for and support broader, systemic changes that, hopefully, reverse current trends. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way.

Last year, as my wife and I thought about the way we live and how we can make changes to reduce our impact, we came across a book called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming. The book describes what its authors consider the 100 most plausible solutions to fight global warming, ranging from issues concerning land use, electricity generation and transportation to agriculture, food consumption, education and the way we live in cities. Even better, the coalition of scientists, economists, business leaders and other experts who wrote the book have created a great website that describes each of the solutions, its impact, and how it works now and in the future. If you take away one thing from reading this post, it’s that you should visit that site and spend some time diving into the information. Do it.

For me, more than presenting any single, magic-bullet solution, Drawdown’s value is providing context to understand the complexity of climate change and the carbon implications present in so many choices we make, beyond just the obvious ones like driving and electricity usage. In that sense, it reframed the way I look at my actions and forced me to think more broadly about all aspects of how I live rather than just a few. You may not walk away with from Drawdown with a step-by-step how-to guide, but you’ll have a better understanding of how to find the places in your life where you can make changes and, as new choices come up, how you can approach them in an informed and sensible way.

For us, we’re trying to fly and drive less (and change the vehicles we drive), eating less meat and more vegetables, retrofitting our house where we can, trying to buy local and support local businesses, and generally just trying to reduce our consumption. That might not be possible for everyone, and it might not be the right combination of choices for you, but if you’re interested (AND YOU SHOULD BE), I’d recommend reading Drawdown, or visiting the website, as a place to start.

*We know this because of science.