Scientists around the world agree: global climate change is the biggest threat to our planet, and we need to do something about it.
Warming global temperatures are causing unprecedented changes, including an increase in wildfire season length, wildfire frequency, and burned area. Global warming also led to a record-breaking 30 named storms during the 2020 hurricane season. And some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea-level rise—will be irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.
However, solid and sustained reductions in carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases will limit climate change and the climate crisis.
How Can You Help Fight Climate Change?
We have to act now to avoid the worst-case scenario. But it’s not just up to governments and large corporations to take action. We all have to do our part.
Carbon pollution from human activity is the primary driver of climate change. We must reduce emissions and move to clean energy sources to fight climate change effectively.
If you’ve ever felt powerless in the face of the climate crisis and have found yourself asking, “What can I do to help climate change?” this article is for you.
Our objective is to offer practical, feasible recommendations on an individual basis and demonstrate the strength of group commitments. Consider this your ultimate checklist of things you can do daily to help fight the climate crisis.
Get Active and Involved
Learn About the Issues
The first step to fighting climate change is understanding what it is and how it’s affecting our planet. Once you know the facts, you can be more effective in your efforts to help.
A lot of myths about climate change are floating around out there. Make sure you know the facts so that you can separate fact from fiction. Start by researching reliable sources. The Environmental News Network (ENN) is a good place to start. They select and publish news from a variety of sources.
Also, consider talking to people who are knowledgeable about the issue and ask them questions. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to tackle climate change and to talk to others about it.
Educate Your Friends and Family
The more people you can get on board with your efforts, the better. If you’re lucky enough to have friends and family who already know about the issue, they’re perfect for exchanging ideas.
You can use them as a sounding board for your thoughts, and they can help you find out more about the issue. Make sure you don’t just talk to them about the subject but about what you can do to help.
Vote for Candidates who Support Climate Action
One of the best things you can do to support nationwide climate solutions is to vote for candidates who support climate action and legislation. Make sure you’re registered to vote and research the candidates’ positions before you cast your ballot. If you’re unsure who to vote for, look up voter guides from organizations like the League of Conservation Voters. They rate candidates based on their environmental records.
Once a candidate is elected, don’t shy away from putting pressure on your elected officials to fulfill those climate promises after they’re elected.
Support Organizations Tackling Climate Change
A lot of great organizations out there are working to fight climate change. You can support them by donating money or time, or both.
Some popular organizations include the Sierra Club, 350.org, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. You can also support smaller, local organizations working on the issue in your community.
Support Publications that Report on Climate Change Issues
If you want to stay up-to-date on the latest climate change news, support publications that report on the issue. In addition to the resources mentioned above, Climate Progress, Grist, and InsideClimate News are some of the most popular climate change publications.
You can support these publications by subscribing to them, sharing their articles, and donating to their causes.
Advocate for Climate Legislation
Advocating for action can be done in several ways. You can write letters or make phone calls to your elected representatives or attend rallies and protests. You can also use social media to raise awareness about the issue and pressure decision-makers.
Reconsidering which companies you support with your consumer choices is another way to advocate for climate action. You can use your purchasing power to support companies taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints.
The more people fighting for change, the better our chance of making progress.
Offset Your Carbon Emissions
Carbon offsets help balance your carbon footprint by funding environmental projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
One carbon offset represents the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is the most abundant greenhouse gas produced by human activities and the most critical pollutant we must address.
These projects reduce carbon emissions by capturing and destroying the gases before they enter the atmosphere, producing renewable energy that eliminates the need for burning fossil fuels or capturing and storing greenhouse gases.
Change Your Bank
Your bank may be investing in companies that don’t have the best environmental records. But you can use your power as a customer to pressure banks to divest from nonrenewable energy or companies notorious for being large polluters and put your money into greener investments.
You can also support community development financial institutions, which are banks that invest in underserved communities.
Invest Your Money in Renewable Sources
If you bank with a large institution and cannot influence their investment portfolio, you can still decide how to invest your money.
Sustainable investing, also called responsible or ethical investing, comes in various options, each with a different focus. Sustainable, responsible, and impact investing, or SRI, rules out companies with negative environmental or social impacts or morally questionable business practices.
Environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, investments are more defined than SRI investments but just as broad. While these investments include companies important to environmental causes, they also include companies with workplaces that benefit their employees through workplace safety, employee benefits, and diversity programs. Investors also analyze their company governance to ensure their boards are diverse and independent.
The most direct investment strategy is impact investing. With impact investing, you invest in companies whose products and services directly fight climate change. Examples include renewable energy sources, ethical agriculture, food technology, and electric vehicles.
Divest from Oil Stocks and Industries Reliant on Consuming Fossil Fuels
As you look for new places to invest, remember to look at your existing investments and divest from oil stocks and industries reliant on the fossil fuel industry. Not only will divesting from these companies help the planet, but research shows that sustainable investments see greater financial gains than their unsustainable counterparts. Sustainability is also becoming more popular among consumers.
Reduce Your Electric Bill
Electricity generated by burning coal, natural gas, and oil accounts for 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the largest single source worldwide. Reducing your energy use is critical to fighting climate change, and we’ve included several ideas below to get you started.
Replace Your Lightbulbs
One of the easiest ways to reduce your energy use is to replace your traditional incandescent bulbs with LED light bulbs. LEDs use less energy and last much longer, so you’ll save money in the long run too.
When looking at LED light bulbs, you may want to consider a 2-prong lightbulb. A two-prong light bulb has a two-pin base for power, instead of the traditional single pin found on most bulbs. These types of light bulbs are becoming increasingly popular because of their easy twist-and-lock installation method.
Wash Clothes in Cold Water and Hang Them to Dry
Washing your clothes in cold water can save a lot of energy. Most washing machines have a cold setting, so take advantage of it!
Hanging your clothes to dry instead of using a dryer is another great way to save energy. Consider an indoor, compact accordion dryer if you don’t have the space to install a clothesline outside.
Unplug Devices When You’re Not Using Them
Even if your computer or TV is turned off, it’s still using energy if plugged in. Unplug devices when you’re not using them. Or, plug items into power strips with off switches to make turning off the power more accessible.
Think Energy Efficiency When Purchasing Appliances
Purchasing energy-efficient appliances is one of the most impactful choices to reduce your carbon footprint.
Look for the Energy Star label when shopping for new appliances. These products have been independently certified to meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Only manufacturers that independently certify their product’s performance are allowed to use it.
Use Small Appliances
Slow cookers, pressure cookers, air fryers, and toaster ovens are more energy efficient than ovens and gas ranges. And, unlike an oven, they won’t heat your kitchen during the hot summer months.
Air Dry Your Dishes
Instead of using your dishwasher’s dry cycle, open the door and let your dishes air dry. This simple change can save a lot of energy over time.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat is a great way to save energy if you have central heating and cooling. You can set it to automatically lower the temperature when you’re away from home or asleep and raise it again when needed.
Adjust Your Fridge and Freezer Settings
Your fridge and freezer use a lot of energy, so it’s important to keep them running efficiently. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the optimal settings.
Generally, your fridge should be set between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit, and your freezer should be between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Weatherize Around Doors and Windows
One of the most significant sources of heat loss in homes is around doors and windows. Make sure your doors and windows are properly sealed to keep warm air inside in the winter and out in the summer.
Weather-stripping or caulk can seal any cracks or gaps around doors and windows.
Consider a Tankless Water Heater
Consider a tankless model if you’re in the market for a new water heater. Tankless water heaters heat water on demand, so you’re not paying to keep a tank of hot water ready at all times.
They’re also more efficient than traditional water heaters, so you’ll save energy and money in the long run.
Install Ceiling Fans
While a ceiling fan doesn’t reduce a room’s temperature, it increases your comfort level by getting more air flowing and creating a windchill effect by pushing your body heat away from you. More air flowing means the room will feel cooler.
This cooling effect will be a pleasant welcome if your home doesn’t have an air conditioner, especially as global temperatures rise. And, if you do have air conditioning, you will use less of it, saving you money and reducing your carbon footprint.
Use Standing Fans
If installing ceiling fans is not an option, use standing fans to circulate the air in your home. Fans use only a fraction of the electricity of an air conditioner. But, they effectively make you more comfortable by pushing your body heat away and evaporating the sweat from your skin.
For the greatest benefit, open the interior doors in your house. As the fan blows air, open doors will keep it circulating.
Open Your Windows
In many areas around the world, temperatures outside decrease after the sun sets. Once the air cools, open your windows to take advantage of these lower temperatures. Consider installing a temporary window fan for increased circulation. Some window fans blow cool air into your home and all the hot air out of your home. This dual action provides even greater circulation for reducing indoor temperatures.
Replace Your Windows
Climate change is increasing extreme temperatures, so you may want to consider replacing single-pane windows with double- or triple-paned windows. These windows insulate your home better and keep the internal temperatures more stable.
If your windows need replacing, consider replacing exterior windows that receive direct sunlight with dynamic glass. Dynamic glass is a rapidly developing technology that is revolutionizing building construction and design.
Dynamic glass changes its tint in response to heat or light from the sun. Used on exterior windows, it blocks up to 90% of solar heat. Considering about 76% of sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters a building to become heat, dynamic glass can significantly lower cooling costs, conserve energy, increase comfort, and help your building become more energy efficient. It can even contribute credits toward LEED or BREEAM certification.
Add Interior Window Coverings
Quality window coverings will keep your home cooler and reduce your energy bills. According to the Department of Energy, draperies with white plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33%. Insulated cellular shades provide even more protection from extreme temperatures.
Even if your window coverings aren’t designed for extreme temperatures, knowing when to open and close them will make a big difference. In the summer, closing the curtains during the day will instantly cause a midday temperature drop inside your home. In the winter, keep your curtains open during the day and closed tightly at night.
Replace Your Roof
If heatwaves are common or on the rise in your area, consider installing roof materials designed for hot climates. Terra-cotta and ceramic tiles, concrete tiles and slab roofs, metal roofs, and green or “living” roofs are great options. These roofing materials are the perfect addition if you are looking to save on energy costs as they can reflect the sun’s energy. Living roofs have the added benefit of reducing heat loss and heat absorption, making them a good choice year-round.
If replacing your roof isn’t an option, consider painting your asphalt shingles white. White roofs reflect heat and cool homes in the summer. However, because they also lead to higher heating bills in the winter, painting your roof white should be reserved for those living in warmer climates.
Install Solar Panels
If you’re able, installing solar panels is a great way to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels. Solar panels can provide all the energy you need for your home, and any excess can be sold back to your utility company.
Change How you Eat
Food production is responsible for the second-highest release of greenhouse gas, with the biggest impacts from crops and livestock, including deforestation to make way for grazing cows.
Plant a Garden
Planting a garden supports pollinators and reduces carbon emissions from pesticides and herbicides used in factory farming. And don’t skip past this section if you live in an apartment–urban gardening is a viable option, as is starting a community garden.
Choosing drought-tolerant species that can survive an unexpected cold snap or heat wave is important. And, if you’re new to gardening, you will want to start with plants that are easy to grow. Some great options include dry beans such as pinto, navy, kidney, and black beans; legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, peas, and peanuts; tomatoes; and squash.
Composting is a great way to keep food out of the landfill, add nutrients to your soil, and help your plants grow. It’s also easy to do.
To start composting, you need a bin (or even just a pile), some brown materials (such as dead leaves or twigs), some green materials (such as grass clippings or fruit and vegetable scraps), and some water. Mix the brown and green materials (organic waste), add a little bit of water, and let nature do its thing. You will have rich compost that your plants will love in just a few weeks.
If you live in an apartment or want the convenience of a having a composter in your kitchen, consider using a countertop composter. These small containers are odor free and have the added benefit of creating compost within hours instead of weeks.
The United Nations estimates that one-third of the food produced worldwide is wasted. That’s 1.3 billion tons of food each year! When you waste food, you’re also wasting all of the valuable resources (like water and energy) that were used to produce that food.
Here are a few easy ways to keep food out of the landfill:
- Plan your meals and only buy the ingredients you need
- Store food properly to reduce spoilage
- Donate excess food to a local food bank or soup kitchen
However, you can skip the trip to the store entirely and get discounted groceries delivered to your door through a supplier like Misfits Market or Imperfect foods. These companies work directly with farmers and suppliers to sell the food that grocery stores reject. Not only will you save money, but you will keep food out of the landfill.
Eat Less Meat
The livestock industry is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it’s responsible for 14.5% of all human-caused emissions.
Eating less red meat is a great way to make an impact. And, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Start with Meatless Monday–a weekly global movement to encourage people to eat less meat.
There are also plenty of delicious plant-based meat substitutes available these days. So, if you’re craving a burger or some chicken wings, you can still have your fix without the guilt.
Industry releases carbon emissions when producing goods from raw materials. Worldwide, industry contributes 21% of carbon emissions. The greatest reductions in carbon emissions need to come from industry itself, including embracing passive or renewable energy-based heating and cooling systems, improving energy efficiency, and addressing issues such as methane leaks. However, we can all make meaningful changes that will impact this sector.
Reduce Your Reliance on Plastic
Plastic is made from refining natural gas and crude oil and accounts for about 6% of global oil consumption. If our reliance on plastic doesn’t change, it will account for 20% of oil consumption by 2050.
Even though recycling could reduce the impact of plastic waste, only 9% is recycled globally. The rest is dumped into the environment, where it generates greenhouse gas emissions when exposed to solar radiation.
Landfills, where single-use plastics are sent, account for over 15% of methane emissions. However, not all plastic makes it to a landfill. A garbage truck equivalent of plastic waste is dumped into the ocean every minute. This plastic breaks down into microplastics which release greenhouse gasses and is absorbed by marine life.
Luckily, local governments are starting to crack down on single use plastic. To help you adapt, we’ve provided several ideas below for reducing your reliance on plastic. But, if you must choose a disposable item, consider compostable plastics made from renewable resources like plant starch, and then opt for a countertop composter that will enable you to dispose of these items at home.
Replace Single-Use Household Items with Reusable Alternatives
Many items we use every day come with a disposable component. Choose reusable alternatives to reduce the amount of waste you generate whenever possible.
Here are some common single-use household items and their reusable alternatives:
- Coffee filters: Reusable metal or cloth coffee filters
- Paper towels: Reusable cloth towels
- Ziploc bags: Reusable silicone bags
- Disposable razor blades: Reusable safety razor
Use a Reusable Water Bottle
Ditch the disposable water bottles and use reusable ones instead. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also help reduce the amount of plastic waste in our landfills and oceans.
If you’re looking for a reusable water bottle that will keep your drinks hot or cold, check out insulated stainless steel options.
Carry a Reusable Bag
Plastic shopping bags are one of the biggest environmental offenders. They’re made from petroleum products and often end up in landfills or as litter. Save money and the environment by carrying a reusable bag with you when you go shopping.
There are all sorts of reusable bags on the market, from foldable ones that fit in your pocket to sturdy ones made from recycled materials.
Ditch Disposable Coffee Cups
If you’re a coffee drinker, chances are you’ve contributed to the billions of disposable coffee cups that end up in landfills each year. Break the cycle by investing in a reusable coffee mug or travel thermos.
Use Rechargeable Batteries
Disposable batteries are one of the worst offenders regarding household waste. They’re made from toxic chemicals and can take hundreds of years to decompose.
Rechargeable batteries are a much better option for the environment and your wallet. You can find rechargeable batteries for just about any device, from AA and AAA to 9-volt and D-cell.
Ditch Fast Fashion
The phrase “fast fashion” refers to low-cost, low-quality clothing. These garments have a short life span and come with consequences.
Not only do companies use large amounts of cheap, toxic textile dyes that pollute aquatic habitats and underground aquifers, but they use cheap textiles. Polyester, one of the most popular fabrics used in fast fashion, is derived from petroleum and is not biodegradable.
When choosing your wardrobe, consider sustainable fashion brands. These brands have committed to achieving a carbon-neutral fashion industry built on equality, social justice, animal welfare, and ecological integrity.
Like investing, sustainable fashion includes various industries, from upcycling and recycling to eco-friendly and green fashion. However, regardless of the type of sustainable fashion you choose, they all have a few things in common.
Sustainable fashion uses biodegradable materials from natural or recycled fabrics. These materials undergo little to no chemical treatment and use less energy and water to produce. Sustainable fashion companies tend to stay away from animal products such as leather, fur, and feathers. Finally, sustainable brands have committed to paying their employees fair wages and providing safe working conditions.
Trees are nature’s air conditioners. They help cool the planet by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing water vapor into the atmosphere. As an added bonus, trees help reduce noise pollution, provide habitat for wildlife, and increase property values.
For planting trees in the United States, consider donating to or volunteering with the National Forest Foundation. The National Forest Foundation plants millions of trees annually and collaborates with the agencies managing public lands to help restore National Forests in the United States.
If you’re looking to make a global impact, consider donating to The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees campaign. Their goal is to plant a billion trees across the planet to slow the connected crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
Recycling can reduce waste and helps the environment. While the first option regarding plastic is always to use less, be sure to recycle what you use. And always recycle items like glass, paper, and aluminum.
Decarbonize Your Transportation
Unfortunately, nearly 95% of the world’s transportation energy comes from gasoline and diesel, which is why greenhouse gas emissions for road, rail, and air account for 14% of worldwide emissions. In the US, emissions from transportation account for about 27% of total emissions, making transportation the largest contributor.
Fossil fuels are a significant contributor to climate change. They release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which trap heat and cause the planet to warm. These gases also contribute to air pollution.
You can help reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions by driving less. While you may not be able to go completely car free, consider public transit , ride a bike, or walk whenever possible.
You’ll save money on gas, reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and reduce fossil fuel emissions at the same time.
Carpool When You Do Drive
If you must drive, try carpooling with friends or colleagues. This way, you can reduce the number of cars on the road and save money on gas while still reducing air pollution.
Buy an Electric Car or Hybrid Vehicle
Consider buying an electric or hybrid vehicle if you’re in the market for a new car. Electric cars don’t have carbon emissions, and hybrid vehicles have much lower emissions than gas-powered cars. Not only do energy efficient vehicles make a difference in air quality, but they will save you money at the pump.
Electric vehicles may also be eligible for a tax credit from your City, County, or State.