Climate change is no longer something in the distant future: from severe storms, to wildfires, to rising sea levels, we’re already experiencing the deadly side effects of a warming planet. While there’s nothing we can do to stop climate change in its tracks immediately, there are actions we can take to mitigate.
So, as an individual, what can you do? Here are five ways that you can help in the fight against climate change:
Yeah…you’re probably not surprised that we put this one first. And admittedly, we may be a little biased. But in all honesty, going solar is one of the most impactful steps you can take to help mitigate climate change.
Every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity you generate with a home solar panel system helps reduce your reliance on electricity from the grid that, unfortunately, still distributes plenty of brown energy (i.e. energy from fossil fuels). Despite all the progress we’ve made and the growing number of states committing 100 clean energy targets, the U.S. continues to generate most of its electricity from fossil fuels – about 60 percent in 2020!
When you replace electricity from the grid with solar electricity, you shrink your own carbon footprint greatly and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere. Consider this: the average U.S. household that consumes 10,469 kWh of electricity per year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, that comes out to about 7.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year – the carbon equivalent of using 833 gallons of gasoline, or 8,156 pounds of coal. And that’s only in one year: think of the pollution you’ll avoid by replacing that with zero-emission, clean electricity over the 25+ year lifetime of a solar panel system!
Keep in mind that installing a system on your roof isn’t the only way to go solar – if you can’t or don’t want to install equipment on your roof, check to see if there are any open community solar projects in your area. You don’t need to sign a long term agreement, pay any upfront costs, or to subscribe to a local community solar farm – you just need an electric bill. And every new community solar subscription supports local clean energy job growth while providing the buy-in solar developers need to build additional projects that will further decarbonize our electric grid.
Invest in energy efficiency
Insulation, appliances, and lighting, oh my! If you’re looking for one of the easiest ways to cut your greenhouse gas emissions, you can get your feet wet with some energy efficiency measures.
The goal of every energy efficiency measure–from weatherization, to swapping out traditional lights for LEDs, to buying ENERGY STAR appliances–is to decrease your energy consumption. And like we mentioned above, everything you can do to cut your energy consumption–both electricity and gas–helps decrease overall use of and reliance on fossil fuels that cause global warming.
Don’t know where to begin? Start with a professional energy audit; this can help you determine the biggest opportunities for saving energy in your home. But before finding an energy auditor, it’s a good idea to do a bit of local research – many utility companies or state organizations offer free or discounted energy audits, and may even provide impressive incentives to help decrease costs of energy upgrades.
Make your commute a green one
Do you drive to work every day in a car that runs on gasoline? You’re not alone – not by a long shot. In fact, in 2018, the majority of greenhouse gas emissions came from the transportation sector (28 percent). And that’s not too surprising considering an average passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each ear.
If we want to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, we need to make significant changes in how we get from point A to point B. Opting for all-electric or hybrid cars certainly helps (note: you can use the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Carbon Counter tool to evaluate the environmental benefit of that transition). However, when possible, try to go a step further – take advantage of public transportation, as well as walk and bike when possible.
What steps do your friends take to fight climate change? Your family? Awareness of climate change is spreading fast, but not fast enough; a survey from Pew research suggests that, as of 2020, 60 percent of Americans believed that “climate change is a major threat to the well-being of the United States,” up from 45 percent in 2009. If you ask us, anything but 100 percent is too low, especially with what’s at stake.
You can make any and all measures to reduce your own climate impact, but it will do little good if everyone around you continues at status quo – we all share one atmosphere, and one climate, so we’re all in this fight together. Do what you can to promote action against climate change in your own spheres of influence. And while we’re on the topic of influence…
Vote, vote, vote
In this article, we’ve tried to focus on action you can take–as an individual–to help combat climate change. But while reducing individual emissions is important, real change also needs to happen on a larger scale.
A recent study out of UC Berkeley suggests that it’s feasible to reach 90 percent carbon-free electricity by as soon as 2035, but warns that this level of decarbonization won’t be possible without new, clean energy policies in place – and strong ones, at that.
That’s why it’s so important to get out and vote: climate change is a taxpayer issue, and it’s on the ballot of every local, state, and federal election. When you vote, support leaders who understand the threat of climate change, have plans for mitigation and adaptation, and promise swift and aggressive action.
Save money and lower your carbon footprint with solar panels
Whether you want to decrease your own carbon footprint or save money on electricity bills, there has never been a better time to go solar. Sign up on the EnergySage Marketplace to see how much pollution you can offset with your own solar panel installation.