Last week’s column was a reminder that if we care about the Earth and future generations, we need to act now – on the individual and societal levels – to impede climate change. A recent survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communications suggests that 40% of the American population is moderately responding to the climate crisis. What are these actions? There are many ways that individuals can make lifestyle modifications that reduce their carbon footprint, which is defined as the amount of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from a person’s lifestyle. Here are some main points to consider.
1) How much and what type of energy do you use? Energy can be conserved by ensuring your home is well insulated, by moderating the thermostat temperature and driving less and using more fuel-efficient vehicles. It is exciting that more renewable energy options (solar, wind, geothermal, battery) are now available. Most electrical companies offer the choice of renewables, an easy way to lower your use of carbon fuel. My home utilizes a geothermal system that warms the house in the cold weather months and cools it in the warmer months by taking advantage of its consistent temperature.
2) The consumption of fewer materials will reduce your carbon footprint. Everything we purchase requires some level of industrial process and transportation. Nearly all plastic materials are manufactured from petroleum and natural gas, which must be mined from deep underground. In some areas of the world, waste plastic is burned; this process releases intense amounts of pollution and contributes to climate change. Choose longer-lasting products over disposal ones; material reuse is another way to reduce consumption.
3) Food choices and purchases are essential. The move toward more plant-based diets and less food waste will benefit the environment and one another. Beef consumption has the highest carbon footprint. In the United States, beef cattle produce about 3.7 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, nearly half of total agricultural emissions. Food waste is both a moral and environmental problem since an estimated 6% of greenhouse gas emissions result from uneaten food.
A statement from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is, “for many of us, a lifeless focused on the material gain may remind us that we are more than what we have. Rejecting the false promises of excessive or conspicuous consumption can even allow more time for family, friends, and civic responsibilities.” Acting on climate change is a moral obligation – the choice to live in harmony with the Earth’s natural systems and eliminate/reduce the human-related causes of global climate change. Let’s hope that 100% of the population chooses to respond moderately to climate change, make some lifestyle modifications, and be part of the solution.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~5 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.