On October 8, 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an updated report on the global status of the fight against climate change, and the news was not good.

IPCC’s leading climate scientists warned that the globe’s average temperature rising by 1.5oC (lower than the oft-discussed 2oC target) would prove catastrophic throughout the world—from extreme heat waves, increased and more devastating hurricanes, and associated widespread poverty, hunger, and global conflict. Even more devastating, though, was the news that we only have until 2030 to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the necessary 45% or the irreversible effects will spiral out of control.

In short, this report amounted to a wakeup call to the world that: the situation is worse than we thought, we have less time to fix it than we thought, and we must do more than we thought.

Faced with such disheartening developments, human beings naturally see a fight or flight instinct kick in, with those choosing flight more or less just accepting defeat. Many can relate to these feelings, but no organization or person—regardless of how small—needs to feel helpless, and fighting is a viable option. Many individual adjustments exist for citizens eager to make a difference, ranging from the immediately actionable to the more intense commitment.

1. Implement energy efficient upgrades in your home 

While climate change is a global problem that requires national and international action to truly tackle, individuals can make a difference starting in their own homes. Buildings account for about 40% of all CO2 emissions and represent a low-hanging fruit to decrease energy use through improved efficiencies.

Within your home, minimize energy use will not only reduce the carbon emissions associated with your home but will also save money on monthly power bills (allowing for energy efficiency upgrades to pay for themselves in short order). Whether you choose to have an energy professional audit your home for savings opportunities, have experts review your utility bills, or implement upgrades on your own, many options await:

  • The quickest way to reduce energy use is through overhauling lighting, ensuring the use of super-efficient LEDs instead of outdated incandescent or fluorescent lights for an energy savings of 25-80%;
  • Install insulation to minimize heating and cooling energy use, which alone can save up to 80% on heating and cooling losses;
  • Weatherize the building envelope with high-performance windows and doors, preventing heat from escaping through the cracks (taken together, insulation and air sealing saves 11% on the average U.S. household’s utility bills);
  • Upgrade appliances to energy efficient models, such as ENERGY STAR-certified washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, and more, which typically reduce energy use by 10-50% compared with non-efficient equivalents.

2. Adjust transportation practices

Reworking your regular transportation practices can also have a notable effect on your personal carbon footprint. Is it possible to walk, bike, or take public transit to work or to your regular errands? If not, is carpooling an option? These options will reduce overall vehicle miles travelled in an environment where transportation accounts for the largest portion (29%) of U.S. GHG emission.

Perhaps your way of life does not enable an adjustment to daily driving, but you can also make a difference when it’s time to buy your next car—consider purchasing an electric car, which on average accounts for less than one-third the emissions per mile than gas-powered cars. Similar to energy efficient retrofits for your home, electric vehicle investments not only minimize your effect on the environment but also save money in the long run.

Further, anybody trying to cut their contributions to climate change should also take a look at their longer-distance travel. Given that flying is among the most carbon-intensive activities most people undertake, consider taking a more climate-friendly mode of transportation (e.g., bus or plane) for your next vacation. From a corporate perspective, businesses can investigate whether meetings need to be in person and require cross-country travel. Instead, video conferencing has made virtual meetings much more appealing (not to mention, doing so is again easier on the bottom line).

3. Invest in smart technology

In the past few years, companies have seemingly made a smart version of everything: refrigerators, door bells, and even toilet paper dispensers! While the gimmick of attaching automation or an app to everything seems unnecessary at times, investing in smart technology for your home’s energy use stands as the most fruitful application of this trend.

Notably, many manufacturers have released products that allow for remote or automated control over lights, regulation of temperature, and more. With about a quarter of residential energy consumed by products that are plugged in but in ‘idle’ mode, you can even use smart plugs to control when power comes from your outlets (Note: residential customers of Atlantic Energy receive 3 smart plugs as their 4th gift and business customers receive 3 smart plugs as their 3rd gift). By seamlessly allowing you to monitor your energy use via app or automate your home’s energy use, this smart technology empowers consumers to live more energy efficiently. Atlantic Energy offers customers the Smart Home Bundle or the Smart Business Bundle that will help introduce smart technology to your buildings, and the results are familiar—not only does minimizing wasted energy reduce your personal carbon footprint, but the savings on your electricity bill will pay back any upfront costs.

4. Reduce meat consumption

Agriculture accounts for 13% of global GHG emissions, while supporting livestock is responsible for almost half of that. A global shift in diet that reduces overall meat consumption would go much further than many realize towards fighting climate change.

Many would certainly find such advice unwelcome, as meat accounts for a large part of modern diets and can be difficult to avoid or give up. However, making an impact does not require you to go full

vegan or even vegetarian. Simply eating lower on the food-chain more often (e.g., participating in the Meatless Monday’ trend) makes a difference: researchers found that everyone simply adhering to health guidelines on meat consumption could cut food-related emissions by 1/3 by 2050. So fear not carnivores, this isn’t a call to go cold turkey—but replace a regular meal with meat-free options or give plant-based meat substitutes (like the Impossible Burger) a try, as any reduction in meat-eating will make valuable contributions to fighting climate change.

Source your electricity from renewable sources

The electricity systems in many states are set up to provide an opportunity for climate-conscious consumers to dictate where their energy gets sourced. According to the Department of Energy, over 50% of U.S. customers live in regions that allow them to purchase renewable electricity directly from their utility. These programs, such as the one offered by Atlantic Energy, provide the optional service that allows customers to pay a small premium in exchanged for certified renewable energy. The caveat is that because your electricity is still coming from the same transmission lines that power the grid in your region, your electricity isn’t coming directly from those renewable sources. But once you sign up, all the energy you use is accounted for and purchased by the program directly from regionally-based renewable sources like wind and solar farms, using Renewable Energy Certificates. Essentially, every kilowatthour of energy you use will create one kilowatthour that the program buys from a renewable energy source, ensuring you are supporting the success and growth of such renewables.

While these type of programs are only available in certain areas, you still have options should you live outside those regions. By installing solar power on your rooftop, you can directly generate your own electricity in a renewable manner, reducing your carbon footprint from what it would be with heavily fossil-fuel-driven power from your utility. Even if your rooftop is not well positioned for solar or if you live in an apartment, renewable sourcing can be possible through community solar projects. Engaging with renewable power for your home’s energy needs might take creativity and research, but it’s largely out there for the taking.

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If the IPCC warning about the climate situation scared you, that’s good and it should be used as a call to arms. Acting to prevent catastrophic climate change could very well be the most important collective action that humanity undertakes. Thinking about an issue of that scale with such ominous consequences is inherently intimidating, but taking the first step towards addressing the problem doesn’t have to be. Spend the time to educate yourself and others in your life about the root of the problem and the risks of inaction, and then see which of the above actions—or the host of other reasonable options—you can take. Change on a global scale will happen one small step at a time.

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