What can I do and can't I do about climate change?
September 18, 2016 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Ever since the XKCD post on global climate change, I've had a chicken-little sky-is-falling mindset that has influenced just about every realm of my life. What's the point of saving for retirement if the earth melts? How can I work for a corporation that produces goods at an industrial scale? Which bag of quinoa is better for the environment? Paper or plastic? Please help me get past this paralysis and back to life.

I don't like being upset about things I can't control, so I've been hyper-obsessing over the controllable aspects of climate change, but have zero actual knowledge about how my choices impact it. Greatly appreciate if you have an answer to even one of these:

1. Are my contributions even a drop in the ocean of climate-changing actions when taken at a larger view? Will switching from driving to biking mean one snail's iota of difference? Or is it one of those things where i could literally drive a new hummer every day and nothing would happen different?

2. What is good way to measure and talk about climate change contribution? How would, for instance, I measure reducing my impact by 10%? Does it all come down to carbon?

3. What are the best, easiest things I could be doing to reduce my personal contribution to climate change? I don't want to waste all my time worrying about throwing that can in the trash if landfills actually are super small importance compared to for example, remodeling a house or replacing a driveway.

4. "sky is falling" is nothing new, and people have been worried about climate change for longer than I've been alive (I'm 30). People who have lived through the hype longer than me - how have you gotten through your fears? How would you advise someone you see going through the same thing you did 10, 20, 30+ years ago?
posted by rebent to Science & Nature (33 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
You can only control yourself, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't bother because our contribution is small. Millions of people making small positive decisions can make a difference.

I was reading yesterday about a guy in CA who said he wouldn't stop taking his daily bath because the impact of his baths on the drought was negligible. What if all 32 million plus Californians had the same fuck you attitude and wasted that much water a day? So sure, one guy taking a water wasting bath daily doesn't change the water crisis appreciably, but if millions of other people were also that careless, we'd be in worse trouble than we already are.

Do what you can, encourage those in your sphere of influence to do their part, foster change with where you spend your money. It may not make a ripple, but it won't make things worse.
posted by cecic at 8:23 AM on September 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm not gonna tell you not to act on a political level, but as to day-to-day decisions, a certain practicality about trade-offs is required. Does washing out the peanut butter jar so you can recycle it make sense? Recycling is good, but washing uses water and detergent. Recycling anything that requires driving somewhere probably doesn't pay off. Think by the pound, not the volume.

You can probably do the most good with buying decisions, but vendors lie. We are bombarded with calls to switch to "green" energy sources, but we also read in the paper that some of these companies are rip offs. And are you sure it actually helping the planet?
posted by SemiSalt at 8:26 AM on September 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am in a very similar mindset to you and one thing that has made me feel mildly better is donating to a climate change advocacy organization such as 350.org.
posted by loquacious crouton at 8:29 AM on September 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

The only one of your questions I can quickly answer is the first. Yes, your individual attempts to improve things is a drop in the ocean. But it isn't pointless. The answer is and will remain collective actions. Talk to your neighbors, colleagues, family, friends. Get others on board. Be vocal. Be aware of investments of your retirement funds, your bank, your utilities.

Get to know who's on the local council and state (I'm assuming USA in this case) legislature. Understand their priorities and vote according to managing climate change that aligns with your own. Be an activist as far as you are comfortable.

I recently, belatedly changed the allocation of my superannuation to an ethical portfolio, after reviewing its guidelines. By itself, it won't make a hill of beans difference to the environment. But I'll talk about it to my friends and some of them might make a change as well.

These are small things. It's the persistence that ultimately might lead to a groundswell across many countries that takes us away from fossil fuels.
posted by michswiss at 8:35 AM on September 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

In my opinion, people overestimate the effects of personal changes, and underestimate the effects of policy-level changes. For example, you never hear about these refrigerator regulatory changes, but they made (and will make) a huge difference in terms of the average household energy consumption. According to the article, the new standards will result in energy savings that are enough to power a quarter of all US households in one year. I would look for ways to support the legislators and groups that are working to improve these regulations.

To my mind, at this moment, there's nothing that you can personally do to reduce the risk of catastrophic risk (or mitigate its effects) that is more important that ensuring that Trump doesn't become US President - he has shown that he is not a climate change believer and his election would result in a whole cascade of events that will ultimately result in worse climate change policy. There's not much you can do on a personal level to offset that. So consider volunteering for or donating to the Clinton campaign - I'm utterly serious when I think that's your best bang for your buck right now, when it comes to climate change.
posted by peacheater at 8:39 AM on September 18, 2016 [46 favorites]

Limit the size of your family, or adopt.
posted by ZeroDivides at 8:51 AM on September 18, 2016 [27 favorites]

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s there was no recycling program, no composting program, and no one brought their own bags to the grocery store. Now in my municipality 'garbage' is only picked up every other week, where the compost bin is picked up every week, and it's kind of embarrassing to have to fork over 5 cents for a bag. Will it save the world? Probably not, but whether it's the right solution or not, it's one attempt.

When I was growing up we got a new lunchbox for the start of school every year. This year I asked my 11 year old if we should go lunchbox shopping and he looked at me like I was crazy and pointed out that his lunch bag is fine. This is a minor but powerful example of how in our family now that we know better, we try to reduce our consumption at the front end.

I look forward to seeing how his generation comes up with policies and big changes.

I think there's value in changing social norms and assumptions so that everyone sees the value in the big changes. I think that's where individuals shrinking their footprints, being mindful, choosing to bike, choosing to live in smaller homes, choosing to live in uglier/less fashionable smaller homes rather than replacing everything all the time really helps the world. This is where we all need to influence each other.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:52 AM on September 18, 2016 [10 favorites]

According to this randomly selected paper, 38% of the carbon emissions of an average household are from residential energy use, and 27% are from gasoline use. The remaining 35% covers everything, with food, housing (ie construction) and auto purchases being the biggest three.

In energy use, I think the biggest reductions you can personally make are from switching power providers to a green producer (eg coal to solar), followed by living in a more efficient dwelling (eg an apartment, a well-designed and well insulated house) followed by basic conservation measures (LED bulbs etc.)

In gasoline use, the biggest thing you can do is reduce the impact of your daily commute to work, which is typically both the most common and longest regular trip people make. Best is living within walking or pleasant cycling distance, good is taking public transit, better than nothing is moving closer and driving a more efficient car. After work, look at minimizing distance to common errands, esp. groceries.

Political action may be more effective - federal fuel efficiency standards have radically dropped the amount of gasoline used per mile with no individual action needed. Depending on where you live, this could easily be local or state level - the local politicians who could fund a much better transit system are easier to lobby than the federal government.

And not creating more children who will expect a Western way of life may be the most potent.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:21 AM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Buy a land. Plant trees on it. Preferably native, and a variety of species. Don't have kids. Adopt neutered/spayed pitbulls instead.
posted by Drosera at 9:24 AM on September 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

The Sierra Club's Ask Mr. Green column has quick answers to most small environmentalist consumer questions.

Joining the Sierra Club is not a bad way to start figuring out what flavors of political action make sense to you, in general.
posted by yarntheory at 9:39 AM on September 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh I thought of something less cynical.

If your work or daily life lets you interact with a lot of people, try not to get too bent out of shape that they have huge gas-guzzling trucks, ten kids, and a Trump sticker (if you're in the unlucky position of being Stateside for the next 2 months). Instead, if these people naturally show inclination towards something like reducing waste or appreciating green spaces, agree and encourage the fudge out of that. No one likes to be lectured on their life choices, but enthusiasm is infectious.

I worked as a National Park Ranger this summer in a VERY touristy area, where people haul their entire family for vacation, rent ridiculous vacation mansions, and leave trash everywhere for me to pick up. I would get asked the same 5 questions about local wildlife over and over again, but I LOVED having people be curious and interested in the natural resources all around them. I didn't lecture, but certainly talked about the effects of climate change/light pollution (we had sea turtles nesting) when they were pertinent and who knows, maybe all these little interactions led to someone not using a single use grocery bag or trying to carpool more or any of the little things that contribute to NORMALIZING the addressment this looming clusterfuck of climate change.

As a biologist at the start of her career, I know I'm going to see a lot of change more likely to the worse in my lifetime (assuming I live long enough). I also know I don't want kids, and if I did, how the hell could I live with the carbon use they generate and their potential offspring. But there will always be other people's kids that you can help brainwash for the better!

I think in order to not loose our minds with how scary and real and already happening climate change is, we need to do as Stephan Jackson recently put it, and not let the perfect get in the way of the good.

Also stop eating beef, like, now. Bison is just as tasty and while not perfect, way more sustainably and ethically raised for when you need that bloody burger fix.
posted by Drosera at 9:44 AM on September 18, 2016 [11 favorites]

Limit the size of your family, or adopt.

This is huge for two main reasons

1. obviously fewer people consume fewer resources, but also
2. having children makes people a lot more inwardly-focused (for decent reasons) and so they are more likely to worry about the family first and the planet second.

I know a lot of people who were recyclers, vegetarians, low-on-food-chain people who changed it all up when they had kids because they were trying to do the best for their family (and also tired, and also dealing with all new challenges)

Other smaller things with big impacts

- eating local food and less meat, be mindful but not obsessive about where your food comes from
- fly less, drive less, walk more, carpool and encourage others to do the same
- make conscious choices about your energy consumption. Turn down thermostats, put on a hat, change to more sustainable power, live somewhere which requires less energy, consider hobbies that are more sustainable

And more than anything, to me, get to know your neighbors and your community. The more we are aware of our interdependence, the more we can make plans that benefit everyone and try to get more out of the American exceptionalism that defines a lot of culture in this country and is ultimately detrimental to helping with climate change.
posted by jessamyn at 10:14 AM on September 18, 2016 [11 favorites]

You can reduce your impact so that you aren't making things worse.

Reduce driving and flying as much as possible, and when you do commute & travel, use public transportation and efficient transportation - bike, hybrid, walking.
If you can use solar and/or wind power, do. Reduce energy consumption at home. Reduce use of AC and heat. LED lights. Hang clothes to dry.
Live in a smaller space, which requires less energy, requires less stuff to furnish.
Buy recycled stuff, like thrift shop clothing, buy stuff that can be recycled, like not so many (heavy metal)battery-powered electronics. Recycle so other people can use stuff you don't need anymore, or it can be kept out of the waste stream.
Recycling aluminum has a significant impact. It's dirty to mine and energy intensive to refine, and then it can be recycled with low impact.
Eat less meat.
Use water carefully.
If you can opt out of plastic, do. Re-usable containers for leftovers. Styro coffee cups make coffee taste bad, anyway, and drinking from my stainless coffee mug is way more pleasant. Got it at Goodwill, of course.
Buy less stuff. Stuff has to be manufactured, shipped, merchandised. Then you use it. Then it gets discarded and has to be transported, recycled, disposed of in some manner. Even purchase that don't seem to generate waste probably do, because the company has an office building, generates a bunch of waste, etc.
Advocate for better energy policies at work.
As you live your life, add environmental impact to your decision-making thinking so that it becomes part of how you live.
Get involved in local, state and/or national politics and keep being vocal about climate change. This is really important.

The change you make may be small, but even small changes have an effect and affect the way other people think and behave. To cheer up, read this ask.me from latkes. Smart people may yet develop technology to help address climate change. Thank you for moving in the right direction.
posted by theora55 at 10:19 AM on September 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, how I struggle with this feeling as well. I just try to contribute to and help environmental organizations, VOTE , and reduce my energy use (within reason).

Not to downplay the effects of global warming, but even NPR notes that that graph is flawed. Its purpose is mainly to be an attention-getter, and perhaps that's what we need.
posted by Seeking Direction at 10:33 AM on September 18, 2016

Please keep in mind that you are probably doing all you can be reasonably asked to do if you are even asking this question.

You are not the polluter here. Large manufacturers are when they use excessive packaging to contain ten million units. You employer is the polluter when you are required to drive to work when you could do your job from home. California agriculture is wasting water, you aren't.

Try to be aware of the natural human tendency to shift the blame for bad situations down until it can be pinned on poor people. This problem you pose is a good demonstration - no, the problem is not the billion-dollar corporations using 86% of California's water to grow almonds outside their natural habitat, it's all those poor people flushing their toilets and practicing hygiene.

Unless you are conspicuously wasteful, you are fine.
posted by FakeFreyja at 11:04 AM on September 18, 2016 [15 favorites]

I agree with FakeFreyja. Someone I'm very close to works for a large Internet retailer. This Internet retailer throws (literally) tons of waste away, cardboard boxes, plastic wrap, wood - all of it could easily be recycled but it would be more expensive to do so, so they just don't.

So how can my small contribution of recycling at my house offset this? ... it can't, but I do the best I can anyway, I work at home, we don't have gas guzzling SUVs, we try to reuse things where possible.
posted by getawaysticks at 11:10 AM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

To second peacheater on the power of regulatory changes, remember the progress we have made on the ozone hole and Los Angeles smog (from bans on certain pollutants and automobile emission standards, respectively). Yes, we still have lots of progress to make, but the point is to support causes and politicians that will do something and to VOTE!
posted by Seeking Direction at 11:16 AM on September 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm 30

I think the Cold War holds up a bit as a fear analogy/how-people-live-with-it saga. I'm too young to have been around for the Cuban Missile Crisis, but.

I'm 41 and my childhood was filled with the idea that Reagan or Thatcher or "the Soviets" were going to "press the button" and this was not helped by the TV movie The Day After, much discussed at recess by the kids whose parents had let them watch it. (I, "gen X," was thrown when I found out my "millennial" siblings experienced none of that Cold War fear.) When the Wind Blows was also worrying, especially as it came from the nice man who also did The Snowman. There was some cold comfort from the book, though: clearly adults had the same concerns going, even if they didn't talk about them much.

We just kind of got on with things -- either we were all going to die, and then, well, we'd be dead, or we weren't all going to die, so we had to get on with things, or some of us would die and the world would be a mess, but for now you still had to go to work or school or swimming lessons or whatever. It was out of our control and a thing you tried to push to the back of your mind on a day-to-day basis, though you might go to the odd no nukes protest or have a few sleepless nights when worrying stuff was on the news.

Which is to say there is something to ye olde stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on, stop worrying and learn to love the bomb, etc. One just tried to get on with things.

Take comfort in signs of normality/progress. My uncle worked next door to the Soviet embassy in Ottawa when I was growing up, and periodically I would visit, wander the grounds, sneak off, climb the very wide stone fence and peek through the very thick hedge covering the wire fence above it, and peek. I was sure I would be shot on sight if caught, so thick was the propaganda. During one of these highly risky (I was quite sure) peeks I saw a swingset in the well-concealed embassy backyard. A standard North American metal swingset, the kind that would be in anybody's backyard, obviously for children of embassy visitors/employees. I was dazzled and disgusted: Russian kids SWING? I have been LIED TO. The sudden realization that they were just people like us and not, you know, a nation of sociopaths desperate to nuke the world (the propaganda was very 'West = good, USSR = bad') was a revelation. Kids played there like they did here. They were just people, not very different from us, and thus unlikely to want to bring the world to an end. Surely eventually the people running the show would come to their senses.

So my thoughts on #4 are that it's helpful to keep looking for the environmental and political equivalents of the swingset (or Berlin Wall falling, &c).
posted by kmennie at 11:34 AM on September 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

From my own forays into this topic, I've found that one of more impactful personal decisions one can make is to cut beef out of your diet. There's a lot of studies out there about this, and this paper in particular suggests that beef production requires 28 times more land and produces 5 times more GHG than an average of all other livestock production methods and that's a pretty consistent trend seen for beef-heavy diets. If you don't want to cut all meat out of your diet, stick mostly to chicken, as that's pretty much the most efficient meat source out there. In terms of beef though, it's not just all the cow fart GHG emissions, it's the fact that the agricultural industry is converting tons of otherwise productive land (including rainforest) into less productive crops to feed all these cows and that in turn is reducing all that land's ability to act as a natural carbon sink.

As far as a more personal ethos, I find it helps to make more "mindful" purchases. I think for a while before I buy something: Is it durable? How long will I have it? How many uses do I have for it? Did a local person make it instead of a corporation? Is it biodegradable? Is it going to go out of fashion real quick? Sometimes this requires weighing your options and making what can be a messy judgement call...for example, a pair of leather shoes lasts much, much longer with proper care than its plastic-based counterpart. Doing all this also requires you to basically attempt to resist the powers of advertising and to be forgiving of yourself if you slip up. But, that said, I think there's a lot of power in framing your purchases in more of a "will this make me happy and fulfilled long-term?" mindset.

Aside from this, work to vote in people who actually wanna work on changing the status quo and support organizations who continue to pressure politicians and industries...because the onus is ultimately on those parties to make the necessary changes.
posted by giizhik at 11:47 AM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

> You are not the polluter here. Large manufacturers are when they use excessive packaging to contain ten million units.
There's one important thing here though: don't buy shit you don't need. Energy goes into manufacturing and packaging because consumers want stuff.

And because it can't be said enough: reduce meat consumption.
(Ideally that also involves not having meat-eating pets)
posted by farlukar at 12:05 PM on September 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

You can do things in your community to support sustainable practices. My town just got some new bike lanes. It's a pilot project initiated by the city council, but there's no way it would have come into being without the tireless work of local activists. (And scroll down the page at that last link. Local journalists, community associations, and unions have all played their part in this, in various ways.) A safer infrastructure for biking means more people who are cautious (like me) will consider it. (This also wouldn't have happened under our previous mayor. Voting, at all levels, matters so much.) What do your local activists say matters in your community? More green space? Community gardens? Participating in stuff like this also contributes to civic engagement on a larger level, it makes for healthier communities.

(Although the presence of more individuals is a drain on the environment, I suspect families tend to be more invested in their communities, longer term, than single people. Schools matter more, right; the effects of local pollution might matter more, too, if there's a sense of future you're connected to through your kids. People drive SUVs because it's easier to do that with big families, true; people focus on themselves because their time is limited, and that's the choice that makes things easier. But as warriorqueen said, people also recycle now - that just wasn't done, not that long ago. It's possible to make the comfortable choice an easy and better choice - there are researchers, designers, planners, and policy makers looking at that. Are you positioned to do - or support - work like that?)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:13 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

As has been said in comments above, the scale of environmental depredation wreaked by industry is vastly bigger than that wreaked by individuals. The best thing you can do to save the planet is to fight for an economic system that is directed in the best interests of human survival on earth long term; i.e., socialism.
posted by Mistress at 1:38 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

What if all 32 million plus Californians had the same fuck you attitude and wasted that much water a day?

Since my actions have no impact on what 32 million other people do, an individual wasting water doesn't matter.

What does matter is persuading other people to change. So, phone banking or contributing to special interest groups do a lot more than just changing one's behavior.
posted by jpe at 2:08 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

And because it can't be said enough: reduce meat consumption.

The beef and dairy industries are inextricably linked. Reduce consumption of both.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:35 PM on September 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

You are not the polluter here.... Try to be aware of the natural human tendency to shift the blame for bad situations down until it can be pinned on poor people.

No, you are the polluter (we all are), and you're probably not doing the best you can. Companies that manufacture stuff are merely responding to consumer demand. If everyone stops buying a product, it won't be produced anymore; and if people buy it less, less of it will be produced. You might be having relatively little effect next to the CEO of some company, but each of us has to make the best decisions with whatever limited power we have. Let's not abdicate our responsibilities as citizens for fear of theoretically blaming the poor. "Be the change you want to see in the world." Eat less meat, especially beef.

I agree with the suggestion to adopt rather than have kids biologically. But I don't agree that you should decide not to have kids on environmental grounds. You should either have kids or not have kids based on what you want to do. If all the people who care the most about the environment decided to stay childless, the resulting world population might be a little smaller — but it would be made up of people who care relatively little about the environment, which could have huge ripple effects (e.g. environmental laws would be weaker, since politicians wouldn't need to worry as much about keeping environmentalists happy).
posted by John Cohen at 3:37 PM on September 18, 2016

In a recent question, I asked about my personal responsibility regarding ethical purchasing choices (from a labor practices standpoint). I see where you're coming from with this.

In my opinion, these big, complex challenges require three approaches at once:

1) Individual action -- people making small choices, no matter how large the scope of the problem.
2) Collective action -- individuals who promote good choices not because they're the law, but because they slowly and gradually address the problem. Using your sphere of influence, even if it's just mentioning a choice, in passing, to a friend or two. Leading by example. Mobilizing a team to clean up a park.

A lot of people would stop here, because recycling a can or picking up trash is a very concrete step, and (rightly) makes people feel that they are doing a good thing.

But the big, complicated, and arguably most important step is:

3) POLICY. This is not fun or sexy. Writing a letter to your elected official or donating some money to a cause that effects structural change doesn't quite have the same instant satisfaction as picking up trash. You don't see the effect right away. It can feel like effort goes into the ether and takes years to come to fruition.

But at the end of the day/month/year/decade, if it is literally illegal for Internet retailer to dump all their shit directly into the trash, that is going to have way more real-world impact than several people quietly tending their own ethical gardens. We need those gardeners to become squeaky wheels who demand top-down change, while also continuing to tend their gardens, individually and collectively.
posted by delight at 5:24 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

This book is pretty good at quantifying the total carbon impact of things we do.

tl;dr: reduce your use of cars and planes, eat less meat, support public policy that significantly reduces carbon emissions.

Will switching from driving to biking mean one snail's iota of difference?

The answer to that is absolutely, yes. Driving a car is a large contributor to the emissions created by the average American; changing your commute vehicle is likely the single biggest thing you can do to combat global warming.
posted by splitpeasoup at 6:06 PM on September 18, 2016

Metafilter's own Jessamyn said once that making lifestyle decisions that you believe are right (or doing your best, everyone falls short) and making it look cool and fun is the best propaganda. She probably phrased it differently, but the point stands.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:35 PM on September 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

In addition to picking some of the suggestions above that work for you, you might also look at the 80,000 Hours site. It's a guide for thinking about how to use your career to do the most good you can in the world. If you have the expertise & temperament, that might mean working directly on the problem of climate change (for instance, as a researcher, engineer, policymaker, activist, or lobbyist). Otherwise, you might be able to do the most good by working hard at another job so you can donate generously to organizations that do that direct work (they link to this analysis of effective climate change charities; one called Cool Earth tops the list).
posted by ourobouros at 6:52 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

1. Reduce your personal greenhouse gas emissions. Drive less, think about your power choices (electricity generated from where? - often you can switch), lower your heat etc, insulate your house.

2. Reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the things you consume. Consume less meat, eat more local.

3. Vote for policymakers and policies that will have an impact on these things. *Call* these policymakers on the phone when legislation comes up and ask them to vote appropriately.

4. Forgive yourself when you are imperfect.
posted by Toddles at 7:24 PM on September 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

You should act in the manner in which you would be happy for everybody else to act.

Would you be happy for everybody to sit around and do nothing? No.

Would you be happy for everybody to say 'well, I can't make a difference, so I'm not going to do anything'? No.

Would you be happy for everybody to say 'A new Hummer is a drop in the ocean, so I'm gonna drive me a Hummer'? No.

So you do your part. You model the right thing to do for others. You encourage them to follow your lead. You accept that not being able to control others doesn't somehow free you from a moral obligation to control yourself.

What should you do? Most human-generated CO2 arises from the burning of fossil fuels - coal, natural gas, and oil - and the biggest slices of that slice are electricity, heating and transport. Your first actions should be to do everything you can to minimise your dependence on fossil fuels for these purposes, whether by reducing your consumption or using alternative energy sources.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:16 PM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Since my actions have no impact on what 32 million other people do, an individual wasting water doesn't matter.

32 million individuals feel the same way. Now is there a problem?

What does matter is persuading other people to change.

Yeah, saying 'individuals wasting water doesn't matter' and tolerating individuals wasting water isn't going to do that.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:21 PM on September 19, 2016

I agree with the posters who have suggested thinking of political/collective change as a more fruitful avenue for action. Focusing on institutional changes and city-level changes may be the most rewarding because it allows you to work on a more immediate scale that feels doable (unlike the global scale which can feel too overwhelming) but also collectivize impact. Individual purchasing decisions are not unimportant, but they function (for me) as personal commitments rather than political action.

Do you work for a big company with a waste management policy that could be changed to separate compostables from landfill-bound trash? Does your favorite snack food company source palm oil more responsibly or is it a laggard (ahem! Pepsico!)? Has your municipality instituted community solar power programs or at least put the funding framework to make them happen? Does your state have a mattress recycling program funded with mandatory fees at time of purchase? Maybe you wish you could ditch your car, but the public transportation system is unreliable where you live. You can work with local organizations and elected officials to direct more funding to public transit and away from roads and highways. Anyway, I could go on and on, I have a whole list of these from teaching a sustainable cities class this summer, but should get back to my current job!
posted by spamandkimchi at 6:34 PM on September 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

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