Editor’s Note: A version of this article first published in 2014.
There’s been a lot of fallout over US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the international Paris climate accord, which has been endorsed by nearly 200 countries.
It’s not a huge surprise: the populist, anti-elite American leader promised he would do just that during his presidential campaign – although foreign and business leaders had appealed to him to stay in the pact.
Climate change isn’t something in the far-off future: It’s a potentially disastrous reality that’s already starting to have effects that are expected to worsen, experts say.
So, while global leaders determine the fate of the Paris agreement, here are five things you can do right now to help stem the effects of climate change:
Make small changes at home
It might not seem like much, but there are a few things you can do around your home to limit your family’s greenhouse gas emissions – according to the US Environmental Protection Agency – and it could save you money, too.
Take a look around your home: What are the five most common lights you use? If you change those bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs, they’ll use less energy and help reduce your impact on the environment.
Heating and cooling your home also contributes to your carbon footprint. Replacing that old thermostat with a programmable thermostat allows you to turn off the heating or A/C when you’re not home. Programmable thermostats cost as little as $20 – but can shave hundreds off your energy bill.
Want to reduce your water waste? Start by replacing that old toilet with one that uses less water. The EPA says toilets account for nearly 30% of the average home’s indoor water use.
And, of course, make sure you’re involved in your local recycling program.
Be greener at the office
Don’t abandon your earth-friendly habits once you get to the workplace. If you have a desk job, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your emissions at the office. Start by powering down your computer and other office equipment when you’re not using them.
Consider whether that upcoming business trip is really necessary. Can you accomplish what you need in a video conference? That’s a more earth-friendly alternative.
And even the little things, like walking a little farther to toss that drink can in the recycling bin, can go a long way.
Change how you get around
If you live in a city, check out your public transportation options – even if it’s just one day a week. And if you live close to your job, why not bike or walk to work? It could even save you money on a costly gym membership.
No matter where you live, there may be carpooling options. Get on your neighborhood social feed and see if you live near someone who works in the same part of town. That could also save a lot of money in gas.
When you do drive, make sure you’re not spending more than 30 seconds idling and go easy on the gas pedal and brakes. Also, check your tire pressure on a regular basis. That can really improve your gas consumption rate.
The most powerful way the average person can combat climate change is to become informed about it, says J. Marshall Shepherd, former president of the American Meteorological Society and professor at the University of Georgia.
“Obviously, it makes sense for people to be as efficient and green as possible in their thinking on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “But where I think the biggest impact that individuals can have is: Becoming climate literate.”
If you educate yourself about what’s going on with climate change and what can be done about it, you can make more informed choices when it comes time to vote for the people with the power to make big decisions.
“Where the biggest impacts on our planet will be, will come from large-scale policy changes and solutions that are influenced by who’s in office,” he said.
Only read trusted and verified sources of information about climate change, Shepherd said. He recommends the websites climate.gov and Climate Central (of which he is a board member) for essential facts and resources.
Beyond reading up on the issues, you can still do a small part to influence the big environmental picture.
Get involved and educate others about the big picture
Your green strategies in your daily life can have a small impact, but the whole planet has to be on board for dealing with climate change in order to instigate global effects. Even if everyone in the United States reduced their emissions, other countries that continue to dump carbon dioxide into the air would still contribute to warming temperatures and rising sea levels.
Spread the word about climate change and educating people. The EPA recommends that students give presentations on climate change and encourage their institutions to increase energy efficiency.
Find out if your community has a climate action plan. There may be ways you can contribute to local efforts to be greener and adapt to potential changes that a warming world would bring.
Bottom line: if you arm yourself with correct information, you can make informed choices that could affect your community and the planet at large.