We’re probably not going to pull it off.
According to climate scientists like Bill McGuire, we don’t stand a chance at limiting the earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees. That doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. In fact, it means the opposite. Every single thing we do matters now. Every single decision we make can make the earth hotter, or cooler.
We don’t know exactly how things will play out. We know the future won’t look great, but we don’t know how bad things will get. They could get kind of bad, pretty bad, very bad, or extremely bad.
We should be doing everything we can to make things less bad.
That’s the mindset we need.
People are fond of saying the average person has little or no power over climate change. To me, that sounds like an excuse. When you truly examine our consumer habits, you see just how much the average person does contribute to the crisis. The problem is they don’t understand their impact.
I’m going to talk about some things that sound simple. They’re not genius. They’re not sexy. They’re no-brainers.
If more of us did them, we’d be in much better shape.
So let’s jump in.
Use things for longer.
Half of Americans (55 percent) get a new smartphone every 2-3 years. About 12 percent of Americans get a new phone every single year, and 4 percent upgrade every six months. Last year, the world threw away more than 5 billion phones. Yes, they threw them away. They didn’t even try to recycle them.
The world generates 40 million tons of electronic waste every year. That includes laptops and desktop computers.
These devices wind up getting incinerated.
The precious metals inside?
We live in a throwaway culture engineered by profit-hungry billionaires. They wanted it this way. Maybe it sounds normal to upgrade your phone every 2-3 years. That’s because smartphone providers normalized it.
It’s actually batshit crazy.
Smartphone companies could easily design devices that last 10 years or longer. They choose not to, for profit. Still, even these shitty phones they give us can last a lot longer than three years. Consumers have simply accepted that they’re entitled to a new phone every time their contract renews.
Why not, right?
Experts predict the world will be generating 70 million tons of e-waste by 2030. So, owning a smartphone probably isn’t destroying the planet. Buying a new one every other year? That’s wrecking us.
The same goes for the rest of your gadgets.
I’ve been using almost all of my electronics for 7+ years.
I haven’t bought a TV in 13 years.
They work fine.
Use less plastic and packaging.
The world buys a million plastic bottles every minute.
We produce 300 million tons of plastic every year. Half of that winds up in single-use consumer items. How much of that gets recycled?
Not even 10 percent.
The problem has grown far beyond plastic islands in our oceans and turtles eating bottlecaps. Humans now ingest anywhere from 70,000 to 200,000 microplastic particles every year. Yep, we’re eating plastic.
We’re breathing it.
We’ve got to cut back on our plastic use as much as possible. Bottled water? Individually wrapped cheese slices?
There’s no excuse.
It’s not just about trash, either. Plastic is a petrochemical. It’s made from fossil fuels. The production of plastic itself contributes 3.4 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, places like hospitals go through a lot of single-use plastics. It’s a fraction of the problem compared to things we don’t need, like bottled water for nonemergency use, snack packages, and plastic bags.
I know we like our chips and crackers and cookies, but they’re some of the worst offenders out there. If you can find the same product with less packaging, then switch brands. This isn’t rocket science.
It’s just slightly inconvenient.
As for plastic bags, do we really need to say use paper whenever you can? If you have to use plastic, at least recycle it. Kroger turns their plastic bags into composite decking. That’s a lot better than nothing.
Find some reusable bags. Do your homework. Not every reusable bag is sustainable. It depends on the material.
It takes work. It takes time.
It’s worth it.
Use less water.
The average American family uses 300 gallons of water a day:
The average person uses about 80.
Toilet: 24 percent
Shower: 20 percent
Washer: 17 percent
Faucet: 19 percent
Leaks: 12 percent
Other: 8 percent
You only need one gallon to stay hydrated.
Americans use 9 billion gallons of water a day just on their yards. About half of that gets wasted, because people don’t use efficient watering systems. It doesn’t even feed their gardens and grass before it evaporates.
That’s straight-up neglect.
Global demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent in 2030. That’s a conservative estimate. Americans in the southwest are already starting to fight over the stuff. Heavy rains are giving us a reprieve this year, but it won’t last. It’s going to get worse. The craziest part?
We waste so much of it.
If we just got better at water use, we wouldn’t be in such a mess. The problem is that Americans take water for granted.
There’s some easy ways to use less. For starters, you can buy shower heads and faucet aerators that use .5 gallons a minute. You can also buy shower heads that you twist to adjust between .5, 1 gallon, and 1.5 gallons per minute.
You really don’t need to wash most clothes after each wear. Personally, I think you can get away with wearing shirts and underwear a couple of times before washing. (I know, you’re not supposed to…)
You don’t have to shower every single day. You can shower every other day. You don’t have to flush every time you go to the bathroom.
Does that sound gross?
Nobody has ever told me I smell bad. We look at our water bill. My family (all three of us) uses about as much water as one American per month. In other words, we use a third as much water as the average American family. Since we changed out our aerators, we use even less.
Use less electricity.
The average American uses more electricity in one month than the average Indian does in one year. We consume roughly 17 percent of the world’s power. Technically, China uses far more than we do as a country.
Who makes most of our stuff, though?
It’s a little hypocritical to wag our finger at China when we’ve outsourced so much of our production overseas, and we import so many of their goods. The blame boomerangs right back on our consumer habits.
Here’s a breakdown of our electricity use:
Air conditioning and heating: 46 percent
Water heating: 14 percent
Appliances: 13 percent
Lighting: 9 percent
Media: 4 percent
Power strips help some, but managing your AC and heat makes the most difference. That means upgrading insulation and replacing old windows with gaps. That costs money, and not everybody can afford to do that. You can try putting plastic over your windows. It helps some, but some experts say it doesn’t make a huge difference in the long run. In the end, we’re all going to have to get used to warmer houses in the summer, cooler houses in the winter.
Make sure your ceiling fan spins the right way during the summer. Make sure you’re not blocking vents with furniture. Repair any leaks in your ducts. Get some fans. You can manage the airflow in your home to reduce your need for heating and air conditioning.
Waste less food.
Americans throw away 119 billion pounds of food every year.
It takes soil to grow that food. It takes water. It takes fertilizers, which are nonrenewable. Experts have predicted we’ll reach peak phosphorus by 2030. We really can’t afford to be wasting as much as we do.
Cut back on takeout and fast food.
They’re huge food wasters.
Cook your own meals.
Cook in bulk.
Start a compost bin if you can.
Get a Lomi.
Stay away from fast fashion.
The world throws away 92 million tons of clothes a year. The average American throws away 81 pounds of clothes.
The fast fashion industry has made this problem even worse by nurturing our addictions to cheap clothing. Fast fashion produces 20 percent of the world’s toxic waste water and makes up 10 percent of global emissions.
It’s the world’s third biggest polluter.
The average piece of fast fashion lasts 10 wears. In other words, someone wears it 10 times and then throws it away, either because it falls out of style or it literally falls apart in the drier.
Don’t do that.
Google “sustainable clothing brands.”
There’s lots of them.
You don’t even have to spend a bunch of money on fancy sustainable clothes. You can just plan better. Buy clothes you know you’ll wear on a weekly basis for five or six years. Stop letting society shame you.
Stop trying to impress jerks.
They’re not worth it.
Stop buying clothes based on how they look. Buy things that are comfortable and durable. Compared to the absolute carbon nuke of fast fashion, almost anything you do is bound to be more sustainable as long as you just wear the clothes and don’t toss them after a year.
Back in 2015, 10 percent of Americans took five or more plane trips per year. Another nine percent took 3-4 plane trips.
A little self-awareness goes a long way.
Last year, I read a story by a travel writer. She said she was going to do her part to fight climate change by traveling the world and writing about what different cities and communities were doing to become more sustainable.
I wanted to ask her if flying around the world on jets was really the best way to honor the actions of those communities.
I should have.
Rewild your yard.
We have 40 million acres of lawn in the U.S.
Americans use 800 million gallons of gasoline maintaining their yards. A single consumer-grade leaf blower releases more carbon than a pickup truck. Lawnmowers themselves contribute 5 percent of all air pollution. The desire for comfortable, manicured, pest-free lawns is driving insect extinction. Without them, we lose a third of the world’s food supply.
Each suburban lawn could be acting as a carbon sink, if we would just stop dousing them in chemicals and planting non-native species. We could just let them grow. We could manage them without killing everything.
We don’t need golf courses for lawns.
We just don’t.
Be a pain in the ass.
Maybe you see what I’m getting at.
Yes, billionaires are destroying the planet. But where do billionaires get their wealth? In the end, they get it from us. Americans say they don’t have any power to change anything, but they’re constantly supporting and reinforcing these horrible systems every single day, when they don’t have to.
You know what’s really behind all these problems?
It’s the relentless desire for convenience. It’s the American insistance on havering everything they want cheaper and faster.
It has almost extinguished all life on earth.
Imagine someone saying they can’t do anything to help the planet while buying plastic bottles and accumulating 80 pounds of clothes to throw away, and upgrading their phone the minute they can.
Taylor Swift wouldn’t have a private jet to loan out to her friends if we stopped going to her concerts. That’s the thing, though. Nobody wants to make any difficult decisions. Everyone wants to believe they have no power.
It’s easier that way.
We don’t have to live like monks. Imagine how fast things would change if we got those 15 percent of Americans to stop upgrading their phones every year.
Americans are bombarded with climate denial and climate appeasement thousands of times a day. They see thousands of advertisements and thousands of subliminal messages, all telling them it’s okay to upgrade their phones every year and buy clothes they throw away after 10 wears. That’s all very calculated by the marketing industry, in service of a handful of billionaires.
So we have to bombard them with the truth a thousand times a day.
We talk about messaging… Well, that’s it.
It’s all about repetition.
Stop supporting pointless wars.
The U.S. military is probably the worst carbon emitter in the world.
It dwarfs entire countries.
Maybe you think there’s nothing you can do about that, but there is. You can stop cheering for pointless wars. It really doesn’t matter who wins what armed conflict anymore. It doesn’t matter where it’s happening. It doesn’t matter whether we’re fighting it, or just arming someone else. It doesn’t matter who’s peeking at our TikTok, or who’s sending spy balloons over what country.
None of that will make any difference in 10 years.
A growing number of military commanders say we’re on a path to war with China. Over what, exactly? Why? Any war with China for any reason will go down as the last stupid decision humanity ever makes.
Climate change should be the overriding reason for all of us to stop all of our wars, regardless of what it takes.
Our future is way, way more important than any of these ideological pissing contests, and I mean that from the bottom of my gut. I’m not saying this for clicks, claps, or likes. I don’t care who it offends.
It doesn’t matter if we’re all dead in 20 years.
That’s the road we’re on.
It’s not that hard.
Maybe you’ve noticed a trend.
The average American is throwing away a huge amount of stuff. They’re wasting enormous resources. We could stop it.
It would be simple.
Americans have been conditioned to think there’s nothing they can do. That’s a lie. There’s a lot they can do. The biggest obstacle is that we’re conditioned to believe we’re entitled to convenience and disposable goods. That’s the entire source of the problem, and it’s entirely within our power to stop.
I don’t think any climate scientist would tell us to give up. I think most of them would tell us that our actions matter more than ever. Our actions and our choices are how we convey how serious we are about all of this.
We can’t possibly expect anyone to take us seriously if we’re not doing the basics.
What we’re talking about isn’t that hard.
It just feels that way.
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Voting and focusing on Congressional and state primaries is another big thing we can all do.
That’s how we can get rid of the monied candidates who are beholden to big oil, big banks and conglomerates.
By the time it gets to the generals it’s too late.
Also supporting independent news is really important.
Corporate media is killing us with its lack of climate coverage.
Wonderful list. Basically should be a "Green Democrat" manifesto. We need to do all of this. RIGHT NOW.
Here's the way to view how much ENERGY Americans use.
Americans use 11,000 watts per minute and produce 16 tons of CO2 per capita annually.
Argentinians and Thais use about 2,500 watts per minute and produce about 4 tons of CO2 per capita.
The population of America is 335 million.
The population of ALL of AFRICA is 1.18 Billion.
If ALL of the Americans volunteered to sacrifice themselves. "For the good of the Earth".
Then ALL of AFRICA could live at the same level as your average Thai or Argentinian.
Americans think that the rest of the world doesn't understand this.
If you don't learn to do with less voluntarily, you will learn to do with less in the Collapse.