Feeling Overwhelmed by Climate Change?

Dear Sam,

The climate crisis seems to be in the news a lot these days and I’m starting to see the impacts of climate change in my own community and in places I love to travel. It feels overwhelming and often very doom and gloom. Where can I learn a few  reasonable actions I can take to reduce my impact on climate change?

Sincerely,

Matt

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Dear Matt,

Thank you for this important question. You are not alone in feeling overwhelmed and, fortunately, more and more people are talking about climate change and wanting to take action.

Scientists have been studying the effects of rapidly increasing greenhouse gases and the resulting global warming for a long time but it’s relatively recent that climate change is being talked about in mainstream media. This new attention is due, in part, to the increase in extreme weather events happening worldwide–hurricanes in the south, wildfires in the west, flooding in the midwest. I agree that it does feel overwhelming.  For me, taking action helps me stay positive and feel empowered vs. overwhelmed with that doom and gloom feeling. 

To counter the doom and gloom effect, I would encourage you to check out Project Drawdown. Project Drawdown is a research organization focused on solutions to climate change that exist today. They believe that global warming can be stopped if we employ, ramp up, and amplify the 80 solutions (that already exist!) that they explore in their research. You can read about the solutions on their website or check out the book from the public library. Also, check out this fun, interactive climate change solutions quiz based on Project Drawdown research.

Below, I highlight solutions from Project Drawdown that residents of Tangletown can take meaningful action on today:

SOLUTION:  Refrigerant Management

PROJECT DRAWDOWN RANK:  #1

IMPACT: 

  • HFCs, which replaced ozone-depleting refrigerants of the past (CFCs and HCFCs), are more potent than carbon dioxide and therefore have a greater capacity to warm the atmosphere.
  • New chemicals are being phased in to replace HFCs in high-income countries (thanks to the Kigali accord), but this process will take time.
  • 90 percent of refrigerant emissions happen at end of life, so effective disposal of any currently in circulation (like those in your AC unit and refrigerator) is essential. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO: 

  • Keep AC units and refrigerators inspected and well-maintained.
  • Recycle old refrigerators and AC units properly as they are hazardous waste. City of Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling tell you how here and here
  • Upgrade to more efficient models when it is time to replace your AC and refrigerator. Explore rebates available from Xcel Energy and consider researching and investing in models that don’t use HFCs.
  • In Minneapolis, around 80% of homes are inadequately insulated, and about 25% of Minneapolis homes have no wall insulation. Lack of insulation means your AC unit runs longer and works harder to keep your home cool. Insulate your home to increase the efficiency and lifespan of your AC. Learn about the Tangletown Energy Improvement Rebate program here!

SOLUTION:  Wind Turbines (Onshore), Solar Farms, and Rooftop Solar

PROJECT DRAWDOWN RANK:  #2, #8, and #10

IMPACT: 

  • Transitioning to clean energy is crucial as traditional fossil fuel sources of energy, like coal and natural gas, produce greenhouse gases that fuel global warming and contribute to air and water pollution.
  • According to the most recent Renewables Global Status Report, more renewable energy capacity has been installed than new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity combined, globally, for the last four years (despite fossil fuels still being heavily subsidized). This is good news if the trend continues!

WHAT YOU CAN DO: 

  • Sign up for Windsource® through Xcel Energy. The average Minneapolis home can be powered by wind for just an additional $5/month. Windsource subscriptions are billed directly on your Xcel Energy bill and your participation signals demand for clean energy in Minneapolis.
  • Explore the City of Minneapolis Solar webpage to learn more about solar energy.
  • Consider adding solar panels to your rooftop. You can read about rooftop solar incentives here and on the City’s Green Cost Share webpage.

SOLUTION:  Reduced Food-Waste

PROJECT DRAWDOWN RANK:  #3

IMPACT: 

  • According to studies, a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. In the U.S., 40 percent of all food is wasted. 
  • In addition to its impact on global heating, producing uneaten food wastes resources like water, energy, land, labor, and financial capital.
  • In Minneapolis, 19% of the residential trash collected in our black garbage carts is food waste.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: 

  • Don’t let food go to waste. Eat up leftovers, buy imperfect produce, and create a meal plan to help you shop and cook more efficiently. These actions not only reduce food waste, but they save you money.
  • Check out savethefood.com for more ideas on how to reduce food waste.
  • Sign up for Organics Recycling so that any food waste you do create gets recycled into compost instead of put in the trash.

SOLUTION:  Plant-rich Diet

PROJECT DRAWDOWN RANK:  #3

IMPACT: 

  • The meat-centric diet consumed in high-income countries (aka the Western diet) is responsible for one-fifth of global emissions. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent report states that the West’s high consumption of meat and dairy is contributing to global warming.
  • All food contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, but meat and dairy disproportionately contribute over half of those emissions.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: 

  • Reduce meat consumption by incorporating plant-rich meals and plant-based sources of proteins into your diet. Start with one meal a week or one meal a day–every bit counts. Google “plant-based recipes” or “plant-rich diet” and you will see that the recipes and resources online are endless!
  • Check out the recipes and resources from the recent Sustainable Cooking Class hosted by Tangletown’s Environmental Committee. 
  • Watch for future classes and educational opportunities by subscribing to the Tangletown e-news (if you haven’t already) or by following @Tangletown on Facebook

SOLUTION:  Insulation

PROJECT DRAWDOWN RANK:  #31

IMPACT: 

  • Due to increased consumption, natural gas has become the largest source of GHG emissions (40%) in Minneapolis. Read the 2018 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Update here.
  • Insulation is one of the most practical and cost-effective ways to make buildings more energy-efficient—both in new construction and through retrofitting older homes and buildings. 
  • In addition to reducing the energy needed to heat and cool a building and thus lowering energy bills, proper insulation can help reduce ice damming, keep out moisture, and improve air quality.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: 

These are just a handful of the climate change solutions researched by Project Drawdown and related actions you can take that are currently being supported by the Tangletown Environmental Committee and the City of Minneapolis. I encourage you to take a look at the entire ranked list and consider what solutions you (and your community) can support and the actions you can take.

Sincerely,

Sustainability Sam

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