Five weeks ago, the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement. I found this inexcusable, and so I chose to take action by re-committing to my own carbon cutting efforts and publicly documenting them. The general idea was to make one new pledge every week for as long as the US remains out of the accords, track my progress, and generate conversation. If I could bring a few others along with me, so much the better. This week’s pledge was to commit an entry in this space to the project, so here we are.
I will spare you the arguments about climate change being real and human-caused. They’ve been made elsewhere better than I possibly could and at this point the deniers are pretty much in “Flat Earth” territory. It’s real, it’s our fault, and I’m moving on to “what do we do about it?”
I have found myself increasingly frustrated in recent months with regard to communication about important issues. I believe social media is an important platform for advocacy, but simply expressing one’s opinion using that platform is ineffective to the point of being self-defeating. So when I heard the news that the US had pulled the plug, I felt impotent. I wanted to shout into the echo chamber, share every article, chastise all the deniers, and comment on every post. In my fuming I hit upon a possible answer: do something, then talk about it. I knew I might not reach anyone who didn’t already agree with me, but I could still exchange knowledge and ideas with those who did. Maybe a few needed only a tiny nudge to make an adjustment or two of their own.
In order to make sure all my pledges were meaningful, I first thought about what I was already doing and disqualified those things from consideration. That increased the challenge, and it also means I haven’t yet touched on a lot of basics. Before I move on to the pledges so far, here are just a few ideas:
- Install solar panels
- Mow grass less frequently (and/or switch to battery-operated mowers & trimmers)
- Follow the Three ‘R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – in that order)
- Plant trees, shrubs, etc. to reduce lawn space
- Donate to Environmental Charities
My Pledges So Far
Pledge 1: Bike to work at least one day a week.
Reasoning: This one’s self-explanatory. Use less gas!
Status: My initial pledge was delayed getting started due to a busted-up bicycle and some weather issues, but it is officially underway. I’m behind but hoping to make up the missed days in July-August and stretch this as far into the Fall as possible.
Pledge 2: Eat no beef for 30 days.
Reasoning: Cattle ranching is extremely bad for the environment in a lot of ways, one of which being the high carbon footprint beef brings with it.
Status: Because Pledge 1 was behind, I opted to extend this to 45 days, allowing myself the exception for July 4th. So far I haven’t cheated once, outside of the one hot dog on my prearranged cheat day.
Pledge 3: Turn off the water when soaping in the shower, and lower the temp.
Reasoning: Believe it or not, conserving water (especially hot water) lowers your carbon footprint too!
Status: I’m at about an 82% success rate in following this guideline.
Pledge 4: Drink less coffee.
Reasoning: Coffee is another commodity with a high carbon footprint. My office uses a Keurig, which intensifies that problem.
Status: This is going a little more slowly than I intended, but I haven’t really cheated much or backslid. My consumption is down.
Pledge 5: Commit to more fuel-efficient driving.
Reasoning: Use less gas.
Status: So far the gas light hasn’t come on, but I’ve only refueled once since making the pledge. The other things are hard to measure this early, so TBD.
Pledge 6: Post about the pledges on my blog.
Reasoning: There’s a finite amount I can lower my own carbon footprint, but if my efforts spread to others that amount grows exponentially, like a pyramid scheme.
Status: If you’re reading this, mission accomplished! Remind me to hang a banner.
Ancillary benefits to these pledges abound. Biking helps keep me in shape! Cutting beef is healthy! Taking quicker and cooler showers is god for my skin! Drinking less coffee is healthy, and makes me pee less, thus conserving water! Fuel-efficient driving saves money! Writing about it all teaches me I should use fewer exclamation points!
It’s starting to look like I will need a lot more ideas to keep this going for the duration of US non-membership in the Paris Agreement. I do have a few more thoughts, but please hit me up with yours! Leave ’em in the comments, email me, reply to the Facebook posts, DM me on Twitter, text me, beam ’em to me telepathically, send smoke signals, or do whatever you’ve gotta do. And of course, steal my idea – or let me know if you’ve been independently doing anything similar. I would be thrilled to hear about your own pledges I hope some will join me.