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What Cool Things Did You Do To Help The Planet in 2022?

Carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels accumulate in the atmosphere if there is not enough absorbing biocapacity. Reducing humanity’s carbon footprint is an essential step to live within the means of our planet.

We know how important it is to curb emissions to create a healthier planet and ecosystems. We can consciously help the planet by making choices to reduce the emissions we create. We can address the climate change challenge in a holistic way that does not simply shift the burden from one natural system to another.

Being conscious of our carbon footprints can help. A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that come from the life cycle of a product or service. It includes carbon dioxide — the gas most commonly emitted by humans — and others, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming. Usually, the bulk of an individual’s carbon footprint will come from transportation, housing, and food.

Let’s examine what each of us did in 2022 toward ramping up renewable energy, boosting energy efficiency, halting deforestation, and curbing super pollutants like hydrofluorocarbons.

I’ll start.

As a lifelong educator, I recognize the importance of modeling my own experiences, insights, and tools to help students to see pathways so they, too, can learn a new skill or create a new structure. So allow me to describe some of the cool things I did in 2022 to help the planet — and then it’ll be your turn in the Comments section at the end to add your own approaches to curbing climate pollution.

We know that, since the Industrial Revolution, humans have emitted more than 2,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We know that we need to keep global temperature rise to less than 1.5-2 degrees C (2.7-3.6 degrees F), which scientists say is necessary for preventing the worst impacts of climate change.

When we each consider our contributions to helping the planet to reduce emissions, we should consider choices we make about how many miles we travel by car, bus, train, and plane; the energy usage in our homes; how much we spend shopping; and, the composition of our diets. At least those are good starting places.

I owned an EV with excellent range for a full year. The novelty of owning a Tesla Model Y is starting to diminish and is becoming replaced by stories of long trips, introductions to Supercharging, and just getting familiar with state-of-the-art personal transportation. But I didn’t stop with personal all-electric transportation ownership. I also was part of a booth at an Earth Day event to share information with curious audiences. Our Tesla Model Y was the guest star and an up-front-and-personal icon representing the progress that all-electric transportation has achieved in recent years. Hundreds of people meandered by the shiny new all-electric vehicle. I was in awe: there were so many things people want to know about EVs!

I tried new plant-based foods. So much of US culture involves meat: Easter ham, 4th of July barbecues, Thanksgiving turkeys. Red meat is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. Livestock contributes to 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Some of us have been vegetarians for a long, long time, but others are newly turning to plant-based alternatives to reduce emissions. It’s great when an option like the Impossible Burger is available at the local restaurant. To support new plant-based food options appearing on the grocer’s shelves, I’ve done some taste testing. I try to assess new plant-based selections on their own merit for taste, texture, and nutritional value rather than the degree to which they reproduce a meat item’s je nes se quois. Alternative meats are an entry, a portal to thinking about meals without meal and, instead, with beans and legumes and high protein vegetables. They are a starting rather than an ending.

I learned about stormwater retention from the local extension service. The increasing frequency of severe rainstorms in southeast Florida has piqued my interest in rain gardens and swales. A group of citizens in my condo complex met with Kate Rotindo from the University of Florida Extension Service, and we learned so much! While I thought it would be relatively simple to select aquatic and shoreline plants for stormwater ponds, it turns out that site conditions can vary greatly and are difficult to control. For example, water depth sometimes fluctuates widely, creating wet and dry conditions. Water quality varies with rainfall and fertilizer inputs. Steep slopes can make plant establishment and retention difficult. We learned to ask 3 questions to ask when selecting stormwater pond plants:

  1. What environmental conditions does the plant need to grow?
  2. How do you want the plant to function?
  3. What do you want the plant to look like?

I bought an indoor composter. The EPA estimates that each year, US food loss and waste embodies 170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (million MTCO2e) GHG emissions (excluding landfill emissions) – equal to the annual CO2 emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants. I decided to do my part to reduce my family’s food waste by buying an indoor composter. My LOMI is so easy to use, clean, and quiet. It creates a mulch-like substance that I place at the back of a garden. The result is more than lowering methane in landfills or even returning nitrogen to the earth. EPA data show that food waste is the single most common material landfilled and incinerated in the US, comprising 24 and 22% of landfilled and combusted municipal solid waste, respectively. Reducing and preventing food waste can increase food security, foster productivity and economic efficiency, promote resource and energy conservation, and address climate change, which, in turn, could also decrease climate change-related shocks to the supply chain.

I purchased an e-bike. I had known in theory that there were lots of practical reasons to ride an e-bike. But in late autumn, I purchased an XP™ Lite Lectric Blue. It is fabulous! I just love it. It is solid and sturdy but not so big I feel like I’m driving a motorcycle. It responds easily to turns. It folds up for transport (although, at 45 pounds, I think it’s still a bit too bulky for me to fold up myself). I bought it in anticipation of knee surgery but find it’s already extended the time I pedal, helps out in the battle against offshore winds, and gives me more options about experiencing my local area without getting in a car.

I continue to cut down on packaging whenever possible. Part of my recognition about the climate pollution inherent in packaging is to do my part to pick up litter on the beach. We have a Blue Tube program at our local beach; people put their plastic grocery bags in the Blue Tube and grab one when they walk the beach to have a place to collect microplastics and other litter that washes up onshore. I never bag my groceries in plastic — always reusable bags. I recycle way more in my home than I ever place in the dumpster.

What about you? What did you do in 2022 to help the planet? I’d love to hear from you, and Happy New Year!

 
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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.

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