Last Saturday, representatives from 195 different nations made history when they committed to limiting global warming by approving a landmark climate accord in Paris. In an effort to hold off the drastic effects of climate change (such as rising sea levels, widespread food shortages, more devastating storms, droughts, and flooding), nearly every country — both developed and underdeveloped — is now committed to, and accountable for, lowering greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Fighting global warming is going to have to be a multi-national effort, and all of the Earth's population is responsible for doing what they can to end global warming. That said, considering how much the U.S. is exacerbating this global danger, it makes sense that Americans should begin recognizing, and acting on, our great potential to affect positive change regarding global warming and how it's harming our planet — and fortunately, there are several things we can do about global warming, even if we weren't at the climate summit. Here are 10 things you can do about global warming right now.
1. Stay Informed
Global warming is not make-believe, and it's not going to fix itself. So one of the best things we can do about the issue is take the time to educate ourselves. Part of the reason I wanted to write this article was that I've mostly felt more or less complacent about global warming in the past, and I thought that if I was forced to research the issue, that might change. It has.
It's harder to be complacent about global warming when you know what's going on, and it's easier to do something about a problem when you know what's making it worse. So stay informed. The NRDC's website is a great resource to start with.
2. Talk About It
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and it's not your job to change anyone's mind. However, global warming is real, and it is messing with our planet's health in a major way. So don't feel like you can't talk about the phenomenon and it's seriously negative affects on the Earth. The more you talk about global warming in an honest, factual, non-combative way, the more likely it is that the people hearing you will really hear you — and then proceed to do what they can to end global warming.
Bustle's primer on how to argue with climate change deniers is a good place to start.
3. Drive (Or Don't Drive) With Global Warming In Mind
You probably already know that driving less, carpooling, and/or opting to take public transportation are great ways to help out. But if you have to drive a lot, there are still several small ways you can help without getting off the road. According to the NRDC, if all Americans kept their tires properly inflated, gasoline use nationwide would drop by two percent. That may not seem like much, but since we are responsible for a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, it would make a difference.
Additionally, the more miles your car gets on the gallon, the more you're going to help fight global warming. So if you can, invest in a car with the highest gas mileage possible (hybrids are ideal). But if you're not in a position to do that, know that just changing out your air filter could get you 10 percent more miles to the gallon — and a tune-up could also increase your mileage from 4 to 40 percent.
4. Use Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
Compact fluorescent bulbs last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, keep a half-ton of carbon dioxide out of the air, and save you money on your energy bills as well. Plus, they're cheap. You can get a four-pack for under 10 dollars. This may be the easiest and most convenient way to fight global warming on a daily basis. So if you haven't already switched to CFL's, please consider doing so the next time your light bulbs burn out.
5. Weatherize Your Apartment
Nearly 40 percent of our at-home energy use is the result of heating and cooling, so make sure that your home is well-insulated and that all drafts are blocked. (You can honestly just stick a pillow or blanket at the base of your doors and windows. That's what I do.) Additionally, if you are a homeowner (good for you, BTW), then you should know that there are federal tax credits available to those who are serious about making energy-efficient home improvements. You can check them out here.
6. Stick With Energy-Efficient Appliances
OK, so I don't know about you, but I'm not at the refrigerator-buying stage of my life just yet. That said, when I do get there, I now know to only spend my money on appliances with the Energy Star label.
In the meantime, it's also important to keep in mind that laptops, TVs, and smart phones use energy, too. So be mindful of that fact. Don't overcharge your laptop or phone, and when you shop for new gadgets, select energy-saving ones with the longest battery life possible.
7. Turn Lights Off When You're Not Using Them
This will not only conserve energy and reduce global warming, but it'll also save you money. So make it a habit to flick the off switch whenever you leave a room. Even if you think you're coming right back, you could get distracted along the way. Turning off your lights when you walk out of a room is an incredibly easy way to contribute, and if you start doing it today, it'll become second nature in no time.
Recycling isn't always convenient, depending on where you live, but it really is worth the inconvenience, because it's a huge way we can all help fight global warming in our daily lives. The more you recycle, the more you cut down on pollution from manufacturing, landfills, and incineration. Granted, some materials are more important to recycle than others, so be sure to know what those are.
Try to make recycling as easy for yourself as possible by labeling your trashcans for paper, plastic, glass, and food scraps, so you don't have to sort through the whole mess later.
Reusing is another simple way to fight global warming right now, and there are a lot of ways to do it. For starters, invest in a fun, quality-made, reusable water bottle instead of going through dozens of plastic bottles every week. Take the time to donate any apparel you can't use anymore, because someone else can use them — and thrift shopping is another great way to cut down on pollution from manufacturing, landfills, and incinerating.
10. Eat Less Meat And Dairy
Livestock production is not only troubling because of the animal cruelty it allows — it's also a huge contributor to global warming. And if you think it's just meat production that's damaging the environment, think again. As Rachel Krantz reported in her Bustle article about dairy myths, "cheese has the third highest carbon footprint of any food." On top of that, the production of meat and dairy uses one-third of the world's fresh water and 30 percent of the world's ice-free land.
Furthermore, developed nations (like the U.S.) are responsible for 75 percent of global emissions from cattle, and Americans consume approximately 270 lbs of meat annually.
Since the majority of Americans eat such large amounts of both meat and dairy, cutting back even a little bit on how much livestock we consume is one super easy way we can positively impact global warming. If you love cheeseburgers as much as I do, don't despair, because you don't even have to be a committed vegetarian or vegan to make a difference. Going without meat and dairy for even one day a week can impact positive change on the environment, and it'll probably make you feel physically better, too.