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You can be the behavioral model for your peer group without foraging for berries.
To address the climate crisis, I’m not suggesting we change our behavior to an extreme, running around half-naked and foraging for berries. (To clarify, I’m not opposed to berries!) Rather, I suggest balance.
To strike this balance, I’ve suggest six methods for cutting your emissions. There are many more — this is just to get the (biodegradable) ball rolling.
Electronics: If you wait four rather than two years to upgrade your phone, you’ll decrease the corresponding environmental impact by up to 40 percent. And to counteract planned obsolescence, where the phone is deliberately not designed for longevity, you could seek to repair rather than renew your phone when it gets spoilt. This hurts the environment—and your wallet—less.
Cars: Do you need your car? Getting rid of it is optimal to reduce your emissions, but if you can’t, driving the right kind of car can help. The most environmentally friendly vehicle is electric. If electric vehicles seem costly, your next best bet is a smaller, fuel-efficient car.
Homes: However big or small your home, you can still significantly lower its carbon footprint. The simplest way is to not use your thermostat—adapting to a slightly colder house in the winter, or a slightly warmer one in the summer—which could reduce your domestic energy consumption by up to half. You can also optimize consumption by installing smart devices in your home—smart devices were found to save 11.3 percent of air-conditioning-related energy demand each day in California.
Flights: Flights have increased in the past decade primarily due to business. But if businesses made teleconferencing the norm, which happened during COVID-19, CO2 emissions from business meetings could decrease by nearly 70 times. Traveling by train is also more energy-efficient. I’m not saying we should never sit in an airplane again; just that we should be more thoughtful about how often we do so.
Meals: We can lower our carbon footprint if we consume less meat, and less food generally. Each year, 40 percent of food supply goes to waste from oversized portions and over-purchasing goods. Americans consume four pounds of meat and poultry per week; even half of that—which could free up 150 million tons of grain being used to feed livestock, helping equalize the world’s grain supply and increasing it by around fifteen percent—is more than most other countries.
“Buying Green” vs. Buying Thoughtfully: Don’t buy something to feel something; consuming things anyways doesn’t make us happy. And if you do buy something, “buy green,” where the item is charged at a premium but comes from a less carbon-intensive supply chain. To further paint your consumption habits green, you could donate items you no longer use, such as toward the Buy Nothing movement. Or to Goodwill — I serve on the board of Goodwill of San Francisco Bay, and it is one of my most rewarding engagements.
Not all these solutions will apply to you, but your sustainable actions can inspire others. If you can be the behavioral model for your peer group, the mimetic theory of desire—where we model our behaviors based on the culture around us—suggest that you can change how they think about their consumption too.
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