What Can You Do?

Many of us are looking for concrete actions we can take to move from being part of the problem to being part of the solution.  Below is my action (or inaction) list.  Doing these things will improve the situation about as much as any set of personal actions can.  Some of the suggestions may seem a bit  draconian.  Well, they are intended to be - most action plans I've seen do not come close to recognizing the immensity of the challenge we face.  I don't expect that everyone will achieve them, but we all need goals, right?  Treat these as your ultimate goals, and get as close to them as you can.

  1. If you haven't already started a family, consider not having children.
  2. Do everything in your power to cut your automobile use.
  3. Reduce your air travel to an absolute minimum.
  4. Eat lower on the food chain (more veggies, less meat...)
  5. Stop eating wild-caught fish.  The oceans are in desperate trouble, and need your help.
  6. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repair.  Reduce your purchases of new stuff to a minimum.
  7. Grow your own food.  If you can't, buy only food that is grown within 200 km. of your home.
  8. Reduce your personal energy consumption as close to zero as you can.
  9. Buy your electricity from a green supplier.
  10. Get out of debt and stay there.
Taken together these actions address all of the the most serious elements of the Problematique that are accessible to the individual, including the root cause of the entire Problematique - overpopulation.

What Have I Done?

One of the first things people ask any activist, especially an environmental activist, is ,"You talk a good game, but what have you done?  Have you made any of the sacrifices you are asking others to make?  Are you prepared to lead by example?"   It's a fair question, and one that deserves a response.  Here is what I've done up till now.
  1. Prevented population growth:  I am deliberately childfree, and have had a socially responsible vasectomy.
  2. Downsized my home: Three years ago I sold a 3500 square foot, triple-garage suburban McMansion that I shared with one other person and moved to a 1600 square foot urban bungalow that is half the distance from my work and is shared with three other people.
  3. Improved my home heating and cooling system: When we moved in we replaced the existing medium efficiency furnace and A/C with high-efficiency units. We keep the thermostat up two degrees in the summer and down two in the winter.
  4. Bought energy efficient appliances: We bought an EnergyStar refrigerator.  Every light in our home that is not on a dimmer is a compact fluorescent.
  5. Improved home insulation: We had an energy audit done on the house, replaced a bad window, and installed weather stripping. Further attic and wall insulation upgrades are in the plans.
  6. Use green electricity: We have changed our electricity supplier from the standard nuclear, coal, hydro and gas supplier to a green energy cooperative (Bullfrog Power) whose generating capacity produces no greenhouse gases at all.
  7. Downsized my car: Two years ago I traded in my BMW 540i/6 on a 2001 VW Jetta TDI. diesel.  I'd have bought a Smart Car, but I needed the back seat.  I didn't buy a hybrid because I'm still unconvinced about their total life cycle cost.
  8. Use public transit: I now take the bus to work every day instead of driving.  As a result my annual automobile mileage is about a quarter of what it was.
  9. Stopped flying:  I fly about once every two years.
  10. Grow some of our own food:  We have turned all our flower beds into vegetable gardens which we water from rain barrels and fertilize with compost. I'm planning on donating half my lawn to the vegetable garden effort next year (more food, less mowing). I don't fertilize my lawn and I mow it with a reel push mower.
  11. Eat local food: We eat a lot of local food that doesn't need to be transported long distances.
  12. Eat less meat: We eat a third of the meat we used to, and very little fish (the oceans are emptying too...)
  13. Repair, re-use, recycle:  We are fortunate to have a good curbside recycling program where I live.  In addition we save and re-use many items that others simply discard.
  14. Got involved in politics: Rather than wait around for our governments to do anything, we're trying to change the governments, by getting involved in politics at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. Progressive parties and candidates only need apply.
These changes have yielded remarkable dividends.  In the last three years I have lowered my personal carbon dioxide emissions from 12 tonnes per year to 2.5 tonnes per year.  My life is simpler, less expensive, more sustainable, more engaged and much more enjoyable.