Examining the global impact of climate change can be a bit disheartening. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reads like a bullet list of possible catastrophes you would see in some dystopian, post-apocalyptic movie complete with marauding motorcycle gangs and a Thunderdome.
“Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts,” the report warns, adding that a persistent rise in global mean temperature could lead to increased risks in global and regional food security, interruption of agriculture production, and “substantial species extinction.”
So what can the mere individual do in the face of species extinction and the possibility of next year’s Mad Max movie becoming a reality?
Recycle your Recyclables
This has been beaten into our head for decades, so you’d think we’d get the hint by now. Yet according to the Colorado Association for Recycling (CAFR), Colorado boasts a meager 11 percent recycle rate, compared to 34 percent for the rest of the nation.
Even at such a low percentage, Colorado’s recycling program cut an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2011, according to the state’s own study. That number could be more than tripled if our recycle rate was at the national average.
If you’re a city dweller, many Colorado municipalities offer recycling services (those purple recycle bins you see all over Denver, for example), and CARF’s website, CAFR.org, provides locations of recycling centers throughout the state as well as other recycling resources.
Buy Local, Grow Local
On average, food travels 1,500 miles before ending up in your belly. Shopping at local farmers’ markets reduces the amount of food shipped around the county, cutting carbon emissions — not to mention fresh food tastes better. Check out the Colorado Farmers Market Association website, ColoradoFarmers.org, to find a market near you.
And if have a green thumb, many neighborhoods feature community gardens where you can grow your own food. Some offer classes for those (like me) who have a tendency to kill plants. Denver Urban Gardens (DUG.org), and Pikes Peak Urban Gardens (PPUGardens.org) are two great resources to find a community garden near you.
Green Your Car (not synonymous with hotboxing)
Purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle isn’t always an option, especially for those on a limited budget (say, for example, a writer). But there are simple steps you can take to increase gas mileage.
Removing unnecessary weight such as sandbags or heavy tool sets is an easy way to save on gas, and using something as simple as a sun visor in the windshield can lower the energy used to cool the cab.
Regularly changing your oil and replacing old spark plugs will maintain your vehicle’s maximum MPG, and checking the tire pressure is essential, as improperly inflated tires can reduce the car’s gas mileage.
Take Showers Together
You sleep, eat, argue, and have make-up sex with your significant other, so why not shower together? You’ll cut the cost of water waste and energy used to heat the water by half. Hell, take showers with complete strangers! The planet will thank you.
Carbon Footprint Calculator
You can measure your carbon footprint on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, which then provides inexpensive and practical solutions to cut CO2 emissions and save money. For example, turning down the thermostat in a typical household by 3°F during the winter can save you $300 and reduce the amount of CO2 by 3,218 lbs. per year.
And something as simple as washing your clothes in cold water and using a clothesline instead of a dryer can cut the amount of CO2 by 1,092 lbs. per year, saving you $70 — which you can then use to buy your friends tickets so see Mad Max: Fury Road.