Some of you may be unfamiliar with Johnnie Lee Cochran Jr. He was a high-profile lawyer and civil activist best known for his leadership role in the defense and criminal acquittal of O.J. Simpson for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Perhaps his best quote from that trial was a rhyme: “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit!“. During the trial, the prosecution had O.J. try on a bloody glove taken from the murder scene; it appeared to be too small for O.J.’s hands.
That quote, and the trial, made Johnnie Cochran a very familiar face across the country for quite a while and although he died in 2005, that quote lives on. Which made me think, maybe a catchy phrase that we could all identify with would change our habits toward addressing climate change. So, here’s my idea:
“Moderate to Perpetuate” and what I’d like all of us to remember is to “Moderate” our consumption to “Perpetuate” our planet. Actually, I think we need to perpetuate human life as we know it – because the planet will survive even if we don’t.
So how do we do this? Let’s examine our personal energy consumption. Where and how we live, how we get around, what we eat, what are our activities, what and how much do we consume – all of these things affect our personal energy consumption. Here’s a pie chart from an article entitled “Climate Change: Sustainability Framework for Carbon Reduction” my sister-in-law sent me (thank you Judy) which illustrates greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector.
The largest sector (25%) is electricity and heat production. As I discussed in Turn Out the Lights, there’s a lot we can do to reduce our electricity use in our homes. For example: change out incandescent light bulbs for LED ones; turn off the lights when you leave a room; adjust your heating/cooling thermostat; turn off your electric hot water heater when you’re away from home for several days; when it’s time, replace your inefficient appliances with more efficient ones; and choose an electricity provider that provides “green” energy”. In Texas, you can visit the web site: www.PowerToChoose.org for information about green providers. Other states may also have similar sites.
What about the next largest greenhouse sector (24%) – namely “Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use”. In this area, we can change our diet, first by reducing the amount of red meat we consume. (See Less Beef, Less Carbon, No Red Meat, Impossible, Food Is the Solution, and My New 2020 Meal Plan). We can also reduce our consumption of all animal products by substituting more plant-based foods. The evidence is clear that any reduction of animal-based food – say one meal per week or one day per week – can make a significant difference in our personal greenhouse emission contribution. And we can reduce the amount of food wasted by better meal planning, and even meal sharing when we’re at a restaurant. I’ve found that most restaurants serve portions that are much larger than I want – but when served, I’ll often over eat. Consider splitting a dish with a companion.
The third largest sector is “Industry” (21%) or basically everything that is made that we buy. As discussed in Too Much Stuff and Our Fashionable Planet, our consumer-oriented society preaches to us that the best way we can be happy is to “buy more stuff”. This is not true and I’ve found it amazing how easy it is to get along without buying more stuff. It’s also liberating to look for ways to better utilize what we already have. A simple example. I wear an “everyday” belt with my jeans and that belt recently wore out, literally! So instead of buying another “everyday belt”, I decided to use one of my “dress belts” that have been traditionally reserved for special occasions. I have a nice black one and another cordovan one that previously I wore only when I wore slacks, i.e., when I “dressed up”. How dumb on my part! Now these belts are my new everyday ones. And for other stuff I might need, I examine whether I can rent it, or borrow it from someone, or check the consignment shop. Every one of these decisions reduces the amount of “stuff” that needs to be manufactured.
The “Transportation” sector is the fourth next largest sector of greenhouse gas emissions. At 14%, this includes all our auto, truck, plane, and cargo shipping emissions. There are so many ways to cut back in this area. We can drive less or use a more efficient vehicle (see I Get Around, Let’s Go Ride a Bike, Riding the Bus, Electric Cars). We can buy locally to reduce shipping (see Local Sourcing, Getting My Stuff). And when traveling, we can choose providers that are committed to reducing their carbon emissions. Many hotels and chains are actively pursuing green initiatives (see Environmentally Friendly Hotels). The airline industry is also announcing steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Delta has committed to invest $1 billion to curb global air travel’s impact and JetBlue recently announced that it has become carbon neutral by buying carbon offsets.
“Other Energy” (10% of the total) is primarily the emissions associated with extraction and transportation of raw materials. We can make a difference here too by keeping our smart phone longer because keeping the old one longer means one less that needs to be manufactured.
And finally, “Buildings” at 6% involves the efficiently of our home – e.g., good insulation, good windows, etc. For most of us, these are not everyday purchases but when needed, we can make choices that affect the efficiency of our homes for many years. And how about taking the steps instead of the elevator – whether in your office or high-rise apparent. The exercise is good for you and might just save some electricity.
In sum, there are lots and lots of ways all of us can reduce our personal energy consumption and greenhouse emissions if we can only move this idea of changing our behavior and habits to the forefront of our minds. So, think about this catchy slogan: Moderate (Consumption) To Perpetuate (Our Planet, Especially All of Us). Catchy slogans can be effective. Say it to one of your friends or colleagues and assess their reaction, and personally, just do it!