October 8, 2019

My Climate Change Post Follow Up

Not surprisingly, the recent post about climate activists brought some serious emotions to the surface. Happily, the majority of comments were well-thought-out, civil, and added to our community discussions. Only a few comments never made it to print, or had to be called out for blatantly "fake" statements. I didn't expect my feelings would change anyone's opinions, but it is a subject that I have strong feelings about.

That is one of the joys of blogging: I wanted to express them and I did. That made some people happy, some not. If you don't believe that climate change is real or that humans have a major part to play, it might be best to simply skip this post. It is OK, I will not be offended.

For those still with me just raising the issue of climate change, global warming, and the place of humans is not enough. Something must be done, some action taken, otherwise it is just words. So, as a follow up, I should tell you what my wife and I are doing. Will our efforts reverse the damage? Of course not. Will these steps help lessen the damage? Yes, though in ways too small to measure. 

So, what's the point? It is the power of cumulative efforts. As two people, Betty and I contribute next to nothing. Hundreds, thousands, millions of like-minded people doing whatever works for them, may make enough of a difference to prevent the worst of what lies ahead. We may have already passed the tipping point where some level of change is irreversible. However, immediate steps now can prevent the damage from becoming catastrophic.

Here are the small actions we are taking:

  • Using face clothes instead of paper towels and napkins whenever possible.
  • Eating meat no more than two days a week.
  • Keeping the house one degree warmer in the summer and one degree cooler in the winter.
  • Using minimal electricity (including no AC or heat) during our peak hours of 4-7 pm. 
  • Turning off lights whenever leaving a room.
  • Washing clothes in cold water.
  • Running the short cycle on the dishwasher
  • Turning the water heater down to 120 degrees from the factory setting of 140.
  • Putting TVs and computers on power strips. Turning off when not in use so no phantom electricity is consumed by that equipment.
  • Working harder to stop throwing away produce and food.
  • Spending the last year with just one car. Next vehicle will be hybrid or plug-in hybrid.
  • Buying something only when necessary to replace something else. 
  • Buying carbon offsets for airplane and cruise trips.

None of these steps are difficult, inconvenient for us, or make us feel deprived. How much difference do they make in the grand scheme of things? Very little. How do we feel about even this easy-to-accomplish effort? Good. 

Without going back into the deep end of the pool about climate change, can you share anything you might be doing to lessen our carbon footprint? What steps can all of us consider for our lifestyle?


  1. I don't know if it's a step toward lessening our carbon footprint but I've become militant about trying to limit the one-time-use plastic in my life and to recycle it when it does come in the house. I take a cold pack to the grocery store to put frozen goods in instead of putting them in a store-provide plastic bag like I used to. I bring mess bags to the store instead of using their plastic for produce. I've been using cloth bags a long time so that isn't new but carrying my own paper straws in purse is. I didn't run my A/C a single day last summer and I keep my heat in the winter at 69. I really do believe the little things will add up if enough of use do them. If nothing else, the extra effect reminds us that we have a responsibility to keep seeking alternatives ways of doing things that are earth friendly.

    1. Thank you for mentioning single use plastic. That is a massive problem due to the length of time the stuff takes to break down and the space it takes up in landfills. Several cities have moved to ban its use, as well as some stores will not use them in the near future.

      We take cloth bags to the grocery store. The plastic bags we do get are at least double-used to pick up and dispose of dog poop. We hand straws back to our server and urge him/her to ask management to not hand out straws unless requested.

  2. We're with you on most of the ideas you have posted. We plan to get down to one vehicle when our two older cars begin costing us for expensive repairs. At that time, we'll downsize to one hybrid or electric vehicle. My current challenge is dealing with single use plastics. It's discouraging to find most grocery store produce wrapped in plastic film. One major Canadian chain has announced elimination of plastic packaging by January 2020. I'm waiting to see how it's done while staying within health regulations.

    1. One of the worst examples of plastic we see on a regular basis is the over-packaging of the organic eggs at our supermarket. Each egg is cocooned in a plastic shell, plus the whole container is in a hard plastic wrap.

  3. I am also working on limiting my use of one time plastic. Not nearly where I should be, but getting there. Reusable water and coffee mugs for going out, non plastic bags and no produce bags or fabric ones. and straws. The amount of times I give back a straw or say no straw is groing. Unfortunately since I buy the small packages of prepared produce so that nothing goes bad I am not doing as well as I would like.

    1. Single use water bottles have only one place left in our life: in the car for emergencies.

      One restaurant we visited recently has transitioned to disposable straws made from a plant material. Nice touch, but they still aren't needed to drink a glass of water.

  4. Hi Bob! I think that the times we live in require us all to make changes to support our planet. Denial can only last so long. I think one of the biggest things that my husband I did (it doesn't really work in retrospect) is to not have children...and we NEVER put pressure on those younger than us into thinking that children are a MUST in this day and age. Over population on our planet is the HUGE elephant in the room. Of course we also do many of the things on your list as well...and we put solar on our house 8 years ago and use practically no outside electricity on our home. I think everything each of us can do matters. ~Kathy

    1. People are always surprised at the low level of solar use on residential homes in the Phoenix area. We have 330 days of sunshine a year with no major weather issues. Wouldn't this be a natural place to have panels everywhere?

      Yes, except the two major utilities have bought enough politicians to prevent ordinary citizens from cutting into their control over energy. Solar panels are very expensive, and users are charged a monthly fee for being connected to the grid. Selling excess power back to the utilities is discouraged, also, with unreasonably low kwh rates given as credit.

      Break even for installation for our house would be 8 years, longer than we are likely to be here. And, solar isn't a strong selling point. Many buyers don't want to buy something that requires expensive repairs or replacement.

      All I can do is limit my electricity use whenever possible.

  5. We use cloth bags, as well, and if we get a plastic bag, we reuse it for collecting garbage around the house or take it to the recycling bin at the grocer where we got it. I've read that plastic grocery bags can contaminate recycling and make other items unusable, since they are too lightweight to separate from things that can actually be recycled, so I'm very conscious of them now. One of the recycling centers near us closed, so we're paying extra for a recycling bin.

    We went to cloth napkins last year and I haven't missed the paper ones at all. In fact, I can't imagine why I used them so long. In that same vein, another concern I have is fast fashion. I confess to loving fashion, but I realize since I retired that I don't wear a big variety of clothing anymore - I live in pretty casual clothing. The more I read about the fashion industry, the less clothing I'm buying. It's really contributing in a big way to pollution and waste. Not to mention the tons of fabric hitting the landfills when it's discarded.

    As for heat/lights/etc., we keep our heat at 66 in the Midwest winter and wear layers, and we keep our AC at 78 in summer. The weather has been mild this year with only a few cold/hot stretches and our usage is pretty low. We also have an on demand water heater, so we're not heating a tank of water all the time.

    Our home is pretty rural, so I don't see us going to one car for a few years, but I'm sure we'll get there.

    1. An on-demand water heater is something we have discussed. I had a switch installed to turn off the electric water heater (more convenient than going outside to the breaker panel). We used it when we went on RV trips. But, I saw virtually no effect if I turned it off before bed each night and back on in the morning. I assume the heater is insulated well enough that the water temperature didn't drop all that much overnight.

      We stay at 79 in the summer and 68 or 69 in the winter. Of course, with daytime highs in the 60s and 70s from November into March our heating requirements are minimal. It is the summer that tests our resolve to not turn the AC down!

  6. Here is the list we do. I will honestly state that the key driver behind many of these items is cost savings first and foremost, trying to avoid waste, and lastly to help environmentally.

    1. Recycle all items our city contracted trash/recycle service (Waste Management) will allow for (we have to pay for both trash and recycle so might as well use both) - Most plastics minus plastic sacks, paper, cardboard, aluminum cans (cleaned and washed), etc
    2. Limit outdoor watering when possible (water bills here in North Texas as quite high). Our HOA requires us to maintain a grass lawn up to a certain point on our property and our grass must remain green and alive all during the growing season).
    3. Keep the furnace temp on 65 degrees during the winter months. I try to get agreement to keep the AC on 74, but the wife is miserable at night unless the temp is set to 70 so I compromise with her. She would prefer AC on 68.
    4. We owned a Prius for several years and loved the gas mileage it got. Gave it to my youngest son who plans to drive it until it falls apart (it's nine years old now). Main reason for purchase in 2010 was to avoid high costs of gasoline at the time, and I had a 70 mile roundtrip commute to work. New car/truck we have are later models and get decent gas mileage. Plan to go to a single vehicle when my wife stops working in a few years to save on costs.
    5. Cook and eat most meals at home. Try to not throw any food away (leftovers are wonderful).
    6. Plant and maintain trees on our property. A recent study I read stated that many scientists see that trees and plants planted in both urban and suburban areas that have lot's of man made heat absorbing materials (asphalt, brick, steel, concrete, asphalt roofing shingles, etc) will help negate the effects of the urban heat island. The study was performed over the prior year and showed that on summer nights, parts of the DFW Metroplex were 10+ degrees warmer at night than the outlying countryside, and that those urban/suburban areas that had a much larger percentage of grass, bushes, and trees had overnight temps that more resembled the outlying countryside than the city areas with little to no green growth. So, plant away if your local climate will support natural vegetation.
    7. Try to limit use of plastic water bottles. They are not only a factor in landfill capacity but they are wasteful and expensive compared to tap water. Only use them when on the go and even then it is only when I know that I will not be anywhere I can keep my home water glass in tow. Try to recycle the ones we do use.

    8. Keep appliances not in use unplugged to also avoid the phantom power draw. Many electronics I will keep powered up but using sleep or low power modes in order to increase their longevity. For example - powering up and down non-battery computers (desktops or servers as most people in IT call them) can and many times will cause an untimely failure of several of the computer components when constantly power cycled. The cost of replacing these failed components and the waste associated with their discard was higher cost than the minimal power they consumed. That was a study that has been done in IT over and over again.

    Solar power is pretty much not an economical option in the southern plains. We do get a lot of sunshine a year but we are guaranteed a damaging hail storm about every 5-10 years on average which would destroy solar panels (and does for those who installed them). Wind energy is part of the power grid in Texas (separate power grid from the rest of North America) and is continuing to increase. Natural gas is by far the largest fuel source used in Texas for power and is much cleaner than coal.

    1. I applaud all your efforts. You raise an important point about trees and greenery being an important part of cleaning the air of CO2, which they use for fuel, and to help with shade and lowering temperatures. I read about a plan New York City has to increase shade tree plantings in the boroughs to help with that very issue.

      The heat island effect is very real in Phoenix. We have lived here for 35 years and absolutely know that nights used to be cooler in the summer. We would usually cool into the mid 70s overnight, even in the dead of summer. Now, with all the heat trapped in concrete, asphalt, and buildings we can go weeks with nighttime lows never less than 90.

  7. Going solar was the best thing we've done here, so far. There is a lot of solar here. We are surrounded by greenery and maintain a lush garden...(well, Dave does ;). We are on a path for bird migration that makes us very lucky and keeps us aware of nature all year long. I am very careful about staying warm in winter. After all the freezing days and nights I experienced as a child I make sure to stay comfortable. Most of the people I know are very conscious of global warming and do all they can to keep our planet clean.

    1. I am kind of surprised your part of southern New Jersey is big into solar, but good to know.

      I've seen plenty of pictures..your garden area is first rate. Dave deserves much credit.

  8. Population control is the largest issue. Birth rate reduction typically only occurs after a country has a large educated middle class. By then the damage has already been done. Everyone wants to be just like us.
    Since we know that all the personal changes we make are similar to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic we need to make a massive change that requires no reduction in quality of life. Institute a complete change to nuclear power. Possibly with the newer safer reactors. Invest in research on improved efficiency of long range electrical transmission lines. No reactors on coasts or fault lines.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Until I saw a program about the new type of nuclear reactors that are being deveoped I was skeptical. But, the new design makes all the sense in the world.

  9. I am going to preface this by saying I am not a climate alarmist (I am saying that kinda/sorta in jest to set some people off). That being said, I believe in being a good steward of the Earth regardless of political persuasion (and climate change is used as a political football whether people want to admit it or not). All of the things you state that you and Betty are doing, as well as your readers, we have also been doing and in some cases for decades, except for the carbon offsets. But I do find it interesting that many who are so vocal about climate change, including your readers here, did not mention something we do to help mitigate the #3 cause of greenhouse gas emissions in this country, namely decomposing food waste in landfills. We compost everything imaginable, not just the normal food waste, but those things that people find unusual but are compostable - hair, nail clippings, paper towels, and so on. If people realized how much the food waste they are throwing out daily is harmful to the planet they might decide to do something about it, which I why I point it out.

    Regarding cars, I realize many people want to go the hybrid or electric vehicle route. I would caution you and the readers not to do so if your current ride is in good shape. In ones zeal to look more "green" you are contributing much more damage by disposing of a vehicle and its contaminents too early in its usage cycle to make up for any perceived good you are accomplishing.

    I did not respond to your first climate change blog posting since the animosity shown towards anyone who disagreed with a particular side was palpable. But I did this posting because I want people to realize that the majority of people who might disagree with one side are still likely good stewards of the Earth, just because it is the right thing to do. Now let the fireworks begin :)

    1. No arguments from me, Chuck. Your motivations for doing what you and Deb are doing aren't for the same reasons I wrote about. However, at the end of the day, the result is the same: less damage to the environment.

      I am glad you mentioned composting. I think most people don't realize that a compost pile doesn't have to smell, doesn't attract wild creatures, and doesn't require a lot of work. It is worth looking into.

      We will likely keep our 9 year old small SUV, strictly for occasional hauling and moving stuff. A hybrid would be the vehicle that gets the most work around town.

      No fireworks from me!

  10. Cloth bags. Hard to get people to not put my stuff in plastic.
    Bought a solar oven ten years ago & use slow cook, dehydration and canning. We have naturals gas for food prep and heat. We use a heat pump. We chose not to get an electric car until our current cars wear out. The amount of toxic materials to make and dispense is quite high. We are hoping ai cars will be available soon. They will regulate consumption much better. Hopefully they will be nat gas,Until electricity sources are fugured out---I'll keep looking.
    Son convinced us not to go solar. His research states that the panels- mostly made of heavy metals in China- will not last and are not recyclable. He also says research is not in on super heating the atmosphere with a million mirrors pointed at it... Again we need to get on nuclear. Letter writing is monthly on my list.
    Buy local food. There is little transport. Little packaging. Not jumping on food crazes ruining another culture's food source.(avocados and Quinoa). Phoenix is close to California farming. Question farming practices -like almonds. Eat and grow veggies and fruit- lovely gardens. I am careful to compost and care for soil. I cut green house gases by planting appropriately local.
    Soap not hand sanitizes. I take very few drugs- I am pleased that this generation is moving away from better life through chemicals. Guarding our ground water.
    Support tree farms outside of desert areas (don't make deserts green). Honey as sweetener. Don't buy Fugi ware if you don't live there. Just think, it is packaged in plastic shipped in a hull of a boat, sat on a dock, trucked to your store (the leeched chemicals alone...) Use glass bottles for milk (more expensive nut not in the long run). There is so much more. Saving the planet is a long lifestyle change.
    I chose to have children. I brought them up to be problem solvers and feel that their contributions are worthwhile. Instead I have pledged meet my maker without a fight - no fighting cancer or such. I will be cremated.....That is a whole other argument.

    1. What a treemdously inspiring list, Janette. You reminded me that betty had a small vegetable garden last spring and plans on one for the fall season. We didn't produce a lot, but it was educational. We do use the local farmer's market though not as often as we should.

      I would not consider a fully electric car at this point...too few charging stations. A plug-in hybrid is a consideration. It gets 26 miles on a charge from your home plug and then a 50 mpg gas motor kicks in. Since virtually all of our daily trips are short, 26 miles might take of a full day of chores.

      Thanks for dealing with so many issues. This has been an excellent contribution to the post.

      Oh, Betty and I will be cremated, too.

  11. A federal election is pending here in Canada. I listened to a leaders' debate the other night; not one mention of agriculture but lots of reference to climate change. Lots of talk about pending doom but no real concrete solutions. The 3 R's come to mind after reading the responses to this blog post - reduce, reuse, recycle; then there's the other 2 R's - refuse & rot.

    1. the 5 R's....the basis for a healthier world (if "rot" refers to a compost area!)

  12. I have no science background, let alone a degree in climatology or meteorology, so I trust what the experts are telling us.

    Among the many little things that we try to do is using a reusable pod for our Keurig coffee maker. After years of growing unease about how many plastic store-bought pods we were tossing out, we bought a couple of the reusable ones, load them up with ground coffee ourselves, and compost the spent grounds.

    1. We find those coffee makers in hotels and Airbnb-type places. I've always wondered about how many of those single-use pods clutter the landfill. I didn't relaize reusable ones are available. Good to know.

    2. We have one, but use reusable pods and have a couple different types of coffee. we have one person who cannot so much as go to the bathroom in themorning without coffee so they use the Keurig for one cup and then move to the large coffeemaker.

  13. Precycle, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Compost, Grow as much of our food as I can on our small lot and water with drip lines not sprinklers, no grass-water hog, We drive less than 15k miles/year w/2 vehicles (my last tank up was Aug 24), Cloth bags for shopping for over 30y already, heat set at 67, if we have identified a need we go to thrift stores first, hang most items to dry (strung 2 lines near the ceiling in the guest room), lights out when not in a room...

    There are probably more but the choices we've made are just part of our life so it's hard to identify at this point.

    We never had children but that wasn't a decision made for the earth..it was made for us.

    A big change we made was in 1991. We found that our original home purchase was far from where we spent most of our time. So instead of driving across town daily, we moved to that end and cut our driving miles by more than half. And it's our forever home. No McMansion for us.

    Mindful consumption is life-changing and quickly, you are living well below your means.

    Great discussion!

  14. Many great ideas in this post and in the comments. This year, I joined the federal Green Party and donated 50-60 hours to the Canadian federal election campaign in October.