I don’t know if you’re keeping tabs on the Glasgow climate summit, officially COP26, or COP-out as I like to call it. It’s the umpteenth attempt to cut global greenhouse gas emissions.
World leaders are all in on meaningfully reducing carbon levels… sometime in the distant future… maybe. They throw around vague words like “commitment” and “pledge”, hoping no one will notice the almost complete absence of concrete actions in the here and now, as they go about their “real-world” business as usual.
No doubt we need governments and industry to come up with large-scale regulations to make a sizable dent in emissions and global temperatures. But it’s going to take a lot of time, horse trading and huge expense, especially on schemes like sucking carbon out of the atmosphere.
In the meantime, I think it’s incumbent on individuals—hopefully in large numbers—to take steps to reduce their own environmental impacts. If we can get 80% of people voluntarily vaccinated against Covid in less than one year, we can certainly do the same for climate reasons.
Admittedly, I’ve followed enough of these green campaigns to know there are many well-meaning individuals who are nonetheless unwilling to adjust their core habits in the name of something as amorphous as climate change. So I’m going to propose a series of actions that are almost painless to adopt.
Let’s call it The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the Planet. Rather than beg people to make a serious effort, most of these steps require no action whatsoever.
Leave your car at home
My biggest resolution is to not get in my car two days a week. I just stack up all my appointments and errands for driving days and do things on foot on non-driving days. This saves me gas, commuting time, parking fees and potential accidents. I actually managed to NOT get in my car four days last week. But even if you just do it once a week, that’s a 15% reduction in driving emissions.
Don’t commute to work
Zoom. Enough said.
Don’t go to the gym
Pre-pandemic, I used to go to the gym five late afternoons a week. That involved driving there and back (sometimes in traffic and bad weather) and getting changed twice. Now, I throw on some running shoes and go for a daily walk or run in the neighborhood. I also do a few minutes of daily stretching and strengthening in my living room while I’m waiting for the coffee to brew. Commuting time: 10 seconds.
Having said that, gyms, with their collective use of equipment, create far fewer total emissions than nature-loving folks, each with their own gear, who drive out to the mountains every week to hike, cycle or ski. Just saying.
Don’t take a 10-minute shower
Five minutes will do the job. But rather than bore/scare you with my own regimen—showers only twice a week and pausing the hot water while lathering up—I offer you a cheap technical fix: Replace your old, water-guzzling showerhead with one that uses half the water. There, you’re still taking a 10-minute shower but using only five minutes of hot water.
Don’t subscribe to a “paper” newspaper
For nearly a decade, I’ve subscribed to two online newspapers (Globe and Mail and New York Times). The news is always up to date and available whenever I want to read it. Spare me the cliché about liking the feel of real paper while reading on the throne. Name me one other product you buy that’s good for only one day before being dumped in the recycle bin.
Don’t touch your garden
Let’s start with the lawn. Either dig it up or don’t water and fertilize it. The latter also means you rarely have to cut it with that belching, two-stroke gas mower.
Don’t dig up your garden for winter. Farmers have long known not to till their fall fields so as to preserve the soil. Follow suit.
Don’t rake your leaves. Bugs, birds and other critters will thank you for creating winter habitat.
Plant drought-resistant, native perennials and grasses. Spend the time you save on watering enjoying a local craft beer on the patio.
Airports and airlines have made flying as unpleasant as possible. Consider instead a road trip where you decide when and where you go, with only your own kids kicking the seat behind you. I’m sure I needn’t remind you about the scary amount of emissions from overseas flights.
Don’t eat meat
Well, how about eat less meat. I like a good burger, drumstick or sausage. But maybe I don’t need red meat, say, twice a week. That means much less methane, runoff, antibiotics, feedlots and emissions.
That’s my quick, lazy list to save the planet. What’s on yours?