Tuesday, August 05, 2014

How to decrease CO2 and alleviate climate change?


20 Ways to Make a Low-Carbon Difference

1.     Walk, bike, and use mass transit
2.     Grow more of your own food
3.     Make some of your clothes
4.     Use more durable goods e.g. shoes that can be resoled, a swiss army knife
5.     Add solar PV and hot water systems to home and/or business
6.     Share an all-electric car w/family and/or neighbors
7.     Use a push-mower and an electric weed-wacker
8.     Canoe or kayak instead of gas-powered boat
9.     Write with a fountain pen instead of throwaway plastic ones
10.  Wear durable hemp clothing
11.  Hang dry your clothes instead of a dryer 
12.  Carry a backpack or canvas bag, a stainless steel water bottle & and glass storage containers (only buy items with minimal and recyclable packaging)
13.  Plan long-distance trips via sustainable transportation (electric car, electric train, sailboat, bicycle, horse, kayak) – airplanes produce 2% of greenhouses gases
14.  Vacation locally (“staycation”) less than 200 miles from your home
15.  Eat vegan or vegetarian frequently
16.  Avoid and replace plastics whenever possible
17.  Live close to work or create a community-based business where you work in and around your home/neighborhood
18.  Source the majority of your food and other products from within 200 miles of your home (farmers markets, CSAs, bulk organic, homecrafters)
19.  Initiate alternative activities to the “entertainment/sports industry” (a very high-carbon industry) – e.g. community pot-lucks, meaningful movie documentaries, volunteering, helping disadvantaged neighbors, community gardens/farms, teaching/learning resilience skills and organizing fun/engaging community activities that forge trusting and cooperative neighborhood relationships.
20.  Get more safe and accessible bike lanes in your neighborhoods so students will bike.

These are actions you can take at the personal and community levels.
Let’s look at how you can influence the next three levels – regional, national and

Regional Influence

get to know the “power players” in your region who are making significant reductions
to greenhouse gases and providing working alternatives to high-carbon and toxics.  also get to know who are the “power polluters”, companies with especially high levels of carbon/toxic output.  Contact some in both camps, complimenting the power players and asking them how you can help them be even more effective, providing constructive criticism of power polluters and finding out how they can be supported to implement healthier solutions. 

Identify opportunities for lowering carbon and still providing effective products and services.  If you, as I do, believe that the Postal Service could utilize all-electric delivery vehicles (esp. in urban areas!) contact your Federal Government reps and your local Postal Service executives and encourage them to take action.  Research other countries that have solved this problem successfully and what manufacturers have provided those vehicles.

Washington State residents get 91% of the electricity from hydro-electric sources.
The state’s last coal-fired power plant is set for de-commissioning soon.  Your state needs much more support for their utilities to acquire decentralized power producers
(windmills, micro-hydro, solar PV, etc.) and retool the electric grid to store and optimally utilize renewable-generated electricity.  Get involved at planning meetings, volunteer to help make it happen.

Regional organizations are particularly suited for the wide-scale adoption of electric-assist bicycles/scooters and electric cars.  Find a successful independent landscaper who uses only manual or electric powered tools (mower/blower/trimmer) and feature them in an article or in other ways (like at a regional landscapers association conference!) that helps other landscapers replicate the same winning method.

Talk to the company public information officer of a regional trucking company and find out if they are re-investing in clean electric rail or other low-carbon alternatives to diesel trucks (even using 20% biodiesel!).  Encourage them to shift their investments, especially to keep their profit margins healthy!

The concrete industry is one of the highest CO2 emitters.  Ask a regional concrete manufacturer what they are doing to provide CO2 lowering alternatives like HempCrete.

Cheer on regional builders who are using salvaged materials and give them great PR. 

Support regional carbon taxes that benefit those who are demonstrating lowered CO2 output.  Take from the high carbon emitters and give to the low carbon ones.

Whose maintaining your regional forests?  How are Weyerhauser, Plum Creek and other “timber” companies doing to shift their businesses into more sustainable resources – pulping paper “farms” are touted as “sustainable”, but are they if they permanently remove habitat and kill off other species?  Who is planting fast-growing tree areas and encouraging the sequestration of carbon?

Home and office heating produces about 1/3 of your regions’ CO2.  Are businesses dialing down heating systems in off hours?  Is there regional financial support for home and business owners to finance an alternative system e.g. solar/wind generated electricity powering heat pumps and/or radiant-floor heating systems? 

What products are shipped long-distances into Puget Sound?
Which of these could be made in the Pacific Northwest?
What are local substitutes for far-shipped goods? e.g. blackberries instead of bananas


The Puget Sound region is one of the healthier regions in the country with mild climate, copious hydroelectric, mondo recycling/composting, extensive gardening and high levels of climate awareness.  What we can do is to take solutions we have and offer them to areas of the country that are currently challenged.  Waste recovery, composting, electric transportation, home/neighborhood food production, bartering are just some of the areas that could be made available to other regions of the US.

Start with those you know in other regions.  Call them and have an engaging conversation on which areas they have challenges and who the key players are that could turn that around.  Which of these key players could be introduced to our solvers?

It could be as simple as showing them how to start a carpooling system.  Or demoing alternative transportation – electric cars, bikes and scooters.  Or giving a slide show on a particularly successful p-patch (Picardo?!) and what it took to make it flourish.

Find out which agencies give grants for work to spread sustainable solutions to other regions and apply.  You could partner with one of the Scallops groups – e.g. Sustainable West Seattle to have an organization behind your effort.

What feasible renewable energy options are not being developed in your area? identify areas and prospective suppliers, reach out to one, e.g. contact a medium-sized municipality in Utah and find out why they aren’t developing solar technology to full advantage.

You will be amazed by how much of the US doesn’t recycle, compost, build renewable energy systems, use alternative transportation, demand organic/non-GMO foods or simply take global climate change seriously in specific areas.  The key is to be open and accepting of those who are unaware of these opportunities and baby feed them ways to get started. 

Many regions are suspicious of government agencies introducing changes, but might be open to trusted local people making suggestions – hence empowering a known local person to
take the lead is much more likely to succeed.

Win-Win scenarios are a must.  Whenever you ask people to make changes they have to see benefits in it for themselves.  To get someone to try out an electric car, you have to show them a well-written spreadsheet of costs associated with a conventional car.
Gas, oil, other repairs & maintenance, durability (how long is that car going to maintain its functionality and value?), serviceability (parts and mechanics).  If the change is going to substantially improve their bottom line, they might consider it.  One great way to proceed is to appeal to groups (churches, community orgs, schools, non-profits, etc.) because group-adoption is much easier when individuals know that several other people are taking the same risks right alongside them.


This is a much more difficult undertaking because of language barriers, distance and the challenges of transferring solutions to another culture.  One of the best ways to approach this is to educate people from other countries here and get them to take the lead in their communities when they return to their country.  EarthCorps (in Magnuson Park) is a great model organization that teaches young people from other countries skills in land reclamation/remediation that they can take back with them.  Another approach is to contact an American companies doing business (e.g. has a factory) overseas and find out if they would be willing to empower their international employees with sustainability tools.
If they see enough positive PR for their sales/marketing they just might take this on.

Another way to look at this is to use what I call the digging out the dandelion from the bottom of the root.  For example, GreenPeace has proceeded to get the Japanese whaling fleet to desist from killing whales.  As long as there is a strong demand market for whale meat products, it is likely that someone is going to hunt whales for that market.  If you introduce an alternative food –say a raw vegetable combination that could serve as a tasty
alternative to the whale meat and that gains popularity you have found a way to change the market demand (the “root”) without wasting time/effort trying to change (the “leaves”) i.e. the effects – the habitual ways a large market desire is satisfied.

In Africa, providing clean cookstoves to mothers/grandmothers who do the lions share of food preparation, is one way to reduce greenhouse gases and provide healthier environments for child-rearing (google “Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves”).

In many cases poverty is the root cause of expedient choices being made in Third-World countries – they need a quick, working solution and they choose the most cost-effective and available solution.  Case-in-point: if 2-stroke motorcycles and scooters are what is being made most available – Thai hill-tribe leaders will choose these for their villages.
Who in Thai government and industry is responsible for transport vehicle imports?
Yes, it may be challenging to install solar PV-electrical generation equipment in Hill tribe country but what is the best long-term solution for all parties?  Finding equipment providers and installers may be difficult initially but once these get established they will grow and proliferate throughout the region and serve as potential models for nearby countries. 
Another way to influence international sustainability efforts is to participate in eco-travel geared toward meeting villagers/urbanites who are already making changes or open to them.   Celebrating small steps: installing LED lighting, using alternatives to ICEs (internal combustion engines) push-mowers, solar cookers/hot water.  Most gains are to be made in urban areas, where sustainable solutions will serve and influence the most.
Lagos, Nigeria is a place where electric transportation could make a huge difference.

Once again, choose an area that has little or no stewardship.  Do you know who monitors or works with international shipping companies that use Bunker “C” oil (one of the most polluting fuels out there) in their freighters?  Which ones are open to alternatives – modifying their ships to use sail support (large para-sails which cut fuel consumption significantly) or bio-diesel/electric engines and PV arrays?

If every citizen in China installed solar PV panels on their residence, how many coal-fired power plants could be de-commissioned?  If India taxed carbon and gave subsidies
for bicycles, electric bikes/scooters and electric rail travel, how quickly could ICE cars
be replaced?

What if regions that have over harvested their forests planted hemp to give them fiber they could use for fires, clothes, fuel, food and more?  Hemp is one of the miracle plants that grows with little to no inputs (fertilizers, pesticides) and yields tremendous quantities of fiber and seed.  Find a place in just such a need and send them hemp seed (sourced from Canada).

One of the greatest challenges is fostering self-sufficiency and resilience in international regions.  Much of China produces export commodities made in huge factories to satiate the voracious desires of Western consumers.  A tremendous quantity of these items are made of plastics and quickly break, ending up in landfills (and often out in the sea where they are hazardous to much sea life).   How do we encourage Chinese workers and owners to make more durable goods (less obsolete goods) and help resist the demands of Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Home Depot?  Many Chinese-Americans are acutely aware of these problems and open to influencing their connections still back in China.  Work with them by showing them examples of Chinese-made products that have broken and the more durable replacements.

Summary:  how you live serves as a model for many others and powerfully influences choices of people all around you. E.g.  I ripped out my grass lawn after moving into a Seattle home in 1997, and after 16 years of organic gardening I can look up and down my block and see organic gardens in front of almost every home.
Every solar PV installation is generating capacity that doesn’t need to be supplied by a new fossil-fuel fired power plant.  Every bicycle or EV (electric vehicle) trip is carbon that is kept out of our atmosphere and vulnerable oceans.  Every serving of home-grown fruits or vegetables is food that doesn’t need to be grown elsewhere and shipped here.   Every durable good from a hemp hat to a Swiss army knife can provide decades of dependable use, reduce landfills and slow down global climate change.  Every time you don’t get in an airplane you influence others to take “staycations” and choose local/regional trips that help the planet breath easier.

There is no doubt that living lighter on our planet takes more awareness, discipline and attentiveness but with 7 billion of us living on the planet, if we don’t succeed in creating
sustainable cities, suburbs and rural areas – we are in for some very scary scenarios.

Best of luck and skill crafting a sustainable livelihood for you, your family, your community and your planet.  Mother Earth and your great-great-great-great grandchildren thank you.


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