Finding Inspiration and Power in the Small Things

Like the rest of the world, I was heartbroken to hear of the terrorist attacks in Paris last week. An event like that leaves us feeling sad, vulnerable, and perhaps a little powerless.

This feeling of helplessness reminds me of the overwhelm that can be felt about climate change — both terror and climate change are big threats with negative effects on the world, and they can seem so monumental that we fear they’re impossible to overcome. But, just as small acts of love and the bravery to go about our daily lives in the face of terror can help us to dimish the power of terrorists, so too can small acts add up in the face of climate change. When we all band together to take even small actions to help our environment, we help ourselves and future generations to an even greater degree.

Here are a few uplifting statistics about the impact of small actions to save energy:

1. Switch out your incandescent bulbs for CFLs and LEDs – it can cut energy use from lighting by 75% and energy costs by $70 per year. Only 10-15% of the energy consumed by incandescent bulbs goes toward creating light – the rest of the energy creates heat (How much heat, you ask? Watch how this chocolate bunny fares under an incandescent bulb as compared with an LED bulb.) CFLs and LEDs also last 10-50 times longer, so you won’t have to replace them as frequently.

2. Turn down your thermostat by 2 degrees this winter — it can save 6% of your heating-related CO2 emissions, or about 420 pounds for the average home.

3. Wait to run your dishwasher until it’s full — doing so can save $40 and 100 pounds of CO2 emissions over a year.

4. Seal your home to prevent air leaks. Using weatherstripping, caulking, and insulation to seal your home can cut heating and cooling costs by 20% (and heating and cooling accounts for 50% of your home’s energy use, on average!).

5. Purchase green power and carbon offsets. You don’t have to install solar panels at your house to get green power. Companies like Yeloha allow you to pay to install a solar panel on someone else’s roof while capturing the energy toward your own utility bill (the electricity company keeps track of what the panel produces). You may be able to pay for “greener” electricity through your utility or third-party provider (the Department of Energy has a tool where you can search what options are available in your state). Or, you can use a website like CarbonFund or TerraPass to calculate and offset the carbon footprint of the energy that you use (TerraPass also lets you fund renewable energy projects if you want).

Imagine if every household in America did even one of these things — it would make a difference. We can make a difference.

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I send out love to the world – especially those in Paris and Beirut.

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