Putting off until tomorrow what you could do today is no longer an option when it comes to the gathering carbon in the atmosphere, even according to reports from the current administration. They all say it’s causing changes we’ll live to regret. Is there anything just one person can do that makes a difference? We asked a number of Santa Barbarans who spend a good amount of their waking hours thinking about this, and their no-holds-barred answer is yes. Here’s how:
• Drive clean; don’t drive; ride a bike. Everyone we asked agreed that personal transportation was the single-largest polluter (homes were second) individuals can affect. To avoid burning fossil fuels on those trips we all take every day, just think of the help that’s out there: Electric cars and motorcycles get California and Southern California Edison rebates; the federal government offers tax breaks. Metropolitan Transit District plans for all city buses to be greenhouse-gas free by 2030. And riding a bicycle and walking whenever possible help both your health and the planet’s.
• Go solar, on your roof or a utility-offered program. An electric vehicle conserves little unless it’s powered by alternative energy sources; solar power goes into the grid during the day and is deducted from the array owner’s bill. Electric heat avoids using natural gas and the methane produced; the joy of air conditioning is guilt-free. The Green Rate program at SoCal Edison promises to buy 50 percent or 100 percent of a customer’s power from a renewable source. It costs a bit more ($9-$17 per $100 monthly), but new proposals before the Public Utilities Commission would bring those rates down.
• Don’t eat red meat; eat more plants. Santa Barbara’s farmers’ markets bring locally grown produce and locally grazed meats to local kitchens, but at the grocery store, it’s a different story. Produce is trucked and flown across continents for the abundance we enjoy; it pays to read labels. The demand for meat means more fertilizer, fuel, pesticides, and water are used than in growing human food crops, plus the animals themselves are a source of pollution and methane. And our mothers were right; we’re healthier if we eat our vegetables.
• Reduce. This simple word applies to having children, flying on an airplane, and everyday consumption. It’s the first word in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” slogan for a reason: Reusing and recycling consume water or energy in and of themselves; avoiding the purchase in the first place matters. But much more personally difficult is the “two, one, or none” observation regarding children. It’s the sheer number of us consuming resources on the planet that has led to this crisis. This one’s a no-brainer as well as a no man’s land of individual choice.
• Think. At bottom, all suggestions come down to thoughtful considerations of our lives and ruminating on how it could all be different, from voting to shopping to agitating at the local and national level — and then making it happen.