What’s the One Thing I Should Do?

I frequently get asked “What’s the one thing I should do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?”  My facetious answer is “Make a list of all the things you could do” or “Commit to changing one behavior a week”.

A question that is a bit easier to deal with is “What should I do first?”  After reading my last column, a friend came to me and told me that it was too many things – what should she do first.  She’s right.  In that column, I made 23 separate suggestions!   She can’t change 23 behaviors at once, so she needs to do one of them first.

You are probably hoping now that I’ll come up with one simple, practical thing that you can do.  Sorry.  If you’ve read my last 10 years’ worth of columns, you’ll know they are full of simple, practical things that you can do.  As well as many things you already do, and some that won’t work in your family/house/job/life.

I think my answer to “what should I do first” has to be “the thing you can do now”.  What is one change you can make today?  Today can you put the lid on the pot when you are cooking?  Today can you talk to your elected officials?  Today can you turn the heat down a degree?  Today can you walk to the corner store?  Once you’ve done it today, can you do it tomorrow too?  And the next day?  When it becomes a habit, do another thing.

A local organization asked me recently to come up with some “top ten tips” for their staff.  They wanted top ten tips for: saving energy, saving water, reducing waste, travel, and purchasing.  So already that’s 50 tips.  We talked more about what they wanted, they did a bit of thinking, and right now the list is at 120 items.  Can each of their employees do 120 new things all right away?  Not likely.  Some of the things on their list are:

  • Turn off electrical devices
  • Move furniture so it doesn’t block registers
  • Switch to compact fluorescent or LED lighting
  • Get a rain barrel
  • Repair leaking taps
  • Drive slower
  • Reduce printing
  • Recycle
  • Buy local
  • Buy second hand
  • Install solar panels

OK, there’s one.  If you are thinking of adding renewable energy to your home, that is great.  FIRST reduce the energy needs of the home.  Good design and insulation are easy to include when you are building, and harder later.  If you run short on budget, and have to choose between solar panels and a good level of insulation, choose insulation now and panels later.

There isn’t one big action that will reduce our energy use.  It’s about doing a lot of small and medium actions.  I’ve intentionally added about 16 suggestions to last issue’s 23.

Our response to climate change needs to happen now.  We can’t wait around and find one good thing to do.  Even more so, we can’t wait around for some magic technology to fix our mess.  We each need to do what we can quickly.

So, what’s the one thing I should do?  Commit to changing as much as I can.  Now.

angie smallAngie manages energy conservation projects for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, and is an active member of McClure United Church.  You can contact her at angieb@environmentalsociety.ca

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)


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