Editor’s note: NASA and NOAA reported this week that the last five years were the warmest five in a record dating back to 1880, the result of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases from fossil fuels. Planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions globally reached a record high in 2019, with areas of central Europe, Asia, Australia, Mexico and Alaska experiencing record-high average land temperatures. In advance of Youth Climate Lobby Day in Olympia Jan. 24, we asked readers to share what they’re doing to reduce their carbon footprint. Here are some responses.
I take transit (which I actually enjoy), I walk and bike as much as I can, I’ve cut down on my meat intake, I subscribed to Puget Sound Energy’s green power program, and I weatherized my house. However, I realize that my own individual actions are insufficient to take on the climate crisis. That’s why I spend time volunteering with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby to pass legislation that will help reduce our emissions at a national level. I’m also active at work to help steer my employer into making our business more sustainable. In my personal time, I manage an online community to help people find climate-action opportunities.
Mark Abersold, Kenmore
Go hybrid, solar
I just bought a new all-wheel drive hybrid to replace my sport-utility vehicle. I have had solar energy on my home for 10 years. Solar saves me money, and I expect to save energy costs with a hybrid car.
Mary MacKintosh Plyler, Yakima
I have chosen to remain childless, and I have followed a mostly vegetarian and organic diet for the past 40 years.
In 2019, I donated my 20-year-old car to KING-FM and replaced it with a Honda Insight LX hybrid that is getting 61 mpg in the summer and 49 mpg in the winter. I work from home so there is no commute. I try to limit my use of the car to trips of at least 10 miles, or in bad weather. Otherwise, I walk, bicycle or take public transit. I bought my Crown Hill house because it is within walking distance of places I like and is near four useful bus routes. I volunteer to organize a carpool when my friends and I want to go someplace.
When it comes time to replace my gas stove and furnace, I will get electric ones. I grow some of my own fruits and vegetables organically; use seven large rain barrels to collect water for my garden and for rinsing dust, dirt and mud off things like shoes, garden tools, furnace filters and my hands; and I limit how many airplane trips I take — I prefer Amtrak.
Karin McCullough, Seattle
Change habits, vote
I bought a fuel-efficient, six-speed manual car; reduced electricity use (air dry dishes and some clothes, installed double-paned windows to conserve heat); recycle religiously; reduced red meat consumption; spread the word; and vote Democratic.
David Knibb, Bellevue
Take the bus
I made the decision to rejoin The Seattle Men’s Chorus once my six-year stretch as a caregiver had ended. It was the daunting and unpredictable traffic situation that had caused me to drop out in the first place. I couldn’t afford to be caught in Seattle’s traffic mess if I needed to get back to Marysville on a moment’s notice.
I came to realize after driving to and from the audition that perhaps taking the bus would be a better alternative. The buses are already headed near enough to where I need to go, be it the rehearsal venue at Plymouth Congregational or Benaroya Hall, that I only need spend a dollar each way; leave my car at Everett Station with most of the gas still in the tank rather than in the atmosphere, and spend an extra hour or two rather than big bucks for parking.
I would take the bus exclusively, except that the last bus from Everett Station to Marysville leaves before the bus I take from Seattle gets to Everett Station.
Thomas J. Munyon, Marysville
Focus on energy efficiency
For our house and kennel business, we have a 5.6 kilowatt solar-power system, and all outdoor lights are LED and on timers so they do not stay on all night. As indoor bulbs burn out, they are replaced with LED bulbs.
We swapped the electric hot water heater to a propane tankless heater and the electric baseboard heat was replaced with a ductless heat pump.
All replacement appliances have to be energy efficient.
George Schlosser, Lake Stevens
In 2019, my New Year’s resolution was to become a pescatarian: giving up land-grown meat but still eating seafood and animal products.
This resolution didn’t flop, and I’m helping my family to be more mindful about their meat consumption too.
Jane Green, Seattle
Pay to cut CO2
If we want people to cut carbon dioxide emissions, we need to make it as easy as possible.
The most effective, verified and inexpensive way is to invest in CO2-reduction projects. For $10 per metric ton of CO2, anyone can invest in projects that capture methane — a potent greenhouse gas — before it reaches the atmosphere. People in Washington emit 11 metric tons of CO2 annually, so people can eliminate their CO2 footprint for just $110.
I invest through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, but there are others. People can find certified projects at green-e.org or goldstandard.org. The low cost allowed me to invest in projects to reduce 20 metric tons of CO2 last year. It would have been impossible for me to achieve that level of reduction by myself.
Additionally, this cuts more CO2 than going vegan, biking, installing solar, or other trendy approaches.
Some people think this is cheating, as if suffering is necessary to help the planet. This is a strange mindset. I pay others to grow food. Why wouldn’t I pay others who do a better job of cutting CO2? The planet doesn’t care, and the more difficult it is to cut CO2, the less successful we will be.
Todd Myers, Sammamish, Washington Policy Center
Last year, we traded our old Honda for an electric vehicle.
This year we will be traveling a lot, but we will be paying carbon offsets through Cool Effect. We will also be changing investments in our retirement accounts from carbon-producing industry to green industry.
John Hartman, Lake Forest
Support fee for pollution
I’m a climate-concerned senior citizen from Whidbey Island. I balance the need to address climate with a very large family and the visits that go along with that.
I try to go lightly on air travel and drive an efficient, compact car. I’ve weighed heavily how much I want to “sacrifice” as an individual citizen and how much should be up to our system here in the U.S. I am in favor of leveling the fossil fuel playing field for all citizens by enacting an economywide fee for fossil fuel CO2 pollution. I am active in Citizens Climate Lobby in this regard.
Lee B. James, Coupeville
Reduce fossil-fuel reliance
Our basic strategy is to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels: We purchased a used electric car for local driving; our diet is more plant-based, seasonal and locally sourced to reduce costs related to food transportation and storage; the thermostat is set to a lower temperature; we’ve switched to LED lighting; we’re reducing our use of plastics; and we plan to convert our home heating from oil to a heat pump within the next few months and are looking into solar panels as a future step.
We avoid purchase of consumer goods produced by corporations tied to the fossil-fuel industry and environmental pollution, such as Koch brothers’ paper products. We support local and national environmental organizations and politicians who recognize the climate emergency and advocate for effective, science-based actions in concert with the international community to slow global warming to protect the public health and the planet.
Carol Fahrenbruch and James Pridgeon, Seattle
Reduce travel, downsize
As a former 60-ton carbon habit suburbanite, I’ve lowered my carbon habit by drastically reducing airplane travel during the last few years (one work trip and one family funeral). We downsized from a big house in wooded exurbia with a poor walk-score, to a smaller, more efficient townhome built into a hillside, near bike paths and bus routes. That move cut our square footage by 20%, and water, gas and electric bills by even more, perhaps 40%. It also cut commuting costs to the city by 90% ($2 bus fare vs. $10 fuel+ $25 parking).
What my family lost in privacy and seclusion we gained in sense of community and ability to share amenities — garden tools, bikes, kayaks — as well as a lovely community garden, swimming pool and river dock. I feel less need to travel great distances and now enjoy my hometown more. When I ride my bike to downtown Bothell, I spend money at local businesses I’d otherwise skip for the mall. I advocate for putting a price on carbon and boycotting the worst carbon polluters.
Francesca Lyman, Bothell
Go solar in the woods
Ten years ago, as we were building our home in the tall-treed woods outside Snoqualmie, we put in a solar pole with panels as well as hot-water tubes to preheat our well water for the boiler. Knowing full well that it would take years to pay for itself — even with the credits from state and federal funds — we did it anyway because it was the right thing to do.
The payoff is better than the $40 electric bills. Our pole shows every single person who comes down our drive that even living in the shade of 140-foot trees we produce enough energy to offset most of our need. I am amazed that more people aren’t putting solar panels and/or hot water tubes on their properties but so glad to see so many more than ever before.
Maura T. Callahan, Snoqualmie
Transit, lobby locally
For me, putting solar panels on my house has the most successful way I have reduced my carbon footprint, as the panels produce almost 100% of my electric needs per year. Other actions I have taken are eating less meat and more grains and vegetables, and riding the bus to Seattle when possible. I plan to replace my natural gas furnace and water heater in the near future.
I also work with groups lobbying for national legislation to reduce use of fossil fuels using a carbon fee and dividend, for state laws to mandate increases in clean fuels, and on the local level to persuade the City of Bellevue to develop a leading-edge climate action such as the one Portland has.
Kristi Weir, Bellevue
Fix house, Congress
I installed solar panels on my roof and replaced one family car with an electric vehicle. I replaced my gas water heater with a hybrid heat-pump/electric heater, even though my plumber said that’s crazy.
But I also know that such personal decisions won’t be enough to solve the problem. So two or three times a year, I ask my U.S. representative, Adam Smith, to co-sponsor bipartisan, effective legislation that will put a price on carbon emissions while boosting the overall economy and ensuring that low-income households don’t suffer. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) is the best law I’ve heard about so far, but I plan to support any other efforts that are bipartisan and effective at solving the problem.
Jonathan Shakes, Mercer Island
Commute by bike
This year, I am shifting from being an occasional bike commuter to a routine bike commuter. To see how this and other changes really impact my carbon footprint, I’ll be using an online calculator to compare my emissions from 2019 and 2020.
Different calculators return different estimates depending on the level of detail a user enters. Nonetheless, even a simple calculator can reveal the size of one’s carbon footprint relative to national or global norms and highlight the best ways to shrink it.
Rebecca Cooper, Seattle
I rarely drive my hybrid unless I have more than one trip to make; rarely use plastics — never plastic water bottles; have a garden, and I compost; have recycled for decades.
Often, my consumer choices are based on whether the product is degradable over time, i.e., not plastic.
Emilie Fogle, East Wenatchee