116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When a big report on climate change comes out, like it did earlier this month, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of changes needed worldwide to make a difference.
There may be some comfort in knowing governmental decisions — not just household-level changes — are needed to reverse course on climate change.
But for people who have the means and time, there are some things individuals can do, said Stratis Giannakouros, director of the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability and the Environment.
Drive an electric vehicle
If more people drive electric vehicles, there will be less burning of fossil fuels, a process that releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Transportation accounts for about 30 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which makes it the largest contributor, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported.
“You don’t have to buy a Tesla to have an electric vehicle,” Giannakouros said.
Nissan, Hyundai and Chevrolet all have more-affordable options and several companies have promised to stop producing cars that run with gas in the next 10 to 15 years. As companies invest and customers buy, the cost of electric vehicles will come down, Giannakouros said. Charging infrastructure also will ramp up with vehicle production.
For large power companies to eliminate carbon emissions, they need more solar projects, both at the household level and utility scale, Giannakouros said.
“We need more solar on our grid that we have today,” he said. “Your electrons are speeding into a grid and replacing coal.”
Depending on the size of your roof and how much sun it gets, you could pay off the initial cost of your installation in a few years. After that, your electricity costs are zero.
Switch out household appliances
If you need a new furnace, consider an air-source heat pump, which, over its lifetime, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 50 percent compared with natural gas alternatives, according to a study from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
And while some people love to cook with gas, an electric range is better for the environment and air quality, Giannakouros said.
When buying groceries or toiletries, look for products with less packaging. This might mean buying bulk cereal and putting it into a container at home. Or using laundry detergent strips or drops, which don’t come in large plastic jugs.
Less packaging means fewer natural resources went into production.
Before buying clothing or furniture online, consider whether you need these items. If you do, could you buy second hand? Consignment stores, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace can have great secondhand items.
“In our neighborhood we swap things,” Giannakouros said. “Not everyone needs a leaf blower. It builds a sense of community and well-being.”
Make good food choices
Giannakouros recommends thinking about the carbon intensity of our food. If you buy strawberries out of season, they have to be driven from California or other places. He recommends eating with the seasons and buying local.
If you’ve got a yard or a patio, consider growing veggies or herbs.
Use your voice and vote
Iowans who want to combat climate change should support political candidates — from city councils to Congress — who feel the same way, Giannakouros said. Investments in public transportation and renewable energy minimums have been bipartisan issues in many states.
“At the end of the day, it’s policy that is going to make the difference for climate change,” Giannakouros said.
Comments: (319) 339-3157; firstname.lastname@example.org