So now what?
1. What are you eating?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5NTU1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5NDgwOTg2OH0.KvKhPzOMrPJ1ogvdFrUMt-JkeJ-llUPErCNpVmwXgg8/img.jpg?width=980" id="4ad70" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6a0e901e37f6800bdd9115b3dfe63889" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A plant-based diet is healthy, ethical and an effective carbon-cutting adjustment for a household. Anna Pelzer / Unsplash<p><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/food/" rel="noopener noreferrer">Food</a> production accounts for <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2019/08/4.-SPM_Approved_Microsite_FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">23 percent of human greenhouse-gas emissions</a>. Experts say that confronting climate change will ultimately require <a href="http://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-02409-7" target="_blank">adjusting our diets</a>. Eating lower on the food chain — or eliminating meat and dairy entirely — is one of <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/veganism-environmental-impact-planet-reduced-plant-based-diet-humans-study-a8378631.html" target="_blank">the most effective</a> carbon-cutting changes you can make in your household.</p><p>While there are many compelling reasons to eat locally, what you eat is more important than where it comes from. One <a href="https://doi.org/10.1021/es702969f" target="_blank">influential U.S. study</a> showed that transportation represents just 11 percent of the life-cycle emissions of household food consumption (a life-cycle analysis considers all aspects of production, transportation, use and disposal), compared to 83 percent for production. So if the thought of eliminating meat altogether is just not fathomable, consider buying products that use lower-emissions production processes such as <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/meat-save-planet-regenerative-farming_l_5d261f7ae4b0583e482b0192" target="_blank">regenerative grazing</a>.</p><p>Discuss what dietary changes your household can make and how they contribute to the climate-change solution. Children learn best when adults link cause with effect: if we collectively choose to eat less meat, we can reduce the carbon <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/emissions">emissions</a> that contribute to climate change.</p>
2. What transportation do you use?<p>Globally, transportation accounts for <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter8.pdf" target="_blank">23 percent of human emissions</a>. The numbers are higher in <a href="http://prairieclimatecentre.ca/2018/03/where-do-canadas-greenhouse-gas-emissions-come-from/" target="_blank">Canada (28 percent)</a> and the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions" target="_blank">U.S. (29 percent)</a>, where fuel-hungry trucks and SUVs <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/best-selling-new-cars-trucks-suvs-2019-2019-8" target="_blank">dominate the market</a>.</p><p>Start by biking, carpooling and taking public transportation as often as possible. <a href="https://www.arts.ubc.ca/social-science-vs-climate-change-wynes/" target="_blank">Live car-free</a> if you can. If driving is a must, focus on <a href="https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/energy-efficiency-transportation/fuel-consumption-guide/21002" target="_blank">fuel consumption</a>. Choose smaller, best-in-class vehicles and pay attention to distance travelled.</p><p>Air transportation is a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2019/jul/19/carbon-calculator-how-taking-one-flight-emits-as-much-as-many-people-do-in-a-year" target="_blank">major contributor to carbon emissions</a>. One round-trip transatlantic flight — Denver to Paris, for example — produces the equivalent of <a href="https://www.offsetters.ca/education/calculators/flight-emissions-calculator" target="_blank">2.54 tonnes of carbon dioxide</a> per passenger. That's half the emissions of a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator" target="_blank">car driven for a year</a>.</p><p>When planning your next family vacation, carefully consider the need for flights. Vacation locally or opt for a shorter flight.</p>
3. How does your home contribute?<p>Households use energy for heating, cooling, lighting and appliances. Energy consumption is not the same as carbon emissions — the relationship depends on how your home's <a href="https://www.cer-rec.gc.ca/nrg/ntgrtd/mrkt/nrgsstmprfls/on-eng.html" target="_blank">electricity</a> and <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-526-s/2013002/t002-eng.htm" target="_blank">heat</a> are generated — but it's still a great target.</p><p>Heating, both space and water, makes up <a href="https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-data/data-analysis/energy-data-analysis/energy-facts/energy-and-greenhouse-gas-emissions-ghgs/20063" target="_blank">80 percent of residential energy consumption</a> in Canada. Actions that conserve household heat can lower emissions.</p><p>These can range from small things like washing clothes in <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/case-washing-clothes-cold-water-180955459/" target="_blank">cold water</a> to big steps like moving to a smaller, more energy-efficient home. Retrofits aimed at increasing energy efficiency are also worth considering, especially those matched with local <a href="https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/energy-efficiency-homes/financial-incentive-province/4947" target="_blank">financial incentives</a>. A <a href="https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/energuide-canada/energuide-energy-efficiency-home-evaluations/20552" target="_blank">home-energy audit</a> will help you choose the most effective targets.</p>
4. What do you throw out?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5NTU0Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTg3MjE1M30.uygtv1CFZewjkDxEu-8QurZ4hQYRjUsUsE3fWs-PJLo/img.jpg?width=980" id="bd33e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8ab97d62621df2d932a2922740fdcf0e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
North Americans produce more waste per capita than anyone else on the planet. Most of it ends up in landfills. Justin Ritchie / Flickr CC BY<p>On a per-capita basis, North Americans produce the <a href="http://datatopics.worldbank.org/what-a-waste/" target="_blank">highest average amount</a> of waste in the world. <a href="https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/37-ways-to-reduce-trash" target="_blank">Much can be done</a> to curb your family's disposable habits.</p><p>Everyone knows the mantra: reduce, re-use, recycle. However, <a href="https://thewalrus.ca/why-recycling-doesnt-work/" target="_blank">the recycling industry is complex</a> and much of what we put in recycling bins <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/21/us-plastic-recycling-landfills" target="_blank">ends up in landfills</a>.</p><p>Priortizing the reduce and re-use parts of the mantra will have a lasting impact on the environment. To reduce, plan carefully and buy only what you need. Buying less stuff not only saves money, it <a href="https://www.withouthotair.com/c15/page_88.shtml" target="_blank">reduces emissions</a> from packaging, transportation and production.</p><p>Families should also emphasize re-using goods. Take steps to re-purpose or exchange items, both inside the home and within your community. There are <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=low+waste+home" target="_blank">many creative ideas</a> out there.</p>
5. Who can you influence?<p>As parents, we recognize that making the time for change can be difficult. But changes can begin with small steps, like educating yourself on the <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/" target="_blank">evidence, causes and effects of climate change</a>. Children are inherently curious and want to learn too. Make sure that they learn from <a href="https://publichealthonline.gwu.edu/blog/sources-for-climate-news" target="_blank">credible sources</a>.</p><p>Children are constant observers of adults' choices. Many kids will notice when an adult makes an effort to reduce <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/waste">waste </a>and carbon emissions. To emphasize these changes further, explain what your actions and choices mean for the environment.</p><p>You can also show children how individuals can mobilize and inspire change. The world has just witnessed a <a href="https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/" target="_blank">16-year-old</a> launch a global climate movement that is inspiring millions.</p>
Change is the product of individual actions.<p>Some claim individual actions <a href="https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-empty-gestures-trivialize-the-very-serious-challenge-of-climate-change" target="_blank">won't make a difference</a> or that domestic changes don't matter if <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-five-corrupt-pillars-of-climate-change-denial-122893" target="_blank">others are not following suit</a>. In addition to being incredibly <a href="https://www.bcmj.org/cohp/unseen-impacts-climate-change-mental-health" target="_blank">disheartening</a>, such views ignore the fact that our current crisis is the product of billions of individual decisions. Household actions lead to changes in collective behavior and are an essential part of social movements.</p><p>A more compelling argument is that the focus belongs on <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/10/opinion/how-to-help-climate-change.html" target="_blank">altering the systems</a> (economic and political) that pose barriers to personal changes. We agree! But it's not a zero-sum game and transformations must happen on both fronts.</p><p>There is reason for hope. Family-based changes can shape the environmental landscape for future generations. We already have much of the <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2019/05/29/renewable-energy-costs-tumble/#2747ae89e8ce" target="_blank">technology</a> and <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/solutions/adaptation-mitigation/" target="_blank">know-how</a> required to transition towards a more sustainable society.</p><p>We just need to get started. And it can start with our families.</p>
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