Doing the things that will make the biggest difference

Phew – it seems 2021 was the year climate change impacts – particularly heat, wildfires and floods – got close and personal for many of us.  Couple that with a pandemic that’s showing us it’s not done yet, and it all makes for some sombre reflection.

But take heart: whether climate or COVID, the best antidote to discouragement is to take action – any action. With COVID, it’s pretty straightforward: get vaccinated; do your best to follow the rules of hygiene, distancing and gathering; and do it all with as much love and kindness as you can muster.

For climate, it’s actually pretty straightforward too, because the sources of our emissions are well known. Here’s a graphic reminder:

If you were trying to cut costs at home, you probably wouldn’t focus on small things like stamps, pens or paper; you’d probably look to groceries, utilities and other big-cost items, where larger savings could be found. The same thinking applies to emission reduction: the biggest reductions will be found in the biggest slices of the above chart.

So if you’d like to make a serious dent in your emissions, here are some resolutions to consider for 2022:

1. Resolve to drive less. In fact, become obsessed about it, because it’s the biggest single thing most of us can do to reduce emissions. Instead, work from home when possible; walk, bike or take public transit; or carpool (respecting COVID rules) with a colleague or neighbour. When driving is unavoidable, make it part of your personal culture to stack as many things into one trip as possible, to never idle or use a drive-through, and to drive with a gentle foot. Two great spin-off benefits: you’ll save money on fuel; and using less fuel will simultaneously reduce emissions from the two largest slices of the above pie chart.

2. If 2022 is your year for a new vehicle, resolve to make it electric. Aside from the fact that you’re going to LOVE the ride and you can get at least $5000 off anywhere in Canada, you’ll also improve your fuel efficiency to the equivalent of about two litres/100 KM, which is 1/6 to 1/8 the fuel consumption of a typical pickup truck (and no that’s not a typo: you’ll go 6-8 times as far as a typical pickup truck on the same fuel energy). More good news: EV prices are decreasing and selection is increasing; a complete list here

3. Resolve to use less electricity in your home. Simplest: just turn things off or turn things (like thermostats) down. Next simplest: seal drafts quickly and cheaply with weatherstripping; take shorter and/or fewer showers; use a clothesline instead of a dryer. Harder but with huge potential dividends: get an energy audit done, and then follow the recommendations; most provinces have programs to help – NB’s is here

4. Resolve to become politically active by letting your elected representatives at all levels know you think urgent climate action is important. You can get out there and bang a pot if you like – or you can simply make a call or send an email. The main thing is to do something, because government actions and policies are what will impact the emissions that are beyond the influence of individuals. 

Thanks for being a Green Ideas subscriber, and Happy, Sustainable 2022. (And please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions about any of these resolutions, or if you’d like to share some of your own!)

In the news

Hotter days, crumbling coastlines, rising seas, less timber: a new report on what’s coming for Atlantic Canada in a changing climate.

Here’s some jarring insight into the little-known ticking time bomb that isoilsands tailings ponds.

Offset to weariness: 12 good news stories about climate change from 2021!


“We live in a world dominated by greed. We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth.”

– Archbishop Desmond Tutu, ‘We need an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet’, April 10, 2014.

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