Did you feel the heat on Christmas Day? The South Pole recorded its highest temperature ever: 9.9˚F on December 25, 2011! That was at the end of a year in which we in Vermont experienced not one, but two 100-year floods in 3 just months, and people around the world experienced either exceptionally wet (with flooding), unusually dry (with drought), and/or unthinkably hot (sometimes with dangerous fires) weather. In fact, 2011 boasted 2,941 extreme weather records in the US alone. And, then there is the tremendous spike in atmospheric carbon dioxide (worth a click on the link to see what it looks like) which likely provides the explanation for it all.
In 2011, we managed to make weather more of an extreme sport than a recreational activity, which boils down to one simple, urgent thing: 2012 needs to be all about chilling out! We’ve got to make being cool the theme of the year. Here are 12 ideas (in no particular order, and by no means a complete list) to help you be cool in the new year:
1. Turn off the lights. When you leave the room, turn off the lights. My father trained me in the 70s; it’s time for a little refresher. If you think your electric bills are looking a little high, you’ll enjoy lower bills as a result. You can add timers or motion sensors to light fixtures if that helps remember to turn them off. For the ultimate in convenience, get solar outdoor lights – the sun will charge them, and the darkness will turn them on.
2. Get better lights. In addition to outdoor solar lights, upgrade your indoor bulbs, in fact it’s required. With the end of the incandescent light bulb, organizations like the NRDC have produced online guides to help you decide which lighting options are best for your home and business: LEDs, compact fluorescents… perhaps candles.
3. Unstuff yourself: If you’re feeling stuffed, unstuff yourself this year. Stuff requires cleaning, storage, sometimes lighting, heating or cooling, transportation, etc. all of which requires more energy. If you’re not already familiar with The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change, check it out here, then destuff your life and save both money and the planet.
4. Lighten your foodprint. Skipping meat (at least once a week, as the Meatless Monday campaign suggests), and buying local, seasonal produce and products will help reduce the amount of energy your diet requires. Want to read more about it? There’s a fresh crop of books on the joys and benefits of eating locally, including the piece de resistance: Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It.
5. Buy local: Transportation and (temperature-controlled) storage of food and other stuff requires lots of energy. Buy what you need locally, and you help reduce those costs and you get to support your local economy at the same time. Here’s a fantastic example, worthy of replication every where: The Farmstand Coop.
6. Home Sweet Home: Beyond buying local food and other supplies, consider local vacations, local banking, local education, local heating fuel, etc. Investing in your home is investing in the planet.
7. Getting from A to B: How can you move yourself not in a single-occupied vehicle? Walk, bike, roller skate, cross country ski, bus, train, carpool? For those times when you have to drive, plan trips to merge errands and outings as much as possible.
8. Dare to share. From cars (such as zip car), to lawn mowers, vacation rentals… If you don’t really need to own it yourself, share with a family member, friend or neighbor. In 2009, car-sharing alone was credited with reducing U.S. carbon emissions by more than 482,000 tons.
9. Befriend a sweater, hat and socks: Take inspiration from animals who grow an extra layer of winter fur, add a layer and lower the thermostat. Use a programmable thermostat if that helps to remember to lower your heat settings at night and when going out. Other ways to keep it warm and cozy: pour another cup of tea, sip hot, brothy soups, practice your dance moves, and host frequent house warming parties.
10. New to you. If you need a new sweater, you don’t have to buy a brand new one. Shop local second-hand stores or host a clothing exchange, where friends come over (house warming party!) and you get to try on each other’s already-been-loved items to brighten up your wardrobe.
11. Grow your food: Growing your own vegetables, fruits and herbs is a great way to bring fresh and nutritious food literally to your door. Having a garden doesn’t have to require a lot of space, even a small plot, or a collection of containers on a back deck, fire escape or window sill can contribute to your health and that of the planet.
12. Practice the 4 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot: See where you can use less, come up with new ways to use what you already have, recycle (or upcycle) what might otherwise become trash, and compost all things biological.
If you’re not totally convinced being cool is the hottest thing out there, check out what thousands of people have been doing to solve the climate crisis. Check out the incredibly inspirational work, with photos and videos from around the world at 350.org.