My Personal Environmental Action Assessment and Plan

Another study published yesterday warns that the Atlantic currents that transport warm water from the tropics north are in danger of collapsing as early as 2025 and as late as 2095, with a central estimate of 2050… The collapse of that system would disrupt rain patterns in India, South America, and West Africa, endangering the food supplies for billions of people. It would also raise sea levels on the North American east coast and create storms and colder temperatures in Europe.1

The deadly temperatures that scorched parts of North America, Europe and Asia in early July will be common in a few decades unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut fast.2

A couple of weeks ago, I started a thread on about what I have been/am doing as an individual to address climate change. It was a fairly robust thread as threads go on M.b. Oddly, there was a member who was insisting that individual effort was, not so much a waste of time, but not where we needed to be applying our energy. Compelling government action, they felt, was where the energy needed to be applied.

I believe the government has a large role to play. Under the Biden administration, there have been some positive steps. But, the pressing issue in the politics of the United States is not, unfortunately, the environment, it’s whether we will remain a democracy capable of enacting legislation to protect the environment. The Biden campaign will make their case based on what they have done and still plan to do, which is a lot, but the issue really is, do we want an authoritarian government or not? That is all we are being sold by conservatives. That is the fundamental choice we are being offered. I will vote for the ability to make meaningful changes in our environmental habits. I will vote for democracy.

But, until then, I am sizing up what I am individually doing. I am trying to be the change I would like to see.

Here is my personal climate impact assessment and action plan, which is a work in progress.



We drive about 9,000 miles (ca. 14,484 km) a year, mostly to run errands, go to our health club. We make several get-away trips a year to Block Island, RI, which is about 180 miles (ca. 290 km) away.

Our present car is a leased Honda HRV. Before that, we had a Honda Fit. We’d have replaced the old Fit with a new one if they hadn’t stopped making them. The HRV gets about 27 miles (ca. 43 km) to the gallon. The lease will be up in another year, and we are planning to go hybrid or all electric. Currently, we are leaning hybrid because we have read they have a lower raw material excavation impact that makes them overall the better environmental choice at the moment.

We could possibly reduce our annual mileage by shopping more on our very walkable Main Street, which has shops selling most of the necessities and some non-essential but nice to haves.


We fly very little. Most years I fly once to visit family. Family used to be in Florida and Seattle. Now everybody is in Seattle. I am planing to visit them in October. That will be our only plane trip this year. We’d like to do a European trip at some point. Maybe we’ll do the Greta Thunberg thing and take a ship across the ocean. Is that any better?

Our House

Our house is modest. Around a thousand square feet of living space. Three bedrooms and one bathroom. The smallest bedroom has been set up as an office/studio for me. There are two of us. We consider it to be just enough. Friends and family can stay overnight with us. We can entertain small groups of friends. We make good use of the space we have.

Several years ago, we installed solar panels. The panels supply around 90% of the electricity we consume. We cook and heat with gas, but are planning a kitchen renovation and will go all electric when we renovate. We are also hoping to install an electrically powered heat pump system, but will keep our gas fired decorative stove. More about that below.

Our house is brick, 18th century vintage. It’s not well insulated, but we’ve done our best to improve on that.

A programmable thermostat is set to keep the temperature at 60 degrees F in the winter. Anyone in the house has permission to raise the temperature to be comfortable. The thermostat resets the temperature to 60 degrees every six hours. We dress in layers and I wear a knit cap all winter long. It’s by no means a hardship.

As I mentioned, we have a gas fire stove in the living room. It is the main source of heat in the house during the day in the winter. When we installed it, we cut our gas consumption by quite a bit. It keeps us comfortable enough to keep the full heating system from coming on during the day. It has a battery back up ignition system that keeps it running when the power goes out. We will likely keep it for that reason.

In the summer, we air condition with small window units. One each for the dining room and living room, and one in the upstairs master bedroom. We only air-condition the rooms we are inhabiting, and we keep the thermostats set to 76 much of the time. We have a ceiling fan in the master bedroom and find it keeps us cool enough if it is not too hot and humid.

LED bulbs became the standard in all our light fixtures years ago.

Food Wrapping and Storage Containers

It’s difficult to buy food without bringing home plastic. Plastic bags for vegetable produce. Plastic bags and clamshells for bulk products and prepared foods. Plastic wrapping for fresh meat and fish. Plastic containers for my favorite pickles.

We have started to forgo plastic bags for things like apples, oranges, peaches, avocados, potatoes etc. We let them free-range in the cart. Likewise, we bought cloth produce bags for stuff that needs some containment, like fresh peas and beans or mushrooms.

We eat less red meat than we used to, but when we buy meat we try to buy it from the local butcher who sources locally. We are fortunate to be able to spend a little more and that we have a local butcher at all. Our butcher wraps in paper mostly. I have to investigate what sort of paper it is. Food papers usually have a plastic or silicon coating on one side. Plastic is definitely bad, the jury seems to still be out on silicon.

Fish is difficult. Everyone wants to wrap it in plastic. The fishmonger at the farmers market does, but maybe I can bring my own reusable product and avoid the plastic bag. Working on that.

We have been using a vacuum seal machine for freezer food storage, which uses plastic bags. We will stop using it. I am investigating reusable silicon pouches and a system of reusable vacuum seal bags. The former is expensive, and the jury is out on the environmental advantages of silicon. The latter looks interesting. It uses a non-fossil fuel plastic that they say is biodegradable in 3-5 years. It comes with a little usb powered vacuum pump. I have ordered a starter set.

We also use glass storage containers with plastic snap-lock lids. I am thinking about moving to all glass with metal clips when the need to replace or augment arises. The clips are easy to lose, but maybe it’s worth the hassle to get more? Or, keep a supply on hand?

I looked at butcher paper, freezer paper and parchment paper as alternative ways to wrap and preserve food but discovered that they are coated with plastic.


We’ve largely stopped buying beverages that come in plastic containers. We got a Soda Stream for my wife’s carbonated water addiction. Furthermore, we don’t buy single serving beverages for the most part and buy things that come in glass or metal containers when we do. We have water bottles and use them.

Writing Implements

I’ve started using pencils for most of my analog writing needs. I have to look at what to replace disposable pens with. Perhaps I will develop a refillable fountain pen addiction, which would be both trendy and more environmentally friendly?

Shaving Implements

I have an electric razor that is pretty good and plan to use it more. I don’t razor shave much as it is. Once a week.

Household Cleaning Products

We’ve begun to make our own cleaning solutions for general purpose cleaning. For dish soap, we go to a refill store where we bring containers and fill them. We buy washing machine soap sheets and tablets from them as well. They are conveniently located on Main Street.

Buying Locally

We try to buy locally as much as possible. We order what we can’t get locally, mostly from Amazon. I would like to see if we can do less of that.

This is likely an easy list to expand on. I would love to hear what you are doing to reduce your environmental footprint.

  1. July 26, 2023 - by Heather Cox Richardson(↩︎

  2. This Summer’s Heatwaves Would Have Been ‘Almost Impossible’ Without Human-Caused Warming, a New Analysis Shows - Inside Climate News(↩︎

And then I read.

Two more mass shootings in less than two weeks. Both carried out with assault style rifles. In Tennessee a protest against gun violence and for responsible gun ownership legislation leads to the expulsion of two black lawmakers for disruptive behavior likened by their white colleagues to an insurrection. Most people want gun control legislation. Most are in favor of a ban on assault weapons. The gun lobby has a strangle hold on the political system through conservative lawmakers.

I’ve been reading a lot about Capitalism lately. It would be more accurate to say, a lot about the problems with Capitalism. It’s a monstrous system. It’s a violent system. In the United States, we pursue capitalism on steroids. Which means, we pursue an economic system that is violent in a way that amps up that violence to its maximum. Connecting gun violence in America with the violence of capitalism I wind up asking myself, of what use will gun control legislation of any kind be in a society so dedicated to violence? Can it be anything more than bandaids? It occurred to me that if we are to bring this country to a place where gun violence is rare we will need to bring ourselves to a place where violence in general is rare. How do we do that when the metaphorical air we breathe through our economic system is so steeped in violence?

I have been making my way through Reclaiming the Sacred by Jeff Golden.

I read…

… there are more slaves in the world today than ever before, many of them making products for the American market.1

I read…

Mother Teresa once noted what she called “the deep poverty of the soul” that afflicts the wealthy, and said that the poverty of the soul in America was deeper than any poverty she had seen anywhere on earth.2

I read…

There is something profoundly sad, cruel, and dystopian about a society that so often denies us meaning and connection and dignity, that denies us the inherent wonder and worthiness of ourselves and the world, but then sells back to us the possibility of some degree of relief—just enough to keep us going—in the form of trillions of dollars worth of products and shows, food and pills and alcohol, while keeping everything else the same, while urging us to continue to channel our lives into simply producing and consuming ever more, to accept that this is just the way life is.3

I read…

In fourteen short years, between 1870 and 1883, the bison were hunted to such an extreme that only 320 remained. Yes, 320. From 30 million just seventy years earlier. Many were killed in the earlier 1800s, but more than a million a year were slaughtered during those peak years.4

I read…

Yet, for all these complexities, we have the stark fact that the new Americans did to the bison in the span of fourteen years something absolutely inconceivable to the Native Americans prior, and for all the factors that were involved, a primary one is that the new Americans were vastly more materialistic than the Native Americans.5

I read…

We Americans have proven that we want a lot of things. The average American’s “ecological footprint”—that is, how much land we need to provide the resources we use and to absorb our waste—is 70 percent more than the average European, and 700 percent more than the average African. We would need four earths if everyone consumed as much as us.6

I read…

We subjected ten million people to slavery, their lives and humanity stolen for the purposes of profit. We’ve created 150 million pounds of nuclear waste, which will be lethal to humans and other creatures for 250,000 years. We’ve overthrown at least fifteen governments worldwide, in part or entirely because they threatened American financial interests. We force ten billion animals a year to live out their lives in the pain and confinement of factory farms. We’ve cut some 98 percent of American old-growth forests. We’ve contaminated more than half of US waterways to the point where they aren’t healthy for drinking, fishing, or recreation. We’ve brought as many as 35,000 plants and animals to the brink of extinction in the US alone.7

I read…

“Materialism is a spiritual catastrophe, promoted by a corporate media multiplex and a culture industry that have hardened the hearts of hard-core consumers and coarsened the consciences of would-be citizens. Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists.” —Cornel West8

I read…

The world is burning. We are laying waste to the very life support systems that gave rise to and sustain human life. We are degrading and extinguishing lives, both human and a vast breadth of others at a horrifying pace, with horrifying disregard. This economic system, this culture of materialism and consumption, is brutal and hollow. It serves neither those of us who are doing the consuming or those of us who are being consumed. Whatever successes it may have to its credit, its failures are of another order entirely, and are only growing more urgent with every day. This system is bankrupt and it is doomed. One way or another it is going down.9

I read…

As Derrick Jensen writes, “So long as we find it not only acceptable but right and just to convert the lives of others and the life-support system of the entire planet itself into fodder for us, there is little hope for life on the planet.”10

I read…

So long as production and consumption remain the primary measures of our worth and purpose; So long as we feel utterly dependent on them for our well-being and happiness, for approval, and for keeping our sense of isolation, inadequacy, and fear at bay; So long as our default orientation is toward bigger, better, newer, instead of abundance and gratitude; And so long as we continue to be so epically detached from our hearts, and from the wonder of the world, and from the miracle of ourselves; Then we will continue to feed this violent and destructive machine. Regardless of any changes that are made, we will constantly rearrange ourselves and the pieces of the machine to keep grinding forward to meet what we falsely perceive as essential needs.11

This is not the only book I have read recently that points such a finger or suggests this way of organizing ourselves is not good on any level. There is Brading Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein and The Gift, by Lewis Hyde.

All of them point towards a way of thinking prevalent for most of human history and presented in many forms as Indigenous Wisdom. A wisdom handed down through the ages from generation to generation. I know, it’s naive to think we could go back to the time of indigenous wisdoms. I know violence was not unknown in those days. In fact, those days could be brutal in their own way. What can’t be challenged, it seems to me, is the fundamental wiseness of native wisdom. If we just look at it as a system of ethics and spiritual attitude, don’t we have something pretty wonderful?

I read…

The Honorable Harvest

Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.

Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.

Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.   Never take the first. Never take the last.

Take only what you need.

Take only that which is given.

Never take more than half. Leave some for others.   Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.

Use it respectfully. Never waste what you’ve taken.


Give thanks for what you have been given.

Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.

Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever. —Robin Wall Kimmerer12

This morning I read about the massive fentanyl problem we are having in the United States. I read about the production and delivery system of the Mexican cartels, as complex and sophisticated as any “legitimate” corporate business. I read that drugs funneled to the United States by the Cartels are killing as many as 200 people a day. A loss of tens of thousands of American citizens every year. I wondered why so many people want those drugs and why they are killing themselves with them.

And then… I read.


  1. Golden, Jeff, Reclaiming the Sacred, location: 130, Kindle link ↩︎

  2. Ibid, location: 2599 ↩︎

  3. Ibid, location: 2863 ↩︎

  4. Ibid, location: 3081 ↩︎

  5. Ibid, location: 3081 ↩︎

  6. Ibid, location: 3088 ↩︎

  7. Ibid, location: 2123 ↩︎

  8. Ibid, location: 3158 ↩︎

  9. Ibid, location: 3630 ↩︎

  10. Ibid, location: 4427 ↩︎

  11. Ibid, location: 4430 ↩︎

  12. Ibid, location: 5028 ↩︎