Modify your Habits: Ease the Climate Crisis

April 1, 2023 by Christine Brown

The latest UN Climate report gives humans about a dozen years to avert the worst climate destruction.  As activists, we walk a thin line between stating the dangers and creating a fatalistic “end times” paralysis.  There are so many individuals, so many corporations, so many nations it can be overwhelming to think about the changes we need to make.  But what we know for sure is that change has to come and we have power over our own choices.  The key is to choose small but powerful steps towards change.  Choose one, and then when you are ready, add another!

We need climate optimists who understand the stakes but don’t become overwhelmed into inaction.  So here’s some ideas to enact and share with family, friends and neighbors.

Your Bathroom:  Did you know that most toilet paper is made from virgin timber?  Yes, they are cutting down Boreal Forests for toilet paperOften bamboo is not much better- they cut down forests to plant it or destroy Panda Bear habitat.  The best bet is post-consumer recycled paper. You can easily find a new brand here.  I can vouch for Trader Joe’s Recycled paper as soft, easy to get, and moderately priced. Curious how your regular brand fares?  More report cards here.

The Garden: There are so many options here! If you haven’t modified your landscaping/gardening yet, here are the steps that will immediately make a difference.

  1. AprilDon’t do your spring clean up.  It’s all about our pollinators who are in dire straits.  They still need the shelter of dried leaves and stems. So branches only!
  2. MayDon’t Mow. Don’t mow this month to benefit our pollinators.  They need the early blooms of dandelions and violets to nourish themselves.
    1. Tell your neighbors what you are doing and why!  Mow the edges, put up a sign.  Ask them to join!  
  3. Late Spring through Summer
    1. Break up With your Lawn.
      1. NO pesticide.  Those poisons they apply to your lawn kill beneficial insects too.  It’s one reason fireflies are scarce now.
      2. NO fertilizer.  Fertilizer is produced by fossil fuels.  Then after application it can bleed into local water and cause trouble.  Use clover as a natural nitrogen fixer.
      3. Did you know all lawns were 50% clover in the 1950s?  Overseed with clover in spots where the grass died from last year’s drought.
      4. Take back control with an electric mower.  (Buy this with the money you save from eliminating pesticides and fertilizers!) These battery powered motors are lightweight, silent, easy to start, and very efficient.  No fumes.  No gasoline. No noise.  Also no landscapers mowing over your natives because they don’t know their value.    
      5. Choose areas to eliminate grass in favor of native plants.  Can you eliminate 30%- that would be an awesome start!
    2. Buying topsoil?
      1. I love to plant showy non-native annuals in pots.  But I try extra hard to buy soil without peat moss.  Did you know peat moss is “mined” by stripping bogs, which destroys these super carbon absorbers?
      2. Make sure your nursery knows why you are asking for soil without peat moss added.
    3. Plant Natives!
      1. Anytime you plant something new, make sure it is native.  These are the plants that feed our local fauna.  Aim to have at least 30% natives (including trees) on your property.
      2. Everytime you go to a nursery, ask them where their natives are.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t buy, let them know you expect them to carry natives!  Best to worst plants:
        1. Natives
        2. Nativars (natives bred for certain characteristics which may or may not be beneficial for fauna)
        3. Cultivars/Foreign
        4. Invasive (kill on sight!)
      3. Plant a pollinator garden to replace an area of lawn- a double benefit! Here you can flip the 30% rule – have 70% natives!
      4. Tip- get a free plant app to use while you are weeding or shopping.  You will find out that you have some fun plants in your yard already!  I use Picture This, but there are other good ones too. 
    4. Kill Invasives!
      1. Bittersweet.  This invasive vine will kill your trees and requires constant vigilance.  Cut them off at the base of trees and try to pull as much as you can out.  Pull up the roots and KILL THEM BEFORE COMPOSTING.  I leave them out on the hot driveway.
      2. Glossy Buckthorn.  This invasive tree is everywhere because birds seed them when they eat their berries. Kill it.  
      3. Garlic Mustard.  An invasive weed that crowds out natives, this is easy to pull in the spring- towns are organizing pulls now in April.  
      4. Burning Bush.  A favorite of developers, it will spread into your yard even if you don’t plant it.  If you still have it, it’s time to take it out of your landscaping. 

The Kitchen: Did you know food waste is a huge cause of climate change?  Food takes a lot of fossil fuels to grow, preserve, and distribute.  (Fertilizer and energy to refrigerate and transport).  Then if it isn’t used and thrown in the landfill, it creates methane as it decomposes.

  1. Compost your food scraps:  If you don’t have space for a composter on your property, or just don’t want to deal with it, there are pick up services now. More details are here.
  2. Buy less, use more.  (Saves money too!) Soups and stir frys are your friend here.  Play Chopped Kitchen and have some fun!
  3. Buy local whenever possible.  Support our local farmers and food lower transportation costs.
  4. Buy organic if you can.  Reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
  5. Reduce your meat consumption. You can make a huge difference with small changes.
    1. Start with quantity:  less each meal, then start cutting out meals. 
    2. Try Lentils!  More protein than steak, and better for both you and the planet
    3. Use this handy guide to make climate healthy choices.  

Spread the News: It’s time to engage everyone you know on these issues.

  1. Join our Native Gardening Club on Facebook
  2. See more ideas at Energize Acton
  3. Check out Homegrown National Park
  4. Write to your State Rep and State Senator about climate bills
  5. Get your neighbors to compost!
  6. Share recipes and spread the word!