What Can Individuals Do?

This section presents a list of actions that individuals can do to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, encourage others to do likewise, and promote emissions reductions through private governance.

These recommendations provide a pathway to help you reduce your carbon footprint. Although we recommend starting with a focused effort on the most promising behaviors, you should not get discouraged if you are not perfect or if you can only take small initial steps.

Remember that what you do will affect those around you, too. If you are in the US, multiply every step you take by 330 million to get a sense of the effect that your behavior would have if everyone did what you do.

The most important thing, regardless whether you start big or start small, is to get started.

If you have new ideas for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through private governance in the corporate, household, or non-profit sectors, please send your ideas to suggestions@beyondpoliticsbook.com.

  • What Can Individuals Do to Respond to Climate Change?

    Whether purchasing a new vehicle or light bulb, deciding where to shop or bank, or making decisions at work, individuals nowadays have many options to reduce their carbon footprint. Good information is hard to find, though, and many of us do not know where to turn, whether our goal is to save money or reduce carbon emissions. If we include home electricity use, personal transportation, and other activities in the home, households account for roughly a third of all emissions in the US and a similar share in other countries.

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  • What Are the Most Important Actions I Can Take?

    When you are deciding which actions to take, think about which ones will have the greatest effect on carbon emissions (we call this “technical potential”) and which are easiest to do (we call this “behavioral plasticity”). Do not try to be perfect, but try to take those actions that score highest on these two metrics for you. This chart provides a list of several of the most promising types of actions, but these are just the tip of the iceberg.

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  • Assess your personal carbon footprint

    When you decide what to do to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, it can be very helpful to have a sense of what parts of your life produce the greatest emissions. If you are like most people, you don’t want to obsess over dozens emissiont. of different actions for reducing your emissions footprint, so you will want to focus on a handful of actions and you will want to make sure that each of those actions has a big impact.

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  • Purchase Carbon Offsets

    If you have taken steps to reduce your carbon footprint, but you still want to do more, one option is to buy carbon offsets. Offsets are often sold by the ton, and they essentially allow you to pay others to reduce to reduce their greenhouse gases. The money may go to fund capture of methane from a landfill that would otherwise have escaped into the atmosphere, or to protect a tropical forest that would otherwise have been destroyed, releasing greenhouse gases.

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  • Use Your Influence

    What makes our “private governance” approach new and different from other ways of thinking about private-sector actions is in transforming isolated voluntary actions by one individual or organization into governance: having influence over the decisions and actions of other people and organizations. When you do something to reduce your own carbon footprint, that action can affect what others do. If you find that you save money or otherwise improve your life, you may tell your friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and when they hear about how well the action worked for you, they may try it themselves.

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