Wednesday, January 1, 2020

What Kind of Climate Champion Are You?

With the tipping point rapidly approaching, we all need to do everything we can to mitigate Climate Change to ensure a more resilient future.

There are many kinds of climate champions. If you're wondering what you can do, here is a sampling of champions and many types of actions we can take. Check out this list and decide which actions to include in your daily routine. Mix and match. Or come up with your own.


Desert Adapted Gardeners

This rebel gardener bucks the system by growing fresh local edibles that don't require fossil fuels to package them or transport them. The Desert Adapted Gardener promotes food resiliency while conserving the desert's most precious resource, water.

Some examples of what Desert Adapted Gardeners do:
  • Sow low-water heritage seeds/fruit trees and edible native trees.
  • Implement earthworks, greywater and rainwater harvesting
  • Use low-water methods: ollas, cardboard covering and organic mulch to hold the moisture
  • Enrich soil with local compost and mulch
  • No-till farming techniques  
  • Position complimentary plants nearby to keep away pests or enrich the soil 
  • Keep chickens for poop to fertilize the garden and bcause chickens eat pests 
Composting food scraps keeps them out of our landfills. At the landfill, food and yard waste  release methane, a greenhouse gas that's 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Compost is a natural way to nourish our gardens without nitrogen fertilizer made from fossil fuels. 

Local First Shoppers

Local First Shoppers lower their carbon footprint by purchasing fresh, seasonal produce from local farmers and gardeners. They keep their shopping dollars in the local economy by shopping at local businesses whenever possible.

Imported non-local ingredients can require up to four times the energy of an equivalent locally sourced diet.. The typical meal in the U.S. currently travels anywhere from 1,200 to 2,500 miles from pasture to plate.

Buying local has a strong multiplier effect in the economy in addition to reducing the transportation carbon footprint. A 10% increase in purchasing from locally owned businesses in lieu of national chain stores would yield nearly $200 million in incremental major metropolitan area economic activity and create 1,300 new jobs each year. A dollar spent on local products and services can circulate in the local community up to 15 times.

Some examples of what Local First Shoppers do:
  • Shop for local produce at farmers markets, Co-op, & Community Supported Agriculture
  • Support local artists by purchasing their work at gift giving time
  • Shop at locally owned thrift stores and repurpose shops 
  • Dine out at local restaurants and brewpubs that use locally sourced ingredients
  • Bank at local credit unions that have divested from fossil fuels
  • Purchase Zero Waste Products from local businesses
  • Shop at local bakeries that use native ingredients
  • Avoid products made with palm oil to protect the Rainforest 
  • Shop at businesses that have adopted low-water and energy efficiency features 
  • Rent apartments that use rainwater to irrigate native landscaping and gardens
  • Show support of local businesses by using cash instead of credit 
Local restaurants and businesses create a sense of place and community that makes Tucson a town that people are proud to call home.


Zero Waste Shoppers 

How we shop has a huge impact on the planet. Zero Waste Shoppers try to avoid purchasing products in single-use plastic or Styrofoam. They also use less paper products in order to save trees that sequester carbon. 

Their sustainable lifestyle is an example of how we can transition from a wasteful consumer lifestyle. The goal is to cut back on the manufacturing of single-use plastic that is made from, produced and transported with fossil fuels. The container is used for a moment and then ends up in overflowing landfills (that produce carbon dioxide and methane) and often ends up in our oceans where it is consumed by sea critters. It has been said that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. Even recycling requires energy, though not as much as mining and then manufacturing new items.

Striving for a Zero Waste lifestyle includes following the 7 R's: Refuse, Reuse, Return, Repair, Repurpose, Recycle, Rot

Some examples of what Zero Waste Shoppers do:
  • Tote reusable grocery and produce bags to the grocery store or farmers market
  • Bring a reusable water bottle everywhere
  • Reuse glass jars to store food
  • Replace paper products with reusable napkins and scraps of cloth to save trees 
  • Avoid plastic packaging by buying bulk whenever possible
  • Bring reusable takeout containers and silverware to restaurants
  • Dine at restaurants and food trucks that provide compostable takeout containers 
  • Repair appliances rather than purchasing new ones
  • Wear hand-me-down or thrift shop clothes and accessories
  • Buy quality clothes that can be mended rather than fast fashion that ends up in landfill
  • Resist impulse buys of cheap plastic products
  • Cook ugly produce and compost food waste
  • Harvest the fruit from their fruit trees and share it with a neighbor. 
  • Buy products made from produce rescued by Iskashitaa Refugee Network
  • Stop dying hair with chemicals
  • Shave with reusable razors rather than disposable shavers 
  • Recycle as a last resort, but recycle properly
  • Join the conversation at Zero Waste Tucson 

Vegetarians for the Planet

The rain forest is being mowed down to pasture methane-farting cows. We need to protect those ancient trees because they sequester carbon and make the air we breath. The Rainforest has been called the lungs of the earth.  (Not to mention all the biodiversity and wildlife habitats that are being lost.)

One reason that Vegetarians for the Planet have stopped eating meat is to cut down on carbon and methane emissions (and because they love animals, of course.) Vegetarian-only diets generate up to a whopping 42% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and lead to dramatically lower overall environmental impacts compared to non-vegetarian diets.

I realize that not everyone is ready to give up their juicy burgers. But if everyone cut back on their beef consumption, it would have a huge impact. 

Water Conservers

Water is a precious resource in the desert - especially after a 20 year drought and with climate change looming. Our main water source, Colorado River Water is pumped 326 miles to Tucson in Central Arizona Project (CAP) canals. Coal powers those pumps.

Water Conservers are conscious of the water they use and aim to save it.

Some examples of what Water Conservers do:
  • Turn off the tap when brushing their teeth or shampooing hair
  • Conserve water by using the same water more than once
  • Pour dishwater on compost pits or bushes
  • Soak recyclables in dirty dishwater
  • Put a bucket in the shower to collect water while it is heating up
  • Take showers outdoors to water landscaping 
  • Use greywater from washing machine to water trees
  • Replace lawn with desert landscaping
  • Replace high-water-use appliances with water-efficient appliances
  • Install low-flow toilets
  • Use composting toilets


Water Harvesters

Rainwater Harvesters work on water security in the desert by making the most of our rainfall. Greywater Harvesters supplement that by reusing water from washing machines and condensation from air-conditioners.

Some examples of what Water Harvesters do: 
  • Dig the plastic and gravel out of their yards so the water can sink in 
  • Install catchment basins and cisterns to keep the rainwater in their yards to irrigate native trees, desert landscaping and gardens
  • Reuse greywater from washing machines to water drought-tolerant heritage fruit trees
  • Use the condensation from air-conditioners to help water heritage fruit trees
  • Organize neighborhood green infrastructure projects
  • Join a co-op to install rainwater harvesting features in other people's yards and at schools 
If we all did rainwater harvesting, there would be enough water for everyone in Tucson without relying on CAP water. Green infrastructure directs street water to drought tolerant trees that shade Tucson and sequester carbon.

Outdoor Exercise Enthusiasts

Biking and walking contribute to a healthy lifestyle enjoying our lovely desert - with the knowledge that we aren't contributing to pollution or worsening climate change by driving everyday.

Nature and Wildlife Lovers 

With more and more of our wildlife going extinct everyday because of lack of habitat (and climate change threatening to aggravate the situation), many nature and wildlife lovers are transforming their yards into edible forests and habitats for birds and pollinators by planting native plants in mulch covered catchment basins.

River Restoration restores biodiversity by creating lush habitats for wildlife along the river's tree-lined banks. Join a team at Watershed Management Group, the Sonoran Institute, or the Sierra Club.

Pull unwanted "weeds" by hand or eat them to keep from spraying Roundup that kills bees (and has been proven to cause cancer.).

I'm gonna throw picking buffel grass in here too. Buffel grass is an invasive species that spreads like wildfire and burns so hot it can wipe out our iconic saguaros. Note: when picking be careful not to spread the seeds. It's best to pick them before they go to seed. Just after it rains is easiest .

Energy Efficient Homeowners 

Energy Efficient Homeowners are mindful of their carbon footprint by reducing the amount of energy they use in their home.

Examples of what Energy Efficient Homeowners do:
  • Turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer
  • Turn off the lights and unplug appliances when not in use
  • Switch to LED light bulbs 
  • Replace old appliances with energy-efficient versions (see Solar Energy Adopter too)
  • Make sure appliances are in good repair and filters are clean
  • Install double-paned windows and increase attic installation
  • Plant trees on the north, east and west side of the house to shade it
  • Make sun tea or cook in a solar oven instead of using fossil fuel energy to cook


Solar Energy Adopters 

There's one resource we have plenty of in Arizona - Sunshine.

When it's time to replace old appliances, air conditioners and vehicles, Solar Energy Adopters buy energy efficient, electric versions to be powered with rooftop solar.  Some install an electric car charger in their garage or carport.

Electric Car Aficionados

Our personal vehicles are a major cause of global warming. Collectively, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all US emissions, emitting around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases for every gallon of gas. About five pounds comes from the extraction, production, and delivery of the fuel, while the great bulk of heat-trapping emissions—more than 19 pounds per gallon—comes right out of a car’s tailpipe.

Electric Car Aficionados can charge their car using solar power.


Environmental Advocates

If we all contribute our best efforts, we can have a huge impact on mitigating climate change, decreasing unhealthy pollution, and protecting resources. But some of us need a little more nudging to take positive action. So that's why we have the Environmental Advocates.

Environmental Advocates contact politicians and those in power to encourage them to support laws that protect our planet and curb climate change. That can mean making a phone call, writing your local, state and federal politicians, or meeting with them in person. They weigh in on bills in committee at our state legislature by using Request to Speak. Environmental Advocates also provide public input at  city council and board of supervisors meetings.

They can advocate for actions that:
At this point, we all need to do everything we can to mitigate climate change in order for Tucson to thrive in the future. There is something on this list that anyone can do.  Consider what can you do that would have the most impact in the short amount of time we have left.

Need moral support? Join a Sustainability Community

Sustainable Tucson meets the second Tuesday of every month and has an active facebook community.