How Low Can You go?

The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world. Globally, the average is closer to 4 tons. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050.   Lowering individual carbon footprints from 16 tons to 2 tons doesn’t happen overnight! By making small changes to our actions, like eating less meat, taking less connecting flights and line drying our clothes, we can start making a big difference. 

  • Calculate your carbon footprint There are many calculators available but this one includes a simple and advanced version, compares your footprint to that of others like you, and provides some suggestions for reducing your footprint.
  • Compare your family's footprint to that of others like you, investigate suggested changes.  Commit to one or several changes.

Plastics have surprisingly carbon-intense life cycles. According to scientists, the overwhelming majority of plastic resins come from petroleum, which requires extraction and distillation. Then the resins are formed into products and transported to market. All of these processes emit greenhouse gases, either directly or via the energy required to accomplish them. And the carbon footprint of plastics continues even after we've disposed of them. Dumping, incinerating, recycling and composting (for certain plastics) all release carbon dioxide. Researchers estimate that, by 2030, emissions from the plastic industry will reach 1.34 gigatons per year (equivalent to more than 295 500-megawatt coal power plants), 

  • Calculate your plastic footprint.
  • Consider suggested changes in your use of plastics, investigate options and commit to decrease your use of plastics.

Five Steps to tAke Today

There are massive differences in the greenhouse gas emissions of different foods: producing a kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents). While peas emits just 1 kilogram per kg.   Overall, animal-based foods tend to have a higher footprint than plant-based. Lamb and cheese both emit more than 20 kilograms CO2-equivalents per kilogram. Poultry and pork have lower footprints but are still higher than most plant-based foods, at 6 and 7 kg CO2-equivalents, respectively.

For most foods, and particularly the largest emitters, most greenhouse gas emissions result from land use change  and from processes at the farm stage. Farm-stage emissions include processes such as the application of fertilizers, both organic (“manure management”) and synthetic; and enteric fermentation (the production of methane in the stomachs of cattle). Combined, land use and farm-stage emissions account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is a small contributor to emissions. For most food products, it accounts for less than 10%, and it’s much smaller for the largest greenhouse gaas emitters. For example, in beef from beef herds, it’s 0.5%. Not just transport, but all processes in the supply chain after the food leaves the farm (processing, transport, retail and packaging) mostly account for a small share of emissions.

Check out this chart for details of greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of food production, consumption and disposal.  

So, how can you change your diet to decrease greenhouse gas emissions?

  • Eat less beef and dairy.  Consider going red meat and dairy free one day a week.  Research shows that this achieves the same reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as having a diet with zero food miles, which is almost impossible to do!
  • Eat vegetarian one day a week.  Researchers find that plant-based proteins require less water and land to produce, and they have a significantly lower carbon footprint. If all Americans forgo meat for one day per week this would result in the same carbon savings as taking 19.2 million cars off the road for a year. Or, become a Flexitarian:  a person who intends to eat more vegetarian. It's different from vegetarian in that there is some flexibility.
  • Avoid eating food that is airlifted to your location. These are usually foods with a very short shelf life that have come a long distance, according to data collectors.
  • Buy organic whenever possible.  Organic farming prohibits most synthetic inputs, which means reduced greenhouse gas emissions, as well as cleaner soil, water, and food. Furthermore, farmers know that organic and sustainable techniques bring additional benefitss, such as increased soil health and fertility, which leads to additional climate-friendly benefits.
  • Waste less food:  plan ahead, use your freezer, and be creative!  When we waste food, we also waste all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it. And if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methan, a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide.  In the US alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 37 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.

LEarn.  Support.  Vote.


Perhaps one of the most important climate change truths and most fundamental issues of fairness revolves around the fact that all of us must work together to stop global warming. But the harmful results of  climate change will not fall upon us equally or fairly. In fact, those of us who have the least resources in terms of money and health care are also the least equipped to adapt to large-scale climate change. Internationally and domestically, those of us with the least resources are also the least responsible for causing global warming.

Consider these facts.

  • Black, Indigenous and other POC are at greatest risk of rising temperatures, as they tend to live in "heat islands" where few trees cool the air, and few air conditioners or fans cool the homes. 
  • An increase in severe weather affects  the poorest POC who live in hazardous, low-lying areas already lashed by tropical storms which are predicted to only get worsen as the climate changes.
  • How you are affected by rising sea levels depends on wealth, insurance, and how much your property is worth.  In Manilla it is reported that the original foundations of the homes of the poor are already covered by water as their homes are built upward and the water still rises. For many of Callifornia's Bay Area communities the questions are:  How much do you armor the coast, what do you choose to save, and who will have to move?  All questions that depend on your wealth and that of your community and whether or not you have the means to move elsewhere.
  • In Northern Kenya, the land has become  measurably drier and hotter.   According to recent research, the region dried faster in the 20th century than at any time over the last 2,000 years. Four severe droughts have hit the area in the last two decades, pushing millions of the world’s poorest to the edge of survival.
  • In Somalia, after decades of war and displacement, 2.7 million people face what the United Nations calls “severe food insecurity.” Drought and precarious fresh water supplies can only make that worse.

What can you do to mitigate  the effects of climate change on POC here and abroad?

LEARN more about climate change and racial equity by

1. reading Understanding Climate Change: An Equitable Framework or

2. listening to podcasts such as America Adapts Episode #75:Women + LGBT + people of color adapt to climate change, or

3. subscribe to resources such as the Sierra Club national magazine which routinely covers topics such as Cancer  Alley Now Coronavirus Alley. 


1.  minority-owned businesses by buying black (,,,

2.  donate to intersectional advocacy groups (NAACP, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice,  or the Power Shift Network)

3   givie to organizations that can provide emergency assistance to help vulnerable community members stay housed, fed and solvent (Church World Service, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Red Cross)


Take the Climate Care Voter's Pledge, vote intentionally for candidates that see climate change and racial justice as important issues, and get others to vote!  Information on candidates is available many places.  Here are some possibilities:  XXXXXXXXX