The Surprisingly Big Impact of Individual Climate Actions

Boston waterfrontIn order for people to take action against a problem, they need to believe the problem can be solved. Climate change can seem like an impossibly vast challenge – and often, people think their own individual efforts can’t make a difference. As climate communicators, it’s important to show people how they can be part of the solution, and emphasize the scale of impact that personal choices can have.
 
As this Climate Progress story explains, something as simple as adjusting your thermostat can move the needle on climate change. A study of commercial buildings in Boston found that, if all the buildings turned their thermostats down one degree in winter and up one degree in summer, it would reduce carbon emissions by more than 80,000 metric tons. That’s the equivalent of taking 17,000 cars off the road. It also would mean a collective energy savings of $20 million each year.
 
For businesses, this is a clear example of how sustainable practices are good for both the climate and their bottom line. But this lesson can translate to personal behavior as well. Researchers have found that households can make a substantial difference in reducing carbon emissions – in the U.S. residential sector alone, adopting energy-efficient behavior and technologies could yield reductions equal to the total emissions of France. If people are inclined to think their efforts don’t matter, helping them understand the value of their contributions can go a long way towards inspiring action.
 
Section Two of our new report, Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication, explains how to increase engagement by emphasizing solutions and benefits. Download the guide here.
 

Tweaking Thermostats In Boston Would Save Energy Equivalent To 17,000 Fewer Cars On The Road

Katie Valentine, reporter for Climate Progress
 
Turning thermostats in Boston buildings up one degree in the summer and down one degree in the winter would save millions of dollars per year and result in significant energy savings, according to a new report.
 
The report, published by Retroficiency, a company aimed at helping buildings across the U.S. increase their energy efficiency, looked at more than 16,800 commercial buildings in Boston, a city with a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. The report looked at a couple different ways Boston could save energy in its buildings, and charted the energy and monetary savings of each one.
 
If buildings turned up their thermostat one degree in the summer and down one degree in the winter, they would create a collective $20 million in energy savings each year, and would cut CO2 emissions by 81,017 metric tons — a reduction equivalent to removing 17,212 cars from the road. If all large hotels, retail buildings, and office buildings in the city installed advanced lighting controls — ie. controls that automatically turn lights off at certain times — the buildings would save $27 million and 81,368 metric tons of CO2. And if every office in the city adopted a schedule that included a half day every Friday in the summer, the buildings would save $2 million and 7,054 metric tons of CO2 — about the same as taking 1,499 cars off the road.
 
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Image credit: Shutterstock

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