Everyday Climate Warrior Guide 1: Care as a Consumer

We are used to making everyday decisions based on preferences such as comfort/fit, pleasure, timing, price, functionality, or brand. It is still unusual to take climate change into account as a further factor. We should, however – and it is not difficult.

Sometimes climate change decisions dovetail with other benefits. For instance, replacing your lightbulbs with energy efficient LEDs is a great choice economically as well as from a perspective of climate change. The same is true for many other energy efficiency measures. Or, for some, green choices might be cool choices. Wouldn’t you like to drive the new Tesla or BMW i8? (Although, of course, buying a small, fuel efficient car would be better than buying an electric sports car as long as electricity is still mostly produced from fossil fuels.)

There are other, very powerful consumer choices that have a huge impact on climate change – but we often don’t think about them in these terms. This is is a great starting point for making an impact. Here are three specific examples: Eating habits, travel preferences and energy supply.

Meat production, especially red meat, is a major cause for climate change. Globally, the livestock industry produces more greenhouse gases (mostly the very potent methane) than we emit through all transportation emissions put together (refer). In fact, if current trends towards more meat eating continue, the world’s entire carbon budget might be consumed by agricultural emissions alone by 2050 (refer). Take that into consideration, when you next think about ordering a T-bone steak. (P.S. Farmer organisation tend to get very angry with this argument. When Sir Nicholas Stern made it – an angry retort was that “there are no methane free-cows!” – perhaps we can start a methane capture and storage programme for cows?)

A second area in which emissions should come into the picture is travel. To keep it simple: The most damaging form of travel is by air. It has the highest emissions per person/km. In addition, we currently have no clue how to shift to low-carbon fuels for planes. In fact, oil majors see their future in the globally booming air travel.

By contrast, rail travel is much less polluting (refer). Just taking that into account, when making your travel plans can make a big impact. Also, if you fly, going Business or First Class makes it much worse (you take up more space in the aircraft). I don’t know anyone who really does that yet, but who knows, maybe in a couple of years time, flying anything else than Economy will be considered an egotistic indulgence, like throwing your garbage on the street.

A third example is energy supply: solar power on your rooftop is already competitive with grid tariffs for many consumers in many countries. It can save you money, make you more autonomous and give you your own, clean power. There are many financing options and service providers in most countries. The most developed markets are Germany, the US and the UK. India is catching up fast. We have built a website to help you make an informed decision about whether you can save and where you can by your solar solution (refer).

For me personally, some choices are easier than others: While I would find it tough to give up steaks, I really enjoy rail travel. I am trying to become more aware of emissions as a factor in my consumer choices. Perhaps this changes my choice only 10% of the time. It’s not good enough yet, but it is a start.

  • Introduction
  • Part 2: Care as a Voter
  • Part 3: Care as an Investor
  • Part 4: Care as a Professional
Tobias Engelmeier
Tobias Engelmeier
Tobias Engelmeier is an entrepreneur and very passionate about the climate, sustainability, solar energy and India. He is a German Indophile. You can find out more about Tobias on www.bridgetoindia.com and on LinkedIn. He is also active on Twitter (@TEngelmeier).
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