"WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE?"

For starters, share this post with 100 of your friends.

What Can I Do? is the first question people often ask when they realize global warming is happening. Great question!, you can reply. But I don’t feel like bringing my reusable mug is getting us anywhere!

“Personal steps may be small in the scheme of things, but they can raise your own consciousness about the problem — and the awareness of the people around you,” New York Times writer Justin Gillis says. “In fact, discussing this issue with your friends and family is one of the most meaningful things you can do.”

With your head in the game, you’ll notice that major efforts are underway to take individual actions to ambitious scale: cities installing LEDs to save money, or pledging to run on 100% renewable energy; corporate headquarters adjusting the dials on heating/cooling systems to save energy; delicious meat-alternatives selling out in fast-food restaurants (and attracting Wall Street investors); successful urban composting companies.

I need a list! Okay, here are 9 actions that almost anyone can take, starting today. Pick your favorite, or come up with your own. Guide people to these actions, show them how you do them, and ask them to join you. A startling number of people say they aren’t active on climate solutions because nobody has invited them to participate!

1. Talk about it. Reassure the newly concerned and alarmed that yes, they’re right: climate change is happening. The world’s top scientists agree the situation is catastrophic — and caused by human activity. And, we can fix it. We have the technology, the talent, the money, the overwhelming need to address this successfully. Time is not on our side. First step: get the conversation going. New research from Yale says that when we talk about climate ing our social circles, we (and they) are more likely to perceive extreme-impact risk accurately and support clean-energy policies.

2. Elect people who have a plan to reduce emissions. Learn about their plan and support them. This goes for mayors, governors, Congress, and also for the other Presidents and Vice Presidents in your life: the leaders of your school board, your town council, your bank, your golf club, your team, your neighborhood association, your alumni network, your poker game.

3. Pay attention. Once you’ve elected candidates who are knowledgeable about their community’s exposure, hold them accountable. Go to meetings with ideas and questions. Ask how you can help. Bring a friend with you.

4. Be Calm, Be Clear. Request scientists, economists, policy-makers to please speak in plain language. You know why: erudite jargon is a turn-off. Most people haven’t internalized Centigrade-to-Fahrenheit calculations; most don’t know a gigaton from a megawatt. Most people want to know how the climate crisis affects them — and they want to know what they can do about it.

5. Follow reliable mainstream news sources, i.e., those that rely on established scientists for their reporting.

6. Financial clout. Leverage it. We’re all part of an organization or a community. Major funds that have already divested have all been influenced by stakeholders like you. For endowment divestment models, refer to professional groups such as the California State Teachers’ Association (CALstrs, with $225.8 BN pension funds); New York City and State ($191 BN and $200 BN, respectively). Find out about investment strategies re: your employee 401k, medical complex, alma mater, place of worship, favorite baseball team, food subsidy program, etc. As a member, you can request these funds be invested in companies that are part of the solution, ask about a timetable for extracting (no pun intended) those positions, or suggest ways to increase efficiency and reduce waste.

7. Learn the facts that resonate most with you. Do you hate to see food wasted? A recent estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts national food waste at 31%, aka 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food. What’s the solution? You can guess: Buy what you need, say no to mega portions, use leftovers, and look into composting food scraps. Many cities, products, and services make this easy. But when I go out shopping, to eat, or stay in a hotel, they’re not doing these things. Then politely complain! Insist! Make recommendations! Consumer/employee/investor/citizen clout is incredibly effective.

7. Social media is powerful. Post your peeves on your feeds. Share useful information there and among your offline networks.

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8. Vote with your wallet! Find out which brands are serious about reducing emissions and improving health, and buy from them. Everyone from Walmart project gigaton has adopted an ambitious plan. If your favorite products and services seem to be ignoring climate change, let them know. (See #7, Social Media is Powerful.)

9. Lighten up! The great humorists of our era provide wonderful relief. Share a funny clip.

10. Take a break! Climate action can be tough duty, so it’s important to celebrate your successes with others. Throw an eco-friendly pizza party to celebrate your decision to be part of the solution -- and to bringing others along with you. And then, get back to work.  

Since a warming planet affects so many areas of life (even wine and beer), it’s pretty easy to pinpoint your first step. You’ll even begin to see that the “What To Do about Climate Change” lists mirror each other. It’s all about thinking: What can you do? What are you particularly good at that you can deploy to be part of the climate solution?

For more, check out this CNN/Project Drawdown quiz; this top 16 list from Crowdsourcing Sustainability; and sign up for Olivia Gossett Cooper’s delightful morning e-mail nudge.

Sarah Finnie Robinson