By Jenny Noble
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
Last month in my column on hope and its evil twin sister, hopelessness, I put forth that the onus was on corporations and government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But while we’re waiting for those lollygaggers at the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland to get their act together, we can cut carbon emissions right here at home. In fact, ac-cording to the latest UN Environment Programme report, two thirds of all carbon emissions are determined by decisions made at the household level.
So if you believe climate change is an existential crisis, you want to do something about it, and you don’t want to have to figure out how all by yourself, join a CREW (Carbon Reduction for Earth Wellbeing). I just did.
Started by a small group of long time East Enders, the Carbon CREW Project is based on the 2040 Handbook’s vision of what the world could look like in 2040 if we follow Project Drawdown’s 100 most practical and effective solutions for fighting climate change. Most of the solutions already exist today. And many of them actually reverse or “draw down” CO2 emissions.
When I first heard about Carbon CREW projects, I thought, “Hmmm …”
It looked interesting and kind of fun, but didn’t really apply to me.
I already have solar panels, an electric car and I write a column about climate change. How could someone like me possibly be more environmental? To be honest, I joined the group to glean a few ideas for this column.
Then I used the Ecological Footprint calculator to measure how many tons of CO2 I emit and how many planets we would need if everyone lived like I did.
I failed spectacularly. If the goal is for all of us to use only one planet (which in reality is how many we have), at 2.8 planets, I pretty much have the carbon footprint of a Sasquatch. In other words, I use up the resources 2.8 times faster than the earth can regenerate them.
The average person worldwide uses 1.7 planets. In the U.S., people average five. The Chinese need 2.1 per person. Germans clock in at 3.2 planets. My cousin in town from Chicago discovered that it took six planets to support her lifestyle. “And I cheated!” she complained, which sort of seemed like cheating on a pregnancy test. Either way, most of us first world types are plowing through resources much faster than the earth can provide for us.
While for most of our CREW, the test was a big slice of humble pie, taking it is actually fun and easy. There are lots of colorful pie charts, emojis and questions like — “Is your house made of bamboo?” And, “How often do you eat lamb?”
Here’s the thing about the CREW. No matter how many planets you use up, there’s no need to feel self-conscious about your planet size. We’re all starting in different places. One person might be an expert composter and walk instead of driving. Another might look at how much they’re polluting and think, “Sheesh, I need to sell one of my Hummers!” Or in my case, I really need to do something about my addiction to travel. As CREW leader Dorothy Reilly put it, “Overall, it’s important to find ways to reduce your consumption, that work for your lifestyle and within your means.”
Most of what I would only loosely call our “homework” was a couple of chapters a week from 2040, a big book of solutions where gorgeous photos and colorful graphics are dappled with gems of information, like these: Most cars aren’t used 96 percent of the time. When cows eat seaweed they burp less ozone depleting methane. And lamps made from mushrooms are stronger than concrete.
After COVID lockdown, it was nice to branch out and meet new people in the community, albeit sometimes via Zoom. There was Ellen, a chef from Toronto who adds leftover ripped cardboard to her compost. And Susan, who was raised on a multigenerational farm and likes acai berries because they help build back tropical forests. Jo, a high school principal, just switched to Ecosia instead of Google because whenever you use it, this nonprofit uses proceeds to plant trees. Electric barbecues. Doubly insulated dog doors. By sharing our individual plans, the group inspired me to do things I hadn’t thought of before.
But what about after it ends? Research indicates that it takes anywhere from three weeks to a year to adapt to and then stick with a new habit. With Carbon CREW projects, there’s built in support. At the last meeting, we set up a buddy system where we set future dates to check in with each other and keep ourselves from falling off the wagon (or getting on it as the case may be).
The Cha-Ching Factor:
Joining the CREW is free and like all good climate solutions, most of what we learned saves money. Eat more leftovers. Buy less shoes. Walk instead of driving. As I was making changes to get a little bit greener, I was also keeping a little bit more money in my wallet.
Not finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will cost all Americans big money. By late century, according to the National Climate Assessment released in 2018, if emissions continue to grow at the current rate, labor slowed by intense heat could cost the the economy as much as $155 billion dollars in lost wages each year. Road damage will cost $20 billion a year, the spread of West Nile Virus $3 billion, and the projection that really hits the Hamptons pocket book, coastal property destruction will cost $118 billion a year.
Not finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will cost all Americans big money. By late century, according to the National Climate Assessment released in 2018, if emissions continue to grow at the current rate, labor slowed by intense heat could cost the economy as much as $155 billion in lost wages each year. Road damage will cost $20 billion a year, the spread of West Nile Virus $3 billion, and the projection that really hits the Hamptons pocket book, coastal property destruction will cost $118 billion a year.
In our last session, one person brought kelp jerky. Another, apples from their tree. Someone else handed out biodegradable laundry sheets called Earth Breeze.
And we all took the Ecological Footprint test over again, but this time as if we were living five years into the future and we’d met most of our personal goals. In a perfect world, I would only be using up one world. In the year 2026, I was down to 2.1.
East End Carbon CREW Contacts: CarbonCREW50@gmail.com, Dorothy Reilly — 631-830-3988, firstname.lastname@example.org, Sheila Peiffer — 518-334-6076, email@example.com.
“Extra Credit” watching great movies: “2040” by Damon Gameau, “The True Cost” (documentary about the fashion industry), “Kiss The Ground,” “The Story of Stuff: Plastics,” and Erica Chenoweths’ 12-minute TEDTalk about how it only takes 3.5 percent of the population to create change.
DrawdownEastEnd.org: Offers a variety of local solutions to reverse global warming, including how to start your own CREW. People everywhere from Italy to Idaho have joined so far, but projects can be started anywhere.
Drawdown Festival (January 21-23, 2022): Join Drawdown East End and the Carbon CREW Project at Southampton Arts Center for talks, workshops, and films on how we can “regenerate” our earth and reverse climate devastation. Hear innovator Damon Gameau (2040 film and book), speak about soil, sequestration and how to electrify everything. From Shinnecock blessings to the latest in “Climatarian cuisine,” it’s all here. The program is in person and virtual.