Addressing Climate Change in Six Small Steps

Rachel Wood

Remember summer days when you were growing up? Running outside in the grass enjoying the warmth of the sun? Or heading to the creek to splash around and try to catch a tadpole or two. Those lazy summer nights when open windows would cool down the whole house. Or the joy of regular snowstorms in wintertime. When you could reliably count on some snow days to keep you out of school so you could make your own igloo. Winters these days seem to be either a mix of 17 blizzards or weather so warm your spring bulbs think it’s time to pop up. What is going on?



We all have experienced moments or days that add up to the telltale signs of climate change. What is more baffling is to contemplate what you as one human could possibly do to rectify climate change. If heads of states and entire countries can’t seem to tackle this problem, what can you little ole you in little ole Columbia County NY do to stop the winds of change?


I am here to tell you that IT IS possible to create lasting and effective changes in your own home that will stem the effects of climate change. Indeed! And it doesn’t mean sticking solar panels to your head or converting your raised beds into a wind farm.


Here is a list of some small actions to take…and if they seem small, good! Do all of them! Or, if you are one of those folks (like my husband) that starts to question how on earth using a reusable straw rather than a plastic straw will affect climate change, contemplate this:


·  Every small action adds up. No matter how small the action. What is important is to take action.


·  Remember when we all got into the habit of using those new lightbulbs? Change the lightbulbs.


·  Remember when we didn’t recycle? When there was just one garbage can in the kitchen? And now it seems bizarre NOT to recycle. Recycling once seemed crazy, not anymore.


·  Your action influences others. If your neighbors see you making a change, it will help normalize actions for climate change. Yes, please do better than the Jones’.


·  Imagine for a moment your children, or your grandchildren. And now imagine how the world might look when they are your age. If for no other reason, than for your grandchildren.


Let’s tackle the steps you can take to address and reduce climate change:


1. Outsource the work


Seriously! One of the easy action you can take is to do an energy audit. Let an expert tell you how to fix small bits of your home so that your energy bill is lower, and your house becomes more efficient. This does positively impact climate change. Easy!


2. Don’t. Throw. It. Out.  Rather, head to a Repair Café!


Think about that thing that just broke…got it in your mind’s eye? Have you already thrown it away? Yes, because it was broken! Of course. Here’s the thing…(and I’m guilty of it too) we all have gotten into a habit of throwing things away and turning to Amazon to make it better.  Yet, this affects the climate! How? Read on dear friend


  • The packaging for the replacement (using Earth’s resources)
  • The transportation costs for the replacement (carbon emissions)
  • The labor for the replacement (unnecessary use of this resource)
  • Not to mention your own money that’s been wasted (can be better used!)
  • Really? Those first four weren’t enough for you?!


Well good news, in our very own Columbia County, we have a Repair Café! Bring your old chairs, your electrical items, your beloved dog and they will fix it! (Okay…maybe they can’t fix dogs, but they can fix your ceramic dog cup…)


3. Plant some trees…for free


Have you got a stream that constantly floods? Or an area of your property that is perpetually wet and saturated? NYSDEC’s Trees for Tribs is a statewide program that has been working to reforest New York’s tributaries – small creeks and streams that flow into larger rivers and lakes. The program’s goal is to plant trees and shrubs along streams to create a forested riparian (streamside) buffer that helps decrease erosion, reduce flooding damage, improve wildlife and stream habitat, and protect water quality.


4. Change your diet


Yes, I know, I know, you were raised eating x, y, and z. And besides, how does NOT eating a burger really affect the climate? Well…you would be surprised. Again, think about how many of those burgers you eat once a week…and then per month, and then per year. Then multiply that by five years, ten years…all of that genuinely adds up! Even if going completely vegan seems outlandish to you (I love cheese too) start small. What would it look like if you spent one day a week being meat-free? It may seem very insignificant, but one day per week would equate to a nearly 8% reduction in your meat consumption. THAT is a big deal! Read more here.


5. Take out the garbage = COMPOST


What’s in your garbage right now? Last Friday’s soup? The banana peel from yesterday morning? When those items stay in the garbage and end up in the landfill, they don’t break down, instead they begin to produce methane gas, one of the key components of greenhouse gas. You can learn how to compostyourself in your backyard or even indoors. Or have someone else do the compost legwork for you and get fertilizer in return! There’s a program in Hudson that will take your compost and give you fertilizer back. If just reading this paragraph has turned you into a compost junkie, read all about composting here.


6. Report the Invaders…Invasive Species Tracking


Everyone loves a good hike, but you could take your hiking and detective skills to the next level by determining which species in the woods or waterways is not native to our area. This initiative here has been working diligently to track and list all of the invasive species in New York State so that they may begin the process of extricating them from our lands. If you or someone you know would like to be a wildlife detective, you can see from this map that there are a few sites in Columbia County that have been notated, but NONE from Austerlitz. Let’s get ourselves on the map!


7. There is no step 7! Or is there…


It starts with you. It may not seem like a big deal to switch to a reusable water bottle, rather than buying plastic water bottles, but when you consider that it takes 450 years for a plastic water bottle to “break down”, you can see that you CAN make a big difference. Or perhaps you switch to biodegradable pet toys. Or you begin purchasing plastic free toothbrushes. Maybe you make an effort to bring your own reusable bags when shopping. Or your own utensils when you get take out. Buy used clothing. The options are endless. It starts with you. Start today!