With New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg saying recent climate impacts "should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action," and other officials joining him, 2012 will be remembered as the year we noticed the climate was changing. If we choose, 2013 can be remembered as the year we took serious steps to minimize these impacts. If you are looking to take personal action this year to address your climate footprint, here are 10 easy actions to think about.
1. Make your plan. You can't reduce what you haven't measured. Calculate your footprint and focus on areas that can easily be cut. There are many carbon calculators available (www.30x20.org).
2. Make your climate resolution. It may be surprising how easy it is to reduce your carbon footprint 10 percent in a year. Once you have met your 10 percent goal, reducing emission 30 percent by 2020 (international and Santa Cruz City targets) is achievable.
3. Be energy efficient. There are many simple ways to increase the efficiency of any home. More efficient lighting is the cheapest step. Adding insulation to hot-water pipes and cold spots throughout your house is easy and inexpensive.
4. Use renewable energy. Solar panels have come down in price significantly and there is a good possibility that solar can save you money. So make a pledge to call three solar companies to get free estimates.
5. Eat well. Here is just one more reason to work on your diet. Twenty percent of a person's carbon footprint can come from the production of the food they eat. Adopting a "Meatless Monday" menu or some other strategy to reduce meat consumption will benefit the climate, your food budget and your health.
6. Recycle and compost. Santa Cruz has one of the best recycling records in the state but still reports that 20 percent of trash could be recycled and another 24 percent could be composted. The resource and energy savings of recycling are significant and composting helps reduce methane emissions and the need for industry fertilizers.
7. Travel smart. More than 50 percent of local carbon emissions come from our cars and there are many ways to reduce those emissions quickly, cheaply and easily. Plan your trips and park once for multiple needs. Commit to one day on the bus, on a bike or as a pedestrian, and explore how many places you can go without a car. Or simply properly inflate your tires.
8. Commit to making your next vehicle a hybrid or electric. If you commit now, the higher price will seem less significant later. Also, keep an eye out for all the electric charging stations and free electric parking that will be popping up in Santa Cruz this year.
9. Join a team. Hundreds of people in the county have formed "climate teams" where they worked together to address their emissions and have become leaders in addressing climate change. Team kits are available at Santa Cruz's main library branch and more information is available at www.30X20.org.
10. Contact your local officials. 2012 was an important year for climate change planning in Santa Cruz County. The city of Santa Cruz adopted its Climate Action Plan, the county and university released drafts and Capitola and Watsonville have begun their planning. Successful implementation of these plans, however, will require elected officials to make these plans a priority. A quick email voicing your support can go a long way.
It is inevitable that 2013 will bring more news of how our climate is changing. It will be empowering to report back the actions we are taking to minimize these impacts, individually and as a community.
Ross Clark is climate action coordinator for the city of Santa Cruz. He's also director of the Central Coast Wetlands Group and chair of the county Commission on the Environment. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.