Updated: Nov 2
*Andrew Duncan is a sustainable living coach, blogger and host of the Good You Can Do podcast.
So many choices. So many ways to help. But which option is best?
Do you often experience paralysis by analysis? It’s when you try to make a decision, but get presented with so many options that you literally go round and round in circles, unable to make a final call, stuck in the comparison space.
Indecision usually leads to procrastination and a distinct lack of progress. This phenomenon can occur during tasks as small as buying a pair of jeans, right up to making large investments like buying a car, buying a house, or as we’ll discuss in this post - choosing how to ‘do your part’ to help the climate crisis.
And what a big crisis it is! In no other aspect of life are we confronted with so many paralysing symptoms: wildfires we can’t do anything about, fierce hurricanes that scourge the earth, heatwaves that kill countless innocent people. And when it all gets too much, straight out war.
Meanwhile, the solutions most often presented to us seem shockingly inconsequential in the face of such worldwide carnage.
Does it really matter if I buy a bamboo toothbrush? Or order the vegetarian lasagna instead of a steak? Does it make any difference if I buy an electric car? Or get solar panels?
Presented with uninspiring (and expensive) choices, it’s easy to fall into a state of paralysis, where personal climate crisis solutions fall into the ‘maybe-one-day’ wish bucket.
Fear not! There is light at the end of the tunnel...
Let us present two arguments that can help you move from a paralysis mindset to a place of action. Where your internal morals align with your daily choices and activities. A place where you can feel proud of your contribution, without having to spend thousands of dollars in the process.
Argument 1: It’s ridiculously cheap to help if you know where to donate.
What if I told you that you could offset your entire carbon emissions for 1 year for the price of 2 cups of coffee?
The average kiwi generates 7 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. Meanwhile, the most effective climate change charities can offset 1 ton of CO2 for as little as $1 USD.
Can you spare a few dollars to essentially wipe out your carbon footprint and do your part for the climate crisis?
The Carbon Critical Net-Zero fund was created to allow New Zealanders to donate to the world’s most effective charities fighting climate change. 100% of your donation gets passed on to charity and it’s tax-deductible, too!
To make a donation now, visit: https://www.carboncritical.org/net-zero-fund
Better yet, start a regular savings habit, putting aside a few dollars a month into your own ‘climate fund’ and donate this at regular intervals.
Example: $10 per month, over a year, would be enough to offset the carbon footprint of 12 people.
Look at you, taking care of the planet for less than a coffee a week!
That’s the first step - make a simple donation that immediately helps reduce the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere.
If you are feeling a little more affluent, a donation of $1,000 would offset the emission of 100 people for a year. That’s an entire extended family.
Now let’s go back to those individual choices, like the bamboo toothbrush.
Argument 2: Change inspires change.
Here’s the paradox, we know that individual change doesn’t make much of a difference, but change as a society would have an impact.
If we all rode the bus to work or ate a bit less meat, or rode e-bikes around town instead of petrol-guzzling cars, our emissions would reduce drastically.
While that might seem a million miles away right now, remember that societal change is simply the collective sum of a whole lot of individual change.
For that major change to occur, individuals must start the process. Some of us have to lead by example to inspire others.
So when you hand over your ‘keep cup’ next time you order a coffee, don’t just think about the one plastic lid you helped save. Remember that by making that purchase you send a message to every other person in that shop that you value this planet. That you care about doing the right thing. You show that local business they should support eco-friendly solutions.
Next time you order a vegetarian meal while eating out with friends, you show others that it’s cool to care about the environment. That you won’t wither away from a lack of protein. You show restaurants it’s important to provide climate-friendly options.
These actions spark conversations that are like little seeds, planted in the brains of others. Seeds that, given time and encouragement, will create change.
While these actions are less effective right now than donating to the net-zero fund, they are critical to the long term success of the fight against climate change.
In the long term, we need to drastically change the way we live on this planet. We need to remove fossil fuels from our economy. We need to stop sending so much waste to landfills and find more efficient ways to grow food.
We need both types of solutions - immediate emergency responses (the net-zero fund) combined with long-term lifestyle change (bamboo toothbrushes et al.). And we need both to happen as quickly as possible before it’s too late.
Consider a two-pronged approach to environmental action.
Step 1 - Take care of the ‘am I doing any good?’ voice in your brain by making a tax-deductible donation to ridiculously effective charities using the net-zero fund. Every dollar helps.
Step 2 - Optimise your personal lifestyle to be as climate-friendly as possible, and inspire others to change along the way. Once you start this journey, you’ll find yourself moving gradually along the green spectrum, which starts with taking reusable shopping bags to the supermarket, and slowly moves towards somewhere in a deep ecology world where we all have composting toilets (just joking!).
For ideas, read this guide on 10 ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint and pick a few options to work on.
Short term mitigation + long term adaption = a powerful combination.
Invest in the most effective climate solutions available and be the change you want to see in the world.
PS. Action is so much more fun than despair, so come and join us in the solution space. Together, we can make a difference.
PPS. For more ways to optimise your personal lifestyle, check out the Good You Can Do podcast, which features an interview with Carbon Critical founder Jamie Heather.