Start a Personal or Community Action Plan
Before You Begin: Know Where You Are Starting From
Some people find goal-setting to be very motivational. If that’s you, you may want to begin your personal change journey by taking some measurements so you understand where you are starting from.
An easy way to begin is by looking at tracking the information found on your utility bills (see box).
There are a variety of carbon footprint calculators online, some more thorough than others. Here are a few calculators to get you started. (You’ll need to have your energy bills at hand so you can input accurate numbers.)
Have fun with it!
- EPA Carbon Calculator: Play around with this calculator to get a rough estimate of your carbon footprint using U.S. average values, then change a few parameters and see what your impact could be.
- The Nature Conservancy Carbon Calculator: Once you’ve completed your calculation, take a look at the suggested actions you can take (currently this calculator does not allow for the use of electric cars).
- Global Footprint Network: How does your consumption compare to the rest of the world?
- Carbon Footprint LTD: Considering carbon offsets for travel? This one helps you determine how much carbon you will need to offset for your trip and where you can buy carbon offsets
If you have the funds to do so, you may be interested in having an electrician install an electricity monitor on your main electrical box. This tool will tell you exactly where and when electricity is being used in your home, even if you are away from home. It can communicate with your smartphone.
A less expensive tool to help you understand how much energy is being used by a particular appliance, electronic device or tool is a Kill-a-Watt meter. Plug the meter into the outlet, plug the product into the meter, and it will tell you how much electricity it is using when off and when on. You can check out a power check meter from the Hennepin County and Ramsey County library systems.
What’s Your Community’s Footprint?
If your group is thinking big and you want to create a community-wide impact, here are a few places to look for information about your community’s footprint:
- Your city website: Does your city have a climate change/carbon reduction plan? If it does, it will be tracking CO2.
- GreenStep Cities: Is your city a GreenStep City? Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals.
- Partners in Energy: Some communities have partnered with Xcel Energy to gain a greater understanding of their energy use.
Create an Action Plan
Transition Twin Cities has created a brief guide to help you begin a household Energy Descent Action Plan. It’s easy, non-directive, and provides a place where you can note the steps you want to take next. You can download it free.
If you’d like to see an example of a community Energy Descent Action Plan, you can get a free download of the Totnes/District 2030 Energy Descent Action Plan. (Transition Twin Cities has a hard copy of this 304-page book available for loan.) You can also review the first Energy Descent Action Plan ever created — for the community of Kinsale, Ireland.
Transition US has workbooks you can use with your family or in a group/community setting:
- Transition Streets is a 7-chapter workbook that’s perfect for small groups to do together. Invite your neighbors, faith group friends, or coworkers to work through one chapter a week, or a month. It covers the topics of energy, food, waste, water and transportation.
- Transition US is piloting two additional workbooks: Transition Streets on a Budget focusing on low-cost actions for homeowners and renters, and Transition Streets Water-Saving Edition, for those living in areas with severe drought. Both will be available by the end of 2019.
Track Your Progress
Ongoing measurement helps you see that you’ve made progress, but don’t measure things just because you can. Think about what’s actually helpful for you to track and set up an easy system that works for you. For example, if you want to reduce garbage, you might want to weigh the different kinds of things going into the garbage so you can see where the biggest problems are for your family. Then you can make a plan to work on reducing that particular waste product.
In a home setting, you might decide to track how much gas you bought, how many fossil-fueled miles you traveled, your water usage, how much food you threw away, how much garbage your household produced, etc.
Remember to celebrate progress! And share your good news. Other people are trying to make progress, too, and they can learn from you.
Welcome to the journey. You are in good company.
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