By: James McCarville

Editor’s note: The NewPeople recognizes the value of these efforts, while also recognizing that readers may not have the level of affluence needed to carry many of them out. Given that reality, we believe those who can are even more obligated to make the efforts described below. Part II will cover what people can do working through organizations to reduce our collective ecological footprint. 

If 2020 is the year America (supposedly) woke to the climate crisis, what can people do about it as a practical matter – while we await the results of the next election. 

Using as a starting point, Pope Francis’ letter ‘Laudato Si’, the Diocese of Atlanta prepared a practical guide for what people can do to make a change. With continued suggestions from friends, I have expanded the initial list for this publication. Part I is the list of what you can do as an individual right away. Next month, Part II will include the strategies on how to effectively talk to other people on the subject, how to build teams within your existing faith communities or social networks, and finally how to reach out in support of existing organizations in the work they do. 

Below are about half of the practical and specific ways you can reduce your ecological footprint, organized in nine groups. 

1. Understand your impact on the environment. Do an energy audit (free for income qualified people). Find your insulation level. Educate yourself on grants and programs available. Learn what your municipality recycles and what it does not. 

2. Make home energy conservation second nature. Turn off unneeded lights. Swap out old light bulbs with new LED ones. Install ceiling fans, motion detectors on lights and programmable thermostats. Dress warm in winter and drop your thermostat a couple of degrees. Dress light in summer and raise your thermostat a couple of degrees. Check and seal window and door cracks and upgrade insulation if necessary. 

3. In the longer run, replace older appliances with Energy Star efficient ones. Replace single pane windows with double or triple panes. Plant a tree or trees to shade the house in summer and soak up CO2 year-round. Consider solar panels for the roof. 

4. Keep all household members informed of the progress/problems and key decisions so they all understand their part in the bigger picture. 

5. Buy natural, recycled or recyclable products, paper, plates, cups and utensils. Carry your own coffee mug with you. Refuse straws and plastic bags. Recycle bulbs, batteries and ink cartridges. Print on both sides of paper. Donate usable equipment to non-profits. Take old computers to recycle centers. Start a personal or community compost pile for banana peels, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, apple cores, paper towels and waste foods. 

6. Buy second-hand clothes. Donate your own clothes or toys. Repair what you can, even if it is more expensive. 

7. Curtail your transportation. Carpool. For a business or organization of any kind, start a carpool database and carpool ministry. Install electronic vehicle charging stations and reserve priority parking. Offset jet transportation with public transportation and hybrid car rentals. Except in the coldest weather, don’t warm up your car until you have put on your seat belt and turned on the radio, etc. 

8. Save water. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Check and fix toilet leaks. Take showers instead of baths. Retrofit with dual flush toilets and low flow shower heads. Take shorter showers. Use lukewarm water (at least in the summer). Use dishwasher and washing machines only when full or with water saver devices. Minimize outdoor water use with water-wise landscaping. 

9. When shopping, use recyclable, cloth shopping bags. Refuse plastic. When possible – buy local, natural or organic food. Choose items with less packaging. Buy in bulk and freeze small portions to reduce plastic wrapping. Don’t overbuy. Store properly. Eat leftovers before spoiling. Turn aging fruits and vegetables into smoothies. Compost. Eat lower on the food chain – more fruits and vegetables, less meat. Fast during Lent, do Meatless Mondays or Fridays or both. Donate to a food pantry. Avoid bottled water or soft drinks. Join a food co-op or community food network, especially an organic one. Grow your own food garden. Donate unused foods. 

These strategies are all part of a course offered from 10:00 am to 11:30 am, at Kearns Spirituality Center beginning Wednesday, February 5, 2020, and running for the four Wednesdays in February. To register call 312-66-1124 or email 

Jim McCarville teaches a mini-course on “Laudato Si’” at the Kearns Spirituality Center on Wednesdays in Feb. He is the Vice President (Lay Member) of the Association of Pittsburgh Priests. 

NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 50 No. 1. February, 2020. All rights reserved.

Categories: News

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