03 MargaretMy sense is that most of us realize something is really wrong with our climate these days — more heat, more violent storms, too much water in some places and not enough in others, and the list goes on and on. Even those unwilling acknowledge climate change, and outright deniers of it, acknowledge the importance of preserving our climate as best we can. In other words, most of us want and try our best to do the right things to protect our Mother Earth.

But what are the right things? Are some actions “righter” and “wronger” than others? And if so, what are they?

Project Drawdown is a 5-year-old organization according to its website “that reviews … and identifies the most viable global climate solutions and shares these findings with the world.” It was founded by noted environmentalist Paul Hawken, and it recently released a quiz about what we as individuals and as public and private sectors can do to reduce our negative impact on the earth. The survey ranks actions by individuals, companies and policymakers, but we will concentrate on individuals because that is where each of us can play our own part. I found the questionnaire both interesting and challenging.

Regarding our food, which of these four actions can have the biggest effect on reducing climate change? Rank most to least, realizing that individuals can affect each of these.

1.  Cook over clean stoves

2.  Throw away less food

3.  Eat a plant-heavy diet

4.  Compost your waste

Regarding moving people and goods, rank most to least, realizing that individuals may not affect all of these.

1.  Invest in high-speed trains

2  Fly less … and on fuel-saving planes

3.  Drive an electric car

4  Ship goods more efficiently

Regarding our homes and cities, rank most to least, realizing that individuals may not affect all of these.

1.  Switch to LED lights

2.  Design more workable cities

3  Install green roofs

4.  Use smart thermostats

Regarding materials and waste management, rank most to least ... you know the rest.

1. Increase household recycling

2  Build with “greener” cement compounds

3. Clean up chemicals in our refrigerators and air conditioners

4.  Use water more efficiently

Regarding the empowerment of women, rank most to least important.

1.  Educate girls

2.  Close the gender gap in small-scale farming

3.  Increase access to family planning

And, finally rank Project Drawdown’s top five solutions for reducing climate change.

1.  Manage refrigeration chemicals

2.  Restore our tropical forests

3  Eat more plants and less meat

4.  Install onshore wind turbines

5.  Cut down on food waste

Note your answers to each question most effective to least effective to compare them with the correct rankings listed by Project Drawdown. 

Project Drawdown’s questionnaire includes a couple of questions not listed here, because individual actions have little impact on the solutions, which require actions by governments and large companies. Individuals can — indeed must — pressure governments and private industry to do the right things, just as we try to do in our own households. 

Read on to see what actions make the biggest impacts in curbing climate change, noting especially those that we can take as individuals. I was surprised by some of them and suspect you may be as well. It is clear we all have roles to play in rescuing our planet.

Answers to Project Drawdown questionnaire

 All answers are correct to some degree and are listed from most effective in curbing climate change to less effective in curbing climate change.

Regarding our food.  Individuals have effects in each of these areas.

1.  Throw away less food 

2.  Eat a plant heavy diet

3.  Cook over clean stoves

4.  Compost your waste

Regarding moving people and goods.

1.  Drive an electric car.  Individuals impact this.

2.  Ship goods more efficiently

3.  Fly less ... and on fuel-saving planes.  Individuals impact this.

4.  Invest in high-speed trains

Regarding our homes and cities.

1.  Switch to LED lights.  Individuals impact this.

2.  Design more walkable cities

3.  Use smart thermostats.  Individuals impact this.

4.  Install green roofs

Regarding materials and waste management.

1.  Clean up chemicals in our refrigerators and air conditioners.  Individuals impact this.

2.  Build with “greener” cement compounds.

3.  Use water more efficiently.  Individuals impact this.

4.  Increase household recycling.  Individuals impact this.

Regarding empowerment of women.

1.  Educate girls.  Individuals impact this.

2.  Increase access to family planning.

3.  Close the gender gap in small-scale farming

Project Drawdown’s top 5 solutions for reducing climate change.

1.  Manage refrigeration chemicals.  Individuals impact this.

2.  Install onshore wind turbine

3.  Cut down on food waste.  Individuals impact this.

4.  Eat more plants and less meat.  Individuals impact this.

5.  Restore our tropical forests

Project Drawdown is a 5-year-old organization according to its website “that reviews … and identifies the most viable global climate solutions and shares these findings with the world.” 

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