The conversation around climate change often feels dire and urgent. But experts say there’s still time to make a difference.
“I think it's really easy to get bogged down in the doom and gloom of climate change,” says Karen Clawson, principal planner with the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), which is coming up with a regional climate action plan.
“It will take an army to do this … Everybody has a place,” she says.
Everybody includes you: Here’s to reduce your carbon footprint in the Kansas City area.
Step 1: Drive less.
Depending on where you live and work, biking or riding the bus are cheap and efficient alternatives to driving. If you must drive, consider starting a carpool. Visit ridesharekc.org to find carpool partners and alternative transportation modes in the Kansas City metro area.
Also, try eco-driving. That is to say, everything you do in your car uses energy and gas, so use your radio, air conditioning and heater less.
This may sound obvious, but park when you see an open spot. Clawson says people waste a lot of gas — not to mention time — searching for close parking.
Step 2: Make your home more energy-efficient.
You don’t have to install solar panels to make your household more energy-efficient.
Evergy, the recently renamed utility for the Kansas City metro area and parts of Kansas, offers an energy savings kit to its customers. You can log on to your account and sign up for what Clawson says is essentially an energy audit: a professional will come to your home and give you tips specific to your household.
Look up other incentives, for both individual households and businesses, at DSIREusa.org.
Also, Clawson recommends a few websites with "carbon calculators" that measure your individual carbon footprint and provide tips to reduce that impact and increase your savings: CoolCalifornia.org and Nature.org.
Step 3: Eat local.
A lot of the food in grocery stores across the metro comes to us from all around the world. Clawson recommends taking the extra steps to find local products if you can afford it. The cheapest options can often be found at farmer's markets or community gardens.
“One of the great things about living in Kansas City is that we're surrounded by a lot of great farmers and farm land and people who are excited about urban agriculture” she says. “So you can get food grown locally really easily here.”
Consider joining a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture partnership, with a local farmer.
Another option? Start your own garden. Clawson says it’s not as hard as you think, and Kansas City Community Gardens provides resources and tools to get you started.
Step 4: While you’re at it … eat less meat.
Don’t panic. You don’t have to go full on vegan to make a difference. Just try cutting back.
Scientists say beef is especially inefficient. Clawson recommends going one day a week without meat, or treating it as a side dish.
Step 5: Reduce, reuse and recycle. Really.
Clawson says the “three Rs” are as useful to us now as they were in the 1990s.
One of the biggest issues with recycling, she says, is that most people are doing it wrong. This local resource tells you everything you need to know about recycling in Kansas City.
But the best way to have an impact now is to turn your focus to reducing your consumption. Avoid single-use items, like Ziploc bags or disposable coffee cups.
Clawson says there are several easy and affordable things we can do to reduce consumption at home, too. Try swapping out your washer and dryer, refrigerator and dishwasher for Energy Star appliances. Not only will those reduce your household emissions, but you’ll save money on bills and qualify for tax credits.
And to reduce water consumption, Clawson recommends buying faucet aerators, low-flow shower heads and dual-flush toilets.
As an alternative to investing in a new toilet, she says you can buy a toilet tank bank — it’s basically a weighted bag that you place in the tank to trick your toilet into using less water with each flush.
Throughout the month of November, KCUR is taking a hard look at how climate change is affecting (or will affect) the Kansas City metro region.