By Laura Zilverberg
Volunteer with MN350’s Communications Team

Nearly every article written about helping the environment focuses purely on personal lifestyle changes as the key to preventing climate change. But even with the entire world in some form of lockdown or slowdown earlier this year, emissions were only projected to drop by 5-10%. Yup, you read that right: People weren’t flying, commuting, or leaving their homes, but we’ll still produce nearly 100% of the carbon emissions we emitted last year.

What’s more, emissions increased again as we’ve begun to reopen with a desire to get back to normal. Meanwhile, the UN recommends that emissions must drop by 7.6% each year, starting in 2020, to prevent the most dire impacts of climate change.

The coronavirus crisis has clearly illuminated the massive mobilization and systemic change required to combat climate change. At MN350, we envision a system that not only addresses environmental degradation, but also economic and social justice. We believe that all of us, no matter where we come from or the color of our skin, deserve to thrive.

If you want to help the planet and all the people who call it home, start with the personal change, but let it lead you toward collective action. We’ve compiled a list of 8 lifestyle changes and the collective action that will help change the entire system for the better.

  1. Vote and make it easier for others to vote. Submit a letter to the editor about voting rights. See if your candidates have signed the No Fossil Fuel money pledge. And help mobilize Minnesota voters.
  2. Use less energy, turn off your lights, change your lightbulbs, and urge our government to adopt a plan for 100% renewable energy in Minnesota. Last year the Minnesota House voted to pass the legislation, but the bill was ultimately blocked in the Senate. Our Policy Action Team continues to work to support legislation that puts us on the path to 100% renewable energy. You can sign up for the Climate Majority Project to stay informed on the issues and take biweekly action for the climate.
  3. Use public transit and support MN350’s Clean Transportation initiatives. Join an upcoming Transportation Team meeting to ensure that every Minnesotan can get where they need to go, safely and affordably, without relying on fossil fuels. In the coming months, we’ll be calling on supporters to submit a comment in support of the Clean Cars Standard.
  4. Eat less (or no) meat and animal products and support farmers moving toward regenerative agriculture. Learn about our vision and add your support for the Headwaters Bill, a framework for the inclusive food economy we need. At the national level, Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren are sponsoring a bill to eliminate factory farming by 2040.
  5. Eliminate single-use disposables, but also learn about the issues associated with plastic and tell your legislators to support the Break Free From Plastic Act.
  6. Ride your bike or walk to a nearby destination and help Stop Line 3. Sign our pledge of resistance or order a lawn sign.
  7. Buy eco-friendly products and sign up to Stop the Money Pipeline and refuse to do business with banks that invest in fossil fuel infrastructure.
  8. Buy local and call out the MN Chamber of Commerce for its opposition to climate policy and clean energy goals.

The world’s biggest polluters want us to think this problem is our fault to distract from the damage they’ve caused. Lifestyle choices alone won’t get us there. At MN350, we’re building a movement—and working together, we can hold polluters accountable and make a difference.

Laura Zilverberg is a public relations professional, volunteer with MN350, and mother of two. She used to be an avid runner and plans to be again once her kids sleep through the night. She enjoys reading and channeling her dread about climate change into baked goods, gardening, and blog posts.