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Our favorite underrated climate solutions » Yale Climate Connections

In this Editor’s Corner discussion, the Yale Climate Connections team talked about climate action and which solutions we’ve tried in our personal lives. Have you ever been inspired to take climate action because of a Yale Climate Connections story? Tell us about it via this link.

This roundtable has been edited and condensed.

Sam: I was chatting to a friend last week who was feeling very overwhelmed about the climate and like, “I’m not doing enough.” And I was like, well, you know, rest is an important climate solution because it’s mitigation and adaptation: If we rest, we’re all producing less and consuming less. And I was wondering if you also have a favorite underrated or nontraditional climate action that you like to think about.

Sara: Oh, I’ve never thought about sleeping this way before.

Pearl: I know. That’s really helpful. 

Sam: Yeah, yeah. So I think about rest, and I think about gossiping with my neighbors as climate adaptation because I’m building relationships. Things like that. Obviously, the big solutions are so important. But also the ways that we can feel more calm in our bodies and in our relationships feels really important and underrated to me.

Pearl: I think talking to other people always seems like such an underrated measure, and talking just in a very casual, community-building way without judgment. And making these actions normal. We have The ReFill here in Newport, Rhode Island. It’s a store where you can take your glass bottles and get your detergents and all of that stuff. And I was like, “if you talk to people about doing that, then more people will do it.” So yeah, I think it’s just so underrated, talking to people in a chatty way, gossipy way. [everyone chuckles]

Sara: You could also frame it as bragging a little bit. If you do something for the climate that you’re proud of, the best thing that you can do is tell other people that you did it. [everyone laughs] I think the phrase “heat pump” is just awful. It’s a horrible name. And people, I think, find heat pumps really boring, but I make a point of — when people come over to my house — saying, look, here’s my heat pump and making them look at it and talk to me about it. I did hear that the organization Rewiring America has some heat pump costumes. I want someone in my community to be wearing one. 

Pearl: I would dress up as a heat pump for Halloween.

Sam: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yale Climate Connections costume contest! Next year. Readers, mark it now. Start preparing your costume.

Sara: Oh, my God. That’s such a good idea.

Sam: I also think about that radio story we did about a woman who got solar panels on her house and then started hosting these parties where she just talked to her neighbors about them. And then suddenly her neighbors also got solar panels. I remember growing up, my mom was always going to Tupperware parties or Pampered Chef parties. I was like, we need these. We need this sort of strange MLMs but for clean energy. [laughter]

Sara: Without the pyramid scheme part.

Sam: Right? Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.

Sam: When we cover solutions in our stories, have you ever been inspired to try one? 

Pearl: Oh yeah, all the time. Especially with the radio stories, I’ll pretty much Google every single organization. I bought cricket dog food for my dogs. Sara, what have you done?

Sara: The biggest time commitment that I’ve taken on from editing a radio script was inspired by the script we did about Doug Tallamy saying it’s really important to gradually get rid of the grass in your yard and replace it with natives because there are so many benefits to biodiversity. And, you know, lawns are just pointless. 

Pearl: Yeah, they are. 

Sam: Agree.

A photo of wildflowers.
Coreopsis, butterfly milkweed, and little bluestem have replaced invasive Bermuda grass in Sara’s lawn. 

Sara: So when I became a millennial who actually has a house, I didn’t really want to have a house with a yard, but the one that I got had a huge yard. And so now I’ve spent four years, every spring and fall, putting in native plants and killing more grass. That’s been a huge time investment, but also really rewarding because now in the fall, I see monarchs coming to my yard with the migration and they lay eggs in my yard. It’s just amazing.

Sam: So cool. I did start restoring a bit of my parents’ out-lot to native prairie in 2017. It does feel like such an investment in the future. I’m doing this work now in the fall, and I know it will bring something good in the spring. Gardening: underrated climate solution. 

Pearl: I think a lot of people — especially the people privileged enough to have access to green space during the pandemic — returned to the earth in a way. In 2021, I did this Carbonauts course and I started composting, and we have probably an actual ton of soil now. 

Sara: Whoa. 

Pearl: It’s just amazing. We don’t have garbage collection around here. We have to take it to the dump, so you can really, actively measure how much waste you have because you literally have to pick it up. And I mean we must have reduced what we were taking to the dump by two-thirds. And then a friend of mine gave me worms to put into the compost and they’re amazing.

I think just leading by example is the best way to make change happen. 

Sam: When I moved in August, I moved really close to a farmer’s market where the county has a food scraps collection program. Unfortunately, it is only in the summer, and since then I have noticed I fill up my trash faster because I am not taking all of my produce scraps to the farmer’s market every week. But it was really fun. I like taking my little basket down the street.

Pearl: You feel really, really good. I think I’ve become a bit of an Inflation Reduction Act [IRA] nerd. We bought a door that’s more energy-saving this year to get the tax break on that. Our fireplace just died, so we’re getting an energy-efficient stove, and that will also have a tax credit. So we’re slowly adapting.

A photo of a car with a bow on it.
Sam’s “new” 2021 Chevy Bolt.

Sam: Yeah. My big IRA purchase was an electric car this summer. I had a 2009 Prius for a long time. And I was hoping it would last for a while, and then I got into a very minor car accident and the value of the car was so low, according to the insurance people, that they were like, it’s totaled. And I was like, “I’m not ready for an electric car yet. I don’t have a place to charge it overnight.” But then as I was looking more and more, it became clear it was just the cheapest option. And so I was like, I just need to figure out how to make it work. And I’m really lucky to live close to a big public charging lot with fast DC chargers. And the utility says that all of the electricity comes from wind for the public charging lot. So I feel like I’m always driving on the wind. 

Sara: Aww. 

Sam: But I don’t necessarily trust the utility. It’s always good to be skeptical. 

Pearl: We’re also connected to community solar, which is 10% cheaper than non-renewable energy. 

Sara: It’s better than nothing. 

Pearl: Yeah, yeah. And actually, I mean, not to toot my own horn. But …

Sara: We just talked about bragging.

Sam: Brag! Brag! Brag!

Pearl: … you get the bill and it tells you how energy efficient your house is, and we’re more energy efficient than the most efficient houses even without having all the efficiency doodads. We just freeze in here. [laughs]

Sam: I did a story about ways to stay warm in the winter because it was when gas was really expensive. People were expecting really high energy bills. And so now every time I’m going to turn up my thermostat, I’m like, maybe I’m going to put on another layer of clothes first.

Sara: At my house, we did a solar panel consultation. And as part of that process, we had to send our electricity bill for the past year to the solar company so that they could evaluate how big of a system that we would need. And I felt extremely self-righteous because the sales guy was really shocked at how little electricity we were using. The good part of it is that means we can get a smaller system and that’s going to be less expensive. 

Pearl: Yeah, that’s really cool.

Sam: I don’t know if you want to get into it, but speaking of energy efficiency, I am curious about your attic tent

Sara: Okay, so my IRA nerd thing for the year was I got an energy audit at my house, so I’ll get 30% off of the 50 bucks that it cost. 

The result of the audit was that our biggest problem was a trap door that goes up to the attic. All of the heat rises in the house and just goes right out of the cracks around that attic door, like a chimney, which means we were wasting money and energy in the winter. The solution was very easy. I paid 50 bucks for a little tent with zippers on it that can just fit right over the trap door. 

You need a staple gun to install this thing, and I don’t have a staple gun. So I texted my dad and said, “Hey, would you like to celebrate Teach Your Daughter to Use a Staple Gun Day?” [laughter from Sam and Pearl] He showed me how to use it, and it really was not very hard. And now we’ll just save money forever. Because we won’t be venting out all of that heat.

A gif showing a woman unzipping and popping up out of an attic tent.
Sara shows off her attic door tent.

Sam: It’s so cool, just the simple solutions that you don’t think about. I would be like, “Oh no, we have this huge problem, do we need a bunch of insulation in the attic?” But no, you just need a little tent.

A black lab dog with the ocean in the background.
Pearl’s snuggly dog Buoy.

Sara: It was great to have the energy auditor come in and just say, this is the No. 1 thing that you can do, and it’s cheap. 

Pearl: That’s really cool that the energy audit was practically free. 

Sara: Check with your utility!

Pearl: Yeah, I will.

Sam: Well, those are all of the questions that I had on my list. Is there anything else that you think it’s useful for readers to know about you? 

Sara: Pearl has a really cute dog.

Sam: Yes, there is currently a dog being cuddled.

Pearl: He just can’t get enough.

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