Dickinson Educates for Positive Change

Green Devil commits to reusable bottles

Dickinson's Green Devil commits to using reusable water bottles

Preventing dangerous climate change requires transformational changes in the way the world produces and consumes energy, as well as the way land is managed to produce food, fiber and other resources. Success takes political will, altered incentives, and national and international collaboration for far reaching social, economic and technological changes. That's a tall order that can leave many feeling powerless. Where does one begin?

Individual choices and action can build personal knowledge and skills for creating a climate for change and leading change. Leveraging these skills by working with others can help make change happen at larger scales.

CSE's Top 10 List of Ideas for Change

  1. Make yourself climate literate. Take courses, read scientific papers and reports, read online and print media coverage, talk to experts, and become skilled at evaluating the credibility of the different sources of information you encounter.
  2. Get involved in your community. Learn what groups are doing about climate change and ask how you can help. Find out the positions of your elected representatives - and tell them yours. Talk about the need for climate action in your student organizations, classes, work place, place of worship, ultimate Frisbee team, and city hall. Work with others and start a movement. 
  3. Calculate your carbon footprint. Learn the footprints of the college and your community. Use this information to identify activities that are large sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Reflect on how you can target these activities to reduce your personal footprint and the footprints of Dickinson and Carlisle.
  4. Consume less stuff. Increased consumption per person has added more to the world's greenhouse gas emissions than any other cause, much more than population growth. So, buy less, use things lightly, reuse them, repair them to make them last longer, and recycle them when they are used up. Controlling our appetites for consumption can put a brake on climate change.
  5. Leave the car at home. Walk, ride a bike or take the bus. Share rides and combine trips when you must use a car. 
  6. Eat less meat. Substitute sustainably raised, free-range meat for some of the conventional meat that you do eat. Meat production, particularly from conventionally raised livestock, is more energy and carbon intensive than production of other types of food. A low meat or vegetarian diet will reduce your carbon footprint. It can also be healthier for you.
  7. Seal air leaks, weatherize, and insulate. OK, you don't own a home. But if your residence hall is drafty, place a work order with Facilities Management and ask them to correct the problem.
  8. Ditch your mini-fridge. Use the fridge in a common room if you need to keep stuff cold. Your mini-fridge probably uses more electricity than all the other electric equipment in your dorm room combined. If you do hang on to the mini-fridge, share it with others and keep it full. A full fridge uses less energy than an empty fridge. Ask Professor Pfister why.
  9. Weigh your carbon footprint when making big decisions. Can you live within walking or biking distance of where you go to school or work? Can you live near public transportation? How big of a house do you really need? Do you really want an acre of lawn? What about a hybrid or electric if you must buy a car? Can you heat your home with geothermal or passive solar? When a furnace or hot water heater need replacement, why would you ever buy one that is not Energy Star certified? 
  10. Do the myriad little things. Recycle, compost, use cold water for laundry, wash only full loads, use a drying rack, turn off lights, turn off the tap, eliminate phantom energy draw, and buy green products. The climate benefits of these and similar actions may be small individually. But together, if done by many people, they can make a meaningful impact. And they build daily habits of the head, heart and hands that pay big dividends as they become part of your everyday living.