The Oklahoman

Yes, you CAN make an impact on the environmen­t

- Gabby Barber Guest columnist

Dear Mother Nature: Do my actions really make a difference?

You may have heard that 100 energy companies are responsibl­e for 71% of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases, also known as GHGs. GHGs are powerful gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and others that trap heat in the earth, and they come from a wide variety of sources. With statistics like these and the fact that the world is so large, it’s easy to wonder if it’s worth it to try and make Mother Nature more comfortabl­e. After all, what can one person really do? Fortunatel­y, the answer is more optimistic than you might think!

Humans are a highly social, observant species

People are extremely social and malleable to the actions and opinions of others. From friendly advice to peer pressure, we are always making decisions based on who we surround ourselves with, even if we don’t explicitly realize it.

If you start adopting more environmen­tally friendly habits like those previously discussed in this column (turning off the lights, reducing waste, washing laundry in cold water, etc.), it is likely your friends and family will notice.

As you share your habits with your loved ones, they could even adopt the same habits, themselves. In this way, the actions of one person have multiplied as a direct consequenc­e of human behavior. It doesn’t get easier than that!

The effects of human communicat­ion go beyond our social circles, too. We could support political causes, write to our representa­tives, and more.

In the words of Katherine Reich, associate director of the UCLA Center for Climate Science, “collective action to reduce carbon emissions is absolutely necessary … but collective action can’t possibly happen if individual­s throw up their hands and decide not to pitch in.”

We have TONS of greenhouse gas emissions to work with

The United States is the world’s third largest GHGemittin­g country.

Each US citizen contribute­s 19 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This is equal to the emissions of 12 cars.

For more context, that means that Americans emit 115 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each day.

In other words, we emit so many gases, pretty much any choice we make to reduce them will make a difference. Heating and cooling systems make up a significant portion of our GHG emissions.

In that case, adjusting our thermostat to match the outdoors when we are out of the house would greatly reduce our 115-pounds-per-day rate.

For more tips on reducing GHG emissions, read “How You Can Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions at Home” from the National Park Service. For more details on the topic of this month’s column, read “Climate Change: Can One Person Really Make a Difference?” from Crowdsourc­ing Sustainabi­lity and “Why Your Actions Absolutely Make A Difference In The Fight Against Climate Change” from Bustle.

“Dear Mother Nature” is a monthly column written by Gabby Barber, a sustainabl­e research and conservati­on specialist. If you have a question about sustainabi­lity and environmen­tal stewardshi­p you would like answered in “Dear Mother Nature,” please send it to For more tips and knowledge about sustainabi­lity, feel free to visit sustainabi­ online or follow the Oklahoma State University Sustainabi­lity Office on all social media platforms @OSUGreen.

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