The climate crisis is a major issue requiring immediate and far-reaching action. This action cannot be limited to individual action, and requires major political changes, e.g., to give more people the means to act. However, I believe that individual action, while not a complete solution, is a necessity despite its small marginal impact: it is psychologically more satisfying than inaction, it helps proving to oneself and others that you are taking the problem seriously, and it can inspire others to act.
Of course, the climate crisis isn't the only environmental problem requiring widespread action. There are other environmental issues, e.g., biodiversity. I mostly focus on the climate crisis, for several reasons: it is a worldwide problem (so cannot be fixed by local solutions), with specific consequences (that have been estimated in detail), a very definite timeframe, and clear trajectories for action. Further, there are other important causes, e.g., fighting poverty and inequalities; I also take action for these, but do not cover this on this page.
I document on this page my individual actions against the climate crisis. My main reason to list them publicly is to encourage others to act, e.g., so that other people who would like to take action do not feel isolated. I hope it also helps giving a sense of urgency to the issue.
I list here the current actions that I am taking to address the climate crisis. I distinguish:
This list describes what I currently do: I may end up changing it, or maybe giving up on some of these.
These are changes with a clear description, as opposed to more gradual change (e.g., "buying less clothes"). I believe that firm changes are important for several reasons:
I try to prioritize these commitments by their numerical impact, i.e., what actually matters in terms of my emissions. My point is not to say that smaller steps (e.g., turning off the lights) do not have value. However, I think it is important to distinguish large changes vs marginal changes in numerical terms, and focus on the large ones in possible (i.e., do not be penny-wise but pound-foolish with respect to emissions).
I refuse to use plane travel for short trips (less than 2 weeks). In particular, I do not fly to academic conferences or short research visits.
In fact, since 2020, I have not flown at all -- but I anticipate to fly in 2023 for a 4-month stay abroad.
This commitment will allow me to meet the TCS4F goal of reducing my professional emissions by 50% relative to pre-2020 levels.
Instead of plane travel, I travel by other means of transportation, e.g., by train; or give up on travel altogether.
Compared to my pre-2019 travel habits (in particular professional travel), this probably saves several tons of CO2-equivalent emissions per year, see this post.
Since 2021, I refuse to eat meat1. I also usually refuse to eat fish, although I have made some exceptions in 2021.
This saves hundreds of kilos of CO2-equivalent emissions per year (source).
I do not own a car, or drive cars. (This is a non-issue as I currently live in a large European city with a good public transport offer.)
Compared to a baseline, e.g., of driving to work daily, this saves hundreds of kilos of CO2-equivalent emissions per year, not counting the emissions of producing the car.
Here are soft ways in which I am trying to reduce my environmental impact:
I list here things that I am concretely doing to help fight the climate crisis by moving things in the right direction:
Here are some pledges run by other people that I have signed to express support:
Some other academic researchers also visibly display their commitments and were an inspiration for this page:
I have eaten meat accidentally on some occasions, i.e., food prepared by other people which later turned out to contain meat. I also neglect hidden ingredients, e.g., rennet in some cheeses, isinglass in some drinks, gelatin in some desserts, fries that may be fried in animal fat; and other traces, e.g., food cooked together with meat, etc. ↩
A word of warning: the notion of individual carbon footprint is not politically neutral, and can legitimately be described as a way to ascribe the responsibility of carbon emissions to individuals, as opposed to collectives, e.g., large companies, states, etc. It is not obvious that emissions should be ascribed to consumers: they could also be allocated to the people owning the stock of companies that produce the goods, or to the companies that are extracting the fossil fuels that are burned. I believe that these means of action are complementary, and limiting your individual footprint is a good step (and at least one that you can actually take); but again this should not mean that this is the right solution. ↩
Vinted is not an especially virtuous company, and it is for-profit; but I am not aware of a well-known alternative. I would be happy to switch to one if I found one. ↩
It is debatable whether organic food is in itself a step in the right direction for the climate crisis or for the environment in general: see for instance this Youtube video. What is more important for me is fair trade certification (although not directly related to the climate crisis), and/or buying from small and in possible cooperative brands or shops. Regarding organic food, my impression is that it is helpful to encourage food producers who are trying to adapt their practices to be friendlier to the environment instead of maximizing profit, even though I do not agree so much with the specific adjustments that they are making. ↩
To me the main appeal of Enercoop is that it is a cooperative, and trying to fund and encourage renewable electricity producers. The market for "green electricity" is dubious in many ways (see this video by "Le Réveilleur" (in French)) but financing a cooperative who is trying to directly fund renewable producers seems like a good idea. ↩