2022 was a big year for climate action.
On a global level, COP27 continued international discussions surrounding lowering carbon emissions and protecting natural resources. In the United States, the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act provided landmark investments into fighting climate change and bolstering a clean energy economy. Here at KLA, we were lucky to work with dozens of local governments and partners across the country to develop ambitious climate action plans rooted in equitable engagement and to activate sustainability storytelling through our community dashboards.
2023 brings new opportunities to fight climate change at every level, including opportunities for individual action. As we look forward to another year of working with communities on their action plans, our team has been discussing our own green resolutions for the new year — after all, this isn’t just our work, it’s our passion. Our team lives and breathes sustainability on and off the clock. We’re excited to share our plans to continue learning and growing our personal sustainability plans for 2023:
MIKE – Get electric-ready
A couple of years ago, the hot water heater crapped out and my instinct to go for a heat-pump water heater was quickly dashed. No existing dedicated vents, not the right electrical service, no drain for condensate. The cards were stacked towards maintaining the status quo. At least I was able to move to the highest efficiency option, but that was a frustrating compromise. Getting ready to electrify everything will be a phased process in my 1901 house and there’s a lot of work to be done before EVs, PV, ASHP, HPWH or any other home clean energy acronym can get in the pipeline. While I make these steps, I plan to document the process and pass along any lessons I can share to help others navigate the transition.
KRISTIN - Ditch toxic products
Over the last year, I’ve made a very conscious decision to reduce the amount of toxic personal care and household products I was using and kept in my home. I spent A LOT of time scouring the internet looking for alternatives that were high-quality, affordable, ethically sourced, produced and packaged, and overall companies that I could feel empowered to support. This also led me to making decisions about items that I would just eliminate completely and would certainly survive just fine without them. This year, I am committed to continuing to ditch toxic products and to spreading the word to encourage others to do so. My goal for this year is to also eliminate purchasing any household cleaning products and to make them myself at home. In the spirit of spreading the word, here are 2 of my new, and now favorite, personal care items:
- Henry Rose: 100% transparent gender-neutral fine fragrances that are both EWG Verified and Cradle to Cradle Certified which also smell divine. Even more reason to love them is they partnered with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners to give back a portion of all proceeds to research and advocacy around toxic chemicals in personal care.
- Prose: A certified B Corporation producing custom haircare designed for each individual. They are the first and only carbon-neutral custom beauty brand and Climate Neutral Certified.
ANNIE – Bring the Kids Along for the Sustainability Ride
There is a sign in my kids' (ages 8 and almost 11) room that says "Our Future Depends on You." No pressure, right? They have parents who met while working at the Sierra Club and now work on solar power (dad) and climate change (me), so there is a built-in expectation that we're on a planet-saving mission together. But it can be hard to involve younger kids in a meaningful way that creates buy-in and isn't just a forced activity. Fortunately, we've already got a solid baseline in our own home with recycling, composting, limiting plastics and waste, etc.
This year I'm committing to finding a new way each month to integrate them more into sustainability and climate action initiatives in the community. I'm open to suggestions on how to do this -- my list so far includes neighborhood trash pickup, river and trail maintenance days, supporting their schools' recycling, writing letters to elected officials, and volunteering with local nonprofits. Bonus points if you have ideas that are super fun as I'm already competing with Minecraft and Nintendo!
DANIELLE - Make my home more energy efficient
I live in a charming old home built in 1892 and with that charm comes a lot of draftiness! As a renter, there’s only so much I can do but my landlord happens to be an amazing person who wants to make the home more efficient. That was a hurdle I didn’t have to jump. If you do have to convince your landlord, you can always remind them that the utility companies can tell prospective renters the historical costs and that can stop someone from deciding to rent their space if the bills are high. Even if the landlord is not on board, you should set up a home energy assessment through your utility company where they come in and check for external wall insulation, the age and efficiency of the water heater, stove, and HVAC equipment, and other elements in the house that contribute to energy waste. During my assessment, they spoke with me and my landlord about what they found and their recommendations. Insulation is covered by the utility companies, but we need to check for knob and tube wiring first. They will also offset the costs of new wiring if necessary and rebate up to $10,000 if the boiler is upgraded to a heat pump. I noticed a neighbor down the street has a heat pump in a similar home. If I need to convince my landlord to install them, I may try to get that homeowner in touch with my landlord. In the meantime, here is what I’m doing to help make my space as energy efficient as possible:
- Installed window films to help prevent draft through the incredibly old windows
- Added heavy curtains to help with the draft especially overnight
- Closed off the front hallway and stairwell because I can reduce the area to heat or cool
- Set a programmable thermostat to keep the temperature at 68 when I'm home during the day and 65 overnight (high fluctuation in temperature uses more energy)
TACY - Clean up my environment
In 2022, my spouse and I bought a home that backs up to a wooded area with a stream (formally known by the very exciting name, “Stream Valley Unit #4”). It’s a beautiful spot that is home to a family of deer, foxes,
rabbits, racoons, and tons of birds. However, quite a bit of trash gets washed into the stream from nearby roadways and developments, particularly after big rainstorms. In some cases, trash and debris are purposefully dumped into the woods (we found an abandoned bike and some empty beer bottles just last week). So, my green resolution for 2023 is to become a steward of the stream and periodically conduct cleanups in my own backyard. I’m hoping this small act will contribute to a larger goal that I am passionate about: restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Our little stream flows into Rock Creek, which then flows into the Potomac River, and then eventually into the Bay. Whatever we can do to reduce trash and contaminants upstream can have a positive impact on the health of ecosystems (and people!) downstream.
KATE - Use Less Water
Living in semi-arid Colorado, I’ve quickly learned not to take water for granted. While I’ve always been militant about turning the water off when I brush my teeth, I realized there’s more I could do to conserve water. Though I am not yet a homeowner (*millennial sigh*), there are still actions I am taking to conserve water in my personal life and beyond. Here are some actions I am already taking to cut my water usage:
- Taking shorter showers. Instead of setting a timer, I play a 2-3 minute song to make it fun!
- Keeping a bucket in the shower to collect excess water to use for my plants.
- Washing my laundry only if it’s a full load. (Extra tip: always wash with cool or cold water to save energy. It also makes your clothes last longer.)
- Washing my car less. Er...guilty of this one already. It’s just going to get dirty again anyways, right?
In 2023, I commit to pushing for more stringent water conservation measures locally and regionally. I plan to stay up to date on opportunities to advocate for conservation policies and show up at the State’s Water Availability Task Force and Colorado Climate Center meetings and webinars.
MEDDY - Eat Less Meat
I’ve been an on and off vegetarian for more than 15 years (starting when I raised chickens in middle school and they were so cute they changed my life philosophy...). Throughout the years of yo-yoing with more and less restrictions, I’ve settled on a plant-strong diet where I just focus on eating as many veggies as possible – rather than as little meat as possible. This year I am renewing my commitment to a plant strong diet with fresh energy – and even fresher recipes😉 In 2023, I’ll aim to eat 2 plant-strong meals per day and try 3 new veggie recipes per month. I’ll probably start by checking out NYT Cooking and the seemingly infinite list of vegan food blogs! I can always fall back on my go-to: vegan lasagna and sweet potato tacos!
JOEY – Broaden my media intake
Ever since college, where I studied sustainability, I’ve been a climate media junkie. I subscribed to various climate news outlets, followed many podcasts, and kept up with a bunch of enviro-influencers. The problem was, with so much content to learn from, I found I could get easily overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed often led to discomfort, and discomfort to paralysis. So, even though I had found all of this great stuff, I was too unsure of where to focus my time and energy on. Instead of trying to broaden my media intake, I was reverting to comfortable silos- essentially just reading the New York Times and Twitter. In 2023, I want to establish a routine where I can continually learn from new voices in the climate world and challenge myself to consider new perspectives. The goal is to find a way to balance discovery and capacity, and build out a routine that is, well, sustainable!
ELYSSA - Green up my foodways
In 2022, I did a lot of reading on sustainable foodways — decreasing the negative impacts of our eating habits by simplifying the path that our food takes from farm to table. So, in the new year, my resolution is twofold: eat more seasonally, and eat more locally. On the seasonal end, I’ll be using a seasonal food guide to find what local produce I can best incorporate into my meals. Growing up in Phoenix has also encouraged me to learn more about local indigenous farming practices and produce that can make agriculture in the drought-riddled Sonoran Desert more sustainable. This month, I’m working with some water-efficient tepary beans purchased from a local O’Odham farm, and am excited to continue exploring new dishes throughout 2023!