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Have you made your New Year's climate resolution yet?


As 2022 winds down, many of us are considering our New Year's resolutions. And some of those resolutions may be focused on how to reduce your carbon footprint. So for some advice on how to set climate resolutions and maybe try to keep them, we've asked Julia Simon on. She recently joined NPR's climate team to report on solutions to climate change. Julia, first off, welcome.

JULIA SIMON, BYLINE: Thanks, A. Good to be here.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, Julia, what is a climate resolution?

SIMON: So a climate resolution is something that will reduce emissions that I make. So for 2023, I'm going to take less flights. I am going to eat less meat and reduce my carbon footprint.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Got it. So how much, though, of an impact can I have, little old me? I mean, is it possible for me to move the needle on this?

SIMON: Yes. Obviously, governments and corporations have a huge role to play in reducing their emissions. But our actions as individuals matter. Companies make decisions based on consumer demand. And if I take action, that can inspire my family and friends to take action, too.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Set us up here, Julia. What's a good New Year's resolution to start off with?

SIMON: Two words - food waste. Up to 40% of food gets wasted in the U.S. And wasted food in a landfill releases methane, which is this really potent, planet-heating gas. So one New Year's resolution is to use the food we buy. For marine biologist and climate policy adviser Ayana Johnson, she starts in the back of her refrigerator.

AYANA JOHNSON: There's those vegetables in the back that, like, don't get enough love. So can you freeze them? Can you be more realistic about how many you're going to eat before they go bad and not buy them?

SIMON: She says buy fruits and vegetables bit by bit so they don't go bad. And if you go out to eat, you know, take the leftovers home.

JOHNSON: Really, like, you're not sacrificing anything. If anything, you're sacrificing the guilt that's associated with wasting food. And I think we could all use a little less guilt.

SIMON: Food waste - it accounts for up to 10% of all emissions globally. So this is a really good resolution to start with.

MARTÍNEZ: That's food, though. What about a resolution for reducing emissions from the ways we get around?

SIMON: So if you're someone who flies a lot, this year, try reducing your air travel. Flying makes up about 2% of emissions, which doesn't sound like a lot. But if that was a country, it would be one of the top 10 emitters. Now, some airlines will say you can have the option to buy carbon credits to offset your flight's emission. But experts will tell you that there's no reliable way of knowing if those offsets are really working.

MARTÍNEZ: Julia, what if I want to do more? What advice do you have for someone who maybe wants to have a longer-term - a stretch climate resolution?

SIMON: So for a stretch climate resolution, you can try getting into energy policy. That might sound hard, but I have an easy way to do it, which is get in touch with your public utility regulator. These are the people that regulate the companies that give us power. And in the U.S., almost 60% of our power still comes from fossil fuels. These regulators can help power companies transition off of coal or off of gas. There are public meetings where you can call in or show up and share where you'd like to see your energy come from. This resolution could have a long-term impact beyond 2023.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's Julia Simon. She covers climate solutions for NPR. Julia, thanks.

MARTÍNEZ: Thanks, A. Happy New Year.


A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Julia Simon
Julia Simon is the Climate Solutions reporter on NPR's Climate Desk. She covers the ways governments, businesses, scientists and everyday people are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. She also works to hold corporations, and others, accountable for greenwashing.