7 Ways You Can Impact Climate Change Right Now, According to a NASA Scientist

LA scientist Peter Kalmus tells us what his family does to decrease its use of fossil fuels

When NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab needs a climate scientist, it turns to its in-house expert, Peter Kalmus. Kalmus, who lives in Altadena, has a unique perspective on climate change, and in his new book, Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, he steps out of his NASA role and speaks as a private citizen, chronicling the journey he found himself on as he tried to wean himself and his family off fossil fuels while still maintaining a normal LA life. We asked Kalmus to share tips for the rest of us car-driving, air-conditioning-blasting Angelenos.


1. Get Current on Electricity

Have you carefully looked into your energy options? Depending on your specific situation, rooftop solar can save you money. If you don’t use much electricity, it might make more sense to pay a little extra for 100% renewable electricity (SoCal Edison, and Pasadena Water and Power both offer this). And now is the time to learn about Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), which is coming to LA in 2018 and offers another way to go 100% renewable.


2. Fly Less

Before I began reducing my own footprint, air travel was by far my largest source of emissions. If you fly more than 20,000 miles per year, there’s a good chance this is true for you, as well. Could some of your trips could be switched for Skype sessions or other alternatives?


3. Drive Less, Bike More

Driving is the biggest source of emissions for the average American, and no doubt also for the average Angeleno. Try swapping your drive for a bike ride. If that’s not an option for your commute, consider going electric (especially if you have 100% renewable power). Used electric cars with 80+ mile ranges now go for significantly under $10,000.


4. Decarbonize Your Diet

Food was my second largest source of emissions, so I decided to finally make the commitment to become vegetarian. I also turned my yard into a mini farm, with fruit trees, vegetables, and chickens. I love being more connected to my food sources – plus it just tastes better.

Peter Kalmus

Photograph courtesy of New Society Publishers


5. Kill the Pilot Lights

When was the last time you thought about your natural gas pilot light? You’ve probably left it burning day in and day out. Shrink it to the smallest flame possible – or turn them off entirely if you’re willing to use lighters on your range top. Bonus: doing this will reduce your gas bill while helping the planet.


6. Know Your Footprint

You can’t cut your emissions if you don’t know how they connect, quantitatively, to your actions. Everyone’s situation is a little different, so find out your own with an online calculator designed to make that connection.


7. Get Creative

Once you find your particular sources of emissions, it’s time to think about creative ways to reduce them. How low can you go? The US average is about 20 tons of CO2 per year. Can you reduce to half of that? A tenth? When you work out good solutions, don’t keep them to yourself. Share your changes with neighbors, friends, and the public. We’re all in this together.


Kalmus will be reading from Being the Change at Vroman’s Bookstore  in Pasadena on August 9th at 7 pm, and at The Last Bookstore on August 11th at 7:30 pm.


RELATED: There’s an App for Checking Air Quality (Which, Sadly, We Need Here)

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