Paul Greenberg on ways to make carbon footprints smaller

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 3:10 pm on 4 May 2021

Climate change isn't up for debate anymore, but what to do about it is. 

Science writer Paul Greenberg wants to get people off the sidelines to become game changers on this issue. 

He has a tonne of ideas that involve taking small steps to shrink our big carbon footprints.

Paul Greenberg - author of the Climate Diet

Paul Greenberg - author of the Climate Diet Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0

His new book is called: The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways to Trim Your Carbon Footprint.

The idea that individuals cannot make a big difference to climate change can cause a kind of paralysis, Greenberg says.

“In a way I hope this book is an antidote to climate paralysis.”

His top tip to “stick it” to the polluters is choose carefully where you put your money.

“One of them is to pull your money out of banks that are underwriting fossil fuel companies.”

Fossil fuel companies cannot drill or explore without underwriting, he says.

The number one underwriter for fossil fuel companies is JP Morgan Chase.

“Bill McKibben said the number one thing you can do is take your Chase Credit Card and cut it up into a million pieces.”

Some simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Swap prawns for oysters, oysters are much less carbon intensive and healthier.
  • Do nothing better – turn off appliances when not using them rather than leaving in standby mode.
  • Drink from the tap: “Forty billion barrels of oil are used every year to make the bottles for the water that we are drinking.”
  • Staycation: Read more about Paul's European staycation in the US here.
  • Plan a cosy wedding with fewer guests in a location that is close to where the guests are.
  • It’s time to kill the conference: “I’ve gone to more than my fair share of conferences and a lot of it is just a waste of time there are certainly some personal attractions that happen, that would not necessarily happen were it virtual, but I don’t think the benefits outweigh the climate costs."

And there are more fundamental things we can do, he says. Investing in green technology is one.

No caption

Photo: supplied

There is a tremendous upside in investing in a green economy, he says.

“The price of solar, the price of wind has now plummeted it’s heading sharply below the cost of fossil fuels.

“You’d be well advised to put your money there otherwise you could end up with what one investor called stranded capital. If you invest in oil and gas companies, you are literally burying your money in the ground and so I would say get it out the ground and put it in the air with the wind and the sun.”

Having fewer children is controversial but he believes it should be considered.

“It’s hard to argue with the fact that if an American is producing 16 tonnes of carbon per person per year another American is going to produce another 16 tonnes of carbon per year.”

Not all meat is equal, he says.

“Sadly, for New Zealand there are certain meats that are really carbon intensive and at the top of it is lamb - and beef is right along there with it.”

Chicken and fish are the least carbon intensive meats, he says.

The least carbon intensive form of beef is a de-commissioned dairy cow, he says, because it does double duty.

And if you are choosing what to cook it on go for electric – new induction electric stoves are much more efficient than gas, he says.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)