As the climate strikers began their public strike, the former secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, Don van der Vaart, published an opinion piece in Carolina Journal on ways individuals can improve the environment. Van der Vaart, now a Senior Fellow with the John Locke Foundation, was inspired to write his piece by the Global Climate Strike for climate change that runs through Sept. 27. The strike encourages students and workers to walk out in protest of fossil fuels. Dr. van der Vaart is skeptical about the strike’s realistic effectiveness:

Recognizing the difficult questions surrounding global warming, is simply going on strike the best answer? Not really. Strikes can lead to undesirable outcomes. Just as making changes in our energy mix will cost money, strikes from work will cost money. Parents will need to provide care for their out-of-school kids, and a day out of the classroom is a detriment to student achievement. 

Instead, Dr. van der Vaart, offers a list of things people can do that could make a greater impact:

  • Nuclear energy: Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or to your elected representatives asking that they reconsider or embrace the safety and reliability of nuclear power. We get about 19% of our total energy use from nuclear in the U.S. Some countries, like France, get the majority of their electricity from nuclear. Nuclear is a way to produce massive amounts of reliable, affordable energy that is safe and essentially emissions-free.
  • Hydroelectric power: Water power has been used for centuries. It is still one of the most effective ways to provide clean, reliable, renewable energy. When paired, nuclear and hydroelectric can meet many of the goals climate strikers say they want to achieve. Students could discuss why these two energy sources face so much opposition from the environmental groups that are pushing them to strike.
  • Carbon credits: For those who believe they must reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, purchasing carbon credits from a reputable source is an easy way to offset their emissions. If carbon trading isn’t for you, simply plant trees in your yard. On average, one tree absorbs about 48 pounds of CO2each year.
  • Transportation: Electric vehicles aren’t more efficient than internal combustion engines, but if the electricity to power them comes from non-GHG emitting sources such as nuclear or hydro plants, EV use will reduce GHG emissions. For the overwhelming portion of the country where electricity is generated by GHG-emitting sources, consider parking your vehicle and taking public transportation. Similarly, don’t travel by air and instead “attend” distant meetings or classes virtually.
  • At home: Limit your use of air conditioning and heat. The Department of Energy recommends installing a programmable thermostat and setting it at 78 degrees in the summer, 82 when you’re sleeping, and 85 when you’re away from home. In the winter, keep your heating set at 68 or lower. You could also remove your lawn and replace it with xeriscaping or native plants and trees that require less mowing and maintenance.

Read the full piece here. Read more about energy and the environment here.