Skip to main content

Summer isn’t even here yet, but just the news headlines alone are enough to make a person sweat.

“April 2024 was the eleventh consecutive month in which our planet has seen record global heat.”
“2023 was the world’s warmest year on record, by far, and that record may be broken again in 2024.”
“Florida’s ocean temperature hits 100ºF last year, hot-tub levels!”

So what can you do to adapt to climate warming? What does climate adaptation mean?

Climate adaptation refers to the process of adjusting to actual or expected future climate and its effects. It involves taking appropriate action to prevent or minimize the damage climate change can cause. Climate adaptation can involve both reducing the risks and harnessing the potential benefits associated with climate change.

Worldwide, the average person, through their actions, produces about four tons of carbon dioxide each year. In the United States, each person produces about 16 tons of carbon dioxide each year. Because carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, adding more of it to the atmosphere causes our climate to warm. We have to do better.

Here are 10 easy ways you can make a positive impact on our climate crisis.

1. Make your voice heard

Southwest Florida is ground zero for climate change. It’s important to talk about climate issues. Results happen when enough people voice their concern.

Tell your local, state and national leaders that you think action on climate change is important. Most current building codes are based on historical climate data. Building designs should not be based just on only historical climate data but also on future climate projections. Climate impacts are one of the largest risks in Florida. Let your leaders know you care about this.

Talk to your neighbors, colleagues, friends, and family. Let business owners know you support bold changes – from plastics-free products and packaging to zero-emissions vehicles.

Join an organization like the Climate Adaptation Center where the focus is on environmental activities that gets everyone talking about climate change action. 

2. Food for thought

What food you buy and how much you buy, has a significant impact on your carbon footprint.

In the U.S., up to 40 percent of the food that is produced every year goes wasted. That translates into an economic loss of $218 billion per year, and at the individual level, a household of four spends, on average, $1,500 or more, per year, on food that never gets eaten.

If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the United States.

The top 5 wasted foods in the country are bread, milk, potatoes, cheese and apples.

Florida households waste $835 worth of food annually, or in other words, over one-fifth of their food each month – just because it’s gone past its expiration date, according to a study by Cherry Digital.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the “use-by” date indicates “the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula.”

  • A “Best if Used By/Before” date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality.  It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management.  It is not a safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality.

The USDA says that if food is past the “use-by” date on the label, inspect it yourself to see if it smells bad or has started molding. If not, you’re probably fine to eat it.

When you throw food away, you’re also wasting the resources and energy that were used to grow, produce, package, and transport it. And when food rots in a landfill, it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. So purchase only what you need, use what you buy and compost any leftovers. Cutting your food waste can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 600 pounds of CO2e per year.

3. Reduce your energy use, and bills

When you use less energy, you cut your carbon footprint while saving money on your energy bills.

Sure Florida gets very hot for much of the year, but consider setting your thermostat a little higher while you are home and even warmer when you’re away. Florida Power and Light says that each degree you raise your thermostat between 75° – 78° can save you 3-5% on your monthly cooling costs. That’s a lot when cooling makes up approximately 60% of your bill!

Replace or clean your air filter regularly for cleaner air and a more efficient heating and cooling system. When you get your FPL bill, use it as a reminder to change your filter.

Turn off your ceiling fan when you leave the room. A fan that runs all the time could cost more than $7 a month. The “wind chill” effect cools people, not rooms.

The second-largest energy user in your home is usually your water heater. Lowering the temperature from 140° to 120° could save 3 to 5% on your energy costs.

Look for ENERGY STAR-labeled electronics or appliances. Newer ENERGY STAR models meet stricter requirements and use anywhere from 10 to 50 percent less energy each year.

Many electronics continue to draw power even when they appear to be “off.”These phantom energy users can account for up to 5-10% of monthly residential electricity use. Consolidate plugs by using power strips and switching them off when not in use. This will help reduce phantom loads and can help save up to $100 a year.

4. Cut consumption and waste

Everything we use as consumers has an environmental footprint.

  • Practice Mindful Consumption: Be aware of the items you buy and opt for sustainable, durable goods. Try to buy less but choose high-quality items that will last longer.
  • Recycle: Recycle paper, glass, and plastic according to your local recycling guidelines.
  • Reuse and Repurpose: Before throwing something away, consider if it can be reused. Glass jars can be used for storage, old t-shirts can become cleaning rags, and cardboard boxes can be used for organizing.
  • Avoid Single-Use Items: Bring your own shopping bags, coffee cups, and water bottles. Choose items with less packaging or buy in bulk when possible.

5. Composting

Composting is a significant way to reduce greenhouse gasses by reducing landfill methane emissions.

Composting is a method for turning organic materials — food scraps, coffee grounds, grass clippings, pine straw, leaves — into valuable fertilizer.

Sure, composting in a condo or apartment presents a challenge but it is still possible. There are ways to compost in your home. You can also talk to your condo building management and see if they’re willing to start a composting program for residents.

Are your favorite restaurants composting? One of the worst culprits in food waste is the restaurant and hospitality sector, which accounts for about 40% of all food waste.

There are even a handful of states that have banned food from landfills. These include California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.


6. Change your home’s source of energy

Outside of transportation, one of the biggest parts of our carbon footprint is home energy use. Renewable and clean sources, such as solar or wind power, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, which are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Renewable energy sources produce little to no emissions and are sustainable.

Solar power is getting the most attention these days. And for good reason. Generating electricity with solar power instead of fossil fuels can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2).

One of the disadvantages of solar energy is that it’s subject to temporary weather disruption. Cloudy days reduce the amount of electricity you produce. However, Florida gets an average of 237 sunny days a year, making it one of the most effective states for harnessing the power of the sun.

Also consider where your solar panels are manufactured. While Chinese solar panels are 20% cheaper than their American equivalents, China produces 30% more greenhouse gas emissions than if this supply chain was located in the U.S. That’s because the majority of China’s electricity generation is made by coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel of them all.

You can also purchase green energy. If you rent or can’t install renewable energy sources on your property, consider purchasing green energy from your utility company. For example, Florida Power & Light offers the SolarTogether program allowing you to purchase solar power.

Remember, switching to renewable energy can come with upfront costs, but the long-term savings and environmental benefits make it a worthwhile investment.

7. Think about how you travel

Airplanes burn large amounts of fossil fuels, producing significant greenhouse gas emissions. That makes taking fewer flights one of the fastest ways to reduce your environmental impact. When you can, meet virtually, take a train, or skip that long-distance trip altogether. Taking one less long-haul return flight can reduce your carbon footprint by up to almost 2 tons of CO2e.

  • Use Public Transportation: Trains, buses, and subways are more energy-efficient than cars.
  • Cycle or Walk: For short distances, consider cycling or walking. It’s not only carbon-free but also a great way to stay fit.
  • Choose Direct Flights: If you must fly, try to book direct flights whenever possible as take-offs and landings produce most of a plane’s carbon emissions.
  • Rent Hybrid or Electric Cars: If you need to rent a car, opt for a hybrid or electric model. They are more energy-efficient and produce less carbon emissions.
  • Stay in Eco-Friendly Accommodations: Look for hotels that are committed to sustainability. They may have energy-saving measures in place, use renewable energy, or offer recycling programs.
  • Offset Your Carbon Emissions: Some airlines and travel companies offer carbon offset programs, where you can pay a small fee to offset your carbon emissions. The money typically goes towards environmental projects.

An electric car plugged-in to an electric charger.

8. Consider an electric or hybrid vehicle

If you plan to buy a car, consider going electric. Electric cars help reduce air pollution and cause significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gas or diesel-powered vehicles.

While electric cars still run on electricity produced from fossil fuels, and the batteries and engines require rare minerals which often come with high environmental and social costs, switching from a gasoline or diesel-powered car to an electric vehicle will still reduce your carbon footprint by up to 2 tons of CO2e per year.

A hybrid vehicle can save you up to 1,500 pounds of CO2e per year.

9. Plant trees and other greenery

When you plant trees and other plants, such as bushes, shrubs and tall grasses, they absorb carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, which helps to slow the rate of global warming. They also provide shade, which can reduce the need for air conditioning, thereby reducing energy use and associated carbon emissions.

In cities, urban heat islands occur when natural land cover is replaced with pavement, buildings and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat. Urban areas with more forests have temperatures that are on average 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit lower than those with little vegetation.
Maintaining the local canopy in cities like Sarasota helps prevent negative environmental impacts such as the urban heat island effect, which can drive up temperatures in areas the city center. In the past, developers were allowed to develop with little regard for trees and their cooling abilities. Now, Sarasota requires a permit for removal of all trees within the city, including dead trees and palm trees.

Adding trees makes a real impact too. Even that tree you plant in your yard makes a difference. A mature tree can pull 48 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in one year while releasing much-needed oxygen in exchange. Imagine if everyone in your neighborhood planted just one more tree?

The sooner the better though, saplings can take anywhere from a decade or more to become an adult tree.

An aerial shot of The Bay shows its position alongside Sarasota’s iconic bayfront.
Courtesy photo Dylan Jon Wade Cox.

10. Take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)

The Inflation Reduction Act signed in 2022 incentivizes clean energy, electric cars, and electric homes and invests in green technology. Here are some significant parts of the IRA to consider:

Electric vehicles. The law rewards qualifying electric vehicle buyers with a tax credit of up to $4,000 on the purchase of a used EV and up to $7,500 for a new car. In 2024, the credit is issued through dealerships at the time of sale — and since some models already sell for less than $30,000 — it makes EVs cheaper than ever, especially when you consider that the average household spends hundreds of dollars per month on gasoline.

In the kitchen. A Stanford University study found that gas stoves leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas, even when they aren’t being used. The researchers estimated that stoves across the U.S. emit as much climate pollution as about. The Inflation Reduction Act provides for a rebate of up to $840 for an electric stove, cooktop, range or oven to make the purchase more affordable.

Insulation. Adding insulation is a tried-and-true way to prevent wasted energy and save money. After the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, some households became eligible for a rebate of up to $1,600 just for improving their home’s insulation and sealing energy leaks — and that’s on top of the savings better insulation will yield on monthly utility bills. (The rebate for households with moderate incomes covers 50% of these costs).

Laundry room. Heat-pump clothes dryers, which are popular in Europe, but rarely used in the U.S., are an energy-efficient alternative to traditional dryers. Instead of releasing warm, humid air outside, a heat pump dryer sends moist air through an evaporator, and then recirculates the dry hot air. The process takes a bit longer to dry clothes but only uses about half the electricity. The law encourages consumers to switch to an electric heat pump dryer with a rebate up to $840.

Air conditioning. Consider a heat pump. Heat pumps both heat and cool your home (even in the heat of Florida), and uses less energy overall. Households can qualify for a tax credit of up to $2,000 for the purchase of an electric heat pump. And for households with low incomes, the new law will provide a rebate of up to $8,000 on installation. (For the tax credit program, the incentives apply to equipment installed on January 1, 2023, or later.)

Solar power. The Residential Clean Energy Credit provides a tax credit of up to 30% to households that invest in clean energy such as solar, and it’s retroactive to the beginning of 2022. Considering that the average cost of installing a residential rooftop solar-powered system is about $19,000 — that’s $5,700 in savings. Beyond that, the average solar-powered home saves about $300 every year on electricity.

How you can get involved with the CAC

The CAC is committed to the climate conversation. We do this with events like the Climate Champions Awards Ceremony, Hurricane Season Forecast Day and the upcoming Annual Climate Conference in November, that will focus on human health. We also give climate presentations to thousands of people throughout the year. You can support us in helping our conversation going by making a donation or becoming a member.

If you'd like to know what we're working on, subscribe to our monthly newsletter.