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After seeing that devastating polar bear video, what can you do to help?

There are changes we can all make to help combat climate change.
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The heartbreaking video of a polar bear dying from starvation in the Arctic has the world talking and weeping.

The effects of the changing climate are all too clear to see as the emaciated bear stumbles across the land, with a lack of sea ice cutting off access to the seals it needs to survive.

But while the images from National Geographic stir grief, they should also stir outrage that such creatures are being forced to eke out their rapidly shortening existence in this manner.

The fight to reverse – or even mitigate – the effects of climate change are more urgent than ever, but as an individual you can feel helpless given the gargantuan nature of the task before humankind.

There are ways we can effect change in our everyday lives however.

GoMN spoke with groups including the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Greenpeace about how we can reduce emissions as individuals.

Contact Congress and your local politicians

You voted these people into office so make sure they're working for you. Find how to contact your U.S. representative here and senator here.

Greenpeace suggests you demand they prioritize environmental protection over the interests of polluters, urge them to vote "no" on the Secure Act to protect oceans from new oil drilling, and demand that big corporations pay to clear up oceans now swimming with plastic.

But change doesn't just happen on the national and international level. Minnesota is pretty progressive when it comes to emissions-reducing projects but it can always improve.

Contact your state legislators here, and also write to your local city council members about eco-friendly initiatives. 

Make changes as a consumer

The Trump administration has championed the lifting of regulations aimed at reducing pollution, and removed the U.S. from the landmark Paris climate agreement. The White House also deleted climate change information from the EPA's website.

While states and cities are stepping up, it's up to us as consumers to ensure changes are being made in the free market.

Take a look at the environmental credentials of the companies you buy regularly from. Stop shopping there if you're not happy with what you find. If you don't want to stop buying from, then challenge them to change.

Studies have shown that rampant consumerism is having a huge impact on climate change – with the Journal for Industrial Ecology finding about 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from the manufacturing of items we buy.

So particularly with Christmas coming up, we should ask ourselves if we really need to gift as much as we gift, and receive as much as we receive.

Make changes in your home

We still get a sizable portion of our electricity from fossil fuels, so be sure you're saving as much energy as possible around the home.

The David Suzuki Foundation suggests switching off lights when you're not using a room, changing to LED or CFL lightbulbs, washing clothes on lower heat settings, keeping your thermostat low when you're not home, hanging clothes out to dry instead of using a dryer, and buying energy-efficient appliances.

Consider as well switching your electric supply so it's coming from 100 percent renewable sources. Xcel Energy offers options for 100 percent wind- or solar-powered subscriptions, which you can find more information about here.

The Nature Conservancy has a tool that lets you manage your carbon footprint, which you can find here.

Change what you eat

The Nature Conservancy notes that a third of all food emissions in the U.S. come from producing red meat and dairy products, so you can help reduce that by eating more vegetables and chicken instead of beef.

The NRDC says if Americans cut just a quarter pound of beef a week from their diets, it would be like taking 10 million cars off the road for one year.

Buy food from local sources as much as possible, to reduce the transportation carbon footprint of your food. And when you're done with food, put it in compost; or if it's not available in your area, create a mulch pile in your garden.

The NRDC also suggests you invest in a reusable water bottle – with a filter, if you're worried about tap water quality – rather than contribute to the landfill problem by regularly buying bottled water. (But if you do buy these, be sure to recycle them.)

Change your transportation

Air travel is the worst way to get around in emissions terms, so if you can avoid a flight, do so.

Otherwise look to reduce your reliance on your car, which according to the Union of Concerned Scientists are responsible for one-fifth of U.S. emissions.

Use the bus or train when possible, and during warmer months consider getting on your bike.

While expensive, consider electric or hybrid cars when you buy a new vehicle in the future.

Get involved locally

You can have a big impact at the local level. 

Look to get involved in local initiatives or neighborhood groups where you can make changes right where you live – by planting more trees, for example.

CityLab has a number of suggestions for how communities can fight climate change, including introducing more vegetation to neighborhoods and following residential green practices.

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