Chapter 10: Community Action

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

Reducing GHG emissions to the extent necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change will require actions at all levels. While individual efforts may seem insignificant compared with large-scale actions, personal lifestyle changes can help shift social norms32. The more people make individual changes, the more their networks are encouraged to do the same, which results not only in a greater impact, but also puts pressure on larger entities and builds momentum for more systemic change.

Salem’s consumption-based greenhouse gas inventory (see Appendix 2) measured the emissions associated with the goods and services purchased and used by Salem residents. This analysis showed that the purchase, driving, and disposal of vehicles is the largest source of emissions when measured through a consumptive lens. One of the most important ways that individuals can reduce emissions is to drive less and own fewer gasoline-powered vehicles and equipment.

The second-largest source of consumption-based emissions in Salem was the consumption of food and beverages. Emissions from this category include those associated with meat consumption, especially beef, which has a large carbon footprint due to all the inputs associated with growing cattle feed, the methane released in manure and through rumination, and transporting product to stores. Therefore, another important step individuals can take to reduce emissions is to eat a plant-based diet.

For the average resident, making choices regarding consumption can be a tangible way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize the amount of material you send to the landfill, and eliminate unnecessary expenditures. Below are some of the most impactful actions you can take in your own life to contribute to Salem’s efforts to mitigate climate change.



Actions for Individuals

1. Opt for active transportation.

Transportation represents approximately 29% of emissions in the U.S.33 Opting to use alternative modes of transportation, such as busing, walking, biking, or sharing a ride, is one of the top ways to reduce your impact.34

2. Reduce driving trips in gasoline-powered vehicles.

When you need to drive, reduce the effects of driving by combining trips, working from home/videoconferencing when possible, or buying an electric vehicle next time you’re in the market for a car.

3. Avoid unnecessary air travel.

Carbon emissions from one long flight are often more than the total emissions of the average person in many countries for an entire year, and aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of pollution.35

4. Eat a plant-based diet.

The livestock industry is responsible for about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and cattle (both meat and dairy production) accounts for 65% of that.36

5. Buy local, in-season foods.

Fresh produce in the grocery store often travels a long way to arrive in Salem, so purchasing local foods that are in season (or growing your own!) eliminates significant transportation emissions.

6. Improve the efficiency of your home.

When you’re looking to make changes in your home, consider upgrading your appliances to be more efficient, replacing natural gas furnaces with electric heat pumps, using more effective insulation, and installing LED light bulbs or smart thermostats. Creating more shade by adding trees, awnings, lattices or vines; and adding an evaporative cooler or whole house fan can all make big differences in reducing cooling needs in the summer. Sealing leaks and replacing windows will reduce heating needs in the winter. All of these strategies can save you energy and money in the long-term.

7. Conserve energy and water at home.

Simple actions like turning off lights, unplugging appliances, limiting laundry loads, and minimizing use of heating and cooling can add up to both resource and cost savings.

8. Install or purchase renewable energy.

If you have the financial capability, consider installing solar panels on your roof or accessing solar energy through a community solar project.

9. Reduce natural gas usage.

When possible, replace natural gas-powered appliances like furnaces, stoves, and water heaters with electric alternatives.

10. Reduce waste (especially food waste).

Materials sent to landfills directly release methane gas into the atmosphere, and food waste accounts for 6% of global emissions.37 Reduce, recycle, or compost instead!

11. Buy less stuff.

Clothes and other consumer goods are often discarded after little use because of fast fashion and planned obsolescence. Reduce consumption by purchasing second-hand items, sharing tools, or repairing broken items rather than throwing them away.

12. Learn about and pursue actions that address intersectionality.

The effects of climate change disproportionately fall on Black, Indigenous, and people of color, people living with disabilities, people living below the poverty line, the elderly, and other historically marginalized groups, making it all the more important to integrate social justice into our environmental work and daily actions.

13. Support elected officials, policies, and organizations doing the large-scale work.

To meet the challenge of curbing climate change before it’s too late, governments and large entities must also take action. Supporting those who are leading the way helps push us forward faster and more effectively.


Figure 14

To get a more precise understanding of the carbon emissions your lifestyle generates, you can use a carbon footprint calculator that will measure the impact of things like the heating and cooling needs of your home, your diet, your car and air travel, and more. (One free example is carbonfootprint.com.)

Some of the individual changes mentioned require financial investments that just aren’t feasible for many people, and that’s okay. The important thing is to start where you are and take action whenever and wherever you can. Being mindful of the impact of your actions on the planet and fellow humans, investing in the Salem community, and building relationships with your neighbors all contribute to our collective resilience and our thriving future.

Actions for Organizations and Employers

Salem is unique in hosting the state capitol and many state agencies. These organizations can work together and with the City on initiatives to reduce GHG emissions, such as active commuting programs, telecommuting, energy efficiency, purchasing, and more.

Organizations and businesses have an essential role to play in responding to climate change.39 Below are some of the larger scale actions these entities can take.

1. Encourage active transportation.

Make biking, busing, carpooling and walking easy for employees through flexible work-from-home policies, infrastructure for employees who bike or walk (like showers, protected bike racks or bike lockers), employee discounts for bus fare, carpool matching, incentives, and more. Institute policies that encourage the use of videoconferencing tools rather than frequent business travel.

2. Measure your carbon footprint.

Knowing your own emissions impact is the first step toward making reductions. Set up a regular interval for assessing your organization’s GHG inventory, set emissions reduction targets, and monitor your progress toward those goals. Even better: share your progress with your clients or customers. About one-fifth of the world’s largest public companies have committed to net zero emissions.40

3. Reduce consumption.

Reduce energy and water consumption by making upgrades to your building if you own it (like replacing lights with LEDs). Whether you own or not, managing office energy use is critical to reducing consumption. Set thermostats a few degrees higher in summer and lower in winter; close vents in unused spaces; turn off unneeded lights; and make sure to use energy efficient computers and appliances. Create a culture of conservation among your employees, monitor your energy usage monthly, set reduction goals, and report your progress to your customers.

4. Purchase sustainably.

Take a closer look at your supply chain and consider the ethical and environmental impacts of the purchases you make (like compostable containers vs. styrofoam, or 100% recycled content paper) and the suppliers and vendors you hire. Work to reduce transportation emissions throughout the supply chain.

5. Reduce waste.

Improve your waste infrastructure by ensuring that recycling (and composting, if available) containers are present wherever landfill bins are located. Increase awareness among your employees about the importance of correctly sorting waste.

6. Encourage new behaviors.

Implement targeted sustainability initiatives by engaging your employees in campaigns, competitions, or other opportunities to learn and change behaviors.

7. Speak up.

The business community has an influence. Work with your elected officials to encourage the development of renewables and divest from fossil fuels.


1 out of 5 of the world’s largest public companies have committed to net zero emissions.

Reducing GHG emissions to the extent necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change will require actions at all levels. While individual efforts may seem insignificant compared with large-scale actions, personal lifestyle changes can help shift social norms32. The more people make individual changes, the more their networks are encouraged to do the same, which results not only in a greater impact, but also puts pressure on larger entities and builds momentum for more systemic change.

Salem’s consumption-based greenhouse gas inventory (see Appendix 2) measured the emissions associated with the goods and services purchased and used by Salem residents. This analysis showed that the purchase, driving, and disposal of vehicles is the largest source of emissions when measured through a consumptive lens. One of the most important ways that individuals can reduce emissions is to drive less and own fewer gasoline-powered vehicles and equipment.

The second-largest source of consumption-based emissions in Salem was the consumption of food and beverages. Emissions from this category include those associated with meat consumption, especially beef, which has a large carbon footprint due to all the inputs associated with growing cattle feed, the methane released in manure and through rumination, and transporting product to stores. Therefore, another important step individuals can take to reduce emissions is to eat a plant-based diet.

For the average resident, making choices regarding consumption can be a tangible way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize the amount of material you send to the landfill, and eliminate unnecessary expenditures. Below are some of the most impactful actions you can take in your own life to contribute to Salem’s efforts to mitigate climate change.



Actions for Individuals

1. Opt for active transportation.

Transportation represents approximately 29% of emissions in the U.S.33 Opting to use alternative modes of transportation, such as busing, walking, biking, or sharing a ride, is one of the top ways to reduce your impact.34

2. Reduce driving trips in gasoline-powered vehicles.

When you need to drive, reduce the effects of driving by combining trips, working from home/videoconferencing when possible, or buying an electric vehicle next time you’re in the market for a car.

3. Avoid unnecessary air travel.

Carbon emissions from one long flight are often more than the total emissions of the average person in many countries for an entire year, and aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of pollution.35

4. Eat a plant-based diet.

The livestock industry is responsible for about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and cattle (both meat and dairy production) accounts for 65% of that.36

5. Buy local, in-season foods.

Fresh produce in the grocery store often travels a long way to arrive in Salem, so purchasing local foods that are in season (or growing your own!) eliminates significant transportation emissions.

6. Improve the efficiency of your home.

When you’re looking to make changes in your home, consider upgrading your appliances to be more efficient, replacing natural gas furnaces with electric heat pumps, using more effective insulation, and installing LED light bulbs or smart thermostats. Creating more shade by adding trees, awnings, lattices or vines; and adding an evaporative cooler or whole house fan can all make big differences in reducing cooling needs in the summer. Sealing leaks and replacing windows will reduce heating needs in the winter. All of these strategies can save you energy and money in the long-term.

7. Conserve energy and water at home.

Simple actions like turning off lights, unplugging appliances, limiting laundry loads, and minimizing use of heating and cooling can add up to both resource and cost savings.

8. Install or purchase renewable energy.

If you have the financial capability, consider installing solar panels on your roof or accessing solar energy through a community solar project.

9. Reduce natural gas usage.

When possible, replace natural gas-powered appliances like furnaces, stoves, and water heaters with electric alternatives.

10. Reduce waste (especially food waste).

Materials sent to landfills directly release methane gas into the atmosphere, and food waste accounts for 6% of global emissions.37 Reduce, recycle, or compost instead!

11. Buy less stuff.

Clothes and other consumer goods are often discarded after little use because of fast fashion and planned obsolescence. Reduce consumption by purchasing second-hand items, sharing tools, or repairing broken items rather than throwing them away.

12. Learn about and pursue actions that address intersectionality.

The effects of climate change disproportionately fall on Black, Indigenous, and people of color, people living with disabilities, people living below the poverty line, the elderly, and other historically marginalized groups, making it all the more important to integrate social justice into our environmental work and daily actions.

13. Support elected officials, policies, and organizations doing the large-scale work.

To meet the challenge of curbing climate change before it’s too late, governments and large entities must also take action. Supporting those who are leading the way helps push us forward faster and more effectively.


Figure 14

To get a more precise understanding of the carbon emissions your lifestyle generates, you can use a carbon footprint calculator that will measure the impact of things like the heating and cooling needs of your home, your diet, your car and air travel, and more. (One free example is carbonfootprint.com.)

Some of the individual changes mentioned require financial investments that just aren’t feasible for many people, and that’s okay. The important thing is to start where you are and take action whenever and wherever you can. Being mindful of the impact of your actions on the planet and fellow humans, investing in the Salem community, and building relationships with your neighbors all contribute to our collective resilience and our thriving future.

Actions for Organizations and Employers

Salem is unique in hosting the state capitol and many state agencies. These organizations can work together and with the City on initiatives to reduce GHG emissions, such as active commuting programs, telecommuting, energy efficiency, purchasing, and more.

Organizations and businesses have an essential role to play in responding to climate change.39 Below are some of the larger scale actions these entities can take.

1. Encourage active transportation.

Make biking, busing, carpooling and walking easy for employees through flexible work-from-home policies, infrastructure for employees who bike or walk (like showers, protected bike racks or bike lockers), employee discounts for bus fare, carpool matching, incentives, and more. Institute policies that encourage the use of videoconferencing tools rather than frequent business travel.

2. Measure your carbon footprint.

Knowing your own emissions impact is the first step toward making reductions. Set up a regular interval for assessing your organization’s GHG inventory, set emissions reduction targets, and monitor your progress toward those goals. Even better: share your progress with your clients or customers. About one-fifth of the world’s largest public companies have committed to net zero emissions.40

3. Reduce consumption.

Reduce energy and water consumption by making upgrades to your building if you own it (like replacing lights with LEDs). Whether you own or not, managing office energy use is critical to reducing consumption. Set thermostats a few degrees higher in summer and lower in winter; close vents in unused spaces; turn off unneeded lights; and make sure to use energy efficient computers and appliances. Create a culture of conservation among your employees, monitor your energy usage monthly, set reduction goals, and report your progress to your customers.

4. Purchase sustainably.

Take a closer look at your supply chain and consider the ethical and environmental impacts of the purchases you make (like compostable containers vs. styrofoam, or 100% recycled content paper) and the suppliers and vendors you hire. Work to reduce transportation emissions throughout the supply chain.

5. Reduce waste.

Improve your waste infrastructure by ensuring that recycling (and composting, if available) containers are present wherever landfill bins are located. Increase awareness among your employees about the importance of correctly sorting waste.

6. Encourage new behaviors.

Implement targeted sustainability initiatives by engaging your employees in campaigns, competitions, or other opportunities to learn and change behaviors.

7. Speak up.

The business community has an influence. Work with your elected officials to encourage the development of renewables and divest from fossil fuels.


1 out of 5 of the world’s largest public companies have committed to net zero emissions.

Page last updated: 15 November 2021, 15:00