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Sustainability and the success of our climate action plan depends on whether a critical mass of citizens and businesses understand and actively implement action items in the plan.  It is in everyone's best interest to increase our collective understanding of climate protection, sustainable living practices, and what each person can do to make a difference. 

We are all part of the solution.  Take a proactive approach to be sustainable around your home, business and neighborhood. 


Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Seek opportunities to lower CO2 emissions in your life, some ideas include:
  • Driving: Consider alternatives to driving like walking, biking or taking transit as able.  You can also consider driving a low carbon or electric vehicle.  
  • Energy Use (Home or Office): Reducing energy consumption also includes ensuring energy use is as efficient as possible.  Consider upgrading lights, windows, and appliances to energy efficient models.  A programmable thermostat can save energy when you are not home.  Also remember energy escapes through air leaks and poor insulation which degrades over time.  Reduce drafts and air leaks with caulk, insulation and weather stripping, common areas needing attention over time include attics and windows.  
  • Food: The production and transportation of food contributes greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere.  Seek to buy food that is locally grown and food that doesn't require heavy pesticides (i.e. organic) or heavy energy intensity to produce (i.e. many meats, like beef).  Seek ways to add more local organic vegetables to your diet which require the least amount of energy.
  • Water: Water requires energy to pump, treat and heat.  Use only what you need and consider installing water-efficient faucets, toilets, dishwashers and washing machines.
  • Reuse & Recycle: The production of goods is an energy intensive process, from the extraction of resources, to manufacturing, to transportation and ultimate disposal.  Consider reusing or selling items you no longer need, buying used items, and recycling items as possible.

Use Less Single-Use Plastics

Contrary to popular belief, plastic degrades as it is recycled and can not be recycled endlessly like aluminum or glass can be.  That means a single-use plastic water bottle, if recycled, is often turned into some other product, such as a rug or pillow, that will exist forever.  Look for ways to reduce single-use plastics in your life and help others see the benefits of doing this also.  Some ideas include:
  • Straws: Consider requesting to not have a straw added to your glass, or consider using or bringing your own reusable straw.
  • Reusable Bags: Bring your own reusable bags with you everywhere (not just the grocery store!) and avoid building a pile of single-use plastic bags in your home or office.  Create a system that works for you, such as leaving a few in your car or bag so you always have them on you.  Small, compact reusable bags are perfect for a small handbag or purse.
  • Produce Bags: Consider purchasing or making your own reusable produce bags and bringing them with you to shop.
  • Packaging: Consider purchasing brands that utilize recyclable or compostable containers and wrapping, such as items in boxes or glass, rather than plastic.
  • Bulk Section:  Consider purchasing items like beans, pasta and rice in the bulk section where you can utilize your own containers and avoid plastic packaging.
  • Reusable Mug & Water Bottle: Bring a reusable water bottle with you where you go and avoid plastic water bottles and disposable coffee cups.
  • Reuse Containers: When you need to purchase something in a container, reuse the container after, perhaps for bulk items, or reuse a bread bag for doggy poop pickup.
  • Take Out: Bring your own container to a restaurant if you anticipate leftovers.
  • Diapers: Consider cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers.
  • Cleaning Products: You can make your own cleaning products that will be less toxic and avoid purchasing plastic containers.
  • Lunch: Pack lunches in reusable containers instead of disposable plastic bags.
  • Food: Bake and cook more items at home where you can store them in your own reusable containers instead of purchasing pre-made versions pre-packaged in plastic, i.e. guacamole, chicken salad, etc.

Plant Trees and Conserve Trees

Trees provide incredible and cost effective flood-mitigating benefits including absorbing, deflecting and purifying stormwater.  Trees also offer many other benefits such as providing shade to manage extreme heat and lower utility bills.

LEARN MORE about how to plant trees.

LEARN MORE about green infrastructure and how it can make Charleston more resilient.

Utilize Green Infrastructure, such as Rain Barrels and Rain Gardens

Rain barrels and rain gardens catch rainwater which would otherwise flow into drainage infrastructure and over dirty streets. These approaches work in concert with nature to collect and filter runoff, mitigate flooding, and minimize pollution while helping to save money and energy too.

When rainwater can collected and harnessed on site at the source (where it falls), the community gains lots of benefits: such as reduced runoff, increased water quality, and the overall less quantity of water overburdening any undersized drainage infrastructure.

A rain garden is a landscaped depression full of water-loving plants that absorbs excess rainwater.  Rain gardens pair well with rainwater cisterns, also called rain barrels. Rain barrels are typically installed to store rainwater from a rooftop surface, reducing the amount of rainwater that may otherwise directly enter stormwater drainage inlets.  Rain gardens can be designed so rain barrel overflow (once it’s full) is directed to the rain garden. Rain captured in the cistern can be reused, such as irrigating plants during a dry spell.

LEARN MORE about rain barrels and rain gardens for both professional and residential audiences and view a Guide to Rain Gardens in SC.

LEARN MORE about green infrastructure and how it can make Charleston more resilient.

Limit Use of Impervious Material

Look for opportunities to use pervious materials where practical and maintain them.  Capturing even small amounts of rain water and slowing the speed of runoff helps prevent drainage systems from becoming overwhelmed during heavy downpours. 

Permeable pavements aim to infiltrate, treat, and store rain where it falls.  Permeable pavements include a variety of product types, such as: pervious concrete, porous asphalt, permeable pavers (interlocking or non), pre-cast blocks, cast on site reinforced concrete systems with large voids, and plastic systems.  The sizes of voids where water passes through varies based on the product, some are large and can be filled with small stones or even soil and grass, while some are much too small to fill and instead require maintenance to prevent sediments from settling and clogging the system.

Pervious paving is a best management practice that could be particularly cost effective where flooding is a problem.  While areas with high water tables are not as effective as those with lower water tables, it is still feasible as we are learning the Dutch have had success implementing pervious paving even in locations with high water tables.

LEARN MORE about permeable pavement systems.

LEARN MORE about green infrastructure and how it can make Charleston more resilient.

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