Growing up in Denver, summers were always predictable. June was bright and sunny in the morning, then afternoon thunderstorms would send you in from the pool to play at home. July and August were bright, sunny and hot, but not too hot. And always the skies were bright blue. Colors popped, and everything was vibrant. In the last year or two, we’ve all started to see a shift. Nearly constant wildfires during the summer months have cast a haze over our skies. Now we don’t always see that brilliant blue sky. And the views of the mountains in the distance have become shortened. Even my teenagers have noticed this change in their lifetimes.

A recent New York Times article entitled “Is This the End of Summer as We’ve Known It?” by Shawn Hubler lists a plethora of effects of climate change that have changed our summers. These included wildfires creating smoke that could be seen from space, delaying plans, even creating its own weather patterns; unprecedented heat waves that have cost lives and contaminated crops affecting the food we eat; and even reports of songbirds dying in Pennsylvania. Disheartening, isn’t it? It seems like a bell that can’t be unrung… or can it?

After reading this article and feeling my heart plummet into my stomach, I quickly started researching easy things that we can all do to reduce our effect on climate change. If we all took it upon ourselves to make even just a few of these changes, can you imagine how that might help turn the tide?

In Denver and other cities around the country, plastic bags come with a surcharge. Plastic bags are an easy starting point. Swap those suckers out for reuseable grocery bags. And for extra credit, you can purchase reusable produce bags. Stop buying water bottled in plastic and opt for water in cardboard containers, or better yet—buy a super cool water bottle and now you have a place for all of your stickers!

My father-in-law’s pet peeve was when the kids kept the refrigerator open too long. He was on to something, though. Turn off lights when you leave a room and unplug appliances that aren’t being used. Simple and easy, right?

Turn your thermostat up by 2 degrees in the summer and down by 2 degrees in the winter. The change is small enough that you can easily adjust, and the energy savings is huge. Call your electric company and schedule a home energy audit. Most companies provide these for free and can recommend ways to significantly reduce your energy usage that are pretty simple.

There are many ways to change your energy usage based around your vehicle. Keep your tires properly inflated—honestly. This can increase your fuel economy. Work from home one day a week. We’ve already started doing this because we were homebound from COVID and realized we like it! There are many services that we use “down the hill.” Combine those errands into one day instead of hopping down the hill every day. Then SHOP LOCAL!

Re-watch a couple of fantastic movies. Wall-E is a lovely film about a robot who is left to clean up earth after humans left it in horrible shape and moved out. It’s great to watch with the kids to help them understand the importance of taking care of our planet. And remember “An Inconvenient Truth?” It’s eerie to see how much of the future was predicted in this 2006 documentary. Re-watch that to re-energize your commitment to caring for our planet.

I realize that some of you may see this as a hippy-dippy or political statement. It’s not meant to be. We all love our Colorado summers. And as Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”