Ready to go on a “carbon diet”?

If you’re seriously worried about whether your descendants will have a livable planet 50 years from now, and beginning to wonder if you’ll have one yourself even ten years from now, you’re probably also thinking about what an individual can do (beyond recycling religiously) to slow the juggernaut of climate change. You’re also probably wondering if it’s possible to shrink your carbon footprint significantly without giving up all of life’s little amenities. What are the options for those who would like to make climate awareness part of their daily lives but don’t want to go off the grid?

Karl Coplan has made a commitment to be a living example of how this is indeed a doable thing. A professor of Law at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University and director of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic since 1994, Coplan is the principal outside counsel for Riverkeeper, Inc. He started out his career clerking for chief justice Warren Burger, and in more recent years has been kept busy litigating lawsuits enforcing the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws in the Catskills and Hudson Valley. But even outside of work, he’s walking (and paddling) his talk.

In his new book Live Sustainably Now: A Low-Carbon Vision of the Good Life (Columbia University Press, December 2019, $28), Coplan chronicles the joys and challenges of a year on a carbon budget: kayaking to work, hunting down electric vehicle charging stations, eating a Mediterranean-style diet and enjoying plenty of travel on weekends and vacations while avoiding long-distance flights. He explains how to set a personal carbon cap and measure your actual footprint, with his own results detailed in monthly diary entries. Presenting the pros and cons of different energy, transportation and lifestyle options, Live Sustainably Now shows that there does not have to be a tradeoff between the ethical obligation to maintain a sustainable carbon footprint and the belief that life should be fulfilling and fun.


Want to learn more about how you can make a “carbon diet” work in your own life? Come hear Karl Coplan discuss his new book at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, January 22, introduced by Riverkeeper president Paul Gallay. Part of the proceeds from book sales at the event will go toward funding Riverkeeper’s mission – and yes, you can get them signed. To reserve a spot, visit

Karl Coplan’s Live Sustainably Now, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 6-7:30 p.m., Free, Oblong Books & Music, 6422 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck, (845) 876-0500,