For Earth Day and beyond, ‘Possibly’ podcast offers practical solutions for a greener world

From dishwashing to solar panels, here are 10 important topics explored by students and faculty at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society as community members look toward climate-conscious decisions.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — While many people share an interest in making climate-conscious decisions in everyday life, getting useful, science-based answers about how to help the planet is not always easy.

Luckily, there’s a podcast taking on that challenge directly with the goal of making choices less overwhelming.

“Possibly” is a 4-minute weekly podcast, typically put together by a team of student reporters from Brown University, that airs on The Public’s Radio every Tuesday. Launched in 2017 by Associate Provost for Sustainability Stephen Porder and producer and host Megan Hall, an adjunct lecturer in environment and society at Brown, the episodes often explore practical topics — like whether phone chargers use power when not connected to a phone — while also looking at bigger topics like how to influence public utilities commissions or how to convince people to make better climate decisions. Many episodes leverage the expertise of faculty and students at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society.

In honor of Earth Day, the Possibly team shared a list of episodes to help people consider how they can be environmentally conscious, both on campus and beyond. Take a listen.

The most efficient way to do the dishes

In this episode, Brown undergraduates Riley Stevenson and Anna Amha explore the most efficient ways to do one of the most dreaded household chores: the dishes. Through an experiment, they determine whether handwashing dishes uses significantly more water and energy compared to modern dishwashers. Spoiler alert — dishwashers are the clear winner, but the reasons why and how they figured it out are intriguing.

Brewing an eco-friendlier cup of coffee

What’s the environmental impact of making a morning cup of coffee? Stevenson and Amha investigate different methods of brewing coffee and which produces the least greenhouse gas emissions. The episode provides the answer but also points out that emissions mainly occur during coffee production and transportation. The team also offers quick tips to reduce emissions, like using insulated coffee pots and brewing only what you need.

What happens to food waste

This episode, investigated by “Possibly” team members Ashley Junger and Brown alumna Fatima Husain, focuses on the best ways to get rid of food scraps. Should they go into the compost, the sink disposal or the trash? The team explores what happens to these scraps and the environmental impacts, like methane production, associated with each method. It’s one of many episodes focused on food waste.

Should solar panel salespeople be trusted?

A burning question for many homeowners is whether they should trust the door-to-door salespeople who come around peddling solar panels. Brown undergraduates Juliana Merullo and Cameron Leo looked into this. The episode gives tips on how to make sure the offers are legitimate and educates listeners on some of the rules around solar panel tax incentives.

How to heat homes as efficiently as possible

The episode opens with a staggering figure: more than a third of Rhode Island's greenhouse gas emissions come from heating homes and businesses. Science reporter Max Kozlov, who when this published in 2020 was a Brown senior, shares what he learned on the importance of insulation and the pros and cons of different types of heating systems like heat pumps, which are gaining popularity and are more environmentally friendly than traditional oil or gas furnaces.

Canceling emissions from an airplane trip

Brown senior Meg Talikoff was feeling guilty about the number of airplane trips she’s taken from her home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Providence. She teamed up with junior Grace Samaha to figure out a lifestyle change to offset the emissions she was creating.

Exploring shaving habits

The environmental impact of shaving turns out to be mostly related to the water and energy usage involved, according to this episode. Students Malia Honda and Iman Khanbhai uncovered this while talking with fellow classmates about their shaving habits and the amount of hot water used during shaving. Suggestions may have listeners reconsider their shaving habits to lessen their environmental footprint.

Ready to go electric?

Brown’s Stephen Porder — a professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, and of environment and society — shares some of his expertise on electric vehicles. The episode goes into a number of commonly asked questions when it comes to purchasing an electric car including the carbon emissions they put out compared with gas powered engines.

How to ditch the lawn

Just as the mowers start to emerge during the spring, this episode talks about lawns. Host Megan Hall says they are the cultural norm, but not as “green” as they look. She explores possible alternatives.

How to deal with climate anxiety

This two-part episode features an interview with Kate Schapira, a senior lecturer in English at Brown who has spent almost a decade listening to people’s climate anxieties. The first episode introduces climate anxiety counseling sessions Schapira runs, often by setting up a booth in public places, and the second features one of these sessions with the host of “Possibly” exploring her climate anxieties.