Most people know by now that our climate is changing; part of it is a natural cycle, but most of the recent changes are because of mankind’s carelessness and industrial advancements. Intense storms, flooding, drought, fire, avalanches, landslides… and that’s all been within the past week. Looked at as a whole, it might be overwhelming; people know changes need to be made, but what can one person do? Quite a lot, actually – and if everyone begins changing certain habits to a greener alternative, the impact will be felt. For your sake and mine, I’ve pulled together a list of things we can do:
1. Get involved
Vote for green policies, support green campaigns and organisations, and get the word out to your friends and family about what they can do to become greener.
2. Be energy efficient
Switch off lights; change light bulbs to compact fluorescents or LEDs; wash clothes in cold or warm (not hot) water, and only when the load is full; hang dry your clothes when you can; keep your thermostat at minimum temperatures, and layer your clothes if you’re cool, or take off layers if you’re hot – don’t freeze your house in the summer, or heat it to the tropics in the winter. Look for energy-efficient labels when buying new appliances. If you’re thinking of moving, consider moving closer to your workplace, or closer to your usual shops – wherever you can to lower fuel consumption or allow alternative transport such as bike or bus.
3. Choose renewable power
Ask your utility company to switch your account to clean, renewable power, such as from wind farms, solar power, or earth-heat sources. If it doesn’t offer this option yet, ask it to. The next time you need to buy an appliance, look for the greener brand.
4. Eat wisely
Buy organic and locally grown foods. Avoid processed items. Grow some of your own food. And eat low on the food chain — at least one meat-free meal a day if you’re not already vegetarian — since 18% of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production.
5. Trim your waste
Garbage buried in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Keep stuff out of landfills by composting kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, and recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass, and donating things like clothes to charity shops. Let store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging. If you do crafts or know anyone who does, upcycle.
6. Let polluters pay
Carbon taxes make polluting activities more expensive and green solutions more affordable, allowing energy-efficient businesses and households to save money. If your local government doesn’t have a carbon tax yet, ask your politicians to implement one.
7. Fly less
Air travel leaves behind a huge carbon footprint. Before you book your next airline ticket, consider greener options such as buses or trains, or try vacationing closer to home. You can also stay in touch with people by videoconferencing, which saves time as well as travel and accommodation costs.
8. Green your commute
Transportation causes greenhouse gas emissions, so walk, cycle or take transit whenever you can. You’ll save money and get into better shape! If you can’t go car-free, try carpooling or car sharing, and use the smallest, most fuel-efficient vehicle possible.
9. Buy Less
Whether electronic items, or reusable grocery bags, you can reduce your carbon footprint by buying wisely, less often, and energy efficient. Buy local or organic foods when possible; look for fair trade products, which not only give a better wage to the people producing the good but also tend to have cost-efficient transport; buy essentials in bulk to reduce plastic wrapping. Recycle or upcycle that wrapping. Use what you buy – don’t let foods go off, or buy any item around the house unless you need it and will use it. Buy products when possible that are sourced from sustainable programs – wood, paper, etc. Don’t upgrade your cell phone until you must; that little gadget leaves a huge carbon footprint; and when you do upgrade your phone, make sure you recycle it. For every 1 million smartphones recycled, 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
Believe it or not, you may be spending more money on electricity to power devices when off than when on. Televisions, stereo equipment, computers, battery chargers and a host of other gadgets and appliances consume more energy when seemingly switched off, so unplug them instead.
11: Shop Online
If you can’t buy something locally, or bike or walk to the shop, consider online shopping. This is a catch-22, as local shops need your support; but if you have to drive further to find something, look for it online. According to one study, in-store shoppers gave off slightly fewer carbon dioxide emissions than online shoppers at distances shorter than 8.6 miles. For longer distances, online shoppers’ footprints remained relatively stable, while brick-and-mortar shoppers’ emissions skyrocketed, up to 451.4 grams of carbon dioxide per transaction (when travelling more than 62 miles). One UK study showed the average consumer would have to purchase 24 items at the market to make the trip equal to the carbon footprint of just one item ordered online.
12. Carbon Footprint Awareness
What is your carbon footprint? How many slaves do you use? Become aware of what your past habits have done, and it will influence your future choices. Here are a few links to help you figure out how you are impacting the environment:
How big is your environmental footprint? Check out this Footprint Calculator
How many slaves work for you? Take this survey to find out.