In my previous blog article, “Causes of Global Climate Changes”, the role of the individual in reducing pollution and the greenhouse effect was explored very briefly. As mentioned before, individuals often belief that their efforts will not contribute significantly to reducing greenhouse gases. Mistakenly, we belief that if industries alone were to do the moral and ethical thing, a tremendous amount of reduction in pollution and greenhouse gases would occur.
Given how pressing the issue is, scientists predict an exponential rate of increase in greenhouse gases in the coming years if no significant efforts are made by governmental organizations, manufacturers and individuals. While we have little say in the decisions international organizations, governments and manufacturers make, individuals collectively can certainly play a role in reducing their own carbon footprint. There are many choices we can make on a daily basis to reduce our contribution to pollution. It is time we became aware of these choices and put them into practice.
Reducing our Carbon Footprint
- Improving Energy Efficiency in Our Homes
Our homes are the very first places we can make changes to in order to decrease our carbon or ecological footprint. Firstly, using fluorescent lighting as opposed to incandescent lighting reduces energy consumption by a third. A bonus: Fluorescent lighting lasts almost 10 years longer. An even better, if not slightly more expensive alternative we can consider is LED lighting, which reaps even more savings than fluorescent lights. The good news: The cost of LED lights has decreased significantly over the years and will continue to do so.
Using efficient heating and cooling measures is another way to reduce energy consumption. Use programmable thermostats and ensure that your doors and windows protect your home from drafts. Use shades and drapes that block sun rays to prevent overheating and use fans for cooling instead of air conditioning. Other efficient methods of maintaining a comfortable temperature include insulating your walls.
Reduce the amount energy used to heat water by using low-flow shower heads and insulating your hot water tanks.
If you are considering building a new home, consider using sustainable materials to do so. An energy efficient material, CEB or Compressed Earth Blocks, typically made with soil and lime, has a significantly lower carbon footprint as compared to other construction materials. These strong, stable and water-resistant blocks can be made with materials found on-site, thus reducing transport costs and transport carbon footprint.
Simple changes such as these will not only save you money, they are also eco-friendly.
- Daily Modes of Transportation
If you use your car on a regular basis, check air filters when carrying out a routine oil change to ensure that your car is less of a pollution hazard. Similarly, checking your tire pressure is equally important as it deflates over time. These two simple car maintenance habits will contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of your car.
If you have friends, neighbors or colleagues that are headed to the same destination, carpooling is a good option.
If your destination is close by, it makes sense to walk to your destination or cycle. You will be doing both your health and the environment a favor.
If public transportation is a viable option, use it to travel to and from work.
- Our Diets
An interesting point to note is that something as basic as our diets result in 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions. These include foods that are thrown away on a daily basis, fish that are caught as a hobby and then thrown away as well as parts of an animal that are removed, such as giblets.
Consume responsibly by finishing any food you have at home that is fit for consumption before heading for the supermarket. When eating out, order only what you can finish or doggie bag leftovers for the next meal. Be creative with using overripe fruits by freezing them and then adding them to your baking when you have time.
Wasted food translates into wasted energy and water. For instance crops have to be grown, harvested, processed, packaged and transported before we pick them up at our local supermarkets.
- Choose Local or Regional Produce
Another simple way of decreasing your carbon footprint is to choose local or regional produce over food that is flown in from foreign countries. Your food travels less miles before landing on your plate. Learn which foods grow in your locality or region by visiting a farmer's markets. If you have no access to a farmer's market, ask your supermarket which foods are locally produced and are in season.
Additionally, reducing consumption of beef, goats, sheep and other ruminant animals decreases the amount of greenhouse gases. Ruminant animals as opposed to chicken and turkey have a digestive system that constantly produces methane, a gas 25 times more poisonous than carbon dioxide. More energy and water is used to raise ruminant animals in terms of crop for feed. Land use issues and deforestation are also associated with large livestock.
- Recycling & Waste Management
The old mantra-recycle, reuse and reduce still holds water despite the current focus on energy efficiency. When you don't recycle, you waste energy that is then used for making new products and transporting them.
Less energy is wasted when you reuse products, such as shopping bags for grocery shopping. Opt for an eco-friendly shopping bag that can be purchased cheaply at supermarket chains for a small amount of money instead of using plastic bags.
When you choose to recycle and reuse, you reduce the amount of garbage in landfills, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause pollution and climate change.
- Consumer Habits
As consumers we are also in a position to pressure cooperations and franchises to commit to greener practices. Choose to buy from commercial outlets that practice 'fair trade' which not only benefits farmers and laborers but also promote a sustainable environment.
For instance, recognizing the demand from consumers for 'greener' products, major commercial chains like IKEA and Starbucks engage in this practice to a large extent. Other notable commercial outlets like Safeway, Tesco and Kingfisher have also committed to making changes to their production processes.
As a consumer you have the power to boycott commercial outlets that increase the carbon footprint, hence forcing them to change their practices.
It is obvious then that individuals, especially collectively, CAN make positive changes that will help in reduce greenhouse gases and stabilizing climate change almost immediately. While the list of changes may seem daunting, try adopting these practices in steps. However do remember that this issue is pressing and the clock is ticking.
WRITTEN BY DIANE TIWANA