I would like to thank our guest writer for this post, Philip J Reed, on behalf of Westwood College.
Terms like “eco-friendliness,” “climate change” and “carbon footprint” are tossed around an awful lot lately. It’s difficult to escape them, in fact. This can be a good thing, as it means that society, in general, is becoming more and more receptive to (and conscious of) the very real environmental impacts of their actions.
It can also, however, feel quite overwhelming. Protecting the planet is great and all, but what can we, as individuals, actually do?
Well, we’ve taken the time to prepare this very brief list of five things everybody can do, individually, to reduce their carbon footprints. And, we think you’ll find, each of these steps benefits your life (and the world) in additional ways as well!
- Buy local fruits, vegetables, meats, and any other locally grown or produced products that you can. Does this seem completely unrelated? It’s not! The amount of vehicular emissions released when transporting products is increased with the total distance transported. Buying local means exponentially smaller emissions, and, as an added bonus, you’re supporting your local economy!
- Switch out your old fuel driven lawnmower for an electric one. Or, even better, a manual pushmower, which not only eliminates all emissions, but will also increase the amount of exercise you get from mowing the lawn. Additionally, you may want to consider not bagging up your lawn clippings. Leaving them scattered can actually benefit your lawn, as they serve as a natural fertilizer!
- Plant a tree! Not only are trees beautiful (and long-lasting) testaments to the lives of those who planted them, they are also natural air- and soil-filtration systems. Trees do an excellent job of cleansing environmental harm that’s already been done, and you can also use the planting of a tree as an excuse to get the family together, outdoors, working on a rewarding project. It’s a bonding experience as much as it is an environmental one.
- Walk or cycle whenever it is possible. When that is not an option, consider either public transportation or a car pool. Many suburbs have commuting or car pooling groups set up for those who travel for work. If one car can take four people to work rather than the four traveling separately, then you have effectively erased the vehicular emissions of three people. Over the course of even a single year, that adds up to an enormous reduction! (And the conversation is better this way, too!)
- Understand the energy that you use every day! Taking small steps in many areas can reduce the amount of energy your household consumes greatly. Have you switched over to rechargeable batteries and eco-friendly light bulbs? If not, you’re missing out on a lifetime’s worth of cost savings, as they need to be replaced hundreds of times less frequently! Also, you may want to consider having solar panels installed. You don’t need to power your entire house with them (though you certainly could), but each solar panel will reduce your reliance on grid-delivered electricity, and will reduce your electricity bill accordingly.
There should be many local services who can offer you a consultation regardingthis step, and often that consultation will be free. Anyone with a construction management degree should be able to help guide you, so ask around the family and friends!
Remember, take things one step at a time and one small change at a time. The planet appreciates it every time you reduce your carbon footprint, no matter how small the reduction may be. And we think you’ll find that it’s easier than you expected, and that further reductions will get even easier down the line.
If you have any additional steps you’ve taken to reduce your carbon footprint, please leave them in the comments section below. We’d love to hear about what people are doing!
As I ponder the debate of alternative energy solutions and the pros and cons of alternative energy, I keep coming back to the fact that it is not just about energy but lifestyle. Every lifestyle choice we make affects our energy usage.
Take for instance the choices we make concerning what we eat. Have you ever considered how much energy is consumed transporting fruit and vegetables? We take for granted that there will always be fresh produce available and if things are out of season we can still buy them because they are imported from overseas… but at what cost to the environment? It seems to me that this system is both inefficient (energy-wise) and wasteful due to the amount of spoilage at the end of the supply chain. The fact is, if the produce does not look good it never even gets to the shelf!
So what is the answer? Become more self sufficient and less choosy! This is a new area for me but I believe that we all have to start somewhere. I have a standard quarter acre suburban block but instead of just growing grass I have started to grow some of my own fruit and veges. I have had some success with a few basics like pumpkins (which require a bit of space) and tomatoes (both cherry tomatoes and standard ones). I am now trying to get a herb garden going and a few fruit trees established. I am hoping to harvest my first apples soon, and I have some figs coming on as well.
So, instead of using my limited water supply (and grey water) trying to keep the grass green, I am now producing at least some of my own food. OK, I still have a long way to go, but at least it is a start.
I also found that we have a local farmers produce market some weekends, which costs less than the supermarket, is fresher and though it may not always look as good, it sure reduces drastically the amount of energy used in the supply chain! Therefore in energy terms, growing your own fruit and vegetables is another excellent alternative energy solution in assisting in preserving our environment.
It is a worthwhile saving and better for all in the long term.
I have to admit that even though the evidence has been mounting up over the last 20 years I have been slow to accept the fact that I have contributed to the current world environmental crisis. I am part of the western world that uses far more power, water and other resources per capita than is equitable! I have also come to realise that as a Christian I have a God given responsibility to protect this world and be a good steward of those limited resources. Sadly, history shows that the western church has been a willing partner in exploiting and destroying the environment and is strangely silent in this current debate.
It seems to me that the message of the Bible is that injustice makes God angry, and that when nature is in pain He takes notice! God is on the side of the powerless and downtrodden and He expects us to be accountable for what we have done with what He has given us. Just like my mother expected me to tidy up the mess in my room , so too I believe that God expects us to do something about the mess we have made in the world and adjust the current inequitable distribution of resources.
The key to all this is knowing where to start! Most of us get overwhelmed because it seems too hard, but here are three things that we can all do:
- Reduce! If we would all stop and reassess the difference between what we want and what we need, we would probably be able to reduce both what we buy and what we use. That would in turn reduce our consumption of resources and power! Do we really need all those things that the media is telling us are essential?
- Reuse! What we need to recognise is that we have grown up to be a throw-away society, yet we can choose to buy a reusable bag and NOT to accept and use a plastic one. Our landfill tips are full of things that could have been reused, but in our affluent western culture we just don’t bother, we buy a new one. Stand against this trend and be different.
- Recycle! We are getting better at this but we still have a long way to go. With just a little effort on our part we can recycle all the aluminum, steel, paper, glass and some plastics we use – this will reduce consumption of raw materials. By choosing recyclable items over non-recyclable we can all do our part for the environment.
Acting on these simple recycle facts will help reduce our carbon footprint, our power consumption and our waste, with the result that we will have a healthier and more equitable world. You’ve got to be happy with that!
In my discussion with a new group of people this week I was amazed by the fact that many of them wanted to be ecologically sensitive but just didn’t know where to start. They are now aware of the need to go green for the benefit of the planet, but thought it was too complicated and so fail to do anything. The fact is it is not all that complicated, the idea is to start small and build up to bigger things. Here are six things that we can all do:
1. Drive less! This week I was in a new city and I really enjoyed just walking around getting a feel for it – which was much better than just getting a quick glimpse through the windscreen. These days I try to walk (or cycle) as much as I can for all short trips, getting the benefit of the exercise and the reduction in fuel costs.
2. Reuse! My current passion is the need to reuse water bottles. They are a fairly new innovation that have quickly become essential! WRONG! They may be handy, but the cost and the fact that so many end up in landfill tips mean that they are bad for the environment.
3. Recycle! My next bug bear is grocery bags. I am old enough to remember before we had plastic bags, and walking to the shops with with our own shopping trolley on wheels. We cannot turn back the clock, and I can no longer walk to where we do our main shopping, but I now try to remember taking our own recyclable shopping bags. Plastic shopping bags are bad for the environment so choose not to use them.
4. Save water! as population expands so does our need for water, but we can no longer just build another dam. Therefore we all need to do all we can to conserve this precious resource. we now have our own tank to catch our rain water and we use our gray water from the washing machine to water our lawn and garden.
5. Insulate! Even modern houses are not well insulated, so adding insulation to the ceiling space and remembering to open and close your heavy insulated curtains can minimise heat loss in winter and keep you house cooler in summer. This will save you money on your heating and cooling bills and be better for the environment.
6. Generate! It is now getting easier to generate your own electricity, so consider whether it is now time to invest in solar panels for your roof, or install a solar water heater or build your own wind turbine. The energy you produce can then be fed back into the commercial grid and you can get paid for it.
It has never been easier to go green, so what are you going to do today to apply these suggestions to your life.