I thought I would share some of the changes and/or choices we (me and my partner) have made to try and reduce our impact on the planet. We are always looking for new ways to reduce the amount of energy that we consume, to reduce the amount of materials that we use and for ways to extend the life of the goods we already have.
Why is this important? Well, if everyone on the planet consumed the way we do in the United States we would need FIVE earths. We have one (for those of you keeping score). We use up materials as if trees, water, and minerals were unlimited. In just 100 years we have wiped out much of the earth’s stocks of natural resources.
In order to avoid catastrophe we must fundamentally change how we live our lives. Few people are prepared for this message. It challenges everything we think we know about life. It challenges and calls into question the very core of our national and personal identities’. Some very heavy emotional and intellectual lifting indeed, but for today, let’s focus on the “easy” stuff. Let’s focus on reducing energy use, consuming less, and looking at diet.
There are LOT’s of links in this posting. Take your time and work through them if you can. Lot’s of good information and ideas to be explored.
Reduce Energy Use
Drive Less: In America 30-40% of all energy use, and climate change inducing carbon emissions, come from the transportation sector. That is because our society is so dependent on the private automobile. Do everything you can to drive less.
Car: We have made a commitment to being, at most, a one-car family. We have a small car which at times is inconvenient and we have considered getting a larger second-hand car for those times when more space is needed. In the end we decided that if a larger car is needed, we will trade in the first car. If and when public transportation improves in this country I would love to have no car and just rent a vehicle from time to time.
Promote Integrated Communities: In many communities across the U.S. we passed zoning laws that separate our schools from our homes and from our work place. We spend much of our lives cut off from the world as we drive from one errand to the next. Get involved in your local political scene and get those zoning laws changed to create a move livable environment. Arlington Virginia did just this and it is thriving. (Read about it here and here.) If you are looking to move to a new area use this site to find a “walkable” community.
- Choose a smaller home: A smaller space requires less energy to heat and keep cool.
- Get an Energy Audit: The best way to find out where you are losing energy (and money). Focus on the biggest energy hogs in your home (good list here)”
- Insulate your home
- Get triple pane windows
- Get a more efficient Refrigerator (the fridge is a major energy hog)
- Get a more efficient water heater
- Get low flush toilets
- Use Efficient Technology:
- Use compact fluorescent bulbs. They can reduce your energy use by 80%.
- Only use appliances with the Energy Star symbol. Energy Star approved products can use 2 to 10 times less energy than non-approved models! (Find energy star appliances here)
- Use smart power strips that cut off power to appliances when not be used. Many appliances drain energy even when off (“Energy Vampires”). Anywhere from 5-10% of all energy use in the U.S. is from these vampires. Unplug!!
- All light bulbs are low energy.
- We use power strips that cut off the current to appliances when not in use. We unplug appliances not on power strips.
- When buying appliances we make to purchase the most energy efficient model currently available.
- Laundry: We wash all our clothes in cold water.
- Dish washer: If used properly a dish washer can save in water and energy. We fill the machine to the maximum before each load is started.
Our entire society is set up to promote consumption. We are bombarded by messages every day that create the “need” to buy, buy, buy.
Reduce the Temptation
Turn off the TV ( research shows that for each extra hour of TV watched, a person spends an extra $220/year).
Stop Mail Order Catalogs
Stop/Reduce Paper use
- Stop using paper towels
- Use tissues from recycled paper
- Use toilet paper from recycled paper
Avoid Plastic: Every piece of plastic ever made still exists. In the US we buy about 30 Billion plastic water bottles each year!! Most end up land fills. Not to mention all that other plastic we consume every day as packing materials for the stuff we buy, Ziploc bags, shopping bags, etc, etc. Plastic doesn’t go away easily — it can take 500 to 1000 years for plastic to break down. Nobody knows for sure. And every day we learn of more risks associated with the chemicals that leach out of these plastic products. Plastic burned in incinerators emit carcinogenic fumes into the air. Plastic is evil. Do everything you can to remove plastic from your life.
Ziploc bags: We try and use as little as possible and if we must, we gently wash and reuse to extend their life. To replace ziploc bags we have purchased small Pyrex containers to protect our food. Works great.
Reduce exposure to chemicals
- toilet cleaner
- bathroom tile cleaner
- floor cleaner
- window and glass cleaner
- dishwasher soap
- dish washing machine soap
The nature of our diet has a tremendous impact on the planet. Our industrial food system is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and is unsustainable on many levels. Watch the great documentary “Food Inc” to learn about how our food system fails us. The American diet is rich in meat, a very inefficient way to feed a growing population. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to make a one-pound steak in the U.S.! More than 50% of the entire corn harvested in the U.S. is fed to cows to make beef. Fast food is also becoming a staple of the American diet with disastrous effects on our personal and planetary health. Read more on this here.
Eat less Meat:
- We eat red meat very rarely and when we do we buy only organic, grass fed beef or grass fed buffalo meat.
- We try and have at least a few “meat free” days each week.
- We buy eggs that are free-range and organic and endorsed by the Humane Society
- We buy organic chicken (free range) and pork
- We buy fish according to environmentally friendly list (printable version here) – avoiding sea bass, farmed salmon etc… focusing on tilapia, wild salmon….
Well, that is a start. Drop me a line if you have some other good ideas or examples of steps that you have taken to reduce your footprint.
The longest journey begins with a single step….