BY ELAINE KLAASSEN
Along with most of my friends, I wish to reduce my carbon footprint. My environmentally-friendly friends and I think if we live sustainably we can somehow alleviate and mitigate the climate heat that is exponentially encompassing the entire planet. (You know, the hotter it gets, the hotter it gets.)
The world is overextended. I think of all the energy spent manufacturing, transporting and disposing of stuff, as well as all the energy spent generating the gigantic quantities of electricity needed to run furnaces, purify and pump water, light homes and cities, etc.
Conservation is cheaper, more respectful and less risky than geoengineering, so that is the route I choose to take. But the things I do to conserve energy aren’t nearly enough to affect the rising global temperature nor the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. My suggested conservation plan might make a dent in the world’s massive misguided energy usage, to the point of keeping the global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees centigrade, if all 7.8 billion people in the world did it, but what it would take to get to a stable point is much more extreme. That would involve addressing air travel, meat production and quite a few large offender corporations that blithely spew waves and waves of greenhouse gas emissions.
If the planet is miraculously stabilized, I think the sustainable habits we are developing in our mitigation attempts will at least be good for maintenance. Right now, we do our individual efforts with a sense of futility—and unwavering principle. It’s like going up the down escalator.
Sharon Lerner in The Intercept, July 20, 2019, citing a report from the Center for International Environmental Law, gives a SMALL example of what we are up against: From 1967 to the present, the production of plastics went from less than 25 million tons to 300 million tons. Half of the current production is for single-use items. The industry is estimated to be worth more than $4 trillion. “The extraction, refining and waste management, the production and incineration of plastics will add more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere this year alone (an amount equal to the emissions from 189 500-megawatt coal power plants).” The plastics industry has plans to grow and expand.
Individual measures we can take: Reduce, Re-use and— as a last resort—Recycle
Go to bed with the sun and get up with the sun. (I’m working on this.)
Have no more than two children.
Consume locally-grown crops and produce grown through regenerative agriculture methods.
Compost food waste, but don’t throw food away that is already prepared and edible—so much energy already went into that.
“Eat meat as a condiment,” says Dr. Christiane Northrup, or explore plant-rich diets.
Build homes out of used plastic water bottles and “green” cement. (Haven’t tried this yet.)
Live in reasonably-sized spaces, not thousands of square feet that need to be cooled and heated. Take off your clothes instead of turning on the AC. Wear sweaters instead of turning up the heat. Use air conditioning only if you have a medical condition. Otherwise, situate your fans carefully and plant trees to shade your house. Plant trees anyway.
Ride a bike or a motor scooter, use public transportation, walk or use a solar-powered handicapped vehicle.
If you must drive a car, then carpool—get to know your neighbors. Don’t exceed the speed limit. Coordinate a series of errands in one trip. Just think how much energy it takes to move a two-ton car. Electric is better than petrol, but we haven’t quite solved the generation of renewable electricity yet. Campaign for smaller, lighter cars. Campaign for onshore wind turbines. (Working on all of this.)
Fly only if you must—we can’t all endure a yacht trip across the ocean. (I heard they are working on more energy-efficient airplanes.)
Plant a wide variety of pollinator-friendly native plants in your yard. Plant bamboo.
Dry your laundry outside—or in the living room.
Turn off lights. Use LED lights.
Buy energy-efficient appliances.
Fix broken things. Restore old furniture. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.
Use tissues, paper towels and napkins sparingly. Use cloth rags instead of paper towels.
Campaign for the development of new packaging materials—a plastic made from corn, or from hemp.
Avoid buying containers that need to be recycled, since, as we’ve been learning recently, recycling isn’t always happening. Use containers from jam, pasta sauce, nuts, whatever, to buy your main food staples in bulk.
Carry glass or Tupperware containers with you when you go out to eat. Many places do have compostable containers, but others will give you Styrofoam. Carry a reusable bag for groceries or bread, or a thermos to get a cup of coffee (make sure it’s clean when you hand it to the barista).
Buy compostable disposable silverware and tooth brushes (bamboo, for example).
Don’t leave the water running when you brush your teeth.
Save the water when you rinse vegetables, run water from cold to hot in the shower, or boil eggs. Then use it to flush the toilet or water plants.
I grew up learning that wastefulness is next to ungodliness. Now, in terms of conserving energy, all the careful, frugal measures of my childhood make sense.
Yet, I know that for every time I take my own bag to the store, there’s somebody behind me asking for “double-bagged plastic, please.” For every time I walk or take the bus, there’s somebody flying down the freeway 80 mph in their SUV.
This happens on a large scale, as well. For example, while many cities, states, electric utilities and businesses are making their own pledges to reduce emissions, the U.S. government is madly subsidizing the fossil fuel industry.