Going green for good
Sunday, June 1st 2008
It’s World Environment Day on 5 June and the United Nations Environment Programme is urging us to kick the carbon habit, for good. Although climate change is a massive global challenge, there’s a lot that ordinary people can do to reduce their carbon footprint. And living a low-carbon lifestyle can save you money too.
Each one of us creates a carbon footprint just by going about our daily lives: driving to work, making a cup of tea, buying a carton of milk at the shop. Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly or indirectly support your activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide is called a greenhouse gas because it causes global warming and climate change.
Measure your footprint
The first step in kicking the carbon habit is to find out just how big a footprint you make. GreaterGood-registered cause, Food & Trees for Africa, urges people to know their carbon footprint so they can take active steps to reduce it by planting trees, for example. Their Carbon Standard Calculator is the first of its kind in South Africa and is a quick and easy way to measure your impact on the planet.
Use less energy
The single biggest way to reduce your carbon footprint is to use less energy. Electricity is made mainly by burning fossil fuels – belching out huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. And fossil fuels are not a renewable resource which means that one day soon they are going to run out.
By using less energy, we burn less fossil fuel and reduce the amount of carbon we’re putting into the atmosphere. This will not only make Eskom happy, it will also save you money.
- Use Compact Flourescent Light Bulbs and turn off all unnecessary lights.
- Appliances and electronics pull power even when they are turned off so unplug your computer, TV, DVD, iPod, cell phone charger, kettle, oven, dishwasher, tumble dryer and washing machine when they are not in use.
- Install a solar water heater or put a timer on your geyser.
- Set your washing machine to 30 degrees and use a dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand.
- Lobby for the use of renewable energy sources, like wind farms.
Stop gas guzzling
Here’s another way to reduce your footprint and save money: use less fuel. Petrol, jet fuel and diesel are fossil fuels and produce carbon when burnt.
- Drive slower, drive less and car pool wherever you can.
- Reduce your air miles. Jet fuel is a big contributor to global warming so try to holiday locally and use conference calls and email instead of business meetings with distant colleagues.
- Buy local. Locally-grown fruit and veg don’t have to be trucked across the country or flown in from far away places. You’ll be supporting local farmers and boosting our economy at the same time.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
The processes used to make plastic, paper and glass all produce carbon emissions. And when these things are thrown away, they sit and fester in dumps or are burned. Yes, you guessed it: this releases carbon into the atmosphere.
- Reduce your paper and plastic usage.
- Pressure local retailers to use less packaging.
- Instead of throwing things away, reuse them or give them to a cause that can use them.
- Recycle everything you can. Find a local recycling centre, like Footprints in Cape Town, and drop your recycling off regularly.
Educate the next generation
Raise your children to be carbon-savvy and help them to understand that how we live our lives today impacts on the kind of world we will have tomorrow.
Support initiatives that educate the youth about the environment. The Lapalala Wilderness School, for example, has enriched the lives of thousands of disadvantaged children by giving them first-hand experience of nature and wildlife.
As Lapalala’s director, Dr Anthony Roberts says: “It is time for us to take responsibility not only for our own actions but those of tomorrow’s leaders, for if we fail to educate today’s children on the importance of conserving our natural environment through sustainable utilization of resources, the biological support systems on which we rely will collapse.”
Sources: Food & Trees for Africa; United Nations Environment Programme