Sunday, April 7, 2019

Right Action: Ten Ways to Minimize your Footprint

God be in my head, and in my understanding; God be in mine eyes, and in my looking; God be in my mouth, and in my speaking: god be in mine heart, and in my thinking; God be at my end, and and my departing. - John Rutter (b. 1945)

This is the fourth installment in an eight part series that offers information and tips related to climate action and protecting our environment. In response to an SEC poll, we created the Eightfold Path of Environmental Action which is a companion series to a video that is scheduled to be launched in 2019.  Here is a list of ten actions to minimize your footprint:

1. Energy and efficiency

The overarching goal of responsible stewardship must focus on reducing our use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the leading cause of the climate change and air pollution. Clean energy is central to solving both the climate crisis and reducing the health impacts from polluted air.

Reducing our use of heat or electricity derived from fossil fuels is the single most important thing we can do. Eliminating or at least reducing your use of fossil fuels for home heating by switching to electric where the electric grid is powered by renewable sources of energy like hydro. If at all possible install a solar-powered hot water system, solar panels or wind turbines.

Everyone can reduce their energy consumption. Do an energy audit to identify where you can make the most energy-saving gains. One of the most impactful things you can do is to turn down the thermostat in winter and turn it up in the summer. Maximize efficiency with high R-value insulation. Reduce electricity consumption by using energy efficient lighting (LEDs), energy star appliances, shutting off lights, and unplugging electronics when they are not in use. Wash clothes in cold or warm (not hot) water and minimize your use of dryers by hanging your clothes or using dryer balls. Install a water-saving shower-head and take shorter showers. 

2. Transportation

The goal is to reduce our use of fossil fuels in transportation. When possible cycle, walk or use public transportation, if you must drive use fuel-efficient car (ideally an electric car) and drive efficiently. When you do drive try to hypermile (get as much mileage as possible out of your vehicle). Keep your car tires inflated to the recommended pressure. Drive slowly and smoothly.  Consider car sharing and try to fly less, when you do try to offset your emissions. 

3. Consumption, packaging and waste

Reduce the amount of things that you buy. Reduce your consumption and try to eliminate your use of plastic (if we consume less, there is less production and less waste). If you want to discard something do it responsibly or better still try to find a home for these items. When acquiring something consider its longevity and try to buy items with little or no packaging. When there is packaging try to ensure that it is biodegradable or at least recyclable. Buy secondhand rather than new and if you buy new items, make sure they are made from sustainable, low-impact materials. SMURF: Sharing, making upcycling, repurposing and fixing.

4. Food and water

Buy local and seasonal food produce to reduce energy use in transport and storage. Above all eat less meat or eliminate it from your diet altogether. Eat an organic plant based diet and reduce your food waste by composting. Eat less and try to eliminate processed food. Don’t waste food and when possible grow your own. Don't leave your taps running. Install an aerator on your taps and use low flow toilets.  Use rain-barrels to water your plants. 

5. Recycling and decontamination

Recycle as much of your trash as you can. Make sure you clean your recyclables.  Do not buy toxic chemicals and detox your home of existing chemical agents if you have any. Make sure that you safely dispose of these unwanted chemicals. DO NOT pour them down the drain or putt them in the garbage.

6. Live local

Try to do things locally when possible. Whether you are going to the store or going for a walk do it locally to minimize the need to incur emissions associated with transportation. Ideally your workplace, shops and schools are all within walking distance of your home. Rather than going to work see if you can arrange to telecommute one or more days a week.

7. Investing

Divest and reinvest. Speak to your financial adviser about transitioning away from any investments you may have in fossil fuels. You can also increase your investments in renewable energy and clean technologies.  There are many investment firms that now specialize in such investments or offer green portfolios.

8. Supporting carbon pricing

Putting a price on carbon is one of the most important things we can do to make economy wide changes that benefit our climate. It reduces pollution by assigning costs to emissions intensive activities and this has the ancillary benefit of making cleaner alternatives more cost competitive. Tell your political leaders that you support carbon pricing.

9. Vote

While personal actions are important only governments have the power to pass legislation and drive economy wide change. Ask your political representatives to support climate friendly legislation. Be an environmental voter (ie someone who prioritizes environmental issues). Register to vote and vote in elections from municipal to federal.  Demand a shift to a clean-energy economy and insist that we lower our national emissions to meet or exceed our Paris commitments. Tell elected leaders that you want to see an end to fossil fuel subsidies. Above all be an informed voter. Familiarize yourself with the various party platforms and vote strategically.

10. Build communities

While our individual actions are important the most important thing we can do is organize in our communities. We can change our individual lifestyles and our personal behaviors, however if we really want to slow climate impacts we need to augur change at the community level and beyond. Working together we can achieve so much more than we can achieve on our own. Share what you know, invite others to share their challenges. By exchanging stories with others we may be better able to understand the issues and find solutions. Building bonds between individuals and organizations is how we grow a grassroots movement and communities that organize are the ones that are capable of auguring change. Building communities through climate action can even help us to bridge the divisions that separate us.

Eightfold Path of Environmental Action.
Right Speech - Effective Environmental Communications.
Right Understanding: Knowing the facts about climate change
Right Thought: How we think about the natural world

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