There is a difference between our carbon footprint and our recycling effort. We can recycle as much as we like, but unless it reduces our carbon footprint, we are not really having much of an impact on global warming.
Many cities conduct seminars on calculating and reducing carbon footprint and these are a valuable resource where you will learn things you didn’t know before. And you will meet like-minded people in your community.
I learnt there that our carbon footprint is related not to our water tanks, our recycling of garbage, but more of how many cars we own, their size, how many lights we burn, how many televisions and basically how many people live in our (all-too-large) house. It didn’t seem to matter that we had planted umpteen trees. So with some guilt, we set about reducing that carbon footprint.
Here’s what we did in the short term:
- Used more public transport and sold one of our cars. This is easy in a town or city with buses. Consider a bicycle and buy a locally made one. I LOVE my bike.
- Carpool! This is a good way to meet your neighbours.
- Stopped buying takeaway coffee or drinks from stores unless we took our own mugs.
- Sold the big house and downsized.
- Donated masses of unused goods to a range of charities. Don’t swamp your favourite op shop all in the one go. Spread the love! It’s easier for the volunteers to cope.
- Completely banned plastic bags from our lifestyle. I have been using recycled bags for around 15 years now. Any time I have been overseas I have left a few there hoping that the trend will catch on. The Aussie green bags are appreciated.
- Found a store that refills bottles with laundry detergent.
- Stopped using softener. Mostly this is a silly addition to the washing. Lectric washing soda is just as good. Cheap and you add it at the start of the wash replacing some of your detergent. This saves a lot of detergent and you can still drain all the water onto your garden.
- Ditched all the extra televisions. Resolved not to buy a new one till the old one totally dies. Do I need a mega-plasma? Well, not really. The standard of most shows doesn’t warrant it and I am better off reducing my couch hours.
- Ate less. This is a double edged benefit. I am slimmer and buying less. Spending less money on eating.
- Ate locally produced foods. Cut out the transport element in your foods.
- You can:
- Take your own (clean) containers when you are buying takeaway meals. In the old days it was standard practice to take your saucepan to the Asian food shops. Bring back the trend!
- Cut out interstate talk-fests and business meetings and fire up Skype instead.
- Use the backs of writing paper for drafts. Read documents off the screen rather than printing.
- Donate anything you are not likely to use. Someone will appreciate your stuff and you can empty some cupboards and live more simply.
- Start a vegetable garden if you have time, at least for herbs. This is easy and you will be surprised how much money and time you save. Many herbs are grown in hydroponic farms that use a lot of energy both in the set-up and in the water and chemicals used. Then they need to be transported to your store, and you need to go there and get them. Much easier to put a few plants in pots or in the ground. Share with your neighbours if you have too many.
- Wear locally made clothes. You will be AMAZED at how long clothes actually last. Buy classic styles and don’t get sucked in to the fashion myth. That plain white T-shirt or black pants can last for decades.
- Don’t use a clothes dryer. Most washing will dry on racks or if you have space, put up a rope line. The Versaline is a fabulous Aussie made clothesline, discreet and easily stashed. You can move it to where the sun is hottest.
- Obviously cold water washing is a huge saving. But every now and again, you may need to wash your towels in hot water with Sard powder for optimum anti-bacterial effect. Don’t feel guilty – pump the hot water over your concrete driveway and give it a periodical scrub. The Sard will also kill off the mould.
- Light globes – This is still an area that is being developed. I find the energy savers impossible to sew or do close work by. However, the incandescent lights are so wasteful, that I am prepared to make the sacrifice and change to CFL (Compact fluorescent lights) or LED (Light emitting diodes) bulbs. They save money and carbon dioxide in huge amounts, but be careful where you dump the worn out globes as they contain mercury. Take them back to where you bought them or contact your local council’s waste programme for disposal.
- Insulate everything – roof, walls, hot water service pipes. This is a massive saving and you will return your outlay in three years or even a shorter period. If not already insulated, a space blanket will work, but make sure that you are not covering any areas that need ventilation.
- Take an Esky shopping with you. Keep your cold stuff cold so that you don’t heat your fridge when you come home.
- Volunteer. This is a rewarding exercise and you are sure to find an area with which you have some connection or empathy. Or just pick one you want to learn about!
- Maintain your house, especially anything with a filter that may need cleaning, al your electrical appliance. Take advantage of your local council’s offer to assess your home’s energy efficiency.
- Surprisingly, a dishwasher, when stacked correctly, is more efficient that washing by hand. Don’t rinse prior to stacking. This is a waste of water and the surface of your plates will deteriorate faster.
- Low flow shower heads and tap aerators may be available free as replacements from your water company.
- Put a one-litre soft-drink bottle into your toilet cistern to reduce the water flushed. Check that it is sitting straight and not in the way of the works!
- Don’t run the tap while cleaning teeth. Use a mug.
- Use eco paints when re-painting. These are locally made or can be ordered online. Quick drying, great coverage and cheap.
- Ask if your neighbours would be interested in a small co-op to purchase mowers, ladders, chain saws and other capital garden expenses. Share rather than buy one each.
- Compost. Even in an apartment you can use a Bokashi bucket, a small, super-efficient earth-maker and use this soil on your herb garden.
- Stay healthy and avoid trips to the doctor and dentist. Use handkerchiefs not tissues but soak in Napisan or Sard. Treat your hankies as though they are baby nappies! This will save you a fortune and is easier on the nose anyway.
This list is just a beginning. There are so many ways that you can lower your impact on the world. Keep watch for further hints or send us yours in the comments below!