Reducing Our Footprint

footprintThis Working Group could be the umbrella for many projects related to reducing consumption. Examples include swapping, sharing and bartering schemes; free markets; bike pool and car sharing groups; energy saving projects; etc.

So far, we have held a couple of successful swap events –- where we invite people to bring functioning items, books or clothing they no longer use or need so we can exchange with each other, to avoid buying new — and we would like to continue these kinds activities and expand on the overall theme so we can reduce our consumption, help each other out and have fun at the same time! There is no Working Group for this activity at the moment so we are looking for people to belong to this group and start planning and executing either regular, or ad-hoc, swaps, and/or initiating new projects.

Measure your impact

The first thing is to get an idea of your your own personal Footprint. Everything we do makes a demand on nature. The food we eat, the clothes we buy, the way we travel, everything. Added together, the demands made by each and every one of us – humanity’s Ecological Footprint – are far too much for our planet. 50% too much, in fact. A good start for lightening your load on our planet is to first understand where your own impacts come from. The Ecological Footprint is an indicator of human pressure on nature. Humanity is currently using the renewable resources of 1.5 Earths to meet our yearly demands for energy, food, shelter, and the things we do and buy. People living in richer, more developed countries generally have a higher Footprint than those living in less developed countries. (World Wildlife Fund)

Tips from the 5 R Checklist, Zero Waste Home (the Ultimate guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste, by Bea Johnson

5 tips for the Kitchen

  • Refuse: Resist food packaging and disposable plastic bags.
  • Reduce: Pare down kitchen accessories and define pantry staples.
  • Reuse: Shop for groceries with reusables and rethink your leftovers.
  • Recycle: Appoint separate containers tailored to your recycling needs.
  • Rot: Compost food scraps

5 tips for the Bathroom

  • Refuse: Don’t let hotel shampoo bottles clutter your space and synthetic ingredients harm your health.
  • Reduce: Incorporate multipurpose products into your daily routine.
  • Reuse: Adopt the reusable hygiene alternatives mentioned in the chapter.
  • Recycle: Make your own cosmetics using bulk ingredients to eliminate recycling.
  • Rot: Compost hair, nails, and the lemon peel used for the hairspray.

5 tips for the Bedroom

  • Refuse: Resist trends, embrace style.
  • Reduce: Stick to minimal furnishings and a small, versatile wardrobe.
  • Reuse: Buy second-hand clothes and repurpose to extend their useful life.
  • Recycle: Donate worn-out clothing to participating recyclers.
  • Rot: Compost your wool sweater’s pills.

5 tips for Housekeeping and Maintenance

  • Refuse: Reject single-use and antibacterial cleaning products.
  • Reduce: Use vinegar and baking soda to clean
  • Reuse: Adopt reusable cleaning rags, and make repairs with a borrowed tool.
  • Recycle: Purchase white vinegar in glass bottles for their recyclability.
  • Rot: Compost your dust bunnies!

5 tips for the Workspace

  • Refuse: Say no to the business cards, goodie bags, free pens or pencils, junk mail, and wasteful shipping materials.
  • Reduce: Choose quality writing utensils; you will more likely keep track of them.
  • Reuse: Repurpose shipping material and single-printed paper.
  • Recycle: Throw into the recycling bin only paper that is printed on both sides.
  • Rot: Compost shredded paper and pencil shavings.

5 tips for Kids and School

  • Refuse: Reject freebies, extra school papers, and lamination.
  • Reduce: Streamline toys and after-school activities.
  • Reuse: Buy second-hand clothes and school supplies.
  • Recycle: Make crafts out of compostable or landfill materials.
  • Rot: Compost your crafts.

5 tips for Holidays and Gifts

  • Refuse: Reject Halloween trinkets when trick-or-treating; pick consumables instead.
  • Reduce: Streamline your holiday décor; embrace edible decorating.
  • Reuse: Trade, borrow, rent, or buy a used Halloween costume.
  • Recycle: Send holiday cards and Halloween candy wrappers for recycling.
  • Rot: Compost your Easter eggshells and your pumpkin tureen.

5 tips for Out and About

  • Refuse: Be proactive in rejecting the pizza stacker, the restaurant straw, and the airplane earphones.
  • Reduce: Fly only when no other option is available.
  • Reuse: Bring your own shampoo and conditioner when staying in a hotel.
  • Recycle: Make your camping stove’s butane can recyclable by puncturing it when completely empty.
  • Rot: Embrace trench composting when camping or travelling.

Reduce your carbon emissions

We are indebted to the World Wildlife Fund for the following material:

Without question, the most important thing we can do for our planet is to drastically reduce our CO2 emissions. Simple and immediate ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint include:

Use your consumer power

One of the greatest day-to-day positive impacts you can have is simply to be an informed and selective shopper. Your position as a consumer gives you tremendous power. If you reject food and goods produced in an unsustainable manner, and instead choose environmentally friendly alternatives, the companies will listen – and change their practices. In particular:

Reduce, reuse, recycle

This mantra should be first and foremost when making decisions as part of our daily lives – at work, on vacation, when we’re out shopping, and at home. In particular, we can all work to:

Do more!
Take action The lifestyle changes we make as individuals are vital, but so is high-level policy change by governments and companies.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint From Driving

  • Alternatives to driving. When possible, walk or ride your bike in order to avoid carbon emissions completely. Carpooling and public transportation drastically reduce CO2 emissions by spreading them out over many riders.
  • Drive a low carbon vehicle. High mileage doesn’t always mean low CO2 emissions. All vehicles have an estimated miles-per-gallon rating. Electric cars emit no CO2 if they’re charged with clean electricity. If you don’t charge it with your home’s solar panels AND live somewhere like WY, MO, MO, WV, or KY you’re BETTER OFF with a hybrid or high-mileage gas/diesel car. Here’s why. After incentives and gas savings, it essentially costs nothing to switch to an electric car like the the Nissan Leaf.
  • Get a hitch-mounted cargo rack. Don’t buy a minivan or SUV if you don’t need 4WD and/or will only occasionally need the extra space. A receiver hitch and a rack like this one only cost a few hundred bucks. Avoid roof-top boxes, which cost much more, increase aerodynamic drag, and decrease fuel economy.
  • Driving style. Speeding and unnecessary acceleration reduce mileage by up to 33%, waste gas and money, and increase your carbon footprint.
  • Tire inflation and other tuning. Properly inflated tires improve your gas mileage by up to 3%. It also helps to use the correct grade of motor oil, and to keep your engine tuned, because some maintenance fixes, like fixing faulty oxygen sensors, can increase fuel efficiency by up to 40%.
  • Avoid traffic. Being stuck in traffic wastes gas and unneccessarily creates CO2. Use traffic websites and apps and go a different way or wait.
  • Misc. Combine errands to make fewer trips. Remove excess weight from your car. Use cruise control.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint From Air Travel

  • General. Until petroleum-based aviation fuel is replaced, you should avoid flying when possible, fly less frequently, fly shorter distances, and fly economy class.
  • Leisure Air Travel. Take fewer and longer vacations that are far away, and more frequent and driveable “staycations” closer to home.
  • Work Air Travel. Increase your use of video-conferencing tools like Skype and Facetime.
  • What class? Economy class is best, for the same reasons as carpooling and public transportation. Each flyer’s share of a flight’s carbon emissions is relatively less because it’s spread out over more people.
  • That’s Economy class. When Prince William flies economy class, he’s leading by example. Then there’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud, or the Sultan of Brunei, who buy entire economy-size planes and convert them into flying palaces.
  • Don’t fly on private jets. Fly first or business class if you must, because at least those seats always fill up anyway, and avoid private jets, including services like NetJets and XOJET.
  • Don’t buy a Honda. HondaJet, that is. Their cars are fine, though.
  • Don’t be a space tourist. Watch NOVΛ on PBS instead. Richard Branson’s “spaceline” Virgin Galactic seeks to right the injustice that “most of our planet’s seven billion people have had no opportunity to experience space” and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin promises “life-changing views” of what’s left of our planet.

Reduce Your Home Energy Carbon Footprint

  • Insulate and seal your home. Reduce drafts and air leaks with caulk, insulation, and weather stripping. Many states offer programs and incentives to facilitate this, and a great example is Energy Upgrade California.
  • Appliances. Make energy efficiency a primary consideration when choosing a new furnace, air conditioning unit, dishwasher, or refrigerator. Products bearing the ENERGY STAR label are recognized for having superior efficiency.
  • Lighting. Turn off lights you’re not using and when you leave the room. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact flourescent or LED ones.
  • Thermostat. Don’t set it too high or low. Install a programmable model to turn off the heat/air conditioning when you’re not home.
  • Solar. Add solar panels to the roof of your home. This costs a little more than the above options, but many providers offer financing options which minimize upfront costs. Two examples are SolarCity and SunRun. If you live in a state with a Net Metering law, you could eliminate your electricity bill or even earn money by selling electricity back to the grid.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint From Food

  • Eat locally-produced and organic food. It has been estimated that 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the production and transport of food. Transporting food requires petroleum-based fuels, and many fertilizers are also fossil fuel-based.
  • Cut the beef and dairy. It takes a lot of resources to raise cows, and it’s especially bad if you buy beef from somewhere like Brazil, where it was grazed on land that used to be tropical forest but was cleared for agricultural use. Deforestation is a top contributor to carbon emissions and thus climate change.

More Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

  • Water usage. Lower the amount of energy used to pump, treat, and heat water by washing your car less often, using climate-appropriate plants in your garden, installing drip irrigation so that plants receive only what they need, and making water-efficient choices when purchasing shower heads, faucet heads, toilets, dishwashers and washing machines.
  • Reuse and recycle. It has been estimated that 29% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the “provision of goods,” which means the extraction of resources, manufacturing, transport, and final disposal of “goods” which include consumer products and packaging, building components, and passenger vehicles, but excluding food. By buying used products and reselling or recyling items you no longer use, you dramatically reduce your carbon footprint from the “provision of goods.”
  • Support clean energy sources. Whenever you can, advocate for clean alternatives to fossil fuels, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and appropriately designed hydroelectric and biomass energy projects.