Have you heard the reports that our planet can only safely handle 350 ppm (parts per million) of carbon in our atmosphere before we start doing damage to the ecosystems of the earth? The problem is we have exceeded that number already and have reached 395 ppm. And based on how much fossil fuels we use today, we only have 15 years left before our air cannot support life as we know it. It is scary to think that the fresh air I breathe (living away from a city) will not be there for my grandchildren by the time they are in their late teens and before reaching that magic age of 21. But there is something we can do to help prevent this.
Just avoiding driving is not the answer. It is estimated that those of us who live in the so-called first world need to cut our fossil use by 80 % – 90%. That’s an awful lot to cut. Yes, I’ve cut back but even I haven’t cut back enough to reach that magic percentage. Fossil fuel is used in almost everything we touch. Some examples are:
- Synthetic fabrics
- Plastic, from toys to food containers.
- Heating our homes
- Fuel needed to ship goods to our stores and the energy to heat and operate those stores.
- The manufacturing of furniture, gadgets, and everything you see in your shopping malls.
- The circuitry of your electronics
It’s not just the fossil fuels that we have to worry about either. If you throw food scraps in your garbage, headed for the landfill, it will produce methane in that landfill which further pollutes the air. Food scraps, leaves, etc which you compost will not produce methane as it breaks down in your compost and will help to make your soil healthier. If you don’t want , or think you can’t afford, a composting system you can dig a hole, fill it with food scraps and refill the hole. In time you will have some of the best soil on your property. I dig my holes in areas of the garden which were tilled but not planted this year. By next year I will plant in those areas first and use other spots in the garden as my compost bin. After a few years I will have every area of the garden beds lush and full of nutrients.
So what can we do to reduce our use of fossil fuels in our daily lives?
- Cut back or eliminate driving
- Reduce the amount of electricity you use (most electricity in the US is either from coal or nuclear power, some is produced by natural gas)
- Opt for the smallest choice when buying new. Do you really need the largest fridge or TV, decide what is “just right” for your family.
- Reduce your dependence on the grocery store. Join a CSA, grow some of your own food, buy from local families who sell their surplus.
- Purchase used before new and try to avoid buying anything new as often as possible
- Repair before replacing.
- Plant trees and other plants outdoors to purify the air. If planted around your home they will provide shade as well to reduce the indoor temperatures and even provide a wind break in the winter to reduce your heating costs.
- Don’t buy a new phone if the one you currently have works fine. When the time comes to replace a phone look for used or refurbished. Same with computers, televisions and other electronics and appliances.
- Insulate your home, start with windows and doors if money is tight. A tube of caulking costs very little compared to the energy you will save.
Another way to make a stand is to divest yourself of all investments in fossil fuel companies. Some universities have divested all their pension accounts of these types of companies. If the big oil companies stop earning their record profits they will need to look for other means of staying in business that is in line with the public’s values.
I know what you are thinking, it’s too expensive to change everything you have, or like me, you are renting. Here are some things I did around my apartment that saves natural resources.
- I scraped and caulked around the window.
- I added weather-stripping around the exterior door. If you can see light coming in you have air loss costing you more to heat and cool your home.
- Changed out the light bulbs around the apartment with a mixture of LED and CFL and avoid turning on lights if I don’t need them.
- Cook as little as possible.
- Decided I could live without a fridge. I will have a freezer, a small one, but not a fridge.
- Only use one light for the task I am doing when I am alone.
- I chose to buy a fan instead of an air conditioner.
- Take as short a shower as possible
- Wash clothes in cold water.
- Changed to natural cleaners which don’t come in a lot of plastic packaging or use fossil fuels. This was one that surprised me when I thought about it. I had always used Dawn Dish Soap. Until I saw birds being cleaned with it after an oil spill. I began to wonder what was in my dish soap. Turns out petroleum products are used in the liquid. I couldn’t get over how gross that seemed to wash my dishes in something so harsh.
I doubt as you look around your home you can see where you can save 80% – 90% of your fossil fuel use. But take a look at the products you buy, the plastic wrappers on your food. Read the labels on your beauty and hygiene products and see what they are made of. Avoid the dollar stores and big box stores which get most of their inventory from overseas.
How much could you reduce your footprint, without it being a burden, if it means your children and grand children will have the opportunity to live a healthy life on this planet?