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SustainableBelieving

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July 2017

Does it matter how many green alternatives I try?

There is an infinite amount of way to limit your impact on the environment. The never-ending question is of course how effective the alternatives are. Can you really make a difference?

I constantly wonder how my actions affect the environment. Does it matter that I didn’t recycle that thing properly? Does it make a difference that if I buy ecological or not that time? Infinite questions.

This is going to be long, but stay tuned! It’s important!

This june a study was published in IOP science, based on other studies, reports and recommendations in an attempt to determine which every-day actions are the most effective to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

They recommended four so called high impact actions.

Having one fewer child. Every year this would lessen a person’s impact with 58.6 tonnes CO2.

I don’t think I’m ready to consider this but that is one HUGE number to be sure. When looking into this, it is counted on each parent being responsible for half of the children’s future CO2 impact based on current numbers, plus a fourth of the grandchildrens emission etc. Thus, in theory this could be much less by teaching your children to live more environmentally friendly (if they never had a car either this number would be much lower for example). Buy removing national emission this should also be 17 times lower according to the study.

Living car free. Each year this would save 2.4 tonnes CO2 every year.

20170728_181152

Woho! I score in this department! But I don’t know how borrowing a car time to time affects this number. Anyhow, it’s counted from the amount counts production, maintenance and fuel. This clearly show that reducing our transportation habits would make a huge difference – from catching the train, to walking or car-pooling.

Avoiding airplane travel. For every transatlantic roundtrip it saves 1.6 tonnes CO2.20170729_211606

Not all flight as transatlantic and probably lots shorter in time which would limit its effect. So lets say 1 tonne CO2 per roundtrip in general. Problem is, this means you probably choose other alternatives and thus affect in some regards.

Another challenge to this is that it is pretty much expected that you will travel by plane for your vacation. It’s seen as some everyday luxury that you can fly away for that awesome vacation. The challenge here is to change the common idea of vacation and moving it closer to home or by getting there by train.

Eating a plant based diet. Each year this saves about 0.8 tonnes CO2.

20170730_202756This compared to a meat diet counting emissions from fertilizers, livestock and transportation. I guess I am saving up fairly good in that department, and Nikki even more so. I still use dairy products and such, which I should make an effort to transition from to minimize emissions.

Smaller things

In the study they compare this with things such as recycling which is apparently four times less effective than removing meat from your diet. There goes that hope. Keep in mind though that even though recycling might not have the biggest CARBON impact it can matter a lot in the amount that is unnecessarily burned or the amount that is successfully reused. That in itself is a victory, carbon footprint or not. Still, it is staggering that the tiny steps I try to take matters very little if I don’t do the big stuff.

My carbon footprint

As I’ve understood from the study one individual need to limit their yearly emission to under 2.1 tonnes CO2 if we are to reach the goal of keeping climate change at 2 degrees. Thus, you can eat meat and fly one time a year and then use nothing more – no car, no children, no lights or any products. Or you could use a car, and then use nothing more. Or you could have a child, and then you can do nothing more for your entire life that has any emissions. You get the picture.

So to keep within limits, I would choose not to fly. For vacation I would probably take a car instead, but rented and shared with at least four people – so say that’s at least half of the emission saved. And no meat, but still daiary (let say I save half of it), while keeping recycling and choosing the right light bulbs. So in theory, I could minimise my carbon footprint with 0.4 +1.6 + 1.2 + 0.3 = 3.5 tonnes per year. That is at least pretty impressive, and probably means that I’m under the necessary emission levels. So that is something to aim for.

.. but what about the little thing?

Using a tote bag, recycling, choosing better materials, re-using clothes, minimizing my shopping. Does it matter? I guess not if you don’t do the big stuff. It doesn’t matter how many of the little stuff you do if the big stuff is still done. If I keep flying my imprint is just too huge for recycling to matter. That kind of sucks. Like it’s all a waste to try.

But it should be the opposite – it means we know that we have to focus on the big stuff. If we start there, all the little things will come to matter too. If I don’t fly or use a car and can eat plant based at the same time, the little things start to matter too. This just means that I know where to start.

And mind you, the little steps matter in other ways to. They are important for a sustainable world in many ways, just not the most effective to limit carbon emissions.

 

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The perfect Reuse

This summer, there have been a few dinners out on the balcony. We have quite a small balcony and no room for a table (I have to many plants too). In a stroke of genius I realized that the balcony jar thing we got for my birthday is a perfect plate holder! Look at that – it’s like it was made for it!

I love it when things can be reused and repurposed, whether is simply though usage or a small DIY-process.

 

 

A cup of awesomeness 

Another period-related tiny step I´ve taken is using a cup. And I don’t think I can say enough kind things about it. I´m using it as I write and it is simply so easy.

I saw an article the other day that a normal pad contains the same amount of plastic as 3 or 4 plastic bags. I didn’t look into it so I don´t know the sources, but there is for sure a fair bit of plastic in them. Along with other materials, and blood of course, making it hard to recycle. Thats pure waste when we have good alternatives: cloth pads.

I think the largest objections I’ve meet when speaking about cloth pads is that is outside your body and gets a bit gross. This then is the same people that  wouldn’t wear a regular pad either since it’s outside the body. I´ve always found tampons scary – it’s a bit of treated cotton you put inside you. I hate the feeling – when it’s full it swells and becomes really uncomfortable. When its not full enough it’s hard to get it out because it’s all dry. And when you put it in its all dry aswell, making it less than comfortable.

This is where cups win. They are neither dry or super heavy. They are easy to get in a variation perfect for your vagina – small or large, hard or soft, tall or short. I find them super easy to put in, and they are more comfortable to keep in there – I don’t feel them at all. Plus, I can take it out anytime without any harm.

Plus, the optimal worth of course: they can be reused for several years. No more buying tampons and throwing used one out – creating even more waste. It feels more sustainable since it’s something I know creates less waste. Also, having something that is reused and last a long time feels awesome in it self. And that feeling is great. Not only can I be comfortable during my period, but I can feel that I’m actively minimising my environmental footprint every day. 

Recepie for one of the greatest moments: listen to The Greatest by Sia while eating the greatest candy ever on the way to the greatest person on earth.

Berries is without any doubt the best candy one can ever find. Perfect. And the greatest.

I’ll pick you up

Every time I go visit my parents, who live on the opposite side of Stockholm from me, my mother offers to pick me up at the train. A super kind gesture. Often I say I’ll just walk- it takes less than 30 min- or take the bus – about 10 min. But sometimes I accept, because I’m hungry, or tired, or have a heavy bag. I need to stop that. Yeasterday she offered again, because it’s raining. I sort of want to say yes – but really so can take the bus and walk a few minutes in warm rain. No biggie.

Everytime I take up her offer actually matter since it’s one extra start up and a few extra kilometres that wasn’t needed. So from today I will truly attempt to never be picked up or take the car if it can be avoided. If it is possible, I will solve it with a walk, a bus or a bike ride. Bye bye unnecessary car ride! Hello pretty walk in the rain 🙂

Did you know your electronics supports conflict?

Social sustainability is important to me, and it also what has lead me to look into other aspects of sustainability as this blog shows. Usually I try to find alternatives that are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. When I have to choose, I prioritize social sustainability. It’s not hard to see why this is the path for me: as a human rights student I care that social sustainability is a way of achieving respect for people’s rights.

During one semester of my bachelor we focused on Central Africa, and on reconciliation processes around the world. A concern of both is Congo. One of the things we spoke of was conflict metals. To be honest I had no idea that a large portion of metals in a common mobile phone comes from mines in Congo. That Congo is the producer of metals is not a problem in itself, the problem is that these are conflict metals. The mining supports several armed groups in the countries, allowing them to continue to control areas using threats, violence and sexual violence – thus the name conflict metals.

Today electronics with material from Congo are made of conflict metals since there is little control of the supply chains which could guarantee conflict-free metals. During the time we read about this in school I was feeling increasingly guilty that the phone in my hand probably supported armed violence against civilians. That’s far from something I want to do, but since it’s already in my hand it’s too late to do anything about it. I thought to myself that with my next phone I would do better.

And here I am: time for my next phone and for me to do better. Therefore I’ve chosen to buy a Fairphone which will arrive at the end of October. Until then I am borrowing my dad’s spare phone. The Fairphone guarantees transparent supply chains which conflict free metals, while reusing what can be reused. As an initiative they have chosen to continue to source their metals from Congo, despite conflict, but to it in a way that supports the common people, free from conflict and with minimal impact on health and the environment. Which in itself sound almost impossible, but as a company they’re getting incredible results. Last year they announced that all metals – tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold – now have conflict-free supply chain and are fair trade. That is just wow.

As a added bonus, and important to me as a human rights tudent, is that they strive for fair working conditions throughout the process by working with manufacturers to constantly improve conditions and relations at the workplace.

I feel so glad now that I´ve ordered it and I know that I am taking a step towards supporting a sustainable and fair process. Every bit I read about it, I feel proud that it can be done, but also optimistically glad that there’s enough people who want to go out of their way to produce a fair and socially sustainable phone instead of finding the cheapest alternative. It’s the sort of thing that restores faith in humanity, so I’m more than happy to put my faith in them.

Suprise gift

On monday I visited my mom and she had just got a bunch of tiny mint plants from her friend who apparently had way to many. Mint is a bit holy for me and my mother – we love it. She gave me three of them and they are now happily living on my balcony. I love to have fresh spices and such on the balcony so I don´t have to buy a whole new plant when I need leaves for something special , plus I can pop them in anywhere I want (come to me virgin mojito). Yhey for awesome suprise gifts!

I also have my rosemary, which I must say I´m not as good at using. I need to learn when I can put it in so I have a use for it. Now it sits there being decorative most of the time.

Our hike to the nature reserve

 

We started our day around 8.30 when we hopped on the bus that went all the way from our station Tanjung Tokong to the National park, which took about 45 min. The public transport in Penang is really cheap and nice, a bus ticket cost you about 2 ringgit which is like 4 kr. All of the buses have air con, and are pretty clean. The traffic is very typical for this region, lots of cars, traffic almost everywhere and pretty crazy driving. Still I didn’t see a smashed car anywhere along the roads or anything.
After the bus ride we ordered a taxi boat to the parks furthest beach called Kampi. We wrote ourselves in to the National parks register book (probably so they know who to look for if we didn’t return).
The parks opening hours were between 9am-5pm.
We started walking on the path through the rainforest towards our first stop, the turtle sanctuary and meromictic lake.
On the way we met a monkey, a goanna and a couple of other hikers. The walk consisted of pretty steep hills both upward and downward. The air was extremely humid so we were sweating lots by just standing. Luckily the thick leaf works gave us shade so we didn’t have to deal with the burning sun.
When we reached the turtle sanctuary and got under the roof it started raining for a short while.
I was pretty disappointed at the sanctuary itself, we got to know that it was a public holiday which meant that there were no guides there to inform us about their conservation work. So we just had to draw conclusions by ourselves, which was not in their favour. There were approximately 5 tanks in the sanctuary. One with lots of baby turtles which I, and some of the other hikers we met inside, assume are going to be let free in the ocean when they have grown a bit bigger and won’t be as easy take-away lunch targets for the big fish.
The tank beside the one with the babies was a turtle that was a bit bigger in size, yet not full grown. I hope with all of my heart that this one will be let free soon.
Then there were the tree last tanks, the most depressing ones. All of the had a big adult turtle inside them, one had a broken shell, the other two I didn’t notice any outer injuries on, but what do I know. The thing is, these big magnificent creatures where put in small (maybe around 1,5×1,5 m) tanks. They swam around in a circle for a bit. They had nothing in the tanks but water. No seaweed, no rocks, not a single thing to enrich the enclosure they lived in. It made me angry. Especially when there was nobody to defend the work the centre is doing.
They hade nice informational posters about how an embryo becomes a turtle and pictures of the different sea turtle species that can be found around the beach. But there was not much about their conservation work.
I innerly hope that what I saw, has a good explanation because of those turtles are just kept like that for fun, this conservation project is a mere scam.
After watching the poor turtles we continued our walking trough pretty rough terrain with more hills. After about an hour or so we reached the beach Kampi, which was pure beauty. We were accompanied the last 20 minutes by a local who normally walks around the reserve on his spare time. But other than that, we were alone at the beach. After a couple of hour of chill we got picked up by our ride and got to see reserve from the outside and the rainforest was magnificent. I can’t believe how you wouldn’t want to conserve the nature, trees may not radiate wifi or grow donuts on them, they make the air around us breathable. They are the reason we live. They are important, much more important than our petty little needs. Much more important than us.

Sustainable Penang

The past 9 days in Malaysia have been really great.
One of the greatest things with the city of Penang is that they have pretty recently become more and more environmentally friendly.
They have this campaign running with the slogan “Cleaner greener Penang” which means they have started to governmentally fund proper waste disposal. They also have stopped giving out free plastic bags in shops and have them behind the counter so people have to ask to buy a plastic bag if they want one, even in grocery stores. I think it is good that they have the bags on the other side of the counter because if you could just pick one for yourself it would probably be something that people did more without notion and just out of habit.
Most of all public toilets had signs where they recommended a minimal use of water and toilet paper, as they stated it
“Don’t flush the forest. Save paper. Save trees. Save the world.”IMG_0392
These things are baby steps, but all of them are in the right direction which makes me happy.

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