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.
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.
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.
This 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.
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.