As businesses are reopening, the world will soon be filled with greenhouse gases (GHG) like pre-COVID-19. Climate change is no longer a subject that we can ignore and all of us have a role to play. Understanding our own ecological footprint and willing to take action are keys to reducing the burden on earth. The ecological/environment footprint is a measure of human demand and supply of our earth. According to Footprint Network, it takes the equivalent of 1.75 Earths to produce the resources we use and absorb the resulting waste now. In other words, today human consumption exceeds what the earth can regenerate by about 75 percent. For a second this sounds scary, isn’t it? The good news is that there is something we can all do at home to contribute every day. If you have the impression that fixing climate change is hard, you are right. It will take time but little steps and lifestyle changes can go a long way in fighting this grave problem that is a threat to our planet. You can help improve the health of our earth with just a few, small changes in habits.
First of all, understand and calculate your own footprint.
If this is too overwhelming for you, feel free to skip this part and read the tips below right away. Though it is always better to know where you stand before taking any actions. To be able to sustain human consumption, the goal for all global citizens is 1.7 tonnes per capita of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, Canadians produce about 7.7 global hectares of ecological footprint per capita, which is four times more than the resources currently available on earth and wastes that it can absorb and regenerate. With such a huge gap, it is impossible to only rely on the government. Now that we are clear of the goal, we can get a further understanding of our ecological footprint using a footprint calculator. There are many organizations that provide them, such as the Global Footprint Calculator, EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator, and Tree Canada Calculator. Choose the one that you are comfortable with. It is a good way to get suggestions on how to reduce your footprint and incorporate them into your daily life.
6 easy approaches to reduce your ecological footprint
- Drive less! Cars release many harmful pollutants into the air and oceans. Since the energy used for transportation mostly comes from fossil fuels, it contributes 24 percent of Canada’s emission – which is the second-largest sector. If you can leave your car at home, and choose to walk, bike, or take public transit when you can, go for it! Carpooling is also a wonderful option. This will not only reduce GHG emissions, but will also diminish traffic congestion and save your money on gases!
- Consider switching to or buying an electric car as your next vehicle. You will find surprising incentives from the government. For instance, the Canadian government provides a purchase incentive on the eligible zero-emission cars of up to $5000.
- While cutting reliance on fossil fuels is crucial, reducing meat consumption is also as important. People always seem to forget the connection between agribusiness and climate change. In fact, animal agriculture can create bigger problems than fossil fuels. You do not need to become a vegetarian. Simply eating less meat can help significantly. If you give up all meat and dairy, you contribute 8 pounds less carbon footprint a day, which equals 2,920 pounds a year! Start eating lower on the food chain – that means eating more fresh and organic veggies and consuming less meat!
- Reduce food waste by planning meals ahead and freezing the excess food that you can’t eat immediately. Remember to compost your food waste whenever you can.
- Try not to buy fast fashion Their prices are usually low and people are tempted to buy, but because these garments are out of season quickly, they all end up in landfills as waste. Some of them use modified cotton that is often sprayed with pesticides. Unless it is labeled as organic cotton, it causes environmental problems such as contamination to other crops, water, a negative impact on human health, and leaves a big carbon footprint because of the long shipping it usually takes from the factory. Not to mention some of the factories may still involve child laborers. It is necessary to think twice before buying these products.
- Buying alternative options such as re-purpose clothing, handmade or vintage can reduce your environmental footprint as well. You can also swap clothing with family and friends. An additional tip for washing your clothes- use cold water! The enzymes in cold water detergents work better with such water. If you do wash two loads of laundry weekly with cold water, you can easily reduce your footprint by saving about 500 pounds of CO2 each year. Amazing, right?
Water & Electricity
- They say water is life. Water is so precious that not a single drop should be wasted. Incorporate water-saving ideas such as stopping unnecessary faucet use, washing clothes until you have a full load, check for possible leaks, and take shorter showers.
- Change light bulbs to LEDs. Light bulbs are not energy efficient as they waste 90 percent of their energy as heat while LEDs use only 25% – 30% of the energy. LEDs also last about 8-25 times longer than light bulbs.
- Unplug all of your devices when not in use. All electronics use energy when they are plugged in and these contribute to your carbon footprint. Regardless of how small the energy leak is, you cannot ignore it as it can account for about 10% of all energy used in all Canadian homes. The same applies to your lights. Switch them off when you don’t need them.
- One of the fastest ways to reduce your ecological footprint is by planting more trees! Plants are known for absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen as a by-product. For example, a tree that is 10 years old can soak up about 48 pounds of CO2 per year. You can plant bee-friendly flowers and trees, whichever you prefer. If you have enough space in your backyard or garden, try having your own mini kitchen garden. Nothing better than homegrown fresh veggies, herbs, and fruits. For anyone who lives in urban dwellings, a balcony garden is also great for reducing the “urban heat island” effect. Cities are hotter than the rural area because of the concrete buildings and concentrated human activities. Plants in the balcony can help mitigate the effect and lead to cooling.
- If you use herbicides for killing weeds and getting rid of the unwanted plants, try the organic herbicides. Use fewer chemicals and live a greener life.
- Shop local and support local businesses. Whether you are buying groceries, clothes, or supplies, many of them can have big ecological footprints because they often travel more than we do.
- Do less shopping and buy less! Only buy something that you can use to avoid wasting resources. Another simple way to reduce your environmental footprint is to support eco-friendly businesses and buy sustainable products. Check our shop and buy from environmentally responsible vendors!
Comment below If you have more creative ideas about how to reduce environmental footprint at home! The most important thing we can do is to advocate and pass the message. Earth Overshoot Day, the day when human demand exceeds what the earth can regenerate, is on August 22, which is three weeks later than last year. Share these tips with your friends and family and help #movethedate even later for next year. Our actions and participation will eventually make a huge difference.
Blog Image Credit: Merio from Pixabay
Written by: Maria Chen