“Making big, permanent changes on our own is in some sense too much to ask: we are asked to live and work within structures that are mainly designed for fossil fuel use. “*
But that isn’t to say the reducing your carbon footprint isn’t important or doesn’t matter… we just need to do it in a way that encourages other people to do the same. Leor Hackel and Gregg Sparkman, wrote in Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Still Matters:
“We don’t recommend taking personal actions like limiting plane rides, eating less meat, or investing in solar energy because all of these small tweaks will build up to enough carbon savings (though it could help). We do so because people taking action in their personal lives is actually one of the best ways to get to a society that implements the policy-level change that is truly needed. Research on social behavior suggests lifestyle change can build momentum for systemic change.”
That is why I made the public commitment to reducing my carbon footprint. My hope is that others will learn from my experience. I don’t expect to do it completely, or perfectly, and research shows that one person can make a difference. When we try, even when we don’t succeed entirely the first time: we talk to people, we communicate, we trouble-shoot, we learn. So by asking questions, discussing difficulties, laughing over failed attempts, one individual will be learning from, and teaching others, what a carbon-free life can look like, and how it can be adapted to diverse situations: spread out.
When I started looking into a more eco-friendly lifestyle, I was a bit surprised at how many things I’m already doing to help the planet. I live within walking distance to a grocery store, pharmacy, gym, nail salons and restaurants. And I walk to those places on a regular basis- it’s easier than driving and parking. My husband and I recently remodeled our home to include energy efficient appliances, windows, and a tankless hot water heater. In Texas, you can choose your electricity provider, and we use a company that utilizes renewable energy. The fact that we live in a townhome with shared walls means our energy use for heating and cooling is less. We also don’t use resources to care for a lawn. I take my own bags to the grocery store the majority of the time, I recycle paper, plastic, glass, cardboard, etc. I no longer buy bottled water and I use metal straws. That said, there are a lot of ways I can improve.
One of the largest impacts on your carbon footprint is flying. If you fly, air travel is certainly a large fraction of your personal emissions, probably anywhere upwards of a third. So not flying is one of the most impactful actions you can take. Which is a major personal sacrifice for me. I live at least 1,200 miles away from my family. I’m actually flying this week home for my Mom’s 80th birthday, and have already purchased tickets for a summer trip to France to visit my daughter and son-in-law, and my niece’s Las Vegas wedding over the Christmas holidays. In researching how to lesson the impact of flying, the suggestions were to fly direct whenever possible, travel light, and fly in economy class, all of which I do as a matter of course. The other suggestions was to buy carbon offsets, something that is surprisingly affordable, I thought, at about $175 per year for the average individual. So while I’m not willing to stop flying, I am trying to reduce my carbon footprint in other ways.
I ran out of quart size zip lock bags the other day. I’ve made the decision NOT to purchase any more. So far I haven’t missed them. I also ran out of toilet paper. I am NOT giving up toilet paper of making my own (although evidently that’s a thing...), but I did switch to a recycled brand. I signed up for a free trial, and while it’s not Charmin, it’s not horrible. We’re going to have to get used to it because when I signed up for a free trial, I had to sign up for regular shipments. I forgot to cancel (learn from me on that one). We will have 48 rolls delivered soon… That is going to last a longgggg time in the guest bathroom….
*The opening quote is from An Audacious ToolKit: Actions Against Climate Breakdown- a good read an inspiration for my Climate Change series of posts- yes, I plan to keep you informed of my successes and failures as I go about my journey to reduce my carbon footprint… Stay tuned…