Taking the measure of your carbon footprint requires that you examine every aspect of your life to see where you can make energy saving changes. Things to consider include your electricity, water and fuel consumption and how much waste you generate. Contemplate how much of your waste is recycled or sent to your compost. Take into account mechanisms you’ve put in place to generate power, such as solar panels; to save energy, such as insulation; and to harvest and store resources, such as rain water tanks.
Supporting the green movement is about more than the mere preservation of our fragile planet. It is about holistic communities with healthy attitudes who respect and care for one another and their environment. It is about improving the quality of life and boosting job creation. Going green is about energy saving – saving energy and using our remaining resources wisely.
Energy Saving Facts and Figures
Like India and China, South Africa is still very dependent on fossil fuels. Approximately 86% of our electricity is generated by coal-fired stations which as you can imagine are not very friendly to our increasingly vulnerable environment. One of the main goals of the UN Climate Change Summit is to wean the world off its dependence on fossil fuels and focus greater investment in green energy, and other sustainable and energy saving lifestyle changes.
Incremental changes add up. If we all agree to save electricity, we can cut down on our collective carbon emissions. An average household consumes 1000 kWh of electricity in a month which is equivalent to 0.98 kg of carbon dioxide. That same household can foreseeably save 5850 litres of water every month by using less water to flush their toilets. When you consider that daily flushing uses more water than other households have available for an entire day, and that one in nine people populating this planet don’t have access to potable water, it’s time to make a plan. It’s time for that ‘old brick in the toilet tank’ trick.
Reduce, reuse and recycle perfectly sums up the essence of going green. In the case of household waste, up to 80% can be recycled, reused or composted which is really a form of reduction. Reducing waste is necessary to preserve dwindling dump space. With a surging world population, we cannot afford to lose valuable land to dump sites. Some waste also poses a health hazard or the risk of harmful chemicals leaking into our soil and/or water. We need to pay attention in particular to how we dispose of electronic waste (or e-waste). At present, only 12.5% of the 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste produced annually is recycled.
Utilising grey water is another effective and affordable way to take the pressure off our limited resources, in this instance our water supplies. We’re already seeing water restrictions and rationing, and are continually hearing about communities that must go without water for days at a time. Start by using biodegradable soaps, laundry powders and cleaning agents so that you can safely direct all your grey water into your garden. Wash up in a plastic basin that can be emptied onto the lawn afterwards. Use an old Creepy Crawly (or similar) piping – perfect because it’s flexible – to direct water from your shower or bath and washing machine outlets into the garden.
Vote with your wallet by choosing ethical or Fairtrade options. Support local traders of organic produce like vegetables and free-range farm raised chickens and eggs. Carry this ethos through when making bigger purchases as well.
These days you can get green options in just about any product from commercial paints to bamboo socks and flooring. There is no shortage of opportunities to make a difference when you join the green revolution; the hard part is choosing where to begin. Do some reading, ask around – you’re bound to have a friend or colleague who knows a thing or two. The good news is there are many earth-friendly and energy saving changes you can make at little to no cost.
Going green is a conscious way of life and small changes strung together can make an astounding difference. Switching to energy efficient appliances designed to save power and smart plugs that cut current to your device once it’s fully charged, are examples. Simply unplugging appliances when they’re not in use is a great energy saving strategy if the former option sounds too sophisticated to you.
Lasting changes are usually those made steadily over a period of time. Implement a change, test it out, adjust it if need be and adapt to your new adopted lifestyle. Slowly but surely, you build one change on the success of another.