Reducing Our Carbon Footprint – where Aspiration Meets Reality

The Covid-19 Crisis and Global Warming

Let’s face it. Not many people understand how it happened, and even fewer understand what the fnuk we should do now that some glimmer of appreciation has begun to filter through to the collective psyche. With reason, Covid-19 has entered most of human consciousness as the ogre that must be avoided, umm, like the plague. It has caused, and continues to cause, unprecedented damage to our societal structure and has chipped away at the foundations of the belief in our own resilience. Many people have died, and many more will continue to die due to misconceptions as to how the virus propagates. The big questions seem to be about how the virus can be contained within acceptable levels of attrition, whilst enabling us to resume some semblance of normality.

Woman with Mask - How can we reduce our carbon footprint in Coronavirus Time

The world is beginning to timidly peep out from under the comforting bedcover of self-isolation it has wrapped itself in for many weeks now. But, there is palpable fear as to how we can return to our pre-Covid daily lives, and concern about how we can start activity to offset the tsunami of economic damage that has been foreseen by the World Bank, the IMF, and other august financial bodies is growing.

Coupled with this is a perception that another existential crisis facing humanity, that of the long-term effects of climate change, is in danger of being relegated to a position of secondary importance. The truth is that it is probable that environmental degeneration produced by humans is the cause of the current global pandemic, and it is clear to many that concern for the environment should remain as the default position for future economic development.

Covid 19 an opportunity to reduce our Carbon Footprint

Perhaps now, when we have seen that collective action has such a powerful effect, it is time to connect our aspirations with a reality with which we have lived for many years, but which has perhaps been seen as a cosmic aspiration rather than an imminent danger. Instead of viewing the dawning realisation of the possible long-term consequences of Covid as an insurmountable barrier, perhaps we should view it as a wonderful opportunity for creating something durable by changing the way we interact with our environment.

Given the number of dramatic headlines relating to the climate crisis, perhaps there has been a tendency to believe in an impending doom about which little can be done, and that seems so far away that it won’t affect us anyway. But it’s surely up to us to accept the challenge and ensure that what has become known as the Anthropocene geological age[1] will not be the last one in which humans manage to organise themselves constructively. Perhaps we can learn from the current, much more immediate crisis, and apply those lessons to the way we move forward, not only individually but also collectively.

How can we reduce our carbon footprint - Reducing our consuming and our waste

Call me an old sceptic, but I never honestly believed that most of us fully appreciated the consequences of the way we live, and it’s only now, when enforcement by something outside of our control confronts us with who we are, that the possibilities are revealed. It is undeniable that the crisis has resulted in an marked recovery of the environment, and we have all witnessed the elimination of contamination from the skies above Europe and China, we have been surprised by the silencing of the perpetual roar of overhead airplanes and have watched as wild animals timidly reclaim our streets. One lesson we have learned is that together, and if we want to, we can choose to take individual action that on a planetary scale results in significant change. The question is that now the lockdown is being relaxed all over the world, will the momentum that has been forced on us be maintained? Perhaps it is up to us as individuals to ensure that this is the beginning of something brilliant that we can do together.

6 Simple ways to reduce our carbon footprint in the UK:

Ways to reduce our carbon footprint in the UK - Pollute Sky

Why do we need to reduce our carbon footprint?

The first thing that must be accepted about carbon footprints is that our mere existence means that carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is the main cause of global warming, will be produced. The reality is that many more of us are living a life of excess that was not envisaged by the original architects. Each of us has a carbon footprint that marks how we interact with the world. Some; those who travel more or have more disposable wealth, and consequently consume more primary resources, have a much larger carbon footprint than others. It is understandable that these latter are the ones who find it more difficult to make a change. The trouble is, that the description relates to many of us who live in western society, and it is increasingly true as more nations pull themselves out of poverty and demand improvements in their standard of living.

Our great advantage as humans is that we have apparently infinite reserves of ingenuity, and this has led not only to an industrial and technological revolution; the cause of the current climate crisis, but can, without a shadow of doubt, also provide us with the necessary tools to clean up after ourselves.

How can we reduce our carbon footprint?

Here are six ways in which a more sustainable, and in all probability, a less hurried, more pleasurable, and more fulfilled existence can be created. We all know about them, but perhaps it is only now that we can fully appreciate their real value:

1. Air Travel:

Avoid Travel to reduce Air Carbon Footprint

Remains one of the largest contributors to global warming. As lockdown has crystalised, so people have stopped travelling as much, and our skies have been clear. Considering whether a journey is necessary in the future will be a significant driver for keeping CO2 emissions related to this way of travelling down to more sustainable levels.

Of course, it is all about balance. Why should I forego that holiday in Greece, or miss out on the walking trek in the Himalayas? In this respect, it’s worth pointing out that nearly 70% of aircraft emissions derive from only about 12% of people; those known as frequent flyers. It must be hoped that the massive increase in home working and teleconferencing during the lockdown will drive down air travel as people realise that many journeys are not necessary. (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/urban-expeditions/transportation/green-aviation1/).

 

2. Road Travel in individual cars:

Reduce road travel in individual cars

May be set to increase as people seek to minimise their exposure to infection on public transport. There’s no doubt that we are on the cusp of a transport revolution as companies consider the options to allay fears of contamination from the virus, as well as to address the climate crisis. Covid-19 has made it imperative for new ways of thinking, and more frequent buses, less crowding and the obligatory wearing of masks are all being considered. Unless there is a drive to the use of renewable fuels, this may mean increased CO2 emissions. The advice is, if possible, to work from home or to consider using a bike or walk. After all, what can you lose, except for a few pounds of unwanted quarantinesque indulgence?

 

Until the philosophy behind public transport has been revised in the light of the new reality, these are the best alternatives for those seeking to reduce their carbon footprint (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/09/uk-to-invest-cycle-lanes-coronavirus-air-pollution).

 

3. Home Heating:

Reduce Home Heating to reduce our carbon footprint

Home heating is one of the largest contributors to global warming, not because it uses lots of energy but because, in many homes, it uses lots of energy inefficiently. The advice from the experts is to insulate your homes professionally. The investment needed to do it will be paid back in just a few years and will significantly reduce your own carbon footprint. This, of course, is one of the most difficult things to organise because, unless you are a bit of a DIY expert, you’ll need someone to do it. Although having said that, putting a bit of draft excluder on your windows or changing the light bulbs to high-efficiency ones shouldn’t be too taxing, even for the most ungraceful of us. The benefits will soon be noticed in your pocket. (https://www.thegreenage.co.uk/5-energy-saving-measures-biggest-payback/).

 

4. Avoiding meat and dairy reduce our carbon footprint:

Avoiding Meat and Dairy Reduce our carbon footprint

The production of meat is one of the most environmentally damaging large-scale enterprises on our planet and has a much larger carbon footprint than grain or vegetable production, simply because it is a very inefficient system of storing calories. Add to that the amount of methane, a highly efficient greenhouse gas – much more so than CO2, that is emitted by ruminants farting, and you have the perfect mechanism for generating enormous amounts of greenhouse gas.

 

Of course, there is the aspect of widespread deforestation that is needed to provide the huge amounts of food, both animal and vegetable, necessary to satisfy the endless hunger of the western diet, but if enough of us change our habits by cutting down on meat, or by eating more fruit and vegetables, not only will we be fitter, healthier and happier, we will also be ensuring that, by singing from the same choral sheet, producers will be forced to give us access to food from sustainable sources. (https://ourworldindata.org/less-meat-or-sustainable-meat).

 

5. How can we reduce our carbon footprint when buying food:

Buy local to reduce your footprint

Check out where any products you purchase come from and how they are transported to the point of consumption. There’s no doubt that checking provenance is as important for the environment as checking the ingredients can be for your health. Bananas, for example are usually fine as they are shipped by sea, a method of transport that uses much less fuel. Websites that proclaim they are environmentally or organically friendly, for example, www.organics.com, besides requesting all pertinent organic and ethical credentials from all their suppliers, where possible should promote local supply. Of course, this can be difficult in a world that is so intimately connected but by seeking more efficient ways of transport, they can play their part to ensure the most sustainable way of meeting their customers’ demands.

 

6. Your power as consumer:

Be the change the world needs to reduce our carbon footprint

The power of the consumer is something that not many of us seem to consider to be important. However, it is perhaps the main reason that makes large companies change their operating philosophy. Witness, for example, the change in approach of investment companies and pension funds away from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources. These technologies have improved immensely in recent years and, although there is still some way to go before they can fully replace carbon as the principal source of fuel, the day when this will happen is not far off and depends heavily on public demand (https://rhsfinancial.com/2020/02/12/future-fossil-fuels-collapse/).

Best Simple tips to Reduce our Footprint

So, in summary, what can each of us do to make sure that changes in the way we interact with the environment become mainstream?

·       Question whether travelling is essential, use a bike or walk to go to work.

·       Where possible, work from home and use technology to fulfil business demands.

·       Block drafts in your house and use an energy supplier that promotes renewable energy.

·       Consider how the things you purchase are transported and try to select an alternative that could be supplied locally. If this is not possible, check out whether the environmental aspects of shipping are considered in transport.

·       Become proactive rather than think that your opinion does not matter. Remember that only when enough of us raise our voices will things get done.

The Covid-19 crisis highlights that it has never been truer that ‘together we are one’. The climate crisis provides us with a chance to align our individual aspirations with our collective reality.

[1] denoting the current geological age, the period during in which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

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