|Unless we reduce consumption, we are going to need more planets.|
January is a time of new beginnings, and hope. It is when many people launch change in their lives, like going on a diet.
As North American's obesity rates have mushroomed, so has the per capita ecological footprint. At 10 acres per person, our demands on the bio-capacity of the Earth are 50% greater than the average European's. Right now is a good time to put this excessive footprint on a diet.
Most diets require that one eats less, and eats foods strategically in order to maximize nutrition. Similarly, the way to drop resource-use weight is to consume less, and more efficiently.
But what are the best ways to trim the consumption gut?
The Eco-footprint Diet
- Don't drive when there is an alternative – use public transport, cycle or walk
Over a quarter of all car journeys made are less than a few kilometers. Walking, cycling or taking public transport helps reduce congestion and emissions. On average we can reduce our total ecological footprint by as much as 20% if we don't own a car. If you must drive, use a smaller vehicle with a smaller, more efficient engine.
- Grow vegetables or buy locally grown organic, eat less meat, and reduce food waste
Our diet accounts for about 1/4 of a person's footprint. Growing a garden, and using food more efficiently, could reduce our footprint by 11%. Growing as much as we can of our fruit and vegetables reduces energy and waste in transport, refrigeration and packaging. Buying locally-grown, seasonal food reduces food kilometers and uses less packaging. Organic and other forms of low-input farming consume up to 40% less energy. The ecological footprint of vegetarians who eat a moderate amount of milk and eggs is about 40% lower than those who consume a low-meat diet.
- Don't fly. Take the train when possible, vacation locally.
Aviation has the fastest growing carbon emissions of any industry sector. A single passenger’s share of a return flight from Toronto, Canada to London, England has nearly four times greater impact on the climate than the average person in India has in an entire year.
- Instead of buying new things, make what you've got last, buy second-hand, or borrow
On average 10% of our footprint is made up of the consumables we buy. Our houses are often cluttered with items we only use or wear a few times. The average drill is used for just 15 minutes in its lifetime. Rather than buying something, consider whether you could borrow instead. Start a tool co-op and/or a free store with neighbours.
- Make your home energy efficient and support green energy initiatives There are many measures you can take around the home. For example, turning appliances off instead of switching them to standby, improving your home's insulation, and adjusting your thermostat. A four degree adjustment could save the average home 5% of their total ecological footprint. Other footprint-reducing measures include using window coverings to keep heat in (or out), not heating or cooling rooms you are not using, and keeping doors shut to keep heat (or cool) where you want it. Contact your energy provider to see if they have green alternatives such as wind or solar power-generated electricity.
- Reuse, Repurpose, Refuse, Recycle
We throw away over a ton of material every year. Much of it can be reused or repurposed in creative ways. Refuse overpackaged products when shopping. Donate unwanted items to charity shops. Use your local recycling collection.
Adapted from: source