Recently my 7-year-old came home from school beaming with pride as she had been awarded Class Environment Representative. Brimming with ideas, passion and zeal, she was excited to get started on her environmental mission. She proudly declared that she was going to tackle “Global Warning” and then asked me to explain what the “warning” was all about!
It got me thinking that Global Warming really is a *warning* and one that we all need to be responsible for addressing. We as human beings expect a lot from others, but are we giving our nature back the same thing? Once I explained Global Warming to my daughters, we set about creating a plan for reducing our carbon footprint (this expression also took some explaining!).
One of the best things about raising little people is they are innately passionate and optimistic. Sadly, we tend to lose these wonderful qualities as we get older. When we visited Port Douglas recently on a family holiday my girls were terribly upset when we went out on the Great Barrier Reef but failed to see the beautiful, colourful coral they had seen in pictures. “Why is the coral dying” they asked morosely. The upside of this conversation was that it ignited a passion within them to do their bit for the environment.
Here are 5 ways we are making a difference, and you can too:
1. Low Waste
Food wastage is a big NO in our household. I can’t bear to throw away any food and I can proudly say our food wastage is low. I would like it to be ZERO, but I have a two-year-old and she’s extremely fussy. I do my best to eat her leftovers (sandwich crusts and apple skins but I draw the line at soggy cereal). Whenever I read the statistics on how much food we throw away in Australia my heart sinks. I will go into battle for a limp zucchini or lonesome spring onion in my crisper. Most things can be repurposed (soup, fritters and omelettes are a great way to use up expiring veggies). Food planning also helps to reduce waste. To me, it is entirely unnecessary and unacceptable to throw food away.
2. Low Tox
Much as I would also like to adopt a zero-tox house, we are settling for a low-tox household. I have changed all cleaning products to environmentally friendly products, and most of our bathroom and laundry products/soaps are also all natural. A few exceptions sneak in but I would say we are 80% chemical free now and I am pretty pleased with that. Vinegar and Bi-Carb soda work wonders and you can easily make your own all-purpose cleaner with these products and a few drops of essential oils.
3. Conserving energy
There are SO many ways you can reduce energy consumption in the home. Naturally, having energy efficient appliances helps, but this doesn’t mean you have to go out and purchase new models. Energy conservation can be as simple as turning off lights or appliances when you do not need them. My girls are well-trained in this now. You can also limit your use of energy-intensive appliances by performing household tasks manually, such as line-drying your clothes instead of putting them in the dryer or washing dishes by hand. We rarely use the dryer at home. Instead my house has clothing wracks on constant rotation!
But of course, we do use the heater in winter and cooling in summer, though I am mindful about our usage. As I’ve said before I feel comfortable reducing rather than eliminating. It also pays to compare energy plans, which we recently did when we moved into our new home. When was the last time you actually shopped around for a better deal?
For those really looking to get even more bang for their buck, make sure you check out how solar power works. Not only will it lower your greenhouse emissions; you’ll be able to earn some serious money from the power your home generates.
4. Pass on Plastic
Plastics, especially new plastics, are a major contributor to greenhouse gases. We all know this, and most people have banned the single use plastic bag by now, but plastic creeps in in sneaky ways. Try to reduce the amount of wasteful plastics your household uses by opting for greener, reusable materials. We use eco-friendly fruit and vegetable bags, but I’ll admit to occasionally purchasing vegetables that are pre-packaged. I loathe myself when I do this but it’s hard to avoid when you’re shopping at supermarkets. Not everyone can afford to shop at Farmer’s Markets where fruit and vegetables are not wrapped.
5. Going organic
On the topic of Farmer’s Markets, I’d love to shop at them and eat only organic, but this just isn’t feasible. But we have increased our consumption of organic, fair trade products and feel much better for it. We eat mostly vegetarian meals, given I don’t eat meat and haven’t done for over 20 years. And we also grow our own herbs and veggies. Apart from humans, the environment also benefits greatly from organic products. The use of organic farming is vital in the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources. It is definitely more expensive to shop organic but the more people that do it, the more affordable it will become. I explained to my little environmental warriors that eating organic also helps prevent global warming as organic farming can actually reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our air.
Reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t need to involve a radical lifestyle overhaul. There are many simple and affordable ways almost anyone can contribute to helping the environment.
Are you conscious of reducing your carbon footprint? What else do you do that benefits the environment?