Three C Climate Plan
Curbing Consumption, Conserving Energy & Commuting Smarter.
Over-consumption has been a growing environmental issue for the past several decades, especially with the prevalence of our disposable culture that encourages waste. Often the endless cycle of consumption is driven by trends or the planned obsolescence of products which forces consumers to continually purchase more.
This cycle of waste can be found in most everything we buy and contributes to significant amounts of carbon being released.
In the United States, Americans buy 20 billion new items of clothing each year and send 10 million tonnes of clothing to landfill. Continually purchasing and disposing of clothing is not only extremely wasteful, but releases an enormous amount of carbon into the atmosphere; from the cultivation of cotton, manufacturing of the garment and shipping it overseas.
Worldwide, about one third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, most of it before it reaches consumers plates. This translates into 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon per year and creates a greenhouse gas footprint greater than all counties with the exception for the United States and China. Canadian’s are contributing to this by wasting approximately $31 billion of food each year with about 47% of this is wasted at home.
Household electronics is another area where waste is prevalent. Globally 41.8 million metric tonnes of e-waste is disposed of annually, 725 metric tonnes of that is generated from Canadians. Often times there is nothing physically wrong with these products, but the amount of carbon utilized to extract the minerals, manufacture and ship these products to ultimately dispose of them do not justify the short lifespan of these products.
We can all curb our consumption by making conscious purchasing decisions rather than buying items on impulse. Selecting products that are durable will not only last longer but minimize waste. Also resisting resisting the temptation to buy something because it's on sale or the newest model can save you money in the long run.
Conserving energy is the easiest way to reduce your carbon emissions. In Canada, households are responsible for 329 megatonnes or approximately 45% for the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. These figures include emissions that are generated directly through the use of, heat, electricity and vehicles as well as indirectly through the production of goods and services purchased by households.
Canada’s carbon emissions compared to the other countries has been ranked 10th with China, the United States and European Union taking the first three slots. Per capita though we have been consistently rated in top 20 as the great contributors for greenhouse gases. Although energy production, heating and transportation comprise the bulk of our emission, there are still plenty of the efficiencies to be found.
Over the course of the year, small individual actions at home can culminate into big savings, both to the environment and your pocketbook.
Lighting – Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and LED save more than 2/3rds the energy of a regular incandescent bulb. Generally these bulbs save more than $40 over their lifespan and last 10-25 times longer which ultimately means less waste.
Heating and Cooling – Installing a programmable thermostat allows you to control the temperature to heat and cool your home when you are actually there. Also, you save about 3% in energy costs for every degree lowered in the winter and raised in the summer.
Appliances and Electronics – When purchasing new appliances, take a moment to review over the details on the Energy Star label. The deal you may be getting upfront may be offset with high energy costs over the lifespan of the appliance. The same goes for electronics such as smartphones and tablets, which may require regular charging if the battery is inefficient.
Conserving energy does not mean you have to make major lifestyle changes, but small incremental actions do add up over the long term. The not only helps reduce your energy bill but results in less carbon being released into the atmosphere.
One of the more visible ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by commuting smarter. According to the Canadian Medical Association, air pollution prematurely kills about 21,000 Canadians a year and the toxic brew of chemical in smog sends tens of thousands more to hospital emergency rooms. Roughly 8% of all non-traumatic mortality in Canadian cities is attributable to air pollution.
Burning one gallon of gasoline adds 8.8kg of CO2 into the atmosphere. Factoring the upstream costs in extracting, refining and distributing bumps this number up to 11.3kg of CO2. The average North American emits around 5,000kg of CO2 per year from driving alone. Consider this multiplied by every vehicle on the continent and we begin to imagine the responsibility we have on changing the climate.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint if you are a regular driver.
Effective Driving – Studies have shown that up to 30% in fuel savings can be attributed to driving habits alone. Accelerating slowly and smoothly, maintaining a steady speed and anticipating your stops can all contribute to greater efficiency and reduce emissions. Regular maintenance of your car including air, oil and fuel filters and maintaining proper tire pressure also improve the lifespan of the vehicle.
Smarter Commutes – There are several ways you can reduce the impact of your car on the environment. Combining several trips together, carpooling where possible and taking transit or biking are alternatives that go a long way towards reducing emissions. Working smarter by telecommuting or shifting your work hours to make use of off-peak times on the roads are other ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Vacationing – Jet fuels create ozone and other aerosols that trap outgoing infrared radiation and enhance the warming effect by a factor of three. When travelling abroad try combining several trips together or consider other options such as rail where possible. Flying non-stop is also better than several connecting flights, not only on your nerves but the environment as well.