Happy New Year! A fresh new decade is upon us, and a chance to reflect and start anew. We have 2020 vision now.
Although Catherine and I have worked on this blog for only a few months, it has impacted us in ways that we did not expect, and has caused us to make personal changes to our lives for the sake of Mother Earth. With our blog we started out focused on planting trees and we both have bought trees for gifts, and to offset flights we are taking (using TreeCanada.ca carbon calculator). As well Lucy bought a tree for every small bracelet she sold in December. We have many more plans for tree events especially as the weather warms up.
We want to share the journey with you about the resolutions we are making for 2020. Change is never easy, but breaking it down into parts, and concrete bits, really helps. As two individuals with one blog, we have made different changes in our lives already, and so we appreciate and respect how individual this journey is for everyone. Lucy will post her plans for change this week , and Catherine will do the same next week.
This is Lucy writing. My goal in describing my personal life changes since starting this blog is hoping it might inspire any one or all of you to consider changes you might be able to make for the sake of protecting our planet. I have been personally moved by all the reading I am doing about climate change, about the importance of tree planting and about my own carbon footprint. I have described the personal impact of writing this blog to Catherine as being “life changing”. I no longer look at a purchase or action and think about how much it costs, or how much I like it. I think now about how much it impacts the environment. The good thing about this is I am anticipating having more cash in my pocket, because the ways to cool the earth mainly involve decreasing spending (or spending differently) and living smaller. I am thankful for the many environmentally conscious gifts I received at Christmas, like mesh reusable vegetable bags, bamboo tooth brushes, reusable straws, tree sapling donations, and used books.
My 2020 Resolutions to Reduce my Carbon Footprint by 8%
For 2020 I have decided to go vegetarian, although am debating still about whether to completely remove fish from my diet immediately. I have decided this year to keep the thermostat below 20 degrees (or in the hot weather, keeping it above 25 degrees) , and to not use the drier but hang all the clothes, (except sheets in the winter), and to take short showers, with fewer baths. I am conscious of buying only the things I need, like things that are worn out and need replacing. Buying used is basically guilt free. We have replaced all the lights in the Phoenix house with LED and will look to see which lights need changing in Edmonton. These steps alone I think will decrease my carbon footprint about 8-10% this year. If I decrease 8% every year for the next 8 years, I hope to cut my carbon footprint in half. In North America, the average carbon footprint is double that of Europeans. I am sure I am among the worst offenders since I drive a big car and have travelled a ton and I maintain two homes. I think the Europeans have an average carbon footprint of 10.5 T CO2 so I am aiming for that, as my carbon footprint is about double that based on calculations. It is more accurate to use a Canadian based calculator. Not all calculators include the community portion of our carbon footprint.
Also, looking at all this more globally, world wide emissions would need to start falling by 7.6% annually and continue at that rate for a decade in order for the world to have any chance of hitting the widely accepted targets for stopping global warming. So also setting a personal goal of about 8% reduction a year for 8-10 years seems generally a good thing to do. (Time Magazine December 23-30/2019)
How did I figure out my carbon footprint?
For the most part, I used myclimate.org carbon calculator which lists the following 7 categories in which you can rate your own behaviour. You can play around with the calculator to see how much of an impact changing your behaviour would be. That is what I did. Please consider giving it a try. These are their 7 categories and ranking choices:
MEANS OF TRANSPORT:
-I almost always go public transport, cycle or walk
-I use the car and public transport about the same amount
-I almost always use the car
-I never fly
-I fly maximum 2 short distance flights or one long distance flight every couple of years
-I fly one short distance and one long distance in a year
-I only eat vegetarian food
-I eat meat 2-3 times a week
-I eat meat almost every day-mostly from unknown source
-I very rarely buy new products, clothes or decorative items
-I buy new products, clothes or decorative things every now and again
-I buy a new appliance, decoration, clothes or shoes every week
-I live in a building that was built to be energy efficient
-I live in a normal building but I use renewable energy for heating
-I live in a normal building that is heated with oil or natural gas
-I generally don’t shower for longer than 5 minutes and I rarely take a bath
-I love standing under the shower for a good 20 minutes, but few baths
-I often have bathes, but I shower less often and my showers are short
-In winter I wear a pullover when I am at home (18-20 degrees C)
-In winter, it is pleasantly warm in my home (20-22 degrees C)
-I can sit in my living room with just a T-shirt in winter (over 22 degrees C)
I have plans to step up my commitment every year. I have been reading up on solar panels on the roof on our home in Edmonton. First we would need a new roof. The government incentives in Alberta are no longer available. We are the third most favourable province for having solar power. The cost initially is at least $20,000. I will learn more about this and then see if we want to invest. I was interested to learn that solar panels in Canada are mostly made in Ontario, but there is a push on for this in Alberta too.
I am starting to think about my transportation habits, as I almost always use my car. I am riding my bike short distances in Phoenix. This is a small change. I am choosing if I really need to make a long drive somewhere, and if so, combine it with other errands. I have looked into electric vehicles, and am asking a lot of questions. I was interested to see that Alberta is not as far along in preparing for electric vehicles as BC, Ontario, and Quebec are. The other provinces have more charging stations. I read that by 2024 the cost of electric cars should be more on par with gas cars, and the batteries are having longer life each year they are made, so I personally am going to wait a few years. If I manage to become a public transit user in the meantime, that would be great, but I cannot envision this unless I move closer to the LRT. In the mean time, my friends, if we are going out to dine or to a show, let’s be sure to car pool.
Of course I am going to have to think seriously about my travels. I do at least 2 medium length return flights a year just seeing my family. That does not even include travel overseas. I am surprised to learn that flight has such a huge carbon footprint.
In general, when making choices, I picked what seemed easiest for me to do first. I look forward to the Canadian government and industry taking progressive action and making it easier and more affordable to do some of these other things like buying an electric car or buying and installing solar panels. I have written letters to my elected officials twice now, and plan to keep up the pressure to let them know I value these green innovations.
If you search online for ‘carbon calculators’, there are many choices. Some for different countries, for individuals, for small businesses, for school age population, for only household energy consumption, or flights, or any other single aspect of your life, and there are some that offer ways to pay back such as with TreeCanada. The one I used in this blog, myclimate.org included all aspects of my life, including food habits, and also did not require me to pull out all my utilities statements or auto bills in order to make an assessment. It is Canadian too. This appealed to me. To assist you, we will list some of the calculators in our resource section.
Next Week’s Blog
Thank you to our readers for the additional recommendations that came in over the holidays for tree-themed books and a video. We will profile these in next week’s blog post, together with Catherine’s personal change journey which she characterizes as being more emergent and evolving in contrast to Lucy’s experience of transformational change.