First of all Happy New Year and a warm welcome to 2021. We are happy to say good bye to 2020 and let’s hope this new year sees a quick recovery from COVID 19 with the vaccine. In the meantime, stay safe everyone.
This blog focuses on personal commitments to our climate emergency. In this blog Lucy will look back at her New Year Resolutions from last year and see how she has done, and also look at new goals for this year, with the basic goal of trying to reduce her carbon footprint by at least 8% a year for 8 years so she is living sustainably. She will also look at some different carbon calculators including a cool site called Project Neutral.
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something!
According to Project Neutral, based out of Ontario, “Together, we can create a beautiful future powered by clean energy and a new generation of climate optimists. Climate change is real, it’s a big deal and it’s happening right now. It’s causing bigger storms, it’s affecting our economy and it’s impacting our health. Together, we can take action on our climate impact and “be the change” that supports a pollution solution. When you take action in your home and community towards a clean energy future, you make a positive difference in your household and for our planet.”
Project Neutral reminds us that “You can make a difference by:
- Directly reducing your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through energy saving home improvements and active, healthy habits.
- Sharing your low-carbon lifestyle with friends and neighbours. Believe it or not, telling others what you’ve done helps make low-carbon living the new normal.
- Getting together with your community to support meaningful climate action from political and corporate leaders.
Small changes you make at home have ripple effects that add up to big impacts for the planet. Learn more about greenhouse gasses and what causes climate change. Project Neutral’s award-winning carbon calculator gives you the tools to understand your climate impact and what you can do about it.”
Project Neutral is a project on MakeWay’s shared platform, which provides operational supports, governance, and charitable expertise for change makers. The shared platform enables more time and money to go towards achieving greater impact. Make Way is a national charity that builds partnerships and solutions to help nature and communities thrive together.
While navigating their detailed carbon calculator, Lucy was most impressed with the suggestions that were offered of how to “take action” in each of the categories of Home Energy, Food, Waste, Daily Transportation, and Travel.
What changes will help the most?
The best climate actions are the ones that will bring additional benefits to you and your community. Adding insulation to your home will make it more comfortable. Hopping on your biking to enjoy a healthy activity will improve the air quality in your neighbourhood.
Discover where you’ll have the most impact by looking at your dashboard results. Where do you see the most colour in YOUR results, especially when compared to the average household? Now, check the legend for its corresponding impact activity to see where a small change in your choices could have the most benefit.
Here are some easy ideas to get you started:
Simple and inexpensive options
- Install LED lightbulbs
- Install low-flow shower heads
- Close your blinds on hot days
- Lower your water heater’s temperature
- Install a smart thermostat to avoid heating/cooling your home when no one is there
- Keep heated/cooled air inside by sealing air leaks, insulating your walls, attic and foundation, and/or replacing old doors and windows
- Upgrade to a high efficiency furnace
- Switch to ENERGY STAR® rated appliances including water heaters, air conditioners, kitchen appliances, washers and dryers
Daily Transportation and Travel
- Walk or bike whenever possible!
- Take transit whenever you can avoid being in a private vehicle
- Carpool, or use ride sharing and bike sharing programs
- Check the air pressure in your vehicle’s tires and inflate them as recommended by the manufacturer for better fuel efficiency
- Reduce driving time on individual trips by grouping your errands together
- Reduce the number of airline flights you take
- For flights you must take, consider buying high-quality carbon offsets
- Carbon emissions from livestock are similar to transportation carbon emissions: they are very large. Eating less meat and dairy by adopting a more plant-based diet can reduce your carbon impact from food, often quite significantly.
- Choose local food that has travelled fewer kilometres to your plate. Canadian food isn’t always the most local option: produce grown in some U.S. states might have shipped closer to home than produce shipped from across the country.
- Recent studies show that the type of food and how it’s produced are more important factors in determining its GHG emissions than the distance it traveled. This Worldwatch Institute article, Is Local Food Better? provides a good summary of research on, and reviews the connection between, GHG emissions and food.
- Freeze last night’s leftovers for a great lunch later in the week and avoid throwing out spoiled food
- Compost food waste to keep it out of landfill, where it turns into highly-polluting methane gas
- Know where it goes: use your municipality’s online search tool to identify whether items can be composted, recycled or trashed
- Donate gently used items to so they can be re-used, and you’ll reduce demand for newly manufactured items as well
These ideas are just a start. You can also take advantage of rebates and incentives and local climate action programs. Don’t be shy! Share your favourite low-carbon action and why it works for you on your preferred social forum. Be sure to tag @ProjectNeutral on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter when you do! Lucy is now following ProjectNeutral on Instagram.
Reality Check For the Wealthy
According to an article in the Washington Post, “the world’s rich need to cut their carbon footprint by a factor of 30 to slow climate change, U.N. warns, in order to help put the planet on a path to curb the ever-worsening impacts of climate change, according to new findings.”
“Currently, the emissions attributable to the richest 1 percent of the global population account for more than double those of the poorest 50 percent. Shifting that balance, researchers found, will require swift and substantial lifestyle changes, including decreases in air travel, a rapid embrace of renewable energy and electric vehicles, and better public planning to encourage walking, bicycle riding and public transit.”
“We better make these shifts, because while covid has been bad, there is hope at the end of the tunnel with a vaccine,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program, said in an interview. “But there is no vaccine for the planet.“
“Bending that disturbing curve in a more sustainable direction will require fundamental, unprecedented changes on the part of leaders around the globe. But as Wednesday’s report makes clear, individual behavior also has a role to play. And the wealthy — whom the report defines as those with the highest 1 percent of incomes globally, or more than $109,000 per year — bear the greatest responsibility for helping fuel such a shift. (The “1 percent” in the United States, a wealthy country, are considerably richer than average, with annual household incomes above $500,000.)”
“Wealthy people are more likely to travel frequently by car and plane and to own large, energy-intensive homes. They tend to have meat-rich diets that require large amounts of greenhouse gases to produce. They buy the bulk of carbon-costly appliances, clothing, furniture and other luxury items.”
“Residents of the United States — the world’s largest historical source of planet-warming emissions — have some of the most carbon-intensive lifestyles. The carbon footprint of the average American is about 17.6 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents a year, about twice the footprint of a person living in the European Union or the United Kingdom, and almost 10 times that of the average Indian citizen’s 1.7 tons annually.”
“Still, this year’s pandemic might offer clues about how humans could achieve those cuts, Menon added. People are flying less, teleworking more and making fewer luxury purchases. “The question is, how do you keep these new behaviors we learned this year, but in a more sustainable way?” she said.”
Lucy’s Annual Climate Change Commitment and Review
This is what Lucy wrote a year ago:
“For 2020 Lucy has decided to go vegetarian, although is debating still about whether to completely remove fish from her diet immediately. She has 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. She is conscious of buying only the things she needs, like things that are worn out and need replacing. Buying used is basically guilt free. Lucy has replaced all the lights in the Phoenix house with LED and will look to see which lights need changing in Edmonton. These steps alone, she thinks, will decrease her carbon footprint about 8-10% this year. If she decreases 8% every year for the next 8 years, she hopes to cut her carbon footprint in half.”
How did she do?
- Vegetarian: Lucy planned to go vegetarian. This quickly changed to pescatarian, with the occasional indulgence in chicken wings. Then she realized that by being pescatarian, her partner Allan also became mostly pescatarian, with occasional bacon on the side! So that was a bonus that two of us changed our eating habits, simply because we share meals. So Lucy does not feel bad about the inclusion of chicken on occassion. Allan’s vegan daughters are thrilled that Allan has made this shift, even though he did not plan for it.
- Thermostat below 20 degrees. Lucy and Allan have kept the thermostat at 20 degrees, as 19 degrees feels cold, even with sweaters layered up. Lucy finds she uses a heated wheat bag, and a blanket on the couch as well. The problem is once she gets under that blanket, she can’t get back out!!!! And it is tempting to take more hot baths when one gets chilled! This is a challenge for Lucy who is a heat seeker, but 20 is better than the 21-22 we had the thermostat set at.
- Hang clothes to dry: Lucy and Allan did this during the warmer weather. Allan does not like how stiff his clothes are, so this is not going as smoothly as we wished. Time to get back on track!
- In terms of buying only what she needs, Lucy feels she has done quite well. She spent only 1/3 of her normal budget on clothes. Unintentionally she did find some great hiking boots and rain boots at a second hand store, and is so thrilled with how they have worked out. She did spend most of her splurging this year on creating a vegetable garden, so let’s hope it reaps a lot of food for years to come. In general she does not buy books, but lends from the library. She did indulge in a bird bath, so am not sure that was a “need”! Just paying attention to one’s shopping habits is a win. Being home all the time this year has led to wanting to spend on one’s space. It is interesting how somehow we have been programmed to want something different to look at, and get bored with the same things around us……not sure if that is we have become accustomed to, or a first world issue, but it is something to be aware of. Lucy has been moving things around in the living room to jazz things up, fitting in some of the art that was in Phoenix, and selling off other pieces on Facebook Marketplace.
- LED bulbs: We changed out almost all the light bulbs in our Phoenix and Edmonton home. This is a bigger project than we expected as there are so many types of lights in our house, and some bulbs are rare or hard to find in LED. It took several visits to the hardware store and shopping online.
- Since starting this blog, Lucy offset carbon emissions of each of the 2019 and 2020 flights by purchasing $50 worth of trees. That helps somewhat with the guilt.
- Research: Lucy also did research on buying an electric car. In Alberta we still need more infrastructure for the electric car, and she would like to see continued improvement in the life of the rechargeable battery, and in Alberta we need to be creating electricity with cleaner means before this choice will be viable for her, so she will look at this option again for 2023. For now, driving less is the best option. Lucy has been walking to the library, a distance she used to always drive; baby steps in letting go of the car addiction. It was interesting to read that 99% of people who buy EV never want to go back to fuel run vehicles.
- Of course this blog that Lucy shares with Catherine is another way for us to make a difference by encouraging others to think about the sustainability of our planet and how to better take care of it for generations to come.
- Like everyone, Lucy and Allan embraced the concept of a staycation because of COVID. We have gone to tour our local new library, museum, art galleries, and botanical gardens with friends. Many people are taking up camping again, and we enjoyed going to Jasper, and driving to friend’s cottages and to B.C.
So Lucy would say she was quite successful meeting these goals. Then COVID hit and she did even better! We additionally stayed home a lot, did not drive our cars much, took only one flight all year, and sold our second home in the USA and suddenly Lucy (and likely all of us) far surpassed her goal of dropping 8% carbon production over the year. Lucy realizes, realistically, she will likely get back to taking flights to see family and to travel in future, but is sadly aware that the flights are such a big carbon problem. This is her weakness!!!! It is surprising that she used to be proud that she liked having the experience of visiting other countries and cultures, and prided herself in prioritizing that over material goods, only now to realize that flights are just plain bad for the planet. But, for today, Lucy feels very good about the results of 2020. She more than achieved her goals.
Project Neutral Carbon Calculator for Lucy 2020
Lucy’s Goals for 2021:
Lucy plans to research and implementing increased insulation in the house, and having more energy efficient toilets. She vows to always walk to the local plaza to the drug store or for a few items at the grocery store, and ride her bike to the local market for local produce each Wednesday in the nice weather with Allan who has a pannier on his bike. She will keep growing vegetables, learning from her experience last year, and there is much to learn! She plans to get back to hanging the laundry. She wants to somehow apply the concept of buying only what you need to her gift choices, like buying consumable items. Also, she will try to fly only one return trip a year, rather than two……but she is not sure at all how that will go, because she flies to see family and to travel. Luckily as we age we will likely want to stay closer to home.
As great as Lucy feels she is doing, she sees from the Project Neutral carbon calculator, in the table above, that she is still above average in her carbon score of 13.7 so there is still lots of room for improvement. She prefers the score she got on myclimate.org of 8.3. Next year Lucy will likely try one of the ones Eco Warrior Princess’ calculators listed in the next section: ‘carbon footprint.com’ This EcoWarriorPrincess has a carbon footprint of about 5!
EcoWarrior Princess on Carbon Calculators
In her research Lucy came across a blogger called the Eco Warrior Princess from Australia and she has “road tested” 4 different carbon calculators. This Princess takes the seriousness of carbon capture to a whole new level, so it was interesting to read what she has to say in response to the question “Just how sustainable is my lifestyle really?”.
“There is a tool that helps individuals quantify the environmental impact of their lifestyle choices and it’s called a carbon calculator. For green living enthusiasts, environmentalists and new sustainability advocates, this tool is an essential part of a ‘sustainable lifestyle tool kit’ as it helps you understand your impact and identify ways to further mitigate your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With a plethora of carbon calculators offered online, I road test four popular ones to determine how they work, what my annual carbon emissions are and the essential differences between them, their pros and cons, the way they make comparisons between you and the average citizen…”
1. WWF Ecological Footprint Calculator
3. Australian Greenhouse Calculator
4. Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund (CNCF) Carbon Calculator
“While carbon calculators help to quantify the environmental impact of your lifestyle, the results vary depending on the methodology, assumptions and data used by each organization. If you are offsetting your carbon emissions I would recommend erring on the conservative side and using the highest GHG emissions you’ve calculated as basis for your carbon offset (like I did). This way you are doing more than enough to mitigate your climate impact so that instead of being carbon neutral, you are closer to being carbon positive.”
“Want to take the next step and offset your carbon emissions? Need information about the best carbon offset programs? This detailed post about carbon offsetting will help.”
“Need to reduce your carbon emissions further? Check out these tips to help you live a zero waste lifestyle.”
To learn more please check out eco warrior princess at this site:
One thought on “Calling all Wannabe Climate Heroes!”
Well done Lucy! You are inspiring others in life by your example! Happy 2021 to you all.