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10 concrete things you can do to lower your ecological footprint

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Concrete and impactful ways you can bring your carbon emissions to zero, and increase the photosynthetic, water-saving, and energy-producing capacity of your dwelling and place of business.

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10 concrete things you can do to lower your ecological footprint

  1. 1. 10 things we can do to lower10 things we can do to lower our ecological footprintour ecological footprint HouseholdsHouseholds are responsible for 15 - 35%are responsible for 15 - 35% of total globalof total global investment (assumed to come from domestic sources, butinvestment (assumed to come from domestic sources, but remittances by family members working in foreign countriesremittances by family members working in foreign countries are substantial for some).are substantial for some). Investing in clean technologyInvesting in clean technology will make awill make a significantsignificant impactimpact on slowing the rate of GHG emissions.on slowing the rate of GHG emissions.
  2. 2. ““People underestimate their capacity forPeople underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do achange. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing. A leader's job is to helpdifficult thing. A leader's job is to help people have vision of their potential.”people have vision of their potential.” -- John PorterJohn Porter
  3. 3. ChangingChanging behavioursbehaviours  The point of the green CFL lightbulb is not that itThe point of the green CFL lightbulb is not that it (and public awareness) will save the Earth.(and public awareness) will save the Earth.  The point of the lightbulb is to demonstrate theThe point of the lightbulb is to demonstrate the dramatic simplicity of switching to energy efficiencydramatic simplicity of switching to energy efficiency and the directness of saving you money.and the directness of saving you money.  You can measure and start taking steps to reduce yourYou can measure and start taking steps to reduce your GHG emissions – and other pollution –GHG emissions – and other pollution – to zero.to zero.  It is possible; what's more,It is possible; what's more, you can go carbonyou can go carbon neutral within 5 yearsneutral within 5 years..
  4. 4. 1. Gardening – CO1. Gardening – CO22 sinksink  Plant a garden for food andPlant a garden for food and beauty. The photosynthesis of abeauty. The photosynthesis of a garden is greater than that of agarden is greater than that of a yard, and it makes you feel moreyard, and it makes you feel more connected to nature.connected to nature.  If you have no yard, yourIf you have no yard, your balcony can become an oasis:balcony can become an oasis: Bean vines, zucchini, cherryBean vines, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, herbs, andtomatoes, herbs, and strawberries. Marigolds too.strawberries. Marigolds too.  Water may not “matter” in QC,Water may not “matter” in QC, but it does matter overall:but it does matter overall:  Use a rain barrel (from Ville de MtlUse a rain barrel (from Ville de Mtl Eco Quartier) under your downspoutEco Quartier) under your downspout to water your garden and plants.to water your garden and plants.  Measure your rainfall with a rainMeasure your rainfall with a rain gauge. Research plants for yourgauge. Research plants for your garden that your own rainfall isgarden that your own rainfall is sufficient to irrigate.sufficient to irrigate.  Water plants at night.Water plants at night.  Apartment vermi-composter for soil.Apartment vermi-composter for soil.
  5. 5. 2. Green roof - CO2. Green roof - CO22 sink, heatsink, heat dissipaterdissipater If your roof is flat orIf your roof is flat or ≤≤ 3030˚˚, hire a, hire a consultant to advise and help you plantconsultant to advise and help you plant your roof. Green roofs reduce lightyour roof. Green roofs reduce light absorption causing “heat island” effects,absorption causing “heat island” effects, significantlysignificantly reducing surfacereducing surface temperatures.temperatures. They slow storm surgesThey slow storm surges,, and they add life to your roof - bothand they add life to your roof - both photosynthetic life, habitat for insectsphotosynthetic life, habitat for insects and birds, and durable life (50 years).and birds, and durable life (50 years). Rooftop ponds are another form ofRooftop ponds are another form of green roof which is used to treatgreen roof which is used to treat grey water – from laundry/washinggrey water – from laundry/washing up/sinks and showers.up/sinks and showers. You have to “weed” your roof 2 – 3 X per season – tree seedlings! Flat roofs can become gardens.Flat roofs can become gardens. Chicago City HallChicago City Hall
  6. 6. 3. Recycling – reduce CO3. Recycling – reduce CO22  Use recycled source materials in your business and homeUse recycled source materials in your business and home decisions. Increasing the demand will increase itsdecisions. Increasing the demand will increase its process/product quality and lower the price.process/product quality and lower the price.  Increase yourIncrease your fidelityfidelity andand velocityvelocity of materials recycling. Store fewerof materials recycling. Store fewer objects of a recyclable nature, and consider the reusability of most ofobjects of a recyclable nature, and consider the reusability of most of your waste.your waste.  The faster and cleaner that materials can get into theThe faster and cleaner that materials can get into the recycling stream, the slower the entry of raw resources,recycling stream, the slower the entry of raw resources, and all the extra energy that it entails.and all the extra energy that it entails.  Holland recycles all of its paper and 94% of new paper is recycled fibre.Holland recycles all of its paper and 94% of new paper is recycled fibre.  Crucials:Crucials:  Lithium batteries – all batteries – need to remain in the materials stream forLithium batteries – all batteries – need to remain in the materials stream for the future. (Imagine trying to mine a garbage dump for batteries!)the future. (Imagine trying to mine a garbage dump for batteries!)  Computers and cell phones– we need to invest in recycling methods here.Computers and cell phones– we need to invest in recycling methods here.  Metals– the energy of extraction and processing and the international natureMetals– the energy of extraction and processing and the international nature of such, demands that this is /continues to be a national recycling priorityof such, demands that this is /continues to be a national recycling priority
  7. 7. 4.4. Don’t idle your car, leave power on,Don’t idle your car, leave power on, or sleep your electronics – reduce COor sleep your electronics – reduce CO22  Idling isn’t good for yourIdling isn’t good for your engine, either.engine, either.  PutPut lightslights, lamps, and, lamps, and appliances on timers.appliances on timers.  Turn computers (300 W!),Turn computers (300 W!), peripherals, and powerbarsperipherals, and powerbars off when not in use.off when not in use. "Sleeping" requires 40% of"Sleeping" requires 40% of active use poweractive use power  turning it off requiresturning it off requires 0% of resources and 20% of resources and 2 seconds of ignition – 2seconds of ignition – 2 minutes of boot time.minutes of boot time.
  8. 8. 5. Invest in and use alternatives –5. Invest in and use alternatives – reduce COreduce CO22 Personal/consumer: 1. Electric and hydrogen fuel for transport vehicles 2. Take the train, ship by ground: Rail infrastructure exists and can be reassumed & expanded. Support high speed passenger rail permits through cities, and regulation/deregulation 3. Solar energy for batteries and standalone electric devices 4. Geothermal heating/cooling systems 5. Small wind turbines - electricity generation by and for single-family dwellings, condominiums, and SMEs. Micro wind turbines and solar panels on residential homes. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images There are Canadian companies that develop and offer these. Invest in alternative energy ventures. The followingInvest in alternative energy ventures. The following ventures need capital, R&D, permits,ventures need capital, R&D, permits, and customersand customers::
  9. 9. 5. Invest in alternatives – reduce5. Invest in alternatives – reduce COCO22 Industrial:Industrial:  Geothermal electricity generation initiatives – hot spots in Canada?Geothermal electricity generation initiatives – hot spots in Canada?  Solar/wind fields using direct current transport to the gridSolar/wind fields using direct current transport to the grid  Biomass waste energy (that is NOT forest-litter source):Biomass waste energy (that is NOT forest-litter source):  pulping liquor or “black liquor,” a waste product from processes of thepulping liquor or “black liquor,” a waste product from processes of the pulp, paper and paperboard industry.pulp, paper and paperboard industry.  municipal solid waste (MSW): anaerobic sewage digestion and landfillmunicipal solid waste (MSW): anaerobic sewage digestion and landfill methane conversion to pipeline gas.methane conversion to pipeline gas.  11stst generation biofuels (cutting down rainforest to grow corn) =generation biofuels (cutting down rainforest to grow corn) = FAIL. But 2FAIL. But 2ndnd generation biofuels:generation biofuels:  EndemicEndemic high-yield biofuel crops (Canada: switchgrass, willow) onhigh-yield biofuel crops (Canada: switchgrass, willow) on marginal land for non-food purposes. Some positive side effects aremarginal land for non-food purposes. Some positive side effects are greater biomass in soil associated with nitrogen-fixing microorganisms.greater biomass in soil associated with nitrogen-fixing microorganisms.  Brackish and desert halophytes (salt-tolerant for seawater irrigation;Brackish and desert halophytes (salt-tolerant for seawater irrigation; some grow in shallows)some grow in shallows)  Algae is in the forefront – fast growing, easy to harvest, high in oil.Algae is in the forefront – fast growing, easy to harvest, high in oil.  Controversial mitigation/adaptation: Nuclear waste storage, carbonControversial mitigation/adaptation: Nuclear waste storage, carbon capture and sequestration, geo-engineering.capture and sequestration, geo-engineering.
  10. 10. 6. Ambient seasonal temperature –6. Ambient seasonal temperature – reduce COreduce CO22 demand, heat transferdemand, heat transfer  Stop having an opinion about the weather and ourStop having an opinion about the weather and our climate! It’s sooo annoying.climate! It’s sooo annoying.  Lower your thermostat and seal up leaks in winter.Lower your thermostat and seal up leaks in winter. (Indoor(Indoor incandescent lightbulbsincandescent lightbulbs are OKare OK to use in winter – heat energy)to use in winter – heat energy)  In summer, if you live in a house, move your bedroomIn summer, if you live in a house, move your bedroom downstairs.downstairs. (Use CFL/LED/solar lights now).(Use CFL/LED/solar lights now).  Shade your AC unitShade your AC unit on the outside of your building.on the outside of your building.  Keep AC units at 24º - a liveable room temperature - and notKeep AC units at 24º - a liveable room temperature - and not cooler. AC merely transfers heat; it makes hot days hotter. Itcooler. AC merely transfers heat; it makes hot days hotter. It requires energy to do so.requires energy to do so.  Hang your clothes to dry outside or in; increase indoorHang your clothes to dry outside or in; increase indoor humidity in winter. Use the dryer only to delint/fluff.humidity in winter. Use the dryer only to delint/fluff.
  11. 11. 7. Make the value chain matter –7. Make the value chain matter – reduce COreduce CO22 demanddemand  Pay attention to transportation and water content ofPay attention to transportation and water content of goods in your purchase decisions.goods in your purchase decisions.  Work with your vendorsWork with your vendors and customersand customers to reduceto reduce transport, refrigeration, packaging, and other energytransport, refrigeration, packaging, and other energy demands to find inefficiencies. Manage expectations thatdemands to find inefficiencies. Manage expectations that rely on “tried-and-true”/lowest-price-wins.rely on “tried-and-true”/lowest-price-wins.  Pay more (use layaway)! Buy less, & less often.Pay more (use layaway)! Buy less, & less often. Objects ofObjects of qualityquality have higher resale values (e.g. Mac vs. PC, VW vs.have higher resale values (e.g. Mac vs. PC, VW vs. GM), longer lifespans (durability and obsolescence), andGM), longer lifespans (durability and obsolescence), and the psychology of value written into them. They also betterthe psychology of value written into them. They also better honour the craftspeople who produce them at lower wages.honour the craftspeople who produce them at lower wages. If you stop caring about status, status will find you when you need it. Neither be anti-If you stop caring about status, status will find you when you need it. Neither be anti- status. Responsibility recognizes social symbols at their proper value.status. Responsibility recognizes social symbols at their proper value.
  12. 12. 8. Eat8. Eat as close to the land and asas close to the land and as possiblepossible–– reducereduce andand sink COsink CO22 9 barrels of oil - $750 Cdn – goes into your food per year.9 barrels of oil - $750 Cdn – goes into your food per year.  Support sustainable agriculture. Sustainable is mostly, but not wholly,Support sustainable agriculture. Sustainable is mostly, but not wholly, local. Investigate mixed-land-use farms to buy from. Buy organic.local. Investigate mixed-land-use farms to buy from. Buy organic.  Grow what you can. It may be symbolic, but it’s still cheap food!Grow what you can. It may be symbolic, but it’s still cheap food!  Reduce your consumption of meat. If unprocessed meat is not the star ofReduce your consumption of meat. If unprocessed meat is not the star of the meal, choose a vegetarian substitute.the meal, choose a vegetarian substitute.  Eat meat only once a day. Establish a meat-free day once a week.Eat meat only once a day. Establish a meat-free day once a week.  Use the SeaFood Watch guide religiously and select only sustainableUse the SeaFood Watch guide religiously and select only sustainable seafood.seafood.
  13. 13. 9. Reforestation required – CO9. Reforestation required – CO22 sinksink Plant one tree per tonne of COPlant one tree per tonne of CO22 you emit.you emit. Adopt an acre of rainforest for each youAdopt an acre of rainforest for each you don't. Or do both.don't. Or do both.  Support FSC certification for lumber and paper.Support FSC certification for lumber and paper.  Wood is a material to build houses and furniture with. (Duh!) SoWood is a material to build houses and furniture with. (Duh!) So what if you have to paint the house siding every five years?what if you have to paint the house siding every five years?  Buy a real Christmas tree every year. If you can’t buy it rooted andBuy a real Christmas tree every year. If you can’t buy it rooted and replant it in spring,replant it in spring, mulch the branches. Keep the trunk.mulch the branches. Keep the trunk. It'll comeIt'll come in handy for playing fetch with the dog, or building somethingin handy for playing fetch with the dog, or building something creative. Just don’t burn it.creative. Just don’t burn it.  Donate substantially toDonate substantially to Conservation International,Conservation International, Rainforest Action Network, The Nature Conservancy,Rainforest Action Network, The Nature Conservancy, ForestEthicsForestEthics, and other non-profit organizations that prevent, and other non-profit organizations that prevent deforestation, preserve biodiversity, and facilitate forest-deforestation, preserve biodiversity, and facilitate forest- friendly production economies including agroforestry.friendly production economies including agroforestry.
  14. 14. 10. Have one fewer child (& adopt)10. Have one fewer child (& adopt) Population growth is the driver behindPopulation growth is the driver behind the terrible urgency of this problem.the terrible urgency of this problem. Carbon footprint of one personCarbon footprint of one person ≈ 9,400≈ 9,400 tonnes / lifetime.tonnes / lifetime.  Longevity is a significant component. IfLongevity is a significant component. If we live 20 years longer, we need 10we live 20 years longer, we need 10 years delay in reproducing ourselves.years delay in reproducing ourselves.  Foregoing one child, especially “inForegoing one child, especially “in exchange” for someone else’s (adoptionexchange” for someone else’s (adoption or offset), is the most sustainableor offset), is the most sustainable decision you can make.decision you can make.  For us, children are a joy. But too manyFor us, children are a joy. But too many children are a misery for the poor. Andchildren are a misery for the poor. And too many children are suffering. Donatetoo many children are suffering. Donate to development projects or invest into development projects or invest in Kiva to help empower women in poorKiva to help empower women in poor countries to support themselves, care forcountries to support themselves, care for their children, and have proper access totheir children, and have proper access to birth control and maternal care.birth control and maternal care.

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