Climate change has fewer and fewer deniers every day. When it’s snowing in the Deep South, constantly flooding in England, and big storms get more and more commonplace, it’s easy to get a little disheartened by the pace of change.
Just today, Secretary of State John Kerry blasted deniers and opened the door to a strong White House-backed attack on climate change in a speech to Indonesian students, since Indonesia is no stranger to the change to new weather patterns causing calamity. Kerry said, “The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand. We don’t have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat-Earth Society”.
Despite the ever-more-dire situation, I have faith, and so does the scientific community — provided we all make changes big and small, starting now. We can effect change in time to reverse things. I’ve seen the impact of collective efforts on a smaller scale with bodies of water where I’ve lived. When we get together and we’re mindful, we’re capable of great change. We can win the climate battle through lifestyle changes.
And change, like charity, begins at home
This year, join me in making an effort to make mindful choices to benefit Mother Earth on a daily basis.
Here are four small ways you can turn the page on waste at home:
1. Buy cloth napkins.
Paper towels and napkins are easier, but the facts on paper towel usage are staggering. A ton of paper towers requires 17 mature trees to be cut down and is processed with over 20,000 gallons of water. Now times that by 3,000, and that’s how much is used for paper towel consumed in a single day in just America. Even after they hit the landfill, their destructive ways continue. Decomposing paper towel gives off methane gas, which is a leading factor in climate change.
But a cloth napkin, especially if reused before washing, is washed in laundry. Shared energy use, no off-gasing. A very small change with big, beautiful consequences. You’re not Satan if you still use paper towels. I still do. It has its uses, like with bacon and certain very-messy-jobs, but the point is to cut back as much as you can.
2. End junk mail
Are you using that phone book, ever? Do you look at the shameless direct mail campaigns constantly arriving at your door, or do you just toss them? It may seem like a hassle to contact the post office and tell them “No more junk!” but it has drastic consequences for landfills, the environment, energy, and waste.
In a time where much of the USA is familiar with water shortages, it’s staggering that 2.5 pounds of paper takes approximately 325 litres of water to process. That’s water that isn’t potable after the fact.
100 million trees a year come down for that junk mail you’re probably not looking at. If we all said “No more!” instead of tossing it aside, we could greatly reduce that. Get digital magazine and newspaper subscriptions instead of paper.
Even for weekly grocery flyers, consider signing up for their flyer-delivery emails, and using a subscription management app like the free Unroll.me, which puts all your daily email subscriptions into one easy-to-manage email. Scroll down and see pictures and summaries of everything to which you’re subscribe. It’s changed my inbox and lets me stay more easily on top of need-to-see grocery store flyers and more, without affecting forests.
3. Buy in refills and larger quantities
Whether it’s because there’ll be less packaging or less fossil fuel used in transport, refills and larger quantities make a big difference at home. My one Method dish soap refill allowed me to get 2+ container refills out of it. It’s some crazy stat like 80% less waste because it’s a bag, not a hard plastic container, and you buy one dispenser, not three. I also saved money buying the refill. Sure, it takes more storage to shop this way, and more money up front, but it’s ultimately the more responsible way to shop, if you can.
4. Stay cool; use cold water rather than warm
Recent studies show that using warm water doesn’t do anything to help our hands get cleaner better. We can’t withstand temperatures that would be required to sterilize our hands; we’d get scalded. It’s all about using soap and washing for at least 25 seconds (but that doesn’t mean running water for 25 seconds!). Every time we use hot water unnecessarily, the water heater turns on, wasting energy. The numbers are daunting.
According to Amanda R. Carrico, a research assistant professor at the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment: “Although the choice of water temperature during a single hand wash may appear trivial, when multiplied by the nearly 800 billion hand washes performed by Americans each year, this practice results in more than 6 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions annually.”
National Geographic explains how that translates:
“That’s roughly equal to the emissions of two coal-fired power plants, or 1,250,000 passenger vehicles, over the course of a year. It’s higher than the greenhouse gas emissions of small countries like El Salvador or Armenia, and is about equivalent to the emissions of Barbados. If all U.S. citizens washed their hands in cooler water, it would be like eliminating the energy-related carbon emissions of 299,700 U.S. homes, or the total annual emissions from the U.S. zinc or lead industries. “
After a lifetime being told to wash my hands with warm water, changing to cold has been a lot more challenging than I expected. It’s an ingrained habit for most of us.
Of course, that’s not all
From reducing waste overall to turning off appliances, planting native grasses in your yard, unplugging them to prevent “power drain,” using earth-friendly products or even making your own vinegar-based housecleaning solutions, there are so many ways we can effect change and reduce waste.
From innovative technologies developing every day to small actions we can take at home, we’re a long ways from not having a dog in the climate-change fight.
Whether you share articles like these, talk to your friends about news you’ve heard, or just lead others by example, you have a lot more power to change the world than you think. Here’s hoping you’re a part of our big solution.