Table of Contents
This page, as with many wiki pages, is a work in progress and is far from complete. It aims to inform the reader of opportunities to reduce one’s personal environmental footprint and become greener and hence the title “Being Green”. You will find specific references to the book “Drawdown” in many of the items mentioned in this article.
What actions can I take at a personal level?
One of the actions you can start with is to analyze your environmental footprint. There are several websites where you can do this such as:
Doing the footprint analysis may give you ideas about what actions might be available to you to take to lower your environmental footprint.
There are a number of action areas an individual can consider taking depending on one’s circumstances which are discussed below.
This is one of the personal choices that will have the most impact on the environment with the following list of considerations:
- Reducing or eliminating one’s consumption of meat and associated products. Refer to the following article for more information: Meat, To Eat or Not to Eat. There is also some information provided on our Diet Critical Stress page.
- There are three very broad categories of plant-rich diets to choose from: vegan, vegetarian, and low-meat.
- Choosing local verses global sources of food.
- Choosing organic.
- Drawdown reference: Food with a note to look at the Demand-Side solutions listed there.
This is a broad area of consideration for individuals with many options available.
This is perhaps one of the least expensive actions related to energy one can take. Some examples are as follows:
- Moving from Incandescent to LED bulbs. LED bulbs have steadily come down in price and are a quick and easy way to reduce. Drawdown reference: LED Lighting (Household).
- When it’s time to replace a florescent tube or associated ballast consider converting from florescent to LED tubes. There are many videos on YouTube that explain how you can do this. Here is just one of them: How to easily convert fluorescent Lights to LED –Easy Ways to Save Money.
- Retrofitting your dwelling to reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling:
- Using a clothesline (indoor or outdoor) instead of a dryer or arranging to run the dryer at non-peak hours.
Using Renewable Energy Sources (Electricity)
This is perhaps one of the more challenging changes to implement for individuals. Assuming one is connected to a domestic electric power grid one can first try and determine the percentage of renewable sources used to feed the power grid in one’s area. There can be large differences in the renewable make up depending on the Country, State/Province, and Municipality. Most grids have to consider base load and peak load sources. In many countries the primary sources are non-renewable and fossil fuel based. In those instances it is worth considering various means of offsetting one’s use of non-renewable sources. Here are some example scenarios:
- Investing in a rooftop solar panel system. Drawdown reference: Rooftop Solar. These systems can either be connected for Net Metering (See this Video-1) or as a Feed In Tariff (FIT, See this Video-2) source. This option can be capital intensive and hence not attractive for many individuals who are uncertain about how long they intend to stay in a particular location. If one has a fairly stable situation this is a great way to save money and help the environment. Here’s another video that is very informative (Video-3).
- For those in a less stable situation or for someone who does not own their dwelling (e.g. apartment or rental dweller) one can consider buying Renewable Energy Certificates (or RECs, See these Video-1 , Video-2 ) from a reputable supplier. This typically means that one will continue to pay the utility the same amount and also pay an additional amount to the REC supplier that is proportional to one’s energy consumption. This allows them to supply renewable energy into the grid on your behalf. This essentially allows an individual to transform their energy consumption to All Renewable without the large initial capital outlay associated with a solar panel installation. This approach requires a certain sense of altruism for the environment as one essentially pays a higher rate for one’s energy. Many environmentally conscientious people in developed nations have chosen to take this path as a personal action.
Using Renewable Energy Sources (Home Heating & Hot Water)
For many people living at higher latitudes (> 30 degrees North or South) on the planet home heating is an essential use of energy. It may surprise many people to know that it is possible to use renewable energy to heat their home and water. There are multiple option of which we’ll only mention a handful as follows:
- One easy method for those who use natural gas to heat their homes is to switch to using Green Natural Gas (Drawdown Reference: Landfill-Methane) through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (or RECs). See these two videos (Video-1, Video-2 ) for an explanation on how this can be done. You can also view this link for more information on this.
- Another more capital intensive approach is to consider using a Geothermal heating system. This option may be prohibitively expensive for existing home owners but worth careful consideration if building a new home. Here are some videos that explain this method of heating and cooling (Video-1, Video-2) and how this can lead to energy cost savings.
- Solar Hot water is another green alternative that can be adapted to heat a home in some circumstances. See this video from a New Zealand company (Video-1). Here’s yet another unique and novel approach developed in Scotland which uses solar electricity to store energy in a “Heat Battery” (Video-2) .
Many of us have become so accustomed to just getting into our gas vehicles whenever we want to do errands, go on road trips or commute to work, that we don’t take the time to consider other options. Here are a few points to consider:
- Errands – Are you within walking distance of some of the places you shop? Do you live close to your bank? Would you be able to do some of our errands on foot, especially when you are just going to purchase a few items? This option might not be feasible year round for everyone, depending on where you live, but walking to stores, the library and/or the bank instead of taking the car is one way to reduce the number of times you use your vehicle. Another option is to plan your errands in order to make fewer trips.
- Another option for doing your errands is to use a bicycle. Using saddle bags or perhaps a small backpack would be necessary, but it is doable. Just make sure that your bike will be secure wherever you have to park it.
- Commuting – Would you be able to commute to work on a bicycle? Would you be able to take a bus or light rail? Could you carpool? Would you be able to work from home either occasionally or for part of the work week? If you work fairly close to home, perhaps you could walk to work when the weather is nice.
- Drive at or below the speed limit to increase fuel efficiency. Avoid speeding and sudden accelerations.
- Make sure that your tires are properly inflated.
- Electric Vehicle – If you are using an ICE car (internal combustion engine), consider transitioning to an electric vehicle. Driving an Electric car will cut your CO2 emissions by at least 50%, relative to driving an ICE vehicle. The amount of CO2 emissions saved is a function of your electricity source. The following video explains this (Video-1).
Most car trips entail just driving a few kilometers from home. There is definitely some ‘range anxiety’ associated with using an EV for longer-distance trips, but careful planning will help alleviate uncertainty. Apps such as PlugShare are extremely useful for locating charging stations and, therefore, planning road trips.
Depending on where you live, your government might offer incentives for purchasing electric vehicles and installing an EV charger at home. Note that different EVs have different ranges. Also, purchasing an EV may entail being on a waiting list, depending on which vehicle you’re interested in and where you live. It’s worth doing some research and watching videos on YouTube.
- Plug-in Hybrid (‘PHEV’ = Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) – For many ICE drivers the transition to a Plug-in Hybrid is much easier as it overcomes the ‘range anxiety’ issue. A Plug-in Hybrid does this by providing a gasoline backup to its battery. With a Plug-in Hybrid, errands and other short drives, in most cases, can all be done on battery power, but when you need to go on a longer trip the car will automatically switch to gas.
- Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle – Is an Electric Vehicle that uses Hydrogen and a Hydrogen fuel cell to produce the electricity to power the car instead of a battery. The process of producing hydrogen and distributing it results in a much less efficient vehicle as this video explains (Video-1). The question as to whether using Hydrogen makes sense from an efficiency and environmental is very much dependent on future development so it is difficult to predict the outcome of this as this video explains (Video-2).
On the other hand, given the state of today’s battery technology, it is possible to produce a very lightweight long range vehicle that can show a more comparable efficiency to an EV since an EV suffers efficiency losses due to the weight of its battery. Note that this trade off is only realized when considering relatively long distances which may or may not be practically significant depending on the application. The following link describes such a vehicle development which is a more extreme example of what is possible and described in this video. Note that this video provides a fascinating business model alternative for personal transport.
- As in the case for Electricity and Heating it is now possible to buy Renewable Energy Certificates to make your gas car driving more renewable. You can find more about how this works here.
Reducing One’s Use of Plastic
Here are a few options for reducing the use of plastic in your daily life.
- Food wrap – Use reusable wrap instead of plastic wrap. Beeswax food wraps are a viable solution for wrapping fruit, vegetables, herbs, cheese, bread and other solid food products. Beeswax wraps come in various sizes. A beeswax wrap could also be used instead of plastic wrap to cover a container that doesn’t have a lid.
- Food storage containers – Using reusable containers instead of plastic wrap is another option in some cases.
- Produce bags – Instead of using plastic produce bags at the supermarket, bring your own reusable mesh bags. Put fruit or vegetables in a mesh bag and then store them in the fridge.
- Shopping bags – Use reusable shopping bags instead of the plastic bags available at the store. Reusable shopping bags are sometimes offered for free at some stores or you can buy some. Another alternative is to make your own. There are a plethora of tutorials and videos available on how to make your own shopping bags.
- Shampoo – Consider using a shampoo bar or a combination shampoo & conditioner bar. These are sometimes available with no wrapping or with a paper, recyclable wrapping.
- Deodorant – Consider making your own or look for refillable products. There are a number of online tutorials on how to make your own deodorant.
- Use bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic.
- Use reusable mugs and water bottles.
- If using a straw is necessary, purchase a reusable glass or stainless steel straw instead of using plastic straws.
- If you have a baby or toddler who is still wearing diapers, consider switching to cloth diapers.
Reducing Hot Water Usage
- Use a low-flow shower head.
- Use a low-flow sink head or faucet aerator.
- Wash clothes in cold water.
- Lower the temperature of your hot water by turning down your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 49 degrees Celsius).
Reducing Clothing & Textile Waste
The fashion industry, especially the “fast fashion” industry is a major contributor to environmental degradation, starting with the dying of textiles and the materials that are used. Polyester, which is a very popular synthetic fabric, is made of petroleum, coal, air and water. Cotton is energy intensive, requiring large amounts of land and water to produce it, and most of the crop is used by the textile industry. To add to all of this, the life cycle of garments has decreased dramatically since the days when most clothes were repaired, altered, handed-down to other family members or repurposed.
Here are a few tips for decreasing clothing waste:
- Refrain from impulse buying. Think about whether or not you really need something new before you buy it.
- Buy used. Check out the consignment and thrift stores if you need something.
- Swap clothes with family members and/or friends.
- Rent outfits for special occasions. Tuxedos are commonly rented, but this concept could be extended to other garments that will most likely only be worn once.
- Sell unwanted clothing. Try selling unwanted clothes online or through a consignment store.
- Donate. Give unwanted clothing to charities such as shelters, The Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc.
- Repurpose your clothing. Get creative! The more you do this, the more novel ideas will come to you.
– Tired-looking t-shirts can become pyjama tops.
– Unwanted skirts and/or oversized shirts can be made into aprons.
– Used garments can be cut up and made into quilts, rugs or rags.
– Tank tops can be sewn to make tote bags.
– Fabric from garments can be used to make cushions.
– Jeans or other types of ladies’ and girls’ pants can be used to make skirts.
– Pants can be turned into shorts.
– Men’s ties can be used as decorative trims for other garments, tote bags or cushions.