What can each of us do to make our impact on the planet smaller?
First, some terminology explained:
Global warming: An increase in the Earth’s average surface temperature from human-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenhouse gases: Natural and industrial gases that trap heat from the Earth and warm the surface. Natural gases include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. Problematic industrial gases include perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.
Carbon dioxide: CO2 is the dominant man-made greenhouse gas, which is emitted whenever we burn fossil fuels in homes, factories or power stations or on the streets.
Carbon footprint: The amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, or community.
There are personal carbon footprint calculators online, although most are not South African.
But there are changes that you can make to help reduce your footprint:
* Transport: where possible, walk, cycle or use public transport; carpool to work and taking children to school; plan your journeys to get as much done as you can in one round trip; driving slower leads to lower emissions; keep up with your vehicle maintenance.
* Adopt energy efficient habits: open windows and switch off air conditioning; turn off lights when not in the room; change to CFL and LED light bulbs; choose energy efficient appliances; switch off appliances at the plug point and pull out the plugs; fit energy savers; switch to solar power.
* Dry your washing on the line: tumble dryers use five times more electricity than washing that same load and in the South African climate this should be a no-brainer.
* Save paper: reduce packaging; request electronic accounts; recycle paper.
* Food: grow your own to reduce costs in transport and packaging; cut down on your food waste; buy locally grown food; buy what is in season; eat less meat, or cut it out altogether ~ agribusiness places a great strain on the earth’s resources and the meat/poultry industry is particularly heavy;
* Plastic: become aware of ways in which to eliminate plastic in your daily life.