5 Ways to Lower Your Carbon Footprint
By Lachie Mulcahy
Creative Communications Manager
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Can you imagine what our future will look like if we continue to treat our resources as if they were unlimited?
As the world’s population continues to grow, so does the level of consumption and waste we produce. The UN estimates that by 2050, our planet will reach 9 billion people: up from 2.5 billion only 100 years prior in 1950! This rapid population growth is placing a massive strain on our environment through increasing carbon emissions, intensified industrial pollution and harmful urban waste.
What's worse, the people that are hit hardest by ever increasing carbon emissions are those in the global South. People living in poverty have less capacity to respond to changing climate conditions as sea levels rise, droughts last longer, and extreme natural disasters occur more often.
It is simply unsustainable to continue on this path. We need to change the way we think about how we use our natural resources and how we treat our environment.
This change starts at home in our personal lives.
We can all help make a difference by taking steps to reduce our daily carbon footprints. Each of us has control over the products we buy, the food we eat, and the way we travel. We have the power to make value-based decisions that create a positive impact on our planet.
While individual actions might seem insignificant, it is the sum of everyone’s small changes that make a big difference.
1- Use reusable coffee cups and drink bottles
A morning coffee and a bottle of water at lunch is part of many people’s daily routine, but it is quickly becoming a major environmental hazard.
It is estimated that Australians throw out up to a billion disposable coffee cups and a billion water bottles every year. Not only does this take hundreds of thousands of oil barrels to manufacture, the majority of cups and bottles are made of cheap plastics so are unable to be recycled (or they are simply put in the garbage). What we essentially end up with is an endless supply of plastic going straight into a landfill, which is pretty tragic when you consider you use these items for an average of 15 minutes each!
Luckily, there is a growing shift towards people becoming more sustainable about their consumption habits. By buying an Australian owned KeepCup or an eco-friendly drink bottle, you can significantly reduce your daily personal waste.
Reusable items also help your wallet! Most café’s will offer a small discount if you bring your own coffee cup, and a reusable drink bottle saves you from paying $3 to $4 every time you’re thirsty. Ideal, right?
2- Phase out plastic bags
This is admittedly very similar to the first point, but I think it deserves its own mention.
Australians each use an average of 170 plastic bags every year, resulting in almost 4 billion nationally. The cheap plastic used is harmful to wildlife (especially marine life) and can take hundreds of years to properly break down in landfills.
Laws to limit plastic bags in Europe have been successful, particularly the ban on supermarkets giving away free plastic bags to consumers. The federal or state governments could easily do that here in Australia to make a big impact.
We don’t have to rely on the government though. Saying “no thanks” to plastic bags is easily done by bringing your own reusable bags to the supermarket, or going without a bag at all if you are only purchasing one or two items that can be carried by hand.
3- Cut down on meat
Australians eat a lot of meat- maybe too much meat- compared to the rest of the world. But as the world’s population grows, we may need to rethink the amount that we consume on a daily basis due it its harmful affects on the environment.
Up to 7.5% of global greenhouse emissions are caused by agricultural livestock, proving a significant driver of climate change. Beef is especially problematic, needing 28 times more land and emitting 5 times more greenhouse gas than chicken and pork.
This is a problem when meat is such a staple in so many of our diets. It’s just not sustainable to eat meat every day, or even twice a day in some cases.
By cutting down your intake of meat to 3-4 times a week (and 1-2 times for beef), you are significantly slashing your carbon footprint to more environmentally friendly levels. You can also have the chance to explore some amazing vegetarian recipes, many of which are featured in Oaktree’s Live Below the Line campaign!
4- Make a Compost Bin
Disposing your organic waste in a compost bin is a super easy way to reduce your household carbon footprint.
Having a compost bin accelerates the breakdown of natural waste and reduces greenhouse gas emissions as it is a more controlled environment compared to a landfill. The best part is that you don’t have to use harmful plastic bags when binning your waste!
Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to make your own DIY compost bin.
5- Use economical transport options
Transport contributes about 17% of Australia's greenhouse emissions, so being conscious of the way we get around can make a big impact.
Making an effort to limit our car use is actually easier than it seems for most people. Try taking public transport rather than driving into the city each day, or carpooling with your mates. For shorter commutes, try riding a bike or walking, which even have added health benefits!
If you are really keen, you can even downsize the amount of cars that your family owns. Obviously this won’t logistically work for some people, but if you can get by with sharing a single car between two people, your household carbon footprint will shrink dramatically!
For more useful hints and tips to be more sustainable, check out One Million Women's website