5 Easy Steps to Help Save Our Planet

Posted by Carmel Turner on

‘Consume Less’ is a simple but powerful message.  If everyone in the world only consumed what they needed there would be a lot less pollution.  Arguments about reaching the carbon emissions targets and global warming would be a thing of the past.  However, there would be consequences but the benefits far out way those. So, here are 5 easy steps to help save our planet and the great thing is, you can put them into practice straightaway.

The Consequences

We have been warned by Economists that if all of us just cut back spending to the basics all at once, we would have a major Depression the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetimes.  Most of us would not want that.  The only way Australia has weathered the Pandemic at all is because the Federal Government decided to print money and prop up those who lost their jobs because of lock downs. Not every world government did that.  

But even though the economic consequences of consuming less may be dire the alternative, should be we keep consuming at the same rate, or even higher, is equally, if not more, shocking. At present we are literally drowning in our own waste.  So, we do need to start somewhere to consume less and that somewhere is with ourselves.  Here is what you can do to help yourself and the planet.

Step 1 – Delineate Between A Need and A Want 

The first step is to decide what is a ‘need’ and what is a ‘want’.  In a marketing world these words are interchangeable but in the real world they are not.  We need a few basic things to live.  Air to breathe, water to drink, quality food to eat, clothing to protect us from the elements, shelter and a community for love and security.  We want everything else.  Two cars, air conditioning, Junk food, a latte a day, 75 T Shirts, 100 pairs of shoes, chocolate imported daily from Switzerland. This is not to say we can’t have the things we want but we have to choose wisely and temper those wants with what is best for the environment and the rest of the world’s peoples. 

The first step to consume less is easy.  Simply ask yourself, “do I need…..this extra throw cushion?  Do I need the second car or is there some public transport I can take?  Is it really necessary for Jack to have a separate uniform for every day of the week? Does the dog need another squeaky toy? Do I need another dog? Less consumption starts with these simple questions.  It’s about having the conversation with yourself.  That is what makes it so powerful.  It is something you can do straightaway.  Something you can control.  There is little else in your life that you can control, but what you spend your money on, is one of them.

Step 2 – Check out what the Product is made of and how it was produced

Also, when deciding whether to buy something or not, look at what it is made of and how it is produced.  These factors contribute to pollution in a number of ways.  For example, synthetic fibres, whether they are plant based, eg Rayon or, petroleum based eg. Polyester or Nylon, contain microplastics.  Plastics including microplastics are choking our rivers and seas and killing our wildlife.  We have all seen the horrific photos of the seal with a plastic six pack container around it’s neck.  Or the contents of a seagulls gut full of blue bottle caps and bits of plastic.  Here are some scary statistics about plastic waste. 

steps to reduce consumption

  • Even though we have been recycling plastics since the mid-70s only 9% of all plastic produced has ever been recycled. Following on from that, 12% is incinerated and 79% is in landfill or the ocean.
  • In 2015 the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was found and mapped.  It is roughly an area 1.5 times as big as Texas. Refer extract below from Wikipedia.
  • We’re seeing some other worrying trends. Since the 1950s, the rate of plastic production has grown faster than that of any other material. We’ve also seen a shift away from the production of durable plastic, and towards plastics that are meant to be thrown away after a single use.
  • More than 99% of plastics are produced from chemicals derived from oil, natural gas and coal — all of which are dirty, non-renewable resources. If current trends continue, by 2050 the plastic industry could account for 20% of the world’s total oil consumption.

Although consuming less won’t clean up the mess we have made to date, it will lessen the mess we have to clean up in the future.  Less consumption basically means, less pollution.

How Something is Produced

So, the best course of action to consume less and thus reduce pollution, is to choose natural fibers like cotton, wool, linen, silk, or hemp, when purchasing clothes. Right?  Yes, up to a point.  But even natural fibers have inherent risk in them.  Not from microplastics but from chemicals that are used to treat them in the manufacturing process.  Even Bamboo alternatives may have been manufactured using harmful chemicals in the process. 

Cotton, the most popular garment fabric also uses large amounts of water.  Did you know it takes nearly 20,000 liters of water to make one pair of jeans and one T Shirt out of regular cotton.  Then there is Organic Cotton.   Organic cotton is grown without harmful chemicals, leaving the soil, air and water free from contaminates that cause harm. Organic cotton produces around 46% less CO2e compared to conventional cotton. It also uses far less water to grow since organic cotton growers typically utilize rain far more than irrigation. 100% Organic Cotton is definitely a better way to go. Check out Lovethehike.com new collection of organic t shirts. Hemp is also a great alternative but is harder to come by.

Taking note of how something is produced, and what material it is made of, are two very important considerations when deciding to consume less. The next is, where it is made.

Step 3 – Check out where the product is produced and shipped from

Even though something may appear cheap coming out of say, China or India, when you factor in the air or sea miles it takes to get to you, and the cost of those products, the real cost to you is not as cheap as you think.  Shipping over long distances also contributes to Global Warming through higher CO2 emissions. The UN estimates that in the western world the average person emits 1 metric tonne of CO2 each month.  In the United States it is twice that amount.   Refer youtube video below. 

 

To help you wrap your head around the idea of what a metric tonne of CO2 looks like, in 2009 the United Nations commissioned Millennium Art to build a physical cube to show people how much it actually was.  Below is an image of that cube.  Not buying products that are produced overseas is another good way to consume less and help reduce the size of your CO2 cube.

5 easy steps to help you consume less

 

Step 4 – Look for Local Alternatives

Based on the above it is always better to look for local alternative i.e. products that are produced near you or within your country. This way you are consuming less overall as your purchase is not contributing to airplane or ship emissions of CO2.  So, buying local is not just a parochial response to globalization, it is a way of reducing your carbon footprint.  To help you work out your carbon footprint below is a link to a carbon footprint calculator showing the effects of purchasing products locally and overseas.

https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

Step 5 – Guidelines for Choosing to Consume Less

Once you have all the facts assembled then it’s time to choose.  But that seems easier said than done, as it looks like no matter what you buy something is going to be affected, and that’s true.  There are consequences to everything we do. However, if you follow the guidelines below your choice will be easier

  • purchase the most eco-friendly and ethical product that you can afford
  • buy a good quality item so it will last longer, and you won’t have to buy as often
  • use a liquid detergent as these are less abrasive and the microfibers will not be released from clothes as easily
  • wash on a gentler cycle with a lower water temperature
  • use a laundry bag or a laundry ball when washing or
  • purchase a microfiber filter for your washing machine to catch the microfibers before they leave it.
  • Wash less wherever possible

It is interesting to note that 35% of microfibers in the ocean come from our washing machines.  Installing a filter might be your next purchase.

Consuming Less

Finally, is a personal quest to consume less, too little, too late?  The short answer is no. We can only live our short lives in a way that makes us happy and that doesn’t detract from other people’s enjoyment of life.  If we live our lives coming from that place then consuming less, so others have anything to consume at all, is a natural progression. Not to mention the benefits of consuming less to the planet because less consumption means, less pollution.

Note - Featured image is by By Andrea Westmoreland from DeLand, United States - Great Blue Heron Swallows Fish in Plastic Bag!, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26015944

Other image with plastic bottles courtesy By Mouenthias - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70798765

 

0 comments

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published