We've all heard that kids learn by example. With this in mind, we as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles must model the behaviors that we want to impress on the young minds around us. The "green" movement gives us many opportunities to do this.
I thought I'd focus this post on simple things that we can do to decrease our carbon footprint and in turn, teach our children to help carry the torch. It's a somewhat intimidating topic, but it doesn't need to be. I'm using the EPA's article: Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions for facts and figures.
Some reports list methane gas from livestock as high as 51% of our greenhouse gas emissions. Contrary to this, the EPA lists agriculture as the cause of "only" 9%. This figure makes me feel just slightly less guilty about eating an occasional burger. That said, there are real things that we can do to decrease this number.
Happy animals, happy environment--specifically, it's important to avoid factory farm meats. Choosing pasture fed beef & free range chicken decreases the take for factory farms that produce high levels of methane gas. Pigs, chickens & cows on factory farms eat and sleep in their own waste. One only has to drive through eastern Colorado and western Nebraska to vow to never to eat beef again. Depending on the wind, the odor hits you like a wall, long before you reach the feedlot and staying with you for miles afterwards. Pastured animals disperse their waste over a much larger terrain so that it becomes fertilizer instead of a pollutant. Raising pigs is somewhat different because they don't graze, but it is important to buy pork from a local supplier with a good reputation and an open visitors policy--a producer that gives their pigs an opportunity to forage and scatter their wastes in the field. Click here for great information on pork recommendations and use.
Another tip is to use meat stretchers--these are add-ins to make a small amount of protein go further. There are great recipes on the web including this one for grilled meatballs--that not only decrease amount of beef & pork used, but decrease the amount of fuel required to cook them, and they taste delicious!
Buy local--this decreases the transportation toll on our environment. Automobiles & trucks create 27% of our greenhouse gas emission in addition to contributing to the depletion of fossil fuels. Food that is sourced locally tastes better and has more nutrients because it doesn't have to be processed or stored for long transport. Check out local farmers markets for some great farm to table options--most items are picked within 24 hours of sale, you can meet the producer, you contribute to the local economy, and can often get bargains in comparison to store pricing. What better time to take advantage of local food production than summer!
Electricity use contributes to 29% of greenhouse emissions. The EPA estimates that one third of electricity use occurs in the home and in non-industrial business sectors. First steps to improving this are to replace lightbulbs with CFL or LED options, unplug electronics and appliances when not in use, and install a programmable thermostat. Once you've done this, a great next step is to limit the time your clothes dryer is in service--not only decreasing energy waste, but also minimizing the heat it releases into the home. If your housing type permits, use a clothesline to hang and dry wet clothing, towels and bedding. Nothing smells better than linen dried in the breeze. For apartments and homes with covenant restrictions, a retractable line can be used inside with the windows open for similar outcomes. Click here for ideas on the number and type of lines available, but please note that you may be able to find similar options on other sites at a lower price. If you do need to use your dryer, use wool dryer balls like our Fluff Dry product. They decrease the drying time required by improving airflow between items and decrease the amount of ironing needed by keeping clothes from getting twisted or waded up in the dryer cycle.
Though cooking is actually only a small part of energy expenditure in the home, there are things that can help limit its use. Instead of using a conventional oven, use a toaster oven, microwave, stove top, or grill to cook and diminish the time required for cooking. Instead of baking cookies, make "No Bake" cookies or Rice Krispie cookies (see my "secret no-fail" recipe). In addition to decreasing the energy consumed in the process of cooking, you can limit the heat produced in the home that the air conditioner has to combat.
My husband and I were excited when we learned that the home we chose in Aurora, Colorado had solar panels on the roof--finding out about the program that put them there made us wonder why we hadn't done it to previous homes. Our panels are owned by SolarCity--placed there with agreement of a previous owner. In exchange for allowing the company to use the space on our roof, we buy the electricity we need from the company at a very low rate. We live in an area that gets lots of hail, and they pay for any damages. When we purchased the home, pigeons had set up housekeeping underneath the panels. The company came and cleaned and pigeon proofed them at no cost to us. Our highest monthly electric bill so far has been $25.
Industry generates 21% of greenhouse gases. How much of this can we control? There are several ways and unfortunately none of them are straightforward or easy. We can contribute in four ways which include: insisting as consumers on eco-conscious industry practices when making purchases; by electing eco-advocates to government positions; by contributing to sustainability organizations; and by participating in local rallies to support our environment. Here are some great pioneers in greener living that we can look to for inspiration.
One great positive note from the EPA in relation to greenhouse gases is that something as simple as planting a tree actually can help to negate greenhouse gas production. The Arbor Day Foundation will give you 10 trees, or plant 10 trees on your behalf for a contribution of only $10.
What better way to show youngsters that we care than to actively work to protect the environment that belongs to their tomorrows? By modeling eco-advocacy and involving them in the process we help them to understand their role as an eco-hero in the making. This is a problem that requires community involvement like nothing before, a team effort, for the greater good of the greatest number.
--Green City Living's founder, Kathy Rohret