June 2019 has been the hottest June for our earth observed in the instrumented era.
Two weeks ago I became aware of the wildfires destroying parts of the Arctic, with areas of Alaska, Canada, Siberia, and Greenland swept in flames and smoke. I had no idea of its dimension, and the impact this has on our planet is horrifying. Two months after the fires started in Siberia, they are still visible from space (1).
This is saddening and made me reflect about how my actions affect the planet. What can I do, and what else can I add or change, to reduce my carbon footprint?
I work in different places in Europe and have very limited time to travel there, which makes it more difficult for me to travel by train or boat. My option is to get on a plane anytime I need to work outside the UK.
I take around 8 return flights a year, and even if it doesn’t sound like a lot, I still want to reduce my carbon footprint. Some of the decisions I made regarding this are:
– Reduced significantly my meat and dairy consumption: I am mostly on a plant-based diet. A report on land use and climate change prepared by 107 scientists for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said that the West’s high consumption of meat and dairy is fuelling global warming. Scientists and officials don’t argue explicitly that everyone should become a vegan or vegetarian, but they say that more people on the planet could be fed using less land if we cut down on meat consumption. Here you go, food for thought.
– I remove meat and fish from the menus of the events as much as I can, for the reasons stated before.
– I converted all proceedings books of the conferences to e-books: An easy one, no trees are required to manufacture paper for the pages of e-books, and I’m also saving money.
– I reduced significantly the merchandising given to the delegates on each event. Apart from that, I try to use only recycled and recycling materials.
– I don’t have a car: I use public transport to move around in most of the cities I work at.
– I unplug all my electronics before travelling: The average charger consumes 2.24 watts of energy even when a fully charged device is connected to it! Computers and TVs use a significant amount of power, even when they are turned “off”, and left on standby (2).
– I always try to get direct flights, as planes use the most fuel when taking off and landing (3).
– I always fly economy: not only because it’s cheaper. A study by the World Bank shows that if we fly business or first class, our emissions are at least three times higher than if the travel economy.
– The majority of my clothes are second hand: yes, even the ones I use for meetings and events. The ‘fast fashion’ industry is being scrutinised by consumers for its negative impact on the planet. But there is still a huge demand for it. A recent report commissioned by Barnardo’s found that only in Britain, £2.7 billion will potentially be spent on fashion this Summer, in clothes that will only be worn once! Fashion is a really big one. Fast-fashion is very trend-focused, trends change every year so, imagine how may clothes get thrown away… Any discarded clothes will be sent to landfills, we don’t see them anymore and often forget about them. But these unwanted items produce methane as they decompose. Do you want to fight this? Well, buy second-hand or vintage clothes. This is a great way to not adhere to the ‘fast-fashion’ industry and a good action for us to let the fashion industry know that we are aware and not happy with their way of operating that damages the planet.
I know that what I do alone won’t resolve all the bad we’ve done to our planet so far. But I believe I am part of the recovery of the planet. That we all are. I know that bigger corporations have a much bigger impact than each of us individually. But who buys from big corporations? What if each one of us changes our actions? If we consume in a way that protests and rebels against the old ways of working of corporate capitalism? Can we consumers, all together, have such an impact that obliges big powerful companies to redesign their operations in such a way that helps the healing of our earth? I believe we do. I believe that if we care and act, we are a motif for change.
It takes a bit of effort to reconsider our actions, what we buy, when we buy, and from who we buy. I’m not saying that I do it all correctly because I don’t. But being aware of the impact we all have is a step forward, necessary to promote the changes needed to protect people and the planet.