Have you ever tried to calculate your footprint when it comes to the environment? We use and consume a variety of products and resources everyday, from plastic, to paper, household and personal care products, food, water, and energy. Each of these products and resources, creates a footprint during its production, its distribution, and then when we use these items. Use is where we can have the greatest impact.
Responsible Consumption According to the World Economic Forum: “Conscious consumption is not just about what we wear. It is all encompassing: where we live, how we move, the food and drink we consume, how its ingredients have been grown, processed, and packaged, and what happens to the leftovers when we are done consuming.” Being a responsible consumer, is about making well informed choices, that reflect our values and beliefs about ourselves, other people, and our world. Our choices here and today, can have an impact on all those connected to the products we consume, and on the environment for years to come.
Plastic Waste Think about the plastic that exists all around us. Some of this plastic is visible in product packaging. The microplastics aren't as visible, and can be found inside some of the products we use. Plastic pollution poses a significant environmental challenge to humans, and animals. We need to find solutions to move away from our overdependence on plastic. As a consumer, avoid plastic bottles, bags, and containers where possible, and definitely avoid single use plastics. Just say no to these items.
Food Waste When we waste food, we are wasting a number of other resources including, fossil fuels, water, fertilizer, labor, and the money used to produce food. Also, food waste releases greenhouse gases such as methane, when dumped into landfills. Methane can be more damaging than carbon dioxide. There are a number of reasons for food waste including, overproduction of food, storage and transportation challenges, overbuying, and spoilage. Try to buy only what you need each week, and find creative ways to preserve your food.
Wasting Water Water wastage is a serious issue, because the more water we waste, the less accessible fresh water we will have to use. There are easy ways to stop wasting water. For example:
Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth.
Using low flow water taps in the bathroom.
Fixing a leaking faucet.
Using cold or warm water in the kitchen.
Taking shorter showers.
Running a full load of laundry or dishes.
Collecting rainwater to use in the garden.
Energy Efficiency Try and look for opportunities to be energy efficient. You can:
Use LED lights, even smart lights.
Use smart energy devices to manage heating and cooling in your home.
Replace your windows with energy efficient ones and open up your windows in the summer to reduce your cooling footprint.
There are devices that can control the lights and energy devices in your home.
These devices can help you to create a smart home, connecting to and operating other smart-home devices, which will either use your home's Wi-Fi network, or a direct Bluetooth connection.
Our Impact According to Earth Day, plastic waste is choking our oceans, lakes, and rivers, and piling up on land. Billions of water bottles are purchased every year. Only a small fraction of these bottles are recycled. Think of how much plastic bottle waste you can avoid, by using a reusable water bottle or water filter pitcher.
Beyond the immediate cost to ourselves, we need to consider the long-term costs, not only for ourselves, but also everyone or everything, that is connected with the products we use. We need to better understand how our products are created, who created them, and where they come from. Thinking about these questions, will help us to determine the environmental impact, as well as the social, and economic impact for others.
Alongside responsible consumption, is our ability to repair, reuse, repurpose, and recycle what we already own. Where possible, try to repair household items. Think creatively as to how you can reuse items in your home, and even repurpose these items. The opportunities are endless. Share the strategies you use, with other friends and family members. Did you know, that there are a number of entrepreneurs that are building businesses, to take advantage of these "R" opportunities?
Assignment 6: Calculating our Footprint A variety of footprint calculators exist, including the WWF and the Earth Day Calculators. In this assignment, students should calculate their footprint using the suggested calculators, and then plot their footprint across categories such as food purchases and diet, travel, home management including energy, and water usage, consumption, recycling, and reuse strategies. The teacher should decide with students, the best measures to use across these categories. Alternatively, students can plot each footprint category separately, with distinct measures across each category. Each plot should be posted on the wall for the class to analyze. The teacher can assist students to aggregate the results at a class level, for further discussion on strategies to reduce student and the class footprint. Resources: WWF Footprint Calculator Plastic Calculator Foodprint Calculators Water Footprint Calculator