WorldWatch Institute Aims for Small Consumer Carbon Footprints

WorldWatch Institute Aims for Small Consumer Carbon Footprints

From Danielle Nierenberg, formerly Co-Director of Nourishing the Planet (Worldwatch Institute) and now a part of Food Tank, comes another list of things you and I can do to make sure we are green, even if this coming Christmas holiday is more about white (as in snow).

The Institute’s list is very comprehensive, but in the interests of brevity (which is not just the soul of wit but the essence of readability in today’s busy world), I’m going to try to expand on a few of their suggestions.

Let’s start with the subject of purchases, for your home, your family and friends, or yourself. For example:

    reduce. reuse. recycle.

    reduce. reuse. recycle

  • Don’t just mindlessly pick up that new toy or sports coat. Instead, go online to sites like Freecycle and see if someone has the item for free. It will be what thrifter’s call “gently used”, but you may be surprised by the quality. One guy got an almost new Armani suit that way. A woman I talked to picked up a designer gown whose owner didn’t even recognize the name! Other sites may offer items for free or for a nominal cost. These include Gigoit, Free Market, Absurdly Cool Freebie Finder (now there’s a mouthful!), JustFreeStuff, FreeSharing, and Woot’s One Day, One Deal. I have intentionally left Craigslist off because the site has become iffy at best. You may still be comfortable with it.

The important thing about used is that the item has already built its burden of carbon emissions. That is, a toy made of plastic has already been assembled from petroleum-based liquid plastic and machine-molded, packaged and shipped, and will never again have to incur a carbon footprint for these stages of its life cycle, which means you and your young one get off scot-free!

  • Don’t buy if you can borrow. Libraries now offer a wealth of materials aside from books. These include DVDs of movies, hobbies, DIYs (do-it-yourself), training manuals, and cookbooks. Why buy the entire volume when all you want to know is how to make pierogis? Start a neighborhood loan-and-swap club, which eliminates the need to buy a drill to make a spice rack, for example. The less you buy, as compared to borrowing, the less clutter you will have to deal with. More important, that saw you have seldom used could find a temporary home with an amateur carpenter, and you can have a glue gun for crafting and other hobbies.

If some borrowers consistently fail to return items in a specified period of time, even with friendly reminders, you can always (but nicely) drop them from loan-and-swap club, or charge overdue fines that will naturally discourage participation by the constantly forgetful. Sometimes, all it takes is the threat to do so, because most people are honest and never intended to make off with your treasured stud finder.

  • Where you must buy (food, fixtures, etc.) either buy in quantity to cut down on the amount of packaging – which also cuts down the product’s carbon footprint – or buy quality so that your purchase lasts a long time. Would you rather buy and install a kitchen faucet every two or three years, increasing your carbon footprint every time you do, or purchase a Delta faucet and have it last a lifetime? That’s what they call a no-brainer.
  • The same applies to major purchases, from kitchen appliances to that new vehicle. Sure, you can still buy a Mazda sport hatchback for less than $15,000 (not including taxes and fees), but you will probably be ready to trade up in two years – or as little as one year if you got one that came off the factory floor on a Friday.

Instead, why not buy a Toyota Prius Plug-In or a Toyota Highland Hybrid? Twice as costly (and then some), but that (well-cared for) car will still be on the road pushing 200,000 miles or more when the Mazda is a mere memory. More important, you have just shrunk your carbon footprint by 30 percent (or more, if you never fly for business).

  • Another huge portion of that footprint goes into energy use in your home. In fact, your home, your vehicle and your work pretty much make up your footprint, so cutting any one of these major venues helps tremendously. At home, you can turn your thermostat down (or up) to within a few degrees of absolute comfort. In winter, this might mean 68 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 75. In summer, it will mean 80 instead of 75. At work, encourage your employer to do the same.

While you are at it, change out your incandescent bulbs to LEDs – light-emitting diodes – which have none of the mercury of CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) that makes them a toxic accident waiting to happen. Also use “smart” power strips which shut electronics down when not in use, reducing the amount of standby, or “phantom” power they use. Washing in cold water is very effective, and most if not all modern washing machines have a cold/cold wash and rinse setting. Finally, if your city, municipality or homeowner’s association permits it, use clotheslines in good weather instead of a dryer. If they don’t? It’s time you and your neighbors went on the warpath!

The Institute’s campaign is called Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability, and aims to see a future in which carbon footprints have gone from dinosaur to mouse – or at the very least, house cat.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: